Preview: Accrington Stanley

After taking four points from our toughest run of back-to-back games thus far, there is an opportunity over the next two home league games (against Accrington Stanley and Rochdale, respectively) to keep the momentum going before the fixtures get difficult again until the new year.

A new system and the introduction of certain loveable Frenchman into the mix has freshened things up, but what worked against strong opposition may not necessarily be replicable against teams more likely to be content with a draw against us. This could be the start of a strong run of form, but we’ll have to have the mentality and ideas to get past thorny opponents.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

It would be a surprise for Mark Robins to deviate from the 5-3-2 system that has worked over the past one-and-a-half games but there are reasons why it might not be the best idea for this upcoming game against Accrington Stanley.

With Fankaty Dabo suspended for taking his fifth booking of the season, Tennai Watson will come into the side for his first league start of the season. Whether the Reading loanee has the attacking instincts and quality to be effective in a vital role in the system remains to be seen and could leave us short of attacking impetus if he isn’t. A possible alternative may be to play Sam McCallum on the right and Brandon Mason on the left, but it seems sensible to have a left-footed wing-back on the left and a right-footed one on the right.

That is presuming that Mark Robins sticks with a back three for this game, which isn’t certain after another high-profile error from Kyle McFadzean in conceding his second penalty of the season. While McFadzean’s experience and aerial presence can be effective, he is making huge errors at an alarming rate. The question is whether Mark Robins keeps him in for the sake of continuity or takes action over some poor performances. An alternative may be to promote Morgan Williams from the under-23s but it feels likelier that Robins won’t look to deviate from the last week’s starting XI.

Last Time We Met

The last time we took on Accrington Stanley, we had Bright Enobakhare and he produced a moment of skill and unpredictability that only he could produce as he received the ball on the edge of the area, jinked, got himself into a shooting position only to produce another jink to unsettle the opposing defenders and finally take the shot to decide a tight game.

The Opposition

Manager – John Coleman

It’s feel trite at this point to comment on how remarkable it is that Accrington Stanley are a League One club, it’s a testament to John Coleman’s resourcefulness and coaching ability that it doesn’t feel like Accrington are a team punching massively above their weight. This season has marked something of a refresh at the Crown Ground with plenty of new faces arriving over the summer, put it still feels like same old Accrington.

Capable of playing some attractive, passing football but with a hardened edge to manage games when required, Accrington are fully capable of beating the best teams in this division. Coleman generally looks for his teams to build attacks down one flank before switching the play quickly to catch-out the opposing defence, which makes the concentration and spatial awareness of our defence important for this game.

Possible Line-Up

Who To Look Out For?

With goalscoring a concern for us this season, that Accrington’s star man in front of goal, Colby Bishop, was signed this summer from local side, Leamington, feels something of a missed opportunity. Intelligent with his off-the-ball movement, Bishop should probably have more than the six goals he has to his name thus far, but he has adapted remarkably quickly for someone who was playing part-time and three-tiers lower last season.

Bishop has played alongside various strike partners this campaign, from the bustling Offrande Zanzala, to the more mobile Dion Charles (another signing from non-league), even operating as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 system, however, Coleman must be relishing an opportunity to start Bishop alongside another ex-Leamington striker (and ex-Sky Blues youngster) Courtney Baker-Richardson, who is back to fitness after getting injured shortly after signing on loan in August. Both mobile and with a physical presence, Baker-Richardson notched three goals last season in the Championship with parent club, Swansea City.

In midfield, there are key roles for stalwarts Jordan Clark and Sean McConville out wide who play a key role in both creating overload situations down the flanks as well as getting into the box for those quick switches of play that Accrington like to enact. In the centre, the relatively new faces of Joe Pritchard and Sam Finley provide further creativity along with an element of dynamism.

While the defence is probably Stanley’s weak-spot, the overlapping runs of full-backs Callum Johnson and Jerome Opoku are a key feature of the team’s attacking play. Johnson has been courted by Championship clubs, having been converted from a winger, while Opoku, more naturally a centre-back, has proved to be something of a gem loan signing from Fulham and looks to have a big future in the game.

Areas To Exploit

Accrington’s defence can be got at, especially if they can be caught in transition while they look to build their attacking moves. With full-backs instructed to get forward and a lack of natural defensive pace, Stanley often rely upon tactical fouling to prevent opponents targeting them on the counter-attack.

At the other end of the pitch, Accrington’s finishing can be errant and is arguably responsible for their relatively low current league position, having dominated several of their most recent games.

This is likely to be an exciting end-to-end game between two teams that largely want to play an attractive brand of football and will take risks in order to score goals. While Accrington can be street-wise in the manner they break up games once they go ahead, they have had issues holding onto leads this season in spite of that supposed street-smartness.

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