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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Walsall's unbeaten run could go on at Rochdale

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Walsall's Luke Leahy
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Rochdale v Walsall
Some fancied teams are among the early Sky Bet League One pacesetters but Walsall's strong start – ten points from a possible 12 – has come as a surprise to many and the Saddlers' unbeaten run could be extended at Rochdale.

Shrewsbury showed there is scope for the smaller clubs to challenge and it may be Walsall's turn to give the third tier's big guns a run for their money.

Last season was a struggle for Walsall, who were not safe from relegation until the final week of the campaign.

But manager Dean Keates set about improving the squad and significantly increased the team's goal potential by signing strikers Andy Cook and Morgan Ferrier from Tranmere and Boreham Wood.

Both have stepped up two divisions from the National League but they have made encouraging starts, scoring two goals each, and are giving Walsall an extra attacking edge.

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Defensively, Walsall look solid. The back four hasn't really changed but they are getting better protection thanks to the arrival of energetic holding midfielder Isaiah Osbourne from Forest Green.

Walsall have conceded four goals in four league games and are looking a settled, well-organised side in stark contrast to Rochdale, who are leaking far too many goals.

Dale have the second-worst defensive record in the division and have suffered two heavy defeats on home soil, losing 4-1 to Peterborough and 4-0 to Barnsley.

They should be more competitive against Walsall but the value is with the visitors, who should take at least a point.

Walsall or draw double chance
2pts 7-10 Betway, BoyleSports

Forest Green v Swindon
Forest Green won 1-0 at Swindon in the EFL Cup first round and they should defeat the same opposition in Sky Bet League Two at the New Lawn.

Last term was all about consolidation for Rovers, who needed a strong second half of the season to drag them out of the drop zone.

Now they are looking to push on and there have been encouraging signs during a four-match unbeaten start to the campaign.

Forest Green have drawn both of their home games, 1-1 against Oldham and 0-0 against Stevenage, but they were the dominant side on each occasion.

They look equipped to have a strong season but there are doubts over Swindon, who are hampered by a leaky defence.

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The Wiltshire outfit have conceded ten goals in four league games and are depleted in midfield with Toumani Diagouraga and James Dunne suspended.

Town boss Phil Brown expects to be a busy man before the loan deadline shuts and needs to make a few key signings if Swindon are to feature in the promotion race.

Forest Green
2pts 16-11 188Bet

Cambridge Utd v Cheltenham
Gary Johnson became the first EFL manager this season to lose his job on Tuesday - Scunthorpe's Nick Daws followed on Friday - paying the price for Cheltenham's poor start to the season.

His replacement, Russell Milton, may struggle to achieve an immediate upturn when the Robins take on Cambridge at the Abbey Stadium.

Cheltenham came from behind to draw 1-1 at Macclesfield in midweek but they could have been buried in a one-sided first half which seems to have sealed Johnson's fate.

Last season they relied heavily on the goals of striker Mo Eisa but the 24-year-old secured a summer switch to Bristol City and has not been adequately replaced.

Milton hopes to bring in a striker before the loan deadline but his attack will lack a focal point against Cambridge and the trend of poor results may continue.

Cambridge are only three points better off but they played well enough in Tuesday's 2-0 loss at home to leaders Exeter, winning the shot count 20 to 12, and could get a better result this weekend.

Cambridge Utd
2pts 11-10 Coral

Macclesfield v Mansfield
Mansfield have drawn three league games in succession since starting off with a convincing 3-0 success at home to Newport but they can get back to winning ways at Moss Rose.

The Stags made three key additions to their attack this summer in Tyler Walker, Craig Davies and Otis Khan and all of them have been among the goals, with respective tallies of four, two and three.

They look primed for a bold promotion bid and should have too much quality for promoted Macclesfield, who have taken just one point.

2pts 11-10 general

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Cheltenham's Gary Johnson became the first EFL manager this season to lose his job on Tuesday
E.W. Terms
Sky bet