League Two Preview: Derry faces old club


Shaun Derry

Here are The Football Lab’s predictions for three of the weekend’s games in League Two. There is an all-London clash at Brisbane Road as out-of-form Leyton Orient take on play-off challengers Wimbledon. Wycombe could go unbeaten in 6 when they host Portsmouth, who hit 6 against York City last time out. Cambridge manager Shaun Derry could see his new side get back-to-back wins when they play the club he left in March, Notts County.

Leyton Orient v AFC Wimbledon

Jay Simpson hobbled off at half-time in Leyton Orient’s 1-1 draw at Plymouth on Tuesday and if that match taught Ian Hendon anything, it is that he needs to bring in a striker quickly. The O’s were not clinical enough with the chances they created at Home Park and losing their 14-goal top scorer will not help matters in this regard. Without Simpson and Paul McCallum, who picked up an injury in September, it is hard to see where Orient’s goals will come from, because neither John Marquis nor Ollie Palmer are proven finishers at this level.

Palmer looked isolated in the team’s 3-1 defeat at Hartlepool two weeks ago and the build-up play was far too slow in that match. Leyton Orient were forced into too many short passes and, aside from a couple of good runs from right-back Sean Clohessy, they did not get forward enough. Ultimately, they did not create enough and deserved to lose the game.

Conceding three goals in that match may have provoked Hendon into action in the loan market, as the former West Ham coach has brought in Jean Yves M’Voto. The centre-back has experience of playing in the Championship with Barnsley and should give Orient that bit of organization they need when they are chasing a game. At Hartlepool, they tried to throw too many defensive players into midfield and it left them open at the back and that cost them with the third goal they conceded at Victoria Park.

AFC Wimbledon put in a disciplined performance at Portsmouth last Sunday. The diamond formation they used in that match did not give them much width, but it did allow them to pack the central areas and stop their south-coast hosts from attacking through the middle of the pitch. The name Robinson continued its strong connections with Wimbledon, as centre-back Paul put in a fruitful performance.

The tennis references don’t end there. Six-time major singles champion Boris Becker was at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night to see Neal Ardley’s side face Dagenham & Redbridge. Unfortunately, the Wombles lost 1-0 after a ‘serious’ howler from loanee goalkeeper Ben Wilson. AFC Wimbledon have had a mixed bag of results in recent weeks, because they have picked up good results against teams in the top seven but lost to struggling Daggers and Conference side Forest Green in the FA Cup.

With the pace of Adebayo Azeez and Lyle Taylor, they seem better suited to playing on the counter-attack and for that reason, they will fancy their chances at Brisbane Road.

Wycombe v Portsmouth

It has been a promising month for Wycombe Wanderers. The Chairboys have picked up eight points from their last four games and made progress in the FA Cup with a professional 4-0 win at Conference strugglers Halifax.

Their back-line has looked a lot more solid in their last few games, with the likes of Jason McCarthy and Anthony Stewart coming into the defence. Veteran Matt Bloomfield has had a run of games, adding experience in midfield while Luke O’Nien’s hardworking displays of late have been capped with a winning goal at Yeovil. Wycombe seem to have rediscovered the qualities that sustained their promotion push last season. They have been resolute at the back, combative in midfield and clinical in attack.

Similarly to AFC Wimbledon, Wanderers look more suited to playing on the road and although they are at Adams Park on Saturday, a match against Portsmouth at this level can often feel like an away game. Pompey will look to dominate possession, but they have not always been as creative with it as they were in their 6-0 win against York on Tuesday night.

Even though Portsmouth had not scored by the time York went down to 10 men, it may be inaccurate to say that solely the sending off swung the game in Portsmouth’s favour, because they created numerous chances before the opener. Pompey’s opponents were naïve and perhaps offered them a glimpse of the success they could have if teams didn’t park the proverbial bus at Fratton Park.

Wycombe should be much stronger defensively than York were. We can expect Gareth Ainsworth’s side to press with a middle block, allowing Pompey’s centre-backs time on the ball but press quickly as soon as midfielders Michael Doyle and Danny Hollands get involved. Given Portsmouth’s tendencies to draw games this season, combined with Wycombe’s strong defensive record, a draw seems the most likely outcome.

Cambridge v Notts Co

It was little more than half a year ago that Shaun Derry was sacked as manager of Notts County. Now, he faces the Magpies for the first time as Cambridge United’s new boss. The immediate questions surrounding the 37-year-old’s arrival at the Abbey are what he has learnt from his time at Notts County and what went wrong there. Derry’s critics often cited erratic behaviour, panic-based loan signings, instability in the first eleven and a lack of dressing room control as the reasons for his downfall at Meadow Lane.

In defence of Derry, he showed charismatic motivational skills to take the Magpies from relegation bankers in March 2014 to survival that season, and re-organized the team. The task for the former QPR man now is to combine those qualities with a bit more patience and level-headedness when required, and his early comments as Cambridge manager may be encouraging to hear.

It seems as though he is looking to stamp his authority on the players early on. While not commenting on individuals, Derry has said that he will not pick a player if they are not 100% match fit. Given this, we can expect him to evolve what is an aging Cambridge squad and perhaps introduce a degree of youthful exuberance, evidenced by the loan signings of youngsters Ryan Ledson and Cameron Gayle.

The latter was part of a Shrewsbury Town team that won promotion from this division last season and scored on his debut at Morecambe. Gayle, a right-back by trade who can fill in anywhere across the back-line, is notorious for his athleticism, so already we can see Derry’s plan to build a physically competent side.

Visitors Notts County have not won away from home since the opening day at Stevenage and it is hard to fancy them here. There were boos from some supporters during last week’s defeat to Northampton and many are starting to turn on manager Ricardo Moniz, who does not seem to have adapted to League Two. His plan seems to be to dominate the central areas, but the problem with this is that it does not allow County to get any width into their play. Too many of the players in that squad like to play in central areas and that means a lack of tactical balance.

There is an increasing number of counter-attacking teams that do better away from home but County seem to fall into the other category. They have a lot of luxury players that can show their technical ability when they are given time on the ball but lack physical and mental when the home teams close them down quickly. We can expect Cambridge to be full of energy and this blog backs them to take three points.