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League One

How can Northampton Town resolve their recent defensive issues?

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For a team that was a week away from complete extinction just twelve months ago, Northampton Town are, by no means, struggling to adjust to League One life by sitting in mid-table.

Perhaps, after a run of four matches without victory – prior to yesterday’s win over Shrewsbury – the Cobblers have done themselves an injustice after their 32 match unbeaten run this year as a slight dip in form is something that Northampton supporters are not particularly accustomed to.

After an impressive start to their League One campaign saw them rise to as high as fifth in the table, a reality check has well and truly hit Rob Page’s side after three defeats in four have saw them drop down to the bottom half of the table ahead of Saturday’s meeting with lowly Shrewsbury Town.

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Instead of last season, where the players at Sixfields were able to play without any pressure on their shoulders due to the ongoing financial circumstances at the club, there are far more expectations facing the Cobblers this year.

Whereas League One survival is ultimately the aim, Northampton may have to get used to the losing feeling that has very rarely been felt over the last twelve months.

Despite all of this, however, the Cobblers’ recent dip in form is largely down to their defensive frailties and lack of composure in the back four, a problem that Page needs to rectify fairly quickly.

21 goals conceded in 15 league games doesn’t initially seem like a bad return, especially for a newly-promoted side, but in their four defeats this season the Cobblers have shipped three goals in each, as well as only keeping four clean sheets so far. They also conceded twice on Saturday’s against a struggling Shrewsbury side.

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These defensive frailties were horribly exposed during the week in the first Nene Derby for seven years – in arguably the most important game of the season for the fans, the Cobblers were dismantled at the back and Peterborough made sure of the local bragging rights with a 3-0 win.

One of the main issues is their vulnerability at defending set-pieces, with two of Peterborough’s goals coming from simple headers from corners, and Rob Page will be hoping that the return of Congo DR international Gabriel Zakuani will consolidate the back line.

After the defeat in mid-week, Page also cited the “lack of concentration” at pivotal moments which led to conceding soft goals, but believes that the Cobblers defence can bounce back on Saturday. Of course, they claimed three points, but still lacked resilience in defence.

With Zakuani, the on-loan Lewin Nyatanga, Zander Diamond and Rod McDonald all solid, experienced options in the heart of the defence, Northampton do have useful players at their disposal.

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In Lewin Nyatanga, on-loan from Barnsley for the season, the Cobblers have a player that has been playing Championship football regularly for the best part of ten years, and although Diamond and Zakuani are Page’s main centre-backs it can’t be long before the Welshman gets a look in to the side.

Making over 100 appearances in his four-year spell at Bristol City, Nyatanga is a clever-minded defender, able to anticipate the game and intercept the ball well in front of the back four, as well as being more than capable of winning an aerial battle with his physical presence.

Northampton had the perfect chance to bounce-back from their form of late with a trip to bottom of the table and manager-less Shrewsbury, and the took it. The Cobblers may have failed to keep a fifth clean sheet of the campaign in this clash, but at least they are back winning ways.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Swindon Town

Phil Brown needs to keep his promises of developing Swindon Town’s academy prospects

The Robins’ manager has made a commitment to the club’s young talent.

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Swindon Town have succeeded in tying down youth academy centre-back Joe Romanski, and Phil Brown now needs to keep his word when it comes to developing the club’s youth.

Romanski was one of three academy graduates to get some match action during Brown’s two months in interim charge, with the defender making his professional debut in a 1-0 defeat to Grimsby Town as well as the final 17 minutes in the final day’s 3-0 win over champions Accrington Stanley, a game that also saw Jordan Edwards get his first 81 minutes for the first-team.

Scott Twine saw the most football under Brown, though, adding four more matches to his tally, having made his debut in May 2018, and can be proud of his displays, despite the striker failing to net his first goal.

Robins fans seeing ‘one of their own’ on the pitch felt alien as, despite professing to use the youth set-up, previous manager David Flitcroft did not give a single league minute to academy players at Swindon.

Goalkeeper Will Henry and Tom Smith were limited to EFL Trophy outings, while Tom Ouldridge, Jake Evans and Twine were all loaned out to various non-league clubs over the course of the season, as were Henry and Smith.

Smith has been the poster boy for Swindon’s academy in recent years, and scored 11 goals over three loan spells at Bath last season, but Brown has decided to let him leave, much to the disappointed of Town fans who feel Smith did not get a fair crack of the whip.

Brown now needs to ensure that more promising talent coming out of the academy does not go to waste.

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Swindon Town

Jermaine McGlashan’s arrival first sign of Phil Brown remoulding Swindon Town

The experienced winger joined on a free having left Southend United.

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Despite not being able to guide Swindon Town into the Sky Bet League Two play-offs during his interim spell in charge, Phil Brown was handed the role permanently and signing 30-year-old Jermaine McGlashan is the start of his rebuilding job.

Swindon deployed a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-1-2 formation under former head coach David Flitcroft, with the latter using wing-backs as opposed to wingers, but Brown tore that up and went with his tried and tested 4-4-2 to try and replicate his promotion-winning success at Hull City and Southend.

It started perfectly as Paul Mullin and Matt Taylor contributed to a 3-1 win at Cambridge United, but Swindon struggled there on in, and failed to win eight of their last nine games, including a run of four-straight draws, as the 4-4-2 failed to break down teams in Brown’s opening two months at Town.

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Brown does not have the same rebuilding job Flitcroft, who signed 16 players last summer, did, but there are plenty of gaps in the squad to fill.

Should Brown stick with 4-4-2 for the next campaign, he needs to bring more wingers into the club, given Paul Mullin, Kaiyne Woolery and Keshi Anderson, who all get minutes as wingers last season, are better as strikers while Taylor is more suited to the left-back role as his career nears its end, despite comfortably winning the club’s Player of the Year last season.

The departures of Kellan Gordon (end of loan) and Donal McDermott (released) means new boy McGlashan is the only out-and-out winger at the County Ground, and Swindon fans should expect more to arrive prior to the closing of the transfer window.

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Millwall

Nedum Onouha would be a smart signing for Millwall

Millwall hunt on the bargain market and the former QPR captain would be perfect.

Mathew Nash

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Nedum Onouha is currently on the hunt for a new club. The former QPR captain left Loftus Road this summer after six years at the club. The 31-year-old defender played 223 games for the club, always giving his all for the club but deciding the time was right to leave this summer.

Now he is available on a free transfer and many teams in the Championship and League One will no doubt be keen on the player.

One team who should definitely be keen are Millwall.

The Lions are coming off the back of a brilliant campaign in the Championship. Neil Harris led his side to a late play-off charge and they only narrowly missed out on a place in the top six.

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This summer they will want to improve, but to do so is difficult given their financial situation. Millwall spend wisely in the transfer market. Relying on cheap signings and free agents this summer will be as tough as ever for Millwall to make wholesale improvements.

Which is why Onouha should be one of their targets. Capable of playing at right-back or centre-back he could be a great addition to the club’s already impressive back-line. Budging one of Shaun Hutchinson or Jake Cooper from a starting position would be tough for the experienced defender. But if Millwall want to sustain a challenge for promotion again next season strength in depth will be key.

If his wages are reasonable they could offer Onouha the perfect chance to remain in the Championship and remain in London.

This would be a perfect fit for both club and player.

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