Football League Expert & Columnist
Peter Beagrie Q&A: Are Fulham, Bristol City and MK Dons well-equipped for promotion?
Sky Sports expert impressed by Bournemouth and Lee Tomlin on opening weekend
Last Updated: 14/08/14 9:59am
Peter Beagrie is here to answer YOUR Football League questions.
The former winger, who played over 770 games, representing clubs in all four tiers of the English footballing pyramid, including Manchester City, Everton, Bradford, Sheffield United, Scunthorpe and Grimsby, forms part of the Sky Sports punditry team for all the big matches in the Championship, League One and League Two.
So if you have a poser for Peter, whether it's about a team, player, match or incident that has caught your eye, a wider point on the Football League or something a little left field, then send it in via the feedback form at the bottom of the article.
Read below for this week's column where Beags reflects on the opening weekend of the campaign and assesses the promotion chances of Fulham, MK Dons and Bristol City...
What would you say was your game of the first weekend in the Football League? And which player most caught your eye? Stephen D’Arcy
BEAGS SAYS: Well, Stephen, I suppose Bournemouth’s game stood out as they secured a 4-0 victory over Huddersfield. It was only the Cherries’ second win at the Terriers’ home ground in 12 attempts and they lost the corresponding fixture at the John Smith’s Stadium 5-1 last year!
With widemen Marc Pugh and Matt Ritchie stretching the Town defence and Yann Kermorgant and, in particular, the jet-heeled new recruit Callum Wilson exploiting the space in behind, Bournemouth had a great day, even though they were helped, it must be said, by some suspect defending and goalkeeping. A brilliant 10th-place finish last term looks very achievable again for a Bournemouth side blessed with lots of creative forces and a very strong bench.
The two teams I feel have done some great business, Nottingham Forest and Watford, were also convincing winners over Blackpool and Bolton respectively, while the resurgence at Middlesbrough continued with big-money signing Kike getting off the mark on his debut against Birmingham – and another Boro star is my Championship player of the week. Lee Tomlin pulled all the strings whilst operating in the hole and proved too hot to handle for a toothless Blues side.
Blackburn’s Tom Cairney wins my goal of the week, meanwhile, for his long-range belter with his left peg against Cardiff on Friday night, and I think the 23-year-old and his Rovers team-mates could be in line for a good season. I had a natter with manager Gary Bowyer and his coach Craig Short before the game – and stole a cup of tea – and they were full of optimism having done most of their transfer business last season, including signing Cairney, Rudy Gestede and Craig Conway on permanent deals in January. With a few more additions, Rovers could be contenders.
My League One game is Bradford’s 3-2 win over Coventry; my player is Bantams striker James Hanson for netting a brace in that match including the late winner; and my goal goes to James Proctor of Fleetwood, who scored a 20-yard rocket as the Cod Army beat Crewe. Plus, in League Two, I’d like to mention AFC Wimbledon’s 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury - Adebayo "The Wardrobe" Akinfenwa and Matt Tubbs looked excellent uo front for the Dons, while Jim Collins netted a brace for Shrewsbury to earn his side a share of the spoils - and two superb goals. Cheltenham teenager Joe Hanks scored a stunner as his team beat Bury, while Mark Cullen polished off a Total Football goal as Luton re-announced themselves as a Football League club with a win at Carlisle.
BRITT WILL BE A HIT
Is Britt Assombalonga worth the reported £5.5million Nottingham Forest paid for him and what will he bring to the side? Chris Wheeler
BEAGS SAYS: I think Britt will fully justify his price tag over the course of his Forest contract, Chris. He is a player I have seen develop quickly in the last few years and one who is quick, strong, brave and possesses a Jermain Defoe quality. He is equally adept at playing off the shoulder or dropping deep, turning and getting shots off before the keeper has a chance to set himself. Britt replaced the prolific Dwight Gayle at Peterborough and terrorised League One defences and I believe him equally capable of scoring plenty of goals in the Championship. With a selfless partner in Matty Fryatt and guaranteed quality service form Messrs Reid, Paterson, Burke and Antonio, Assombalonga can add the pace and predatory instincts Forest lacked last year.
WISE HEADS NEEDED
Do you like the look of the Fulham side this year or could we do with some more experience? Danny Fountain
BEAGS SAYS: Experience in important positions is key in the Championship, as is consistency and a certain amount of physicality, things which, without stating the obvious, are lacking at Fulham at the moment, Danny. The very fact you are posing this question to me means you are not sure about your team and I echo your concerns. Scott Parker will help to motivate and educate some of the very talented youngsters coming through and those players will acclimatise to the pace and robust nature of this league, though whether it will be quickly enough to secure an instant return to the Premier League I very much doubt. Cameo appearances from Thomas Eisfeld (pictured) and Patrick Roberts were notable plusses in the defeat at Ipswich and Fulham’s ability to retain possession was there for all to see, but these guys must learn quickly that taking chances is crucial – Moussa Dembele missed a big one before Town opened the scoring – and that they have to compete better on a physical level, because defenders were pushed aside too easily by Daryl Murphy as he set up David McGoldrick for Ipswich’s second on Saturday. It’s still early days, Danny, but a few experienced British signings would be welcomed by a vast majority of the Fulham faithful, I’m sure.
GRIGG TO MAKE MARK
Karl Robinson has been trying to get MK Dons up for years, so do you think we need a bit more thrust to our passing football? Sean Hope
BEAGS SAYS: Having spoken to Karl regularly, I can assure you he is encouraging his players to dominate possession of the football as much as ever, but he is also urging them be quicker and slicker with that final pass and demanding more penetration, something forwards Dean Bowditch, Will Grigg (pictured) and Tom Hitchcock will profit from. Grigg, prolific at this level, will add a physical presence and occupy centre halves, while, alongside Antony Kay and Kyle McFadzean, he will make sure that the set-piece deliveries of Dean Lewington, Darren Potter and Ben Reeves are met decisively, providing plenty of goals from corners and free-kicks this term.
What do you make of Bristol City’s promotion chances – and their purple and green kit? Dean Sergeant
BEAGS SAYS: I think City’s chances will remain very good if they keep hold of talismanic striker Sam Baldock. Sam and Aaron Wilbraham know each other’s games inside out from their time at MK Dons, so Steve Cotterill will be hoping he is not forced to sell his prized asset. Your manager, Dean, has recruited well, identifying players who can excel in his preferred system of 3-5-2. As we saw in the victory at Sheffield United, Mark Little is a brilliant wing-back, the experienced Wade Elliott is always composed and never embarrassed in possession in central midfield, and defensive midfielder Korey Smith’s athleticism allows Luke Freeman to float behind the two strikers and get strikes off his cultured left peg. As for the new purple and green – colours more likely to be found in Garry Birtles’ wardrobe than in mine – it’s off to a winning start, but I will reserve judgment until the summer tans have worn off!
LLOYD'S A BANKER
Could Lloyd Dyer be key for Watford this season? Tim Grix
BEAGS SAYS: If I was a Championship manager, Lloyd would always be on my wish list. He is over 30 now but still as quick and effective as any wide player in the division. He is a real team player who doesn’t mind helping out his defence, but, going the other way, has the lightning pace to hit teams on the counter attack. Besides Forest, Tim, I think your team have done some brilliant business this summer, with Lloyd joined by the returning Matej Vydra and Juan Carlos Paredes, who will revel in the competitive nature of the English game. With Fernando Forestieri the back-up to the Vyrda-Troy Deeny tandem and mercurial midfield talents and goal threats Lewis McGugan and Almen Abdi ready to fire, I would be very confident if I was a Watford fan. Heurelho Gomes is anything but a clown between the sticks, so the Hornets’ promotion hopes will depend on the defence, which was far from solid last term. If Gabriel Tamas, Joel Ekstrand and Gabriele Angella gel and keep clean sheets, as they did versus Bolton, a play-off spot will be on.
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