After the latest round of EFL fixtures, Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) names his Team of the Week.
EFL Team of the Week: DJ key as PNE find their rhythm
Goalkeeper: Craig MacGillivray, Portsmouth
MacGillivray has always been a talented goalkeeper but perhaps, earlier in his career, he has been unlucky to find himself behind good goalkeepers like Richard O’Donnell at Walsall then Dean Henderson at Shrewsbury.
The former Harrogate Town stopper though was among the best in League One last season and produced a defiant display in Pompey’s 2-1 victory at Doncaster.
Right-back: Alan Browne
The most impressive thing about Preston’s outstanding form so far this season is not their low budget, but the fact that they are getting these results with full-backs operating away from their natural position.
Joe Rafferty, a right-back by trade, is thriving at left-back while Alan Browne, an attacking midfielder by trade, is starting to impress at right-back.
In fairness, the qualities Browne brought as an attacking midfielder, energy, dynamism and driving forward runs – have been applicable to a full-back role, as proved in the 5-1 victory over Barnsley.
Centre-backs: Luke Chambers and Krystian Pearce
Chambers has been a key figure behind Ipswich’s outstanding start to their league one campaign.
The stalwart has brought defensive knowhow and excellent organisation to a defence that has kept seven clean sheets – more than anyone in the division.
Pearce, meanwhile, bagged an injury-time winner for Mansfield in a crucial 1-0 victory at Grimsby.
The Stags are not in good form and could not therefore play with too much confidence, but after Hayden White’s dismissal on the hour mark, they managed to battle to victory and Pearce’s aggression and physicality was key.
Left-back: Ryan Manning
Alan Browne is one story of a midfielder turned full-back and it has been a similar situation for Manning.
He was used as a midfielder while on loan at Rotherham last season; since being recalled from his South Yorkshire stint by QPR, he has played either as a left-back or as a left wing-back.
Those roles appear to suit the Irishman.
He might not quite have the technical proficiency to play as a central midfielder in a Mark Warburton team, but his energy, drive and dynamism makes him a key asset as a left wing-back, as it did when the Rs beat Blackburn 4-2.
Central midfielders: Ben Watson and Sam Clucas
Forest’s defensive solidity has been a key part of their impressive form, with a meagre six goals conceded in 12 games and Ben Watson is at the heart of it all.
The former Brighton man anchors the midfield, allowing the likes of Samba Sow and Alfa Semedo to press higher up; Watson bagged the winner in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Brentford.
The other midfielder who scored in a victory was Sam Clucas, who struck home the first half equalizer in Stoke’s 2-1 triumph at Swansea.
Because Clucas has played in various positions throughout his career, he is tactically flexible, and the energetic 29-year-old arguably suits Nathan Jones’ diamond.
Right-wing: Oliver Sarkic, Burton Albion
The Leeds recruit has brought a lot of quality to Burton.
Sarkic loves to cut inside from the right channel and curl shots, as he did to magnificent effect in the 3-0 win at MK Dons.
Sarkic’s movement perfectly complements that of Liam Boyce, who drifts from the centre-forward position into wide areas and vacates space for his teammate to move into.
The 22-year-old could be an asset as the Brewers vie for a top ten berth.
Attacking midfielder: Daniel Johnson
The Preston North End playmaker was at his creative best on Saturday.
Johnson is not the perfect player but when he gets between the lines and finds those pockets of space to pick through balls, he can be a real asset.
The former Aston Villa trainee placed a deft, looping header, slotted home one-on-one, laid the ball off for Barkhuizen to score, was part of the pressing that led to the fifth goal and produced one or two fancy touch to boot.
Left-winger: Frank Nouble
The wide forward was hugely influential in Colchester’s 3-1 victory over Stevenage.
Officially, Nouble was listed as having started on the right wing but he did most of his damage – driving runs, leading counter-attacks, a goal from the penalty spot and an assist for Kwame Poku – from the left.
The U’s have a youthful squad, so Nouble’s top-flight nous will be invaluable to their promotion push.
Striker: Michael Smith
The target man led the line brilliantly as Rotherham romped to a 4-0 victory over Coventry, ending their visitors’ unbeaten record in the process.
Smith not only scored twice for the Millers in that game but he also provided a key focal point, bringing the likes of Matt Crooks and Jake Hastie into play.
Management team: Danny and Nicky Cowley
It was a difficult job to instil confidence in a side that has only won one league game in 11 months, but Danny and Nicky Cowley are starting to do that.
After a 1-0 victory at Stoke on Tuesday, Huddersfield completed back-to-back wins with a 3-0 triumph over Hull.
The Terriers are playing with a lot more belief in the final third, with the likes of midfielder Lewis O’Brien and winger Adama Diakhaby looking very impressive.
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