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EFL Team of the Week: Ivan the great

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EFL Goals Galore

It’s been a goal-heavy weekend in the EFL, with 93 scored across all 35 matches.

With that in mind, Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) has picked an attacking Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper: Richard O’Donnell, Bradford

Bradford City manager Gary Bowyer described the 1-0 win at Walsall as a “battling victory”, praising the “attitude and desire” of his players.

They, though, needed six saves from goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell to come away with the three points.

O’Donnell, returning to his old stomping ground having been popular at Walsall, made a superb second-half stop to deny Rory Gaffney’s effort, which was heading into the far corner, in the highlight of a fine afternoon.

Right-back: Rob Hunt, Swindon

Rob Hunt is a versatile full-back.

Despite being right-footed, there was a feeling at Oldham during his time there that, as well as faring well as a right-back, he looked at least as strong at left-back.

That highlights not only Hunt’s adaptability, but also his technical quality, which Swindon have benefited from since the former Brighton youngster made the switch this summer – they have a left-back in Ellis Iandolo who is similarly flexible, which helps the fluency of the team.

Centre-backs: Michael Dawson and Joe Worrall, Nottingham Forest

Back in 2004, a young Michael Dawson was learning the ropes at Nottingham Forest from Des Walker, a legendary centre-back.

Fast-forward 15 years and Dawson, having returned to the City Ground the summer before last, is now showing the ropes to Joe Worrall who, like him, came through the club’s prized academy.

There is something sentimentally romantic about the duo’s centre-back pairing – and they can do the business on the field.

That showed in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Swansea where, without much possession, Forest limited their hosts to few chances and executed a sturdy defensive display to boost their top-six hopes.

Left-back: Junior Brown, Scunthorpe

The technical left-back signed for Scunthorpe in late August – and his career at Glanford Park came to life in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Morecambe.

The former Mansfield man was a key part of Scunny’s attacking play; unusually for a full-back, Brown was comfortable delivering crosses with either feet and that made him a huge threat.

Brown delivered a pin-point back-post cross to Kevin Van Veen, then another centre for Jamie Proctor and, with two strikers on the field simultaneously, there are two clear targets for accomplished crossers of a ball to aim for.

The 30-year-old, who also had a right-footed effort tipped away last time out, could bring the flair to kick Scunthorpe’s season into life.

Central midfielders: Ben Wiles, Rotherham and George Dobson, Sunderland

Ben Wiles is establishing himself as one of the most exciting young midfielders in League One.

He scored a delightful equalizer, in Saturday’s 6-1 victory over Bolton; after some slick combination play with Matthew Olosunde, he flicked the ball past Jack Hobbs, took it away from James Weir before slotting home in a way that drew Gazza comparisons from natives.

Surprisingly, the 20-year-old was not directly involved in any of the following five goals but he remained a key influence on general play with his fearless running and creative eye.

Wiles impressed in a relegated side last season – the same can be said of George Dobson, who swapped Walsall for Wearside in the summer.

The Sunderland midfielder has already displayed a wide range of qualities; the composure to hold onto the ball in tight areas in some games, the energy to support the press in others, meaning that he is always able to adapt to whatever the game needs.

The one-time West Ham academy graduate so far appears to be shaking off stiff midfield competition – and the 21-year-old was outstanding in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Accrington Stanley.

Right-winger: James Henry, Oxford

Over the previous two seasons, it has looked like James Henry’s days as a right-winger could be coming to an end.

Oxford United have deployed him as either a number 10, someone who will drift into wide areas to create space for teammates, as we saw in 2017-18; or, like last season, they have given him a slightly deeper role to utilize his footballing brain.

In Oxford’s 3-0 victory over Tranmere, though, he went to the right side of midfield and supported attacks from behind, with Ben Woodburn and Tariq Fosu-Henry leading the charge.

Henry twice bagged from the spot, to take his Oxford goal tally up to 28 across this season and the last two combined in all competitions – and, despite the enthusiasm of Tariq Fosu-Henry to assume spot-kick duties, maintain his 100% penalty record in the process.

Oxford fans will be hoping a new contract is in the pipeline.

Left-winger: Mikael Ndjoli, Gillingham

Gillingham look at their best when they have the two Mikaels on the pitch at the same time.

With Mandron, they possess a much-needed focal point and that proved crucial in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers – but Ndjoli has shown he can prove very valuable.

The Bournemouth loanee operated on the left of a front-three in Steve Evans’ 4-3-3 setup on Saturday and enjoyed a sizzling afternoon, bagging a brace against the then-leaders.

Goalscoring is not something Ndjoli has proved he can do at senior level, having bagged just two goals in 24 games at Kilmarnock, but he is the type who can play well even when he does not find the net through his tenacious pressing, direct running and general enthusiasm.

Ndjoli could be an asset for the Gills.

Strikers: Jude Bellingham, Birmingham and Ivan Toney, Peterborough

Marcus Maddison deserves an honourable mention for yet another sensational display in Peterborough United’s 6-0 victory over Rochdale, which could well have earnt him a place in our Team of the Week once again.

Instead, we have decided to give the honour to hat-trick hero Ivan Toney, because the athletic striker bullied Dale’s defence all afternoon and was ruthless in his finishing.

He seized opportunistically on Robert Sanchez’s early gaffe to tap home on the goal-line; he completed his hat-trick by seizing on a poor header for a first-time striker, having earlier rounded the goalkeeper to slot home following Maddison’s sublime through ball.

Toney returned the favour to Maddison by pressing high up the pitch throughout and forcing clearances, one of which allowed his talented teammate to lob the goalkeeper in a hugely impressive rout.

Three of League One’s six highest goalscorers all play for Peterborough – the third being Mo Eisa – which is almost as incredible as Jude Bellingham’s performances for Birmingham at just 16.

Bellingham ended August by breaking Trevor Francis’ 49-year record as being Blues’ youngest ever goalscorer by bagging the winner in the 2-1 victory over Stoke.

This week, Bellingham bagged another winner in the 1-0 triumph at the Valley, which ended Charlton’s unbeaten start.

One hopes that Jude will have the maturity to handle the attention that will inevitably come his way, but this is undoubtedly a proud time for him and his family.

Manager: Paul Tisdale, MK Dons

Some managers just fit a club like a glove – Paul Tisdale and MK Dons look the perfect marriage.

Tisdale is a calm, controlled, process-driven manager, which was exactly what MK needed when they appointed him the summer before last.

The former Exeter boss, who spent 12 years in Devon, has a reputation for developing young players which he is furthering in Buckinghamshire, with Sam Nombe and David Kasumu among the early season stars.

The kids did not get too many opportunities last season, when there was so much pressure on the club to get promoted, but this feels like more of a developmental campaign – Tisdale’s side sit 10th after a 3-0 victory at Blackpool.