Team of the week Neil Harris

Gab Sutton's EFL Team of the Week: Hull City's Ozan Tufan the star


  • Gab Sutton is a football expert who specialises in the Sky Bet EFL.

After every weekend of action, he builds an EFL Team of the Week and picks out a Sporting Life Star performer.

Goalkeeper

Corey Addai (Crawley): The 26-year-old has grown in confidence as Crawley’s season has gone on, just as he seems to grow in stature when strikers face him one-on-one. He made a fine stop in that situation to deny Jake Bickerstaff, in the Reds’ 1-0 victory at Accrington, and made another excellent save from point blank range late on to preserve the three points, after a series of deflections in a chaotic penalty area.


Defenders

Perry Ng (Cardiff): It’s a Crewe theme with our full-backs this week, although Perry Ng is now at Cardiff, and one of the Bluebirds’ more reliable performers in a season that looks destined for midtable.

The intelligent right-back was solid defensively in the 2-1 victory over Stoke, and linked up nicely with winger Josh Bowler.

Japhet Tanganga (Millwall): For Millwall to pull off the Championship’s shock result, they needed both their centre-backs to be on their game to stop a Southampton side firmly in the mix for automatic promotion. Stalwart Jake Cooper came to the fore, and so did Japhet Tanganga, with the athletic defender on loan from Tottenham bravely heading home the opener in a 2-1 victory at St Mary’s, completing two tackles, one interception - and 14 clearances!

Marvin Ekpiteta (Blackpool): Performances like Saturday’s 4-1 win over Bolton boost Blackpool fans’ hopes of a play-off spot, as much as they cause frustration at the team being four points the other side of the dotted line.

The Seasiders have shown a sky high ceiling at this level, but a low floor has got in the way of consistency. Nonetheless, it could’ve been almost anyone in tangerine making the cut, with Jake Beesley and Karamoko Dembélé grabbing two goals and two assists respectively, but we’ve gone with Marvin Ekpiteta.

The centre-back not only scored what turned out to be the winner, he won one tackle, completed two interceptions, made three clearances and was successful in five aerial duels.

Rio Adebisi (Crewe): For a couple of seasons, the shadow of Ng and Harry Pickering may have loomed large over Rio Adebisi at Crewe, or perhaps the team had relied on him to a greater extent than he was necessarily ready for.

Nonetheless, the 23-year-old went into his third season of being a regular first teamer with the benefit of 76 appearances already under his belt, and he’s used the experience to his advantage, adding more productivity to his attacking promise whilst refining his defensive game, and generally defying his doubters.

Back in 2019-20, Ng and Pickering really hit their stride at Gresty Road (Alexandra Stadium) – and after a showstopping performance at Meadow Lane in a 3-1 win for the Alex, it’s looking like 2023-24 is a similar type of season for Adebisi.


Midfielders

Lewis Bate (MK Dons): Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Newport has been described as MK Dons’ most dominant performance under Mike Williamson.

That’s saying something, by the way, because they also beat Bradford 4-1 in his first home game in change, hit the woodwork three times and created genuinely enough chances that night to score 10. Under the former Gateshead boss, MK have reverted to the box midfield that had been key to their progress under Russ Martin, as Alex Gilbey, Jack Payne and Dan Kemp could just as easily have got into our team.

We’ve gone with Lewis Bate: with 60 passes at a 90% success rate including four key passes, the most out of anyone on the pitch, the on-loan 21-year-old is simply a wizard. Leeds fans, watch out…

Adam Randall (Plymouth): Plymouth Argyle now find themselves in the seemingly comfortable position of 15th, and with a healthy tally of 40 points with 12 to play, with six places and five points separating themselves from the drop zone.

Make no mistake, though, the Pilgrims needed Saturday's 2-0 victory at Michael Carrick’s inconsistent Middlesbrough, after a run of one point from the previous four had a minority of fans getting twitchy. Argyle created chances though in their jaunt to Teesside, especially in transition, doubling the number of shots of their hosts 22 to 11, the latter being their number of shots on target, with Boro mustering none.

Randall was key to that performance, as the midfield all-rounder continues his mesmeric rise that began in his loan spell with Torquay in the National League as recently as 2020-21.

Adam Phillips (Barnsley): Since Luca Connell returned from injury in December, the Irishman’s destructive work, energy and control has freed up Adam Phillips to play a floating, attacking midfield role, without having to worry as much going back the other way.

It’s hard not to draw parallels between the changing of the 26-year-old’s role, and his goalscoring form, which reads six in his last 14 games, plus five assists. With performances like the one in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over promotion rivals Derby, Barnsley have Phillips to thank for their ascent into top two contention.


Forwards

Chris Willock (QPR): Thanks to excellent coaching from Martí Cifuentes, Chris Willock is beginning to look more like the attacking midfielder who lit up the Championship in 2021-22.

The half-time introductions of the industrious Sam Field and Paul Smyth helped create more space for the 26-year-old, who delicately slipped in the latter for the equalizer, before firing home the winner from outside the box.

If there’s more where that came from, Willock’s form could have a huge bearing on the R’s survival prospects.

Lucas Akins (Mansfield): Aden Flint, Baily Cargill, Stephen Quinn and Davis Keillor-Dunn all had a shot at representing Mansfield in this Team of the Week, such was their dominance in the 5-1 victory over Salford.

We’ve plumped, though, for Lucas Akins, after the experienced forward served as the glue for a potent Stags attack, brought an impeccable work ethic, and showed why Nigel Clough has worked with him in eight of his last nine seasons as a manager.

We presume it must have been busy Valentines’ Day for Cloughie!

Hakeeb Adelakun (Doncaster): Back-to-back appearances for Hakeeb Adelakun in our Team of the Week.

Last time, it was for a trio of assists in a 5-1 victory at Grimsby, but this week the provider turned goalscorer, showing clever movement to wrong-foot defenders to latch onto Harrison Biggins’ cute through ball, and slot home an early opener in the 1-0 victory over Wimbledon.

At this rate, Adelakun will have plenty of suitors when his contract expires at Lincoln this summer, even if his current employers have a change of heart.


Manager

Neil Harris

Neil Harris (Millwall): You could easily look at Neil Harris’ February move as a sign that loyalty no longer exists in football, or that it exists more than ever, depending on whether you support Cambridge or Millwall.

Both perspectives are equally right and wrong – it’s an act of loyalty and disloyalty simultaneously – in that the disloyalty he’s shown to one club almost adds to the loyalty he’s shown to another.

We can understand why U’s fans aren’t happy with his decision, and it’s allowed to stick in the craw, nonetheless it’s plausible that Harris wouldn’t have left them in these circumstances for any other club than the one he once promised the late John Berylson he’d step in and help whenever needed.

Harris has got the Lions battling like a quintessential Millwall team straight away, and oversaw the 2-1 victory at Southampton that would’ve been difficult to envisage being pulled off under Joe Edwards, even if the latter is a far more talented coach.

With QPR and Sheffield Wednesday showing signs of resurgence, Millwall needed a hero – and Harris was there, quite literally, to answer their call.


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