Five talking points from the EFL weekend, including MK Dons showing their mettle

The international break may have meant no Championship action and a decimated League One but there were no shortage of talking points for EFL pundit Gab Sutton.

Anyone that wasn't treating MK Dons as serious promotion contenders before Saturday certainly are now.

Liam Manning's side had endured difficulty earlier in the season breaking down struggling outfits, picking up just four points from four games against sides in the relegation zone.

It will have been a great relief to MK fans, therefore, to record successive 4-1 victories, firstly at bottom side Crewe, then against overachievers Cambridge.

Were Mark Bonner's side off the pace in Buckinghamshire? Perhaps, but MK will do similar damage to a lot of teams this season, having added a quick, incisive dimension to the possession play established by Russ Martin.

Plus, while Troy Parrott was away on international duty and Mo Eisa was an unused substitute, Scott Twine forged an excellent strike pairing with Max Watters, with the duo grabbing a brace apiece: Manning has options.

Cowley passes the test

Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley ahead of the Sky Bet League One match at The Valley, London.

"How massive are West Ham?" a spectator asked boyhood Iron Danny Cowley, while the Portsmouth boss was signing autographs outside Adams Park.

His response? "Not as massive as Portsmouth", to amused cheers from Pompey onlookers.

Cowley certainly knows where his immediate priorities are - or at least has strong PR skills - and perhaps he needed them, with his inconsistent side falling well short of the play-off pace.

A sturdy, at times backs-to-the-wall performance, though, saw his side to a crucial 1-0 victory at Wycombe, which extended the unbeaten run to four games, lifting Pompey up to 10th in the process.

A moment of quality from Marcus Harness, combined with a strong goalkeeping performance from Alex Bass, means the Portsea Islanders are just five points off the top six, with winnable games coming up against AFC Wimbledon, Lincoln and Gillingham.

Bristol Rovers on the move?

Bristol Rovers' Antony Evans (top) celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the Sky Bet League Two match at Memorial Stadium, Bristol.

It has been an encouraging fortnight for Bristol Rovers.

The Gas battled for a 1-0 victory at Harrogate, thanks to Nick Anderton's goal, then produced a promising display in a 2-2 draw at League One Oxford. They capped it by coming from behind to defeat Northampton 2-1.

The absence of an out-and-out centre-forward, with the likes of Brett Pitman and Leon Clarke sidelined, has seen Joey Barton deploy Sam Nicholson and Antony Evans as a front two in a 3-5-2, and the lively makeshift duo have caused problems for opponents with their unpredictable movement.

The south-west outfit are now just five points off the play-offs and could close the gap further with victory over Tranmere next week.

Mansfield turning a corner?

Mansfield Town's Rhys Oates scores and celebrates with his team mates during the FA Cup match between Sunderland and Mansfield Town at the Stadium Of Light, Sunderland on Saturday 6th November 2021.

The theme of resurgent underachievers is prominent in League Two this weekend and Mansfield Town look capable of putting a run together.

Nigel Clough's troops were desperately unlucky to have only a point to show from last month's excellent performance against high-flying Port Vale, before defensive glitches saw them throw away a second-half lead in a 2-1 defeat at Exeter. But what has followed is a winning run.

The Stags beat Tranmere 2-0, with Danny Johnson recovering from missing a penalty two minutes in by scoring the crucial second.

The Nottinghamshire outfit started November by causing an FA Cup upset, defeating Sunderland 1-0 having, oddly, won by the same scoreline in the same round of the same competition in the same fixture last season.

With a 6-3 EFL Trophy thumping of Newcastle Under-21s the following Tuesday, Saturday's 2-1 victory at Stevenage completed a run of four straight wins.

It was a good day, too for Ryan Stirk who showed impressive control to net his first goal for the club after joining on loan from Birmingham.

Armstrong and Harrogate back in business

Luke Armstrong of Harrogate Town warms up during the Sky Bet League 2 match between Hartlepool United and Harrogate Town at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Sunday 24th October 2021.

It may be unfair to say Luke Armstrong went off the boil when he went on a run of scoring just one goal in five appearances.

For most strikers, that return is barely below average and nobody would bat an eyelid had Armstrong not scored seven in his previous 10, after arriving from Salford.

Nonetheless, there is a sense that the centre-forward, who also hit form in the National League with Hartlepool last term, had grown somewhat jaded and needed to be rested for the 2-1 FA Cup win over Wrexham.

After coming back into the side at Walsall though, Armstrong led the line in inspired fashion, bagging the third goal in a 3-1 victory for the Sulphurites, who are now a mere three points off the top three in only their second ever season as an EFL Club.

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