EFL pundit Gab Sutton picks his best bets for the weekend’s action
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Burnley to win at Blackpool – 3/5
Keen eyed observes of FreeBets will see that Burnley make our Acca every week, but the truth is Vincent Kompany’s side feel like such a reliable bet with 16 wins in their last 19 league games.
The runaway champions-elect may have to get the job done with wide forward Anass Zaroury, who was stretchered off in the midweek FA Cup last-16 victory over Fleetwood, but they have the depth to cope.
Zaroury’s absence, in fact, could be a great opportunity for Scott Twine to weave his magic, after the 23-year-old bagged 20 goals and 13 assists in League One for MK Dons last season, before taking more of a peripheral role at this level due to the form of others.
Jordan Beyer is back in defence for the East Lancashire outfit, while the likes of Josh Cullen and Josh Brownhill have performed with remarkable consistency.
Blackpool, meanwhile, are a divided club: there are loyal, season ticket holders who won’t be attending Bloomfield Road because of issues on and off the pitch.
Owner Simon Sadler gained a lot of goodwill for buying the club in 2019, ridding it of the Oystons, and he made the right call in appointing Neil Critchley, but mistakes have been made too and there is dissipating trust in some of the off-field figures at the club.
On the field, strikers Shayne Lavery and Gary Madine were forced off in the 3-1 loss at Reading, and while the latter has trained this week, along with Jerry Yates, it remains to be seen whether either of Pool’s strikers will be fit enough to pose any sort of threat to Burnley.
As such, it’s hard to see even a manager with Mick McCarthy’s experience keeping up Blackpool, who look the likeliest of the current bottom three to go down.
Burnley are highly likely to get the victory in West Lancashire – it really could be a cricket score.
Watford to beat PNE – 5/6
There’s a feeling at Watford that Ismaila Sarr hasn’t yet hit his best form this season, but the Senegalese wide forward – who thrived at the World Cup – is still a threat, having registered 15 goal involvements this season.
Slaven Bilic simply needs to find a formula that can get the best out of Sarr and Joao Pedro, who has at times been guilty of dropping deep this season simply to get on the ball, in the absence of fit, creative midfielders.
However, the former Croatia boss also has an issue up top, because Keinan Davis – who thrived alongside Sam Surridge last season at Nottingham Forest – is at his best when he has a strike-partner running beyond him.
However, a front-four of Davis, Sarr, Pedro and Henrique Araujo – another out-and-out centre-forward – might cause balance issues, so there are some tough decisions ahead for Bilic, who as always at Vicarage Road is under pressure when results and performances aren’t optimal.
Preston North End, though, don’t have any of Watford’s individual quality and could fall short in Hertfordshire, taking a hit to their healthy away return.
Ipswich to beat Burton – 1/3
Ipswich have improved significantly since Conor Chaplin and Nathan Broadhead came into the side.
Chaplin still has elements of the physicality that made him useful to Barnsley, when Valerien Ismael’s extreme high-pressing side got to the Championship Play-Offs, but it’s his instinctive thinking that’s brought the value to Town.
Without Chaplin, the Tractor Boys have at times run out of ideas in the final third, but with his willingness to play a cute but penetrative forward pass early, they’ve unlocked a lot more doors.
Broadhead, meanwhile, has brought an excellent work ethic and his willingness to drift to the left has allowed him to establish a partnership with Leif Davis, taking some of the left-back’s heavy workload.
With Chaplin and Broadhead in the team, Ipswich look a different proposition and should have enough to see off even an in-form Burton.
The Brewers finished the January window well and have improved significantly with that, along with quick defender Sam Hughes’ return from injury, but taking something from Portman Road might be a bridge too far.
Ipswich, meanwhile, are hoping a routine win could help them close the gap on the top two, with a challenging run of fixtures ahead for second-placed Plymouth Argyle.
Back-to-back wins for Kieran McKenna’s side have seen them cut the gap from 10 points, to just five.
Stevenage to win at Rochdale – 4/5
Stevenage’s second half performance at Wimbledon felt like a significant part of their season.
At the time, the Boro were five winless and trailing at Plough Lane after a disappointing first half showing, but Steve Evans gave his players some choice words at the interval, with the Scot making a triple substitution.
Evans switched from the 4-4-2 diamond to the 5-3-2 with which his side have played for much of the campaign, and the introductions of Jonathan Tomkinson, Michael Bostwick and Jordan Roberts swung the tide, with strikers Luke Norris and Jamie Reid winning far more duels in the opposing third.
It’s taken a while for Evans to find the right formula again after seven additions in January, but the extra depth was needed for Boro to finish the job, especially with a backlog of fixtures from the FA Cup run.
After that second half, Stevenage look back on track ahead of a favourable run of fixtures to come: Rochdale, Walsall and Crewe.
The Dale look resigned to the drop – the rest of this season is simply about giving a loyal fanbase something to grab onto for next year’s new chapter in the National League, after 116 years of Football League history comes to a sad end.
Sutton to beat Crewe – 13/20
Sutton’s home form has been impeccable.
Matt Gray’s side have won 10 of their 16 league encounters at Gander Green Lane, conceding just 13 goals in these parts of South London.
The U’s have won three on the spin, too, after a 2-0 victory at Newport last time out, with Joe Kizzi, Coby Rowe, Ben Goodliffe and Sam Hart proving a solid back-four, ably protected by Craig Eastmond and Ali Smith in midfield, with the work rate of David Ajiboye and Will Randall-Hurren out wide.
Gray has fostered an excellent culture at Sutton, which has allowed them to perform well above the sum of their parts, whereas a rot has set in at Crewe.
Lee Bell is doing his best to remedy the issues, and results wise he’s arguably steadied the ship, but it’s now one win in 10 league games for the Alex, who have scored a paltry 28 goals this season, fewer than relegation candidates Crawley and Hartlepool.
- Burnley to win at Blackpool – 3/5
- Watford to beat PNE – 5/6
- Ipswich to beat Burton – 1/3
- Stevenage to win at Rochdale – 4/5
- Sutton to beat Crewe – 13/20
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