EFL pundit Gab Sutton picks his best bets for Saturday’s action that returns a tasty 53/1
Coventry to beat Huddersfield – 3/4
Coventry have had a tough run of fixtures, facing the runaway top two in their last five and a rejuvenated Norwich, taking two points from the last 15 available.
The Sky Blues have dropped to 15th as a result, but victory over relegation strugglers Huddersfield would put Mark Robins’ side just four points off the Play-Offs.
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The Midlanders have bolstered their ranks with the acquisition of centre-back Luke McNally, on loan from Burnley, which means Fankaty Dabo won’t have to deputize as a right centre-back this time around.
If Josh Wilson-Ebrand, on loan from Man City, comes in at left wing-back for Jake Bidwell, Coventry should have the width to break down a compact rearguard, especially with Arsenal’s Brooke Norton-Cuffy on the other flank.
That should stretch the game for a box midfield of Ben Sheaf’s control, Gus Hamer’s unpredictability, Jamie Allen’s terrier energy (against the Terriers) and Kasey Palmer’s final-ball vision to create for star striker Viktor Gyokeres.
If Coventry have golden luck with injuries between now and May, they might be able to put together a late charge for the Play-Offs, though the number of teams they would have to leapfrog to get there may be more problematic than the points difference.
With a back-three of Tom Lees, Michal Helik and Matty Pearson, Huddersfield don’t have the defensive personnel to look after the ball for any spells, which may cause them a problem in the second half as it did in the 1-1 draw Hull, where they conceded a last-gasp equalizer.
The risk is that they keep giving the ball to Coventry’s midfield quartet and attacks keep coming back at them, which may end up costing the visitors.
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Oxford to win at Burton – 13/10
It appeared as though Burton were heading into 2023 with some momentum, having lost just two of their final eight league games of the previous calendar year, but that’s dissipated very quickly.
The Brewers were thumped 5-0 by Morecambe on New Year’s Day, then 4-0 by Shrewsbury, and a high line has caught out Dino Maamria’s side when defenders like stalwart John Brayford haven’t had the mobility to hold it efficiently.
As such, Maamria is now hoping the signings of goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray, utility man Jasper Moon and striker Dale Taylor can save his side’s season, with key defender Sam Hughes not expected to return for another couple of weeks.
Albion will, surely, try to resolidify for the visit of Oxford, but they look a long way from the vibrant, creative side from the closing weeks of 2022.
The Yellows will see victory in East Staffordshire, therefore, as crucial to their slim chances of closing the eight-point gap to the Play-Offs, especially seeing as 6th-placed Barnsley have two games in hand on them.
Karl Robinson’s side have, though, won two of their last three and while question marks linger up top, a midfield trio of Lewis Bate, Marcus McGuane and Cameron Brannagan is hardly short of creativity.
Unless a striker comes in at the 11th hour, Oxford must hope that Kyle Joseph can provide another moment of magic like the impressive solo goal in the 2-1 victory at Fleetwood.
Bristol Rovers to win at Morecambe – 5/4
Morecambe improved their survival chances with a three-game winning streak that almost came out of nowhere, but victories over relegation rivals Accrington Stanley, Burton and Cheltenham were all deserved for Derek Adams’ side.
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The Lancashire outfit took a hit in losing 4-0 at Ipswich last time out, and are hoping to bounce back for the visit of a Bristol Rovers side who have won two of their last three league encounters.
The Play-Off outsiders are very dangerous in transition because of the pace and energy of Aaron Collins and Josh Coburn, with Scott Sinclair bringing more seasoned quality from left wing-back.
With a midfield comprising of Paul Coutts’ craft and Sam Finley’s tenacity, the Gas might just have too much for their hosts, who are without star forward Kieran Phillips, who went back to parent club Huddersfield after a season-ending injury.
Northampton to win at Barrow – 2/1
Back-to-back defeats, combined with the form of Carlisle, has made Northampton’s push for automatic promotion look a lot more complicated than it might have done at Christmas, when Jon Brady’s side were seven points clear with a game in hand.
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A return of four points from a possible 15 isn’t what the doctor ordered for the Cobblers, but they have faced five of the top 10 in that period – and ironically the one victory came over leaders Leyton Orient.
The Teyn have given themselves a shot in the arm, though, by adding versatile midfielder Will Hondermarck from Barnsley, and are hoping to add striker Matty Stevens on loan from last year’s title-winners, Forest Green, for some promotion-winning nous.
Northampton need their star men like Marc Leonard, Jack Sowerby and Sam Hoskins to step up to the plate, after a two-week period without games.
The promotion candidates are hoping to boost their prospects with victory at Barrow, who sit just a solitary point outside the Play-Off spots.
After taking four points off tough away trips to Mansfield and Leyton Orient, Pete Wild hopes the signings of Jake Young and Rory Feely can reignite their top seven tilt, but midfielder Sam Foley could be a miss.
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Carlisle to win at Rochdale - Evens
Carlisle have boosted their promotion chances with a strong transfer window.
Alfie McCalmont, once talked about as the heir to Kalvin Phillips’ throne at Leeds, looks an excellent addition in midfield, while John-Kymani Gordon, on loan from Crystal Palace, has started life in the senior game as well as 11 goals in eight PL2 appearances would suggest.
Jack Robinson, from Middlesbrough, represents much-needed left-sided defensive cover, while Joe Garner brings some experience and nous back to the club at which he once hut his cloth 16 years ago.
With those additions, and the injury list shortening gradually, Paul Simpson’s squad is getting stronger and if they could be in the automatic promotion conversation with half a squad out for half a season, then who knows what they could do with more options?
Rochdale are only two points off safety, after back-to-back defeats, but Gillingham won’t go down with the business they’ve been able to do under new ownership and while Crawley are catchable, just two points better off, they’ve got three games in hand.
Dale are hoping the additions of left-back Owen Dodgson and forward D’Mani Mellor can save their season: if they go down, the route back to the EFL won’t be quick nor easy.
- Coventry to beat Huddersfield – 3/4
- Oxford to win at Burton – 13/10
- Bristol Rovers to win at Morecambe – 5/4
- Northampton to win at Barrow – 2/1
- Carlisle to win at Rochdale – Evens
- £10 bet returns £533.38!
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