Sutton’s Acca: 8/1 EFL Bet
EFL pundit Gab Sutton picks his accumulator for Saturday’s action – he expects Paul Simpson’s Carlisle in League Two to produce a defiant reaction to their midweek loss…
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Middlesbrough to beat QPR – 4/7
The likelihood is that Middlesbrough will finish comfortably in the Play-Offs, but the 3-1 victory at Sheffield United on Wednesday gives them an outside chance of giving the automatic promotion race some intrigue in the last third of the campaign.
Boro are still seven points off the Blades, having played a game more, so by current PPG projections, they need 37 points from their remaining 14 games – or in other words, they can only afford to drop five points between now and the end of the season.
The requirements might end up not being quite as demanding as that, with United facing seven Play-Off candidates in their next eight and still having to go to Turf Moor, but only impeccable form will do.
That’s what Michael Carrick’s side have delivered, though: 12 wins in 16 league games since the Manchester United legend rocked up on Teesside in October.
A couple of subtle tweaks have done the trick for Boro, while Aston Villa loanee Cam Archer is swiftly becoming one of the Championship’s top forwards, having scored three goals in his last two including a brace at Bramall Lane.
By contrast, QPR look a team in crisis, though their form under Mick Beale in the first three months of the campaign means they are unlikely to get sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Neil Critchley is under pressure: the 44-year-old proved an excellent coach at Liverpool, and Head Coach at Blackpool, but his preferred style of play doesn’t look a natural fit with this Rs squad.
Ipswich to beat Forest Green – 1/4
After a goalless draw at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday, most Ipswich fans have conceded defeat on the automatic promotion race and are now focused on their team cementing a Play-Off spot.
Had Town fans been offered 57 points from 31 games before the season, they would have taken it, but because their best form came in August and September, and because Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle have been relentless at the top, the mood in the camp is a little more subdued.
The drop in form, largely down to conversion issues, should not detract natives from the bigger picture, though, which is that huge improvements have been made over the last two years in terms of ownership, structure, investment and quality of playing and coaching personnel which will put the club on the right track for potentially decades.
There is a case for Kieran McKenna to make a few tweaks to his side to freshen things up, after one or two star performers have started to look a little jaded, but the correct alterations should produce a winning formula against bottom side Forest Green.
Duncan Ferguson has inspired some improved performances in the Green Devils, but the Scot has been unable to turn the tide with the concession of late goals costing them in the three straight defeats under the Everton legend’s watch.
If Harry Clarke, Kyle Edwards, Conor Chaplin and Nathan Broadhead come in with the intention of rejuvenating Town, they could run out comfortable winners.
The Suffolk club have been victorious in all three hostings of bottom six opposition, conceding none and scoring 10 goals in the process.
Plymouth Argyle to beat Fleetwood – 4/7
With Ipswich and Derby dropping points lately, back-to-back wins have put Plymouth Argyle eight points clear in the race for automatic promotion.
Right now, the form team for the Green Army to worry about are Bolton Wanderers, but Argyle have a game in hand on them.
85 points is projected to get Steven Schumacher’s side over the line, in which case it’s a matter of ticking off 19 from their remaining 15, which looks very achievable with seven remaining home fixtures against bottom half opposition.
The inventive Finn Azaz has picked up where he left off after returning from injury, with the Aston Villa loanee supporting a strike-pairing of Sam Cosgrove and Ryan Hardie, which has come to life in the last two games.
Dynamo Jay Matete has proved an inspired acquisition in midfield, while Schumacher has overcome defensive injuries by switching cultured Wolves loanee Nigel Longwijk to the right of his back-three, bringing the ever reliable Macauley Gillesphey in on the left.
Fleetwood are not to be underestimated, after beating top half sides Charlton and Peterborough, but the Pilgrims have wind in their sails.
Leyton Orient to beat Crawley – 1/2
Leyton Orient endured something of a blip in January, but it was one they could ultimately afford with neither Carlisle nor Northampton capitalizing.
Richie Wellens’ side have put an end to it this month, too, having 10 points from the last 12 available, seeing off Play-Off outsiders Wimbledon then strugglers Crewe and Rochdale.
O’s were worried about how their team would respond to the loss of homegrown centre-back Dan Happe, but it’s the less familiar name of Ed Turns, on loan from Brighton, who has starred alongside Omar Beckles.
Turns has played with great maturity for his age and has a better passing range than one or two midfielders in this squad, so the 20-year-old Wales U21s international has proved a timely addition.
Orient have been turning out results without star man Paul Smyth, absent through injury, with the likes of Kieran Sadlier and Theo Archibald thriving in wide forward roles.
Sadlier and Archibald should get opportunities to excel on turnovers, because Crawley – now led by former Swindon boss Scott Lindsey – are a possession-heavy side.
Lindsey’s style has led to some enterprising performances, like the one in defeat at Stockport in midweek, but they could be without experienced midfielder Ben Gladwin through injury, likewise Brighton loanee Teddy Jenks.
Carlisle to beat Colchester – 19/20
Carlisle’s pride was hurt last week when they were thumped 4-0 by promotion rivals Mansfield.
With Northampton also dropping points for a third game running, the automatic promotion conversation looks a lot more open than it has earlier in the season, and encouragement can be given to Mansfield, Salford, Stockport and Bradford.
It may be premature, however, to underestimate United on the basis of one nightmare showing, when they’ve shown incredible resilience to get into this position with the best part of half a squad missing until Christmas.
The result does follow previous dropped points for Paul Simpson’s side, but they had more than enough chances to beat Harrogate in the previous home game, and fell victim to a late smash-and-grab, before arguably shading proceedings at Play-Off outsiders Wimbledon in a goalless draw.
Simpson has done outstanding work at Brunton Park in his first 12 months in charge, and it would be foolhardy to expect anything other than a defiant reaction from his side.
Colchester have won each of their last five away league games, and have motored from the relegation dogfight into midtable safety under Matt Bloomfield’s guidance, but could come unstuck in Cumbria.
- Middlesbrough to beat QPR – 4/7
- Ipswich to beat Forest Green – 1/4
- Plymouth Argyle to beat Fleetwood – 4/7
- Leyton Orient to beat Crawley – 1/2
- Carlisle to beat Colchester – 19/20
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