Sutton United v Crewe Alexandra
Sutton United are eyeing a late push for the play-offs as they take on a Crewe Alexandra side who have nothing to play for.
The U’s are performing strongly at the moment and are only three points off the top seven with a game in-hand on Salford City above them. They won 2-0 away at Newport County last weekend to boost their promotion hopes thanks to goals by defender Coby Rowe and midfielder Alistair Reid. Their boss Matt Gray was delighted afterwards and said he was pleased to keep their ‘run going’ as he eyes another win this Saturday. Sutton have midfielder Craig Eastmond and striker Omar Bugiel back from their respective suspensions which is a big boost and gives them more options and depth to pick from. They are on a roll and have won their last three matches on the spin as they look to make that four against an inconsistent Crewe outfit. In addition, the London club are proving tough to beat and are unbeaten in their last six and have only lost once in their last 11 which bodes well ahead of their upcoming fixtures. In their 16 games at Gander Green Lane this term, they have only lost twice and they have made it a real fortress like they did in the last campaign.
It has been a poor season for Crewe and they sit down in 17th place. The Cheshire side drew 1-1 at home to bottom of the table Rochdale last Saturday with defender Rio Adebisi on the scoresheet and they were disappointed not to win with their opponents equalising with 10 minutes to go. Manager Lee Bell said he was ‘frustrated’ with the result and pressure is starting to mount on him after their stuttering set of recent results. On the selection front, defender Connor O’Riordan was sent off against the Dale and will be suspended meaning Billy Sass-Davies, who hasn’t played much football in this campaign, is the most likely to step in. Striker Courtney Baker-Richardson has returned to training as he steps up his road to recovery from injury but this weekend is expected to come too soon for him with Dan Agyei ready to get the nod again. Crewe are struggling for points and have won just once in their last 10 outings which leaves them closer to the relegation zone than it does to the play-offs. They may find it hard to find the motivation to play to their best over the couple of months due to their season effectively being over already and they will be there for the taking.
Ipswich Town v Burton Albion
Ipswich Town come into this weekend following consecutive victories over relegation-threatened Forest Green Rovers and Milton Keynes Dons. It is the first time the Tractor Boys have won back-to-back league matches since October, a damning example of how Ipswich have gone from a position of dominance at the top to playing catch-up with the automatic promotion places. A tendency to drop points against weaker opposition provided regular frustration for supporters and players alike. Ipswich have two further upcoming games against relegation battlers though and simply have to take advantage. Kieran McKenna’s 4-2-3-1 features a plethora of frontline options. Freddie Ladapo and George Hirst are rotated in the striker role. Marcus Harness and Nathan Broadhead occupy the left winger role. Wes Burns, Kayden Jackson and Kyle Edwards are options at right wing. Top scorer Conor Chaplin is always a threat both inside and outside the box in his attacking midfield role. Australian midfielder Massimo Luongo is getting up to match speed and provides an alternative to Sam Morsy and youngster Cameron Humphreys in deeper midfield.
Burton Albion may present a tougher test for Ipswich Town than their previous two matches. A run of four wins in their last six has seen the Brewers climb out of the bottom four and build a four-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone. Dino Maamria’s side are the leading example of how to set up an effective relegation battler. A back three of John Brayford, Sam Hughes and Barnsley loanee Jasper Moon are no-nonsense defenders in front of goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray. Wing-back Tom Hamer is in turn a player best known for his defensive quality, though his long throw is a weapon Burton regularly look to capitalise on when set piece opportunities fall their way. Albion have a handful of technical players who can offer threat in open play, particularly in their frontline where Nottingham Forest loanee Dale Taylor and Charlton Athletic loanee Charlie Kirk have made key impacts. The passing ability of midfielder Terry Taylor will be a miss as he is confirmed out for the rest of the season, likewise striker Sam Winnall who has scored match winners in two of his last three games before injury. Moroccan forward Gassan Ahadme is ineligible for this match as he is on loan from Ipswich Town.
This season has demonstrated a clear gulf in quality between the top end of League One and the bottom end of League One. Ipswich Town, particularly at Portman Road, should be expected to comfortably see off relegation-battling opposition, and Burton Albion are one of those sides. The Brewers do enter this weekend in good nick and with breathing space between themselves and bottom four, but that could prove handy given the challenge that awaits them in Suffolk. Town fans will be wanting a third win in a row, against a team who have never beaten them at Portman Road before, and will want to do it by scoring as many goals as possible.
Bristol Rovers v Barnsley
Barnsley travel to Bristol Rovers on Saturday at an enticing odds against price.
The Tykes have been one of the best performing teams in the division since the turn of the year and dismantled Derby County to a 4-1 scoreline last weekend. Luca Connell, Herbie Kane and Adam Phillips are complimenting each other so well in midfield, easily one of the best midfield trios in the division.
Barnsley’s last four matches read: 2-0, 3-1, 4-0 and 4-1, they are still not being priced up like the big-hitters in the league, but they are playing like one, winning 12, drawing two and losing two of their last 16. Sam Finley’s return was a very welcome one for Bristol Rovers last weekend, triggering Karl Robinson’s sacking with a 3-0 win at Oxford United, after the Gas had only taken one point from a possible 18.
This is more of a price play because the Gas always hold a significant threat in the final third with Aaron Collins bagging his 15th of the campaign last weekend.
In tentatively leaning towards Barnsley as we edge towards the business end of the season, I am happy to keep two outcomes onside and take the Tykes at a shorter price.
Middlesbrough v Reading
The case for backing Middlesbrough here is very clear.
Michael Carrick’s men were given a reality check last Saturday with a deserved 2-0 loss at West Brom. This could serve to do one of two things, knock their confidence and begin a period of less emphatic performance and results, or, spur them on to pick their game up again. In Reading, they could barely have picked a better match to get back on the horse and start that winning run again.
The Royals are simply atrocious on the road. There was a period in the middle of the season when I felt as though their away performances just weren’t quite getting the rub of the green and that their away results would probably pick up and get back towards the average, but that simply hasn’t been the case. It is almost as if Paul Ince has challenged himself to get the Royals to stay up on the back of home points alone.
There also came the news this week of a six-point deduction that looks likely to be meted out to Reading next week. That would move the Berkshire side down the table to just outside the relegation zone, but Paul Ince has been fairly defiant and matter-of-fact in the media about the situation, and I doubt whether it will massively affect the team and their work in the immediate future.
The bigger problems in this fixture come on the pitch, where Reading will have to work out how to progress the ball effectively towards Middlesbrough’s final third. Boro are likely to see much more of the ball, and, under Carrick they tend to be much more effective with it. The sharp movement of Cameron Archer has given them another dimension moving forwards and the array of threats in the Teesside team should be too much for Reading to deal with.
Indeed, Boro have recorded the second highest xG of any Championship club since the turn of the year. They have also conceded a big xGA number, but that won’t be as relevant against a Reading side that have a pretty poor xG record themselves, especially away from home.
Derby County v Shrewsbury Town
It was a nice surprise to see Derby County at a backable price ahead of hosting Shrewsbury Town this weekend.
The Rams’ Tuesday evening 2-0 win over Cheltenham Town would have had an impact on the price with Paul Warne’s men incredibly strong at home in the last few months. Derby do not have the squad depth of some of the sides around them at the top end, but it is enough to deal with the turnaround.
The Rams have won seven of their last eight home league games while the Shrews have drawn a blank in their last two games on the road. Warne could call on James Collins, Louie Sibley, Tom Barkhuizen and Curtis Davies who were all on the bench in midweek and have proven their durability on numerous occasions since the turn of the year.
Pro-Derby has been a successful stance to take since the back end of last year and there has not been enough in the Shrews’ recent displays to move away that angle in this fixture.
Town are having a wonderful season under Steve Cotterill but having been peaking for some months now and it would not be a surprise to see them run out of steam.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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