Blackburn Rovers v Norwich City
This is a must not lose match for Blackburn Rovers in their quest for a top-six berth for a first tilt at the playoffs since their promotion to the original Premier League season in 1992.
Norwich, of course, have much more recent promotion experience. Some would say they are experts in Championship promotion, but they are not playing like that now. The Canaries’ fans are spitting feathers of their own at the way that their collection of players, a phrase used on purpose in place of ‘team’, seem to be unable to consistently put performances together that are worthy of previous iterations of Championship Norwich.
As the Pukki era winds down in Norwich’s attack, David Wagner’s initial approach of playing all the attacking players doesn’t seem to be as effective at the moment. Adam Idah still hasn’t proven beyond doubt that he is good enough to lead a top Championship attack and Josh Sargent, after burning bright early in the season, hasn’t been able to retain that form at the back end. Playing both Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez in midfield did seem to give Norwich a boost creatively but that experiment has been abandoned of late.
Indeed, it would appear as though Wagner is doing quite a lot of chopping and changing to try and find something that works. The quality of the players in the squad is as much a hindrance as a help in this regard, but, it is also their outright quality that is keeping them in touch of the play-off positions. Only 2 goals in the last 4 matches tell a story though, and Ewood Park is not the place to visit if you’re struggling for goals.
Rovers are one of a few teams who are a different outfit at home than away. Before their last home game against Reading, Rovers were on a five-game stretch of not conceding a goal at home, only Cesare Casadei’s long-range hit spoiled that run. The home team aren’t fluent in front of goal though with an average xG for even at home and having not scored more than twice in their last ten at Ewood.
It is difficult to see many goals in this match. With a misfiring Canaries outfit and a strong home defence, I find it unlikely to see both teams being able to notch in this match and it is a slightly bigger price than Under 2.5 goals.
Stoke City v Bristol City
Feeling bullish about Stoke City has been a dangerous game since the Potters were relegated to the Premier League back in 2018. The Staffordshire outfit have finished no higher than 14th in their four full seasons since relegation, but if they continue to look as good as they currently do then there is a good chance of them ending 2022-23 in the top half of the table. Alex Neil’s side are on a five-game unbeaten run which includes big away wins at both Sunderland and Coventry City, also in turn picking up a point away at high-flying Middlesbrough and beating play-off side Blackburn Rovers at the bet365 Stadium. A 4-2-3-1 setup is really clicking at the moment, thanks in no small part to a number of influential loan players. Liverpool’s attack-minded Ki-Jana Hoever is a regular at right-back, and on occasion has played really high up on the right wing. Chelsea’s Dujon Sterling features as a full-back on either side. Southampton’s Will Smallbone is really catching the eye in attacking midfield, with AFC Bournemouth’s Ben Pearson sat in deeper midfield alongside Josh Laurent. Scotland International Jacob Brown and 23-year-old forward Tyrese Campbell were most recently joined up top by the returning Nick Powell, the first two in particular enjoying the afternoon in Coventry with a goal each. Hoever and Smallbone provided the other two in the 4-0 victory.
Bristol City for now sit just a place and two points below Stoke City, but at the Potters’ current rate could soon be left behind by them. Nigel Pearson possesses a squad with some promising youngsters, none more so than 19-year-old midfielder Alex Scott who always catches the eye when present on the pitch. An injury sustained whilst on International duty left him absent for the weekend’s draw against Reading however, and he is unlikely to see action across this easter weekend as well. It is undoubtedly a blow for the Robins to be without their star youngster, and Pearson had to adapt by dropping fellow young product Tommy Conway back into attacking midfield for their most recent fixture. If Conway is kept there, Bermudan striker Nakhi Wells is likely to lead the line with Anis Mehmeti and Andreas Weimann in support of a 4-2-3-1. Expect Harry Cornick and young striker Sam Bell to be available in reserve. A consistent back four of Jay Dasilva, Cameron Pring, Zak Vyner and George Tanner is in place ahead of goalkeeper Max O’Leary, but some could argue that it lacks sufficient experience with no player in that defence older than 25. That experience in the team instead comes from midfielders Matty James and Andy King.
On Stoke’s current run of confidence, they have to be fancied against most opposition, especially a Bristol City side who look near enough ready to pack up their season and retire to the beach. With a flying Dutch right-back, an exciting Southampton loanee in attacking midfield and confident wide forwards, the Staffordshire crowd are going to be keen for a perfect Easter weekend, starting on Good Friday against a team that they could go five points ahead of come 5pm.
QPR v Preston North End
QPR’s plight shows no signs of abating. People are beginning to speculate as to whether there has been a more spectacular collapse in the Championship as the Rs were top of the league in late October, but now find the relegation zone uncomfortably close behind them.
It’s not as if QPR can look at the performance data for any solace either. They find themselves bottom of the table for expected points since the end of the transfer window with really poor chance creation and chance concession metrics. A change of manager from Neil Critchley to Gareth Ainsworth has done nothing to halt the slide and it is difficult to see now how this gets to be turned around.
Ryan Lowe has faced severe criticism from his own fans at points this season but points gained and performance metrics see them safely in upper mid-table. Indeed, the Lilywhites appear to be finishing the season looking stronger than a few weeks ago. The strikeforce of pure loanees is working out with Tom Cannon in particular looking like he has a real future, great news for Ireland.
There has been a big blow this week though with the news of Ched Evans. The Welshman is taking an indefinite leave from the game whilst investigations are carried out into a potentially serious medical condition reputedly caused by the repetition of impact whilst playing football.
QPR are priced up as favourites for this match, and with quite a margin. Looking at the data and using the eye I simply cannot agree with that. For Preston to be a backable price with the draw being included on our side as well it is a bet that cannot be passed up. QPR will be desperate for the win, whereas Preston are unlikely to make the playoffs, but the way both sides are playing there should be much less difference in the prices than there currently is.
Lincoln City v Cheltenham Town
Lincoln City are a bizarre side. The Imps sit 14th, a distinctly average side in this League One season. Further analysis however shows a home record with just a single defeat in 18 games at Sincil Bank, picking up 13 draws and just four wins. Mark Kennedy’s team in turn have seemingly been able to take things to another level against the top sides in the league. All of the top three of Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle, and Ipswich Town have failed to win their meetings with Lincoln City.
Sheffield Wednesday most recently continued a concerning run of form with a 1-1 draw at home to the Imps. It is not for the lack of trying, with Lincoln capable of digging their feet and holding superior opposition at bay, but made all the more bizarre when they generally look a lot more vulnerable against similarly-placed opposition. Brighton and Hove Albion loanee Carl Rushworth can often be a star performer between the sticks, sat behind a back three of Regan Poole, Adam Jackson and Sean Roughan with Harry Boyes and Lasse Sørensen the currently favoured wing-backs. Lincoln’s midfield is at its best with Ethan Erhahon on the pitch, something that hasn’t been able to happen that often enough recently. It is up top though where the most improvement is needed in the summer. Limited striker options and the lack of a clinical finisher are perhaps the best evidence for the many draws and narrow-margin matches that have taken place at Sincil Bank this season. Of the forwards, it is Irishman Daniel Mandroiu who looks the big prospect, playing either up top in a pair or off the left.
A now six-game-long unbeaten run is leaving Cheltenham Town very close to securing safety against the odds. Survival needs to be recognised as a very impressive achievement for the Robins, who not only possess one of the smallest budgets in the entire division but also had to deal with the setback of losing star manager Michael Duff and influential centre-back Will Boyle before a ball had even been kicked. Promoted assistant Wade Elliott has not always had a smooth ride this season, but has been able to keep his team outside of the bottom four for every single week since the 13th of September. Elliott owes a lot to striker Alfie May, who has rekindled his fantastic form from last season and regularly contributes with spectacular and crucial strikes. Irish striker Aidan Keena looks like a great partner since arriving in January. In the midfield of Cheltenham’s 3-5-2 sits Luton Town Glen Rea, sat deeper than the likes of James Olayinka and Liam Sercombe as a link between the backline and the central unit. West Bromwich Albion loanee Caleb Taylor is a towering presence in the centre of the back three, allowing Tom Bradbury and Sean Long to push further towards half-way in possession whilst Will Ferry and Ryan Broom provide full width from wing-back. The performances of Northern Ireland International goalkeeper Luke Southwood, on loan this season from Reading, should also not be ignored.
Both Lincoln City and Cheltenham Town will be pleased that there is little riding on this Good Friday meeting at Sincil Bank. Both side’s successes this season have come from robust backlines and forwards who can capitalise on limited moments. Against each other, and especially with Lincoln at home, there is a good chance of them cancelling each other despite the pressure largely being off. A low-score draw would certainly be nothing new for the Lincolnshire crowd.
Oxford United v Sheffield Wednesday
Sat in a perilous position just above the relegation zone, Oxford United are crucially showing signs of improvement under Liam Manning. A 0-0 draw at Peterborough United on Saturday is an excellent result, especially when you limit one of the league’s most frightening attacks to just three shots on target. Manning looks to have tightened up the backline of Ciaron Brown, Stuart Findlay, Elliott Moore and Sam Long, handy when you consider that Oxford are still a team who look lacklustre up top. The U’s a lack a potent striker, though winger Marcus Browne can look lively at times during a match. Cameron Brannagan and Marcus McGuane are still carrying high influence as part of the midfield in a 4-3-3.
It seems odd to feel concerned about the team top of the table, but that is exactly how you should be feeling about Sheffield Wednesday right now. Prior to a 4-2 defeat away at Barnsley just two weeks ago, the Owls had been on a 23-game unbeaten run in the third tier, looking like a team on their way to the title. Even despite defeat, a favourable fixture list largely against bottom-half opposition seemingly presented a perfect opportunity to bounce back. What has followed though is a defeat to rock-bottom Forest Green Rovers, a comeback draw at Cheltenham Town, and a frustrating 1-1 at home to Lincoln City. The drop in form has left the title and automatic promotion out of Sheffield Wednesday’s hands; both second-place Plymouth Argyle and third-place Ipswich Town can pass them with their games in hand.
The absence of midfielder George Byers and dynamic forward Josh Windass is not a sufficient excuse for Sheffield Wednesday’s most recent results. The Owls have clearly dropped below the immense standards they once kept, and are yet to show a sign of returning to previous levels. A game against an Oxford United team battling for every point should be seen as a great opportunity to return to winning ways, but it is difficult to trust Darren Moore’s team at the moment…
Accrington Stanley v Port Vale
We chanced our arm on Accrington Stanley to pick up a result at Exeter City the weekend before last, and the attempt rather blew up in our faces with the Grecians running riot in Devon to a 5-0 scoreline. However, a similar approach in looking to pounce on outsiders with greater motivation than the favourites was a comfortable winner as Cambridge United won 2-0 at Port Vale last weekend.
Faith in Stanley and John Coleman remains as a side who have defied the odds for years to even flirt with the third tier play-off picture in recent seasons. Accy will be prioritising the visit of Vale on Friday with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on the horizon on Easter Monday, while they had last weekend off to help their preparation.
Five of Stanley’s eight league wins this season have come on their home patch and the price of 2.20 on Vale to take all three points, having won just two of 15 in the league, is frankly a bit ridiculous.
Accy are three points from safety with eight matches remaining in League One and will not stop fighting until the fat lady sings, Vale are worth opposing at that price.
Morecambe v Plymouth Argyle
You could put together a strong case that Morecambe are the worst team in the third tier at the moment.
The Shrimps have only picked up one point from their last five league games, scoring three and conceding 14 during that run. Unfortunately, four points from safety having played two more games than the teams directly around them, those troubling numbers have been justified by their low level of performance.
The Shrimps have a number of unnamed doubts ahead of the busy Easter weekend as they prepare to welcome second-placed Plymouth Argyle. Wages were paid late last month and Derek Adams is blaming some of the recent poor displays on off-pitch affairs. It remains a good time to get against Morecambe as we have been doing in recent weeks.
Steven Schumacher has a task on his hands to lift the Argyle squad after their embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers at Wembley Stadium in the Papa John’s Trophy final last weekend, but with a deep squad at his disposal, they should be able to freshen things up effectively.
The likes of Mickel Miller, Sam Cosgrove and Finn Azaz were on the bench against the Trotters and could be recalled to the starting XI to take on the Shrimps.
Shrewsbury Town v Peterborough United
Shrewsbury Town suffered a very uncharacteristic 6-0 defeat at Charlton Athletic last weekend and will have been accused of being ‘on the beach’ by some supporters who made the trip to South London.
George Nurse, Dan Udoh, and Tom Bayliss are huge injury misses for the Shrews, particularly the latter, and they will be missing Tom Flanagan through suspension ahead of Friday’s visit of Peterborough United. The Posh have won five of seven away games since Darren Ferguson replaced Grant McCann in the dugout and will be expecting a reaction from Steve Cotterill’s men following their heavy defeat.
A three-match losing streak for Derby County has seen the Posh climb into the top six, but with the Rams taking on Forest Green Rovers and Milton Keynes Dons this weekend, the picture could look very different come Monday evening.
The Shrews are desperately missing Bayliss’ energy and creativity in midfield areas and may well sit back in aiming to contain Posh.
Despite drawing a blank against Oxford United last weekend, Posh have the quality to breach the Shrews and edge past a side who have overperformed for the vast majority of the campaign.
Harrogate Town v AFC Wimbledon
Harrogate Town are not on the beach yet. The weekend’s results in particular have left the Sulphurites just four points above the relegation zone with eight games left to play. Harrogate do have a game in hand on all those below them, and a tendency to score goals in games against favourable opposition. Simon Weaver favours a 4-4-2 spearheaded by Jack Muldoon and Luke Armstrong, the latter in particular is one of the better, more complete forwards in the lower leagues. Tenacious captain Josh Falkingham partners Levi Sutton in midfield, whilst out wide you can find Southampton loanee Kazeem Olaigbe who is catching the eye consistently with his direct running threat. George Thomson has been deputising at right-back in the place of the suspended Toby Sims, joining Matty Foulds, Tom Eastman and Anthony O’Connor in a back four that is certainly not unbreachable.
AFC Wimbledon’s 2-0 win over Walsall at the end of March sticks out like a sore thumb in a run of poor form, being the Dons only victory across their last 13 fixtures. Any hopes of a top-end finish have fully faded away under Johnnie Jackson, and concerns are now being raised about how badly the slide could continue into next season. Wimbledon do have a form player in Iraq striker Ali Al-Hamadi, who has had eight goal contributions already since joining from Wycombe Wanderers in January, but he is the sole bright spark in an underwhelming, vulnerable side. The starting front four of Ethan Chislett, Armani Little, Kasey McAteer and Saikou Janneh lacks potency when Al-Hamadi isn’t on the pitch with them. 21-year-old back-up goalkeeper Nathan Broome is having to feature between the sticks whilst number one Nik Tzanev is unavailable, two more youngsters in Jack Currie and Isaac Ogundere operate at left and right-back respectively. The former has been more convincing than the latter across the campaign.
Harrogate Town games always carry the potential for goals, having been involved in an average of 2.6 a game this season. AFC Wimbledon matches meanwhile have seen an average of 2.2, an average that has increased recently as their vulnerability becomes more apparent. Harrogate need the points more, and may well get them in a frantic game at Wetherby Road on Good Friday. Over 2.5 goals is an attractive prospect at odds of 2.20, however, odds of 1.36 for over 1.5 look fantastic value for those looking to play it a little safer!
Gillingham v Doncaster Rovers
Gillingham are in a confident mood and will fancy their chances of beating out-of-form Doncaster Rovers to kick-start the Easter weekend.
The Gills have risen away from trouble in League Two since the turn of the year and have been in decent form at home. They have won seven of their last eight outings at Priestfield to climb away from the bottom two and only promotion-chasing Bradford City have beaten them there since the start of 2023. They lost 2-1 away at play-off hopefuls Barrow last time out with defender Conor Masterson scoring what looked to be an equaliser with 10 minutes to go, only for their opponents to win the game in added-on time. The Kent outfit were unlucky not to get a result and their boss Neil Harris said afterward he was ‘frustrated’ so he will want to see a response. On the injury front, attacker Scott Kashket remains out of action but Gillingham have useful options in his position such as Tom Nichols and Ollie Hawkins. They are so tough to beat on their own patch and should have no problems in getting past their next opponents if they can show up and maintain the same level of performance of recent times.
Doncaster have been in dismal form recently and have seen their hopes of a late push for the play-offs fade away as pressure mounts on their manager Danny Schofield. It has been an underwhelming campaign for the Yorkshire club and their 2-0 home loss to Crewe Alexandra sums their season up. Their head coach said it was a ‘very disappointing’ showing by his players and their fans are getting on their backs at the moment. Rovers have been dealt a big blow with striker Caolan Lavery out injured for the rest of this season now and he joins fellow forward George Miller in the treatment room which isn’t ideal and leaves the team quite short of options in their attacking department, with three-goal Kieran Agard likely to step up now. Doncaster have won just once in their last nine outings and are winless in their last four so are there for the taking. They will just want this campaign to end now as they keep an eye on next term and the improvements they need to make on and off the pitch.
Stevenage v Colchester United
Stevenage have automatic promotion in their sights and will understand the importance of getting three points against lowly Colchester United.
The Hertfordshire outfit are 3rd in the League Two table and have games in hand on 4th position Carlisle United and 2nd place Northampton Town so are in a strong position to go on and get promoted. They drew 1-1 away with the latter last time out and equalised through striker Jamie Reid with just under 20 minutes left to play in what was a useful result against a rival. Their boss Steve Evans said his players deserved ‘enormous credit’ for their performance and he will want to see them back it up with a win on Friday. Boro have received a boost with defender Terence Vancooten back from his hamstring injury and he provides an alternative option at the back to the likes of Carl Piergianni, Dan Sweeney, and Michael Bostwick and is a proven performer at fourth tier level. Stevenage have lost once in their last five outings and are picking up some momentum at an ideal time as they look to get over the line. They are 3rd in the league for a reason and are in the top five scoring teams in the division which shows how many threats they have at the top end of the pitch with players such as Reid, Luke Norris and Jordan Roberts.
Colchester are still at risk of relegation to the National League and are 21st, just three points above the drop zone. They are yet to win under new manager Ben Garner in his four games in charge so far and drew 0-0 with Newport County at home in their last match. Their boss said their destiny is in their ‘own hands’ but he will be sweating with teams below like Rochdale, Hartlepool United and Crawley Town all picking up wins recently. On the selection front, the U’s will check on the fitness of Connor Hall ahead of their next outing and it would be a blow if he was out of action, with his likely replacement Tommy Smith not playing as much football this term. Colchester have picked up just four points from a possible 24 and are struggling to put the ball in the back of the net and have the second-worst goal return in the league behind Gillingham. They are winless in their last eight games and have failed to score in five of them as they nervously look over their shoulder.
Newport County v Northampton Town
Newport County have nothing to play for as they prepare to face promotion-chasing Northampton Town.
The Exiles drew 0-0 with struggling Colchester United last time out which suggests their season is starting to fizzle out as they keep one eye on the next campaign. They are down in 18th place and can’t go up anymore and are extremely unlikely to go down meaning these next few games will be a formality for them. Speaking after their draw last weekend, their boss Graham Coughlan admitted his players were a bit ‘leggy’ which is a worry as they take on one of the best teams in the league next up. On the selection front, defender Priestley Farquharson remains sidelined but fellow centre-back Declan Drysdale is now fit from his knee injury and is available for selection if needed. It has been an underwhelming campaign on the whole for the South Wales outfit and they have -5 goal difference which is something they will look to improve on next term. They have won just once in their last seven outings now and will be in for a tough clash on Friday as they look to get through their remaining eight matches before they can put their feet up this summer.
Northampton have hit form at the right time as they look to get over the line into League One. Jon Brady’s side are 2nd in the table behind Leyton Orient by seven points and are four points inside the top three as they search for another big result in their upcoming clash. They drew 1-1 with 3rd position Stevenage in their last match with striker Louie Appere on the scoresheet and their boss said afterward that he was satisfied that his team have kept their ‘momentum going’ and he will be seeking another positive showing at Rodney Parade. Midfielder Jack Sowerby went off against Boro after feeling his hamstring and will need to be assessed ahead of the next couple of fixtures, with useful options such as Marc Leonard and Will Hondermarck perfectly capable of stepping up if needed. Northampton are on a roll and haven’t lost in their last eight games as they chase down the league leaders. In addition, they are proving to be a tough nut to crack and have lost just once in their last 13 which proves they will take some stopping now.
Grimsby Town v Hartlepool United
Grimsby Town are in for a difficult test against a Hartlepool United side resurgent under John Askey.
The Mariners are 15th in the table and have done enough to stay up with ease in their first season back in the Football League after winning promotion from the National League last term. They don’t have much to play for now and lost 3-2 away at Bradford City last time out, with midfielder Gavan Holohan and Hull City loan defender Andy Smith on the scoresheet for them at Valley Parade as they sunk to a defeat. Their manager Paul Hurst that their fixtures schedule has been ‘gruelling’ and his players are starting to show evidence of tiredness based on recent showings as their season starts to peter out. They have no fresh injury concerns but it is worth noting that Holohan and striker Ryan Taylor are both only one yellow card away from a one-match suspension as two games come quickly over the Easter weekend. Grimsby are winless in their last five in all competitions and haven’t won since their 1-0 away win at Sutton United on 14th March before their 5-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup quarter-final last month. It is all about next season now for them and they take on a team desperate for another three points this Friday.
Hartlepool are hoping to mastermind the great escape this term and are unbeaten in their six matches since John Askey took over from Keith Curle in late February, winning once and drawing five. They have consistently been getting points on the board recently and are only two points behind 22nd-place Crawley Town now and three behind Colchester United. The Pools beat Swindon Town 2-1 at home last weekend courtesy of late goals by attacker Connor Jennings and midfielder Oliver Finney and will be hoping that win can give them the confidence to go to Blundell Park and get another one, with Askey saying after that one that his side must ‘keep goings’ as they seek more points. On the selection front, goalkeeper Ben Kilip is back from injury and will now compete with Jake Stolarczyk for the number one spot which gives them two solid options which are good. Hartlepool will be backed by a sold-out away end at Grimsby and their travelling fans will be in loud voice as they look to see their players keep their momentum going and get another result in their quest for survival.
FC Halifax Town v Wrexham
A selection based on Wrexham being available at 1.4 while playing a team that isn’t Notts County.
Wrexham have been phenomenal this season. They are top of the division having accrued 100 points from 40 matches. They are now 28 unbeaten, winning 23, and have scored two or more goals in 17 of their last 18 league games. Furthermore, their talisman Paul Mullin has scored 20 goals in his last 17 matches, including a hat-trick against Oldham Athletic last time out. Wrexham have also won seven of their last eight away from home and scored at least two goals in each of those matches. They haven’t conceded more than once away from home in five and have conceded more than once on the road once in their last 16.
They take on an FC Halifax Town side riding the crest of a wave after securing their place at Wembley for the FA Trophy final, despite being second-best throughout at Altrincham and only getting their equaliser in the final seconds of the game. Halifax are a gritty outfit, defensively sound, and generally okay at home. However, they conceded four on home turf against Notts County and Woking, have lost all four games played against the top three, and six of seven against the top five. They have also not scored more than once against a side in the top nine.
Oldham Athletic v Altrincham
A mid-table clash between two sides who can start planning for next season after recovering from poor starts.
Both sides have vastly improved since early difficulties, Alty the seventh-best side in the division since 2nd October and the Latics would be eighth if the league started on New Year’s Day. However, both have fallen into the trap of resting on their laurels, Alty’s focus on an FA Trophy semi-final seeing them win two and lose four of their last six in the league while Oldham have won two, drawn three and lost five of their last ten.
Oldham have seen both teams score in their last four matches and their defensive record isn’t great, keeping just three clean sheets in their last 22 league matches, conceding around 1.61xG on average. However, they have scored in 18 of those matches and in 12 of their last 13 against non-top 7 opposition. They are also likely to return to 4-4-2 from 3-5-2 after changing in an attempt to halt Wrexham’s flying attack.
Altrincham have seen both teams score in 68% of their league matches this season, the second-highest total in the division, and 70% of their away matches, third highest. They were knocked out of the FA Trophy at the weekend but the team and the club took a lot of positives away from the game and they should enter this with confidence despite falling short. They have scored and conceded in all but two of 20 matches against sides 11th or lower in the table.
Solihull Moors v Maidenhead United
Two inconsistent sides with little to play for but I’m going to back the hosts here.
Solihull Moors were pummelled by Bromley last time out but there were mitigating circumstances, such as their talismanic striker Mark Beck only passing a fitness test on the day and Ardley deciding to give chances to new signings Junior Tiensia and Jack Stevens. However, the Moors had won four in a row at home and held Oldham Athletic on the road before that. They will have Beck available from the start here, as well as having chief creator Jamey Osborne returning from a four-match suspension – they are likely to revert to the side that began the run of home victories.
The Moors take on a Maidenhead United side that have lost 13 of their 20 away matches this season and ten of 12 away matches against sides above them in the league table. Their away performances don’t suggest this is something about to iron itself out with variance either, averaging 1.07xG for over their last eight on the road, conceding 1.66xG in that time. Having all but secured survival, Alan Devonshire has reverted to a bit of rotation to give players an opportunity to impress too.
Southend United v Maidstone United
A simple case of betting against the worst side in the National League.
Southend United’s winless run of seven was finally ended at the weekend when they saw off relegation-threatened Yeovil Town at Huish Park. The goals that day came from experienced duo Jake Hyde and Rhys Murphy and their returns were important for a team that has looked a little short of confidence and know-how recently. Kevin Maher’s side have generally done the business against the poorer sides in the division, winning nine of 12 at home against sides below them in the league table. As well as Hyde, Maher was also able to welcome back Gus Scott-Morriss to his starting XI last time out.
As for Maidstone United, they were officially relegated after a 4-0 home loss against an often blunt Boreham Wood side, their season all but summed up by a performance littered with individual errors, a lack of on-field structure and losing their only available out-and-out centre-back to injury. It is clear that Elokobi, who has been given the job until the end of the 2023-24 campaign, wants to make big changes and that has rocked the boat somewhat with younger players now being thrown in. Maidstone have lost 16 of their 20 away matches in the league and seven of the eight points earned on the road have come against the bottom five.
Ebbsfleet Utd v Oxford City
Ebbsfleet head into this one with a huge lead over their competitors, meaning a win here could see them mathematically win the National League South. However, their competitors are certainly a side to be feared and have much more to play for. They sit 3rd in the league, 2 points behind Dartford with still lots to play for. I expect both teams to be scoring in this fixture.
Both teams are on strong form recently, unbeaten in their respective last five games. Ebbsfleet have scored an outstanding 95 goals this season, with a vast contribution coming from the most prolific player in the league Dominic Poleon. He’s scored 33 goals this season, making him the league’s top scorer and will certainly pose a huge threat to the Oxford defence. However, Oxford also have a sense of danger going forward and have a 2nd place still to fight for. Josh Parker and Klaidi Lolos show equal threats towards what will be a solid Fleet defence – although I believe they will break through.
On paper, Ebbsfleet should be winning this. They have a chance to confirm themselves as champions and will be playing in front of a strong home crowd. However, their opponents still have a lot to play for and are in impeccable form. If this is a loose game, with Ebbsfleet taking a strong lead, I still have no doubts that Oxford will be able to find the back of the net with the title all but confirmed for the home side.
King’s Lynn Town v Kettering Town
King’s Lynn have found themselves in a very tense battle for the championship where no one seems to be backing down – it is crucial that they get all the points they can. I expect them to take all three points here.
The Linnets sit 5 points off the league leaders Fylde, with Chester only 5 points behind them. Therefore, every result matters. Gold Omotayo has been the home side’s biggest threat this season, I expect this to be on display here as he tends to show up in the bigger games. Their home form this season has been outstanding, losing only 3 of their last 20. I can’t see Kettering breaking through this record with so much on the line.
Kettering sit just outside of the relegation spots, drawing all five of their last games. They are seemingly just holding on to safety, although their last few performances do not present a side that can go away to Norfolk and come away with points. They’ve scored one goal in their last 4 games and this will certainly pose an issue against a King’s Lynn side that have only conceded 39 goals this season – one of the best defensive records in the league. Therefore, I expect the Linnets to gain a comfortable 3 points here.
Sunderland v Hull City
Sunderland put in a really excellent display at Turf Moor last week. The energy produced by their young team was nothing short of lung-busting and the tactical discipline was arguably more impressive given the inexperience of some of the players. It is games like that one that will teach a lot of the players a big lesson and they will grow stronger as a result.
However, the Black Cats still remained without a cutting edge. They did get some chances, but all were spurned. This remains the major concern over Tony Mowbray’s outfit, and one that is likely to scupper their playoff bid.
Liam Rosenior hasn’t quite managed to crack the art of attack either with his Hull City side. There is no centre forward that Rosenior is able to build his team around, despite copious amounts of money spent last summer on the likes of Oscar Estupinan, Benjamin Tetteh, and Allahyar Sayyadmanesh. Some may say that Estupinan has done well, but his 13 league goals have come in only 9 matches, and only 1 of those goals has come since 14th January, so that form has really dried up.
Hull certainly know how to defend though. They have conceded twice only in 2 of their last ten away games so they are able to stay in games and hope that something will click going forwards. Sunderland at home haven’t been big scorers of late, as discussed above, however, they have been consistent. Each of the last five matches at the Stadium of Light have seen Sunderland score once.
In this case a bet backing the Under 2.5 goals line seems prudent. A 1-1 scoreline is a potentially big player here, therefore I wouldn’t feel confident backing the BTTS No option. Four of Sunderland’s last six at home have gone Under 2.5 goals and five of Hull’s last six away matches have done the same.
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Written by an Andy verified content writer
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