Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town
Northampton Town need to beat Tranmere Rovers to gain promotion to League One and based on their most recent performances it is hard to bet against them doing so.
The hosts head into the game with nothing to play for and will be in for a tough test at Prenton Park. The Whites remain without a permanent manager after deciding to part company with Micky Mellon in March and Ian Dawes remains in caretaker charge. They drew 1-1 away against a poor AFC Wimbledon side last time out courtesy of a late equaliser by attacker Sam Taylor and their interim boss said his side ‘deserved’ a draw. It hasn’t been the best season for the Merseyside outfit and they find themselves in 11th position in the table with one game of the campaign to spare. Their aim before a ball was kicked this term was to compete for promotion but they have been too inconsistent, losing 17 times out of their 45 outings. Tranmere also haven’t scored enough goals and are the lowest scorers in the top half of the division having scored 45 times, an average of one per game. It may be hard for them to motivate themselves for this Bank Holiday fixture, especially with plenty of changes expected to happen at the club in terms of comings and goings, which means most signs point towards an away victory here.
Northampton missed out on promotion on goal difference last year and will be praying the same doesn’t happen this time around with 4th place Stockport County breathing down their neck. The Cobblers lost 2-1 against Bradford City in their last game with defender Max Dyche on the scoresheet and were unlucky to lose to the Bantams as they had 59% possession and 15 shots. Their manager Jon Brady said he was ‘proud’ of the performance from his players and if they can play like that against Tranmere then they should have too much quality in the end. On the selection front, centre-back Jon Guthrie is out until the end of the season but Dyche has proved to be a useful alternative at the back as the East Midlands club look to get over the line and into League One. Northampton have been impressive recently and have lost only twice in their last 14 matches which shows they are picking up momentum at the right time. They are 3rd in the league for a reason and if they can just get one more win under their belt then it will be party time for them in Birkenhead.
Salford City v Gillingham
Salford City will be in a confident mood as they look to secure their place in the play-offs with a win over Gillingham.
The Ammies only need a point to officially confirm their position in the top seven and based on their recent form they will be in good spirits. They have won their last three games on the spin against Hartlepool United, Walsall and Carlisle United and beat the latter 3-2 away last time out courtesy of a brace by winger Luke Bolton and one from striker Callum Hendry. Their boss Neil Wood said it was a really ‘important’ win and it puts their fate in their own hands heading into the final day. In terms of injury news, midfielder Ryan Watson remains sidelined but the North West club have useful alternative options in his position like Stevie Mallan, Jason Lowe and Matty Lund which highlights the strength in depth they have in their squad. Salford score goals for fun and have scored 72 goals in their 45 games so far this season which makes them the most lethal team in the league having found the net more than already promoted Leyton Orient and Stevenage. They will want to head into the play-offs with some momentum and should be too strong for their next opponents.
Gillingham are safe already and can afford to put their feet up for their last game as they have one eye on the summer now. Neil Harris has managed to steer the Kent outfit away from danger during the second-half of this campaign and his side have nothing to play for now. That was reflected by their disappointing 2-1 home loss to Newport County last time out, with striker Tom Nichols on the scoresheet for them, and their manager said afterward that it was a ‘flat’ showing from his players which will give Salford encouragement that they can secure another three points. On the selection front, midfielder Shaun Williams is ruled out which is a blow as he has more experience than others in his position such as Ethan Coleman and Jayden Clarke. Scoring goals has been a real issue for Gillingham this term and is something that they will need to address in the next transfer window. They are the lowest scorers in the division having scored only 35 goals all year which is even less than already relegated pair Hartlepool United and Rochdale.
Colchester United v Mansfield Town
Mansfield Town need to win against an already safe Colchester United to keep their playoff hopes alive. The hosts appear to be on the beach already and it is all about next season for them now as they look to compete higher up in the table.
They lost 1-0 away at out-of-form Doncaster Rovers last time out which was a poor result and their boss Ben Garner said afterward that he was ‘very disappointed’ with the result. On the selection front, midfielder Cole Skuse remains out of action and the Essex outfit seems to miss his experience in the middle of the park, with the likes of Ossama Ashley and Arthur Read currently occupying his position. It has been an underwhelming season for Colchester and they find themselves down in 20th position in the table. They haven’t scored enough goals this term and have found the net only 44 times all year which is the second-worst return in the division behind Gillingham so they will need to look at that. Their campaign is over now and they will be in for a tough test against their next opponents who simply need to pick up three points and hope for the best.
Mansfield can still sneak into the top seven if they pick up three points and can better the goal difference between Salford City, Bradford City, or Carlisle United. It remains a tall order for the Stags and they need favours from elsewhere. However, it is still mathematically a possibility for them and they just need to win their clash against Colchester and pray another result goes their way. They lost 2-1 at home to Harrogate Town last weekend with Nottingham Forest loan attacker Will Swan on the scoresheet and their manager Nigel Clough said the result wasn’t down to a ‘lack of effort’ and they had 65% possession and a whopping 28 shots.
Mansfield are without the versatile Elliott Hewitt and left-sided player Stephen McLaughlin, with the experienced James Perch stepping in for the latter in their last outing. The Stags no doubt have the quality in their ranks to win their upcoming fixture with players in attacking areas such as Swan, Jordan Bowery, Lucas Akins, and Davis Kellior-Dunn and they are unbeaten in their last four away games which will give them confidence.
Harrogate Town v Rochdale
Harrogate Town are in decent form as they look to end the 2022/23 season on a high with a win against relegated Rochdale.
The Sulphurites have secured their place in the Football League for another year after an impressive streak of results recently. They won 2-1 away at play-off chasing Mansfield Town last weekend courtesy of an own goal by Alfie Kilgour and the other from midfielder Matty Daly. Speaking after that impressive victory, their boss Simon Weaver said he was delighted with the ‘spirit’ his players showed again and said they have been fighting for the ‘badge’ over recent months. On the selection front, right-back Kayne Ramsay is making good progress in his recovery from a facial injury which is good news but is still sidelined with solid January signing Toby Sims taking his place for now. Harrogate were embroiled in a relegation battle but have now lifted themselves nine points above the drop zone which is a credit to the work Weaver has done. They have lost just twice in their last nine outings and are proving a tough team to play against right now as they aim for one last three points.
Rochdale will be keeping one eye on the summer as they prepare for life as a non-league club for the first time in their history. It has been a dismal season for the North West club and they are rock-bottom having only won nine of their 45 fixtures this term. Conceding goals has been a real problem for the Dale and they have the second-worst defensive record in the division behind 23rd position Hartlepool United in this campaign having leaked a huge 69 goals to date. Despite their troubles, they beat Sutton United 4-1 last time out at Spotland after a brace by attacker Devante Rodney and the others by midfield pair Ethan Brierley and Jimmy Keohane. Their interim manager Jim McNulty said it was a ‘pleasing’ result but they will be in for a tricky test against in-form Harrogate on Monday in their final League Two clash for a while. Rochdale have won once in their last five and will be there for the taking now with their main focus being on mounting an immediate promotion push from the fifth tier next season.
Birmingham City v Sheffield United
The angle with this bet is that the research conducted into already promoted teams threw up an interesting quirk.
Though it is rare that an already promoted team gets beaten on the final day, only twice in the last 10 years, they also win less than half of those fixtures. The full detail is seen below:
Sheffield United have put in a really hard shift to get over the line and back into the Premier League. Their promotion was confirmed much later than Burnley’s, which gives us a bit of an insight because Burnley have notably taken their foot off the gas after their own promotion.
Indeed, looking at the result of already promoted teams away from home, only Bournemouth, in 2015, have won their final day match at an opponent’s ground. Fulham were demolished by this similar Sheffield United team last season, who were playing for their play-off place at the time, so there are a number of factors which point towards those already promoted teams taking it a bit easy.
Of course, it also helps if the team that they are facing have shown some motivation to continue to perform to the end of the season. The usual motivation for teams that have nothing particularly to play for in the league is that they are playing their last match at home and want to put on a display for their fans to go away with.
John Eustace strikes me as the type of manager, aka a competent one, that takes these things quite seriously and would place some emphasis on that momentum over the summer. The Blues have been average this season, but even that is much better than what was expected before the season started. They have generally kept up to their task in the last few weeks, despite safety having been confirmed some time ago.
The emergence of young players has probably helped with this, as well as players who either are playing for a new deal or are wanting to leave on a high or put themselves in the shop window.
The final day stats and the motivation of both teams makes me believe that the near even money that we are getting about Birmingham taking something from the game looks like a good price.
Millwall v Blackburn Rovers
This match is between two sides that fit into that group that are chasing the final places in the play-offs. If Millwall win the match then they are guaranteed a top six spot, Blackburn need to win the match and hope that Sunderland and West Brom don’t win for them to sneak back into the play-off positions.
It may be seen as a disappointment for Blackburn to be reliant on other team’s results to end the season in the playoffs. They went into the World Cup break in 2nd, and they have occupied a top six position for longer than most. However, Rovers’ performances have actually been very positive of late, despite not winning a match in April.
They had the better of both Burnley and Luton in their recent matches, creating a higher xG than their opponents in both matches. Their football between the boxes has improved fairly dramatically over the course of the season, but the luck that they seemed to attract in the first half of the season, has left them in more recent weeks. The use of Adam Wharton as a deep-lying playmaker seems to have unlocked some potential to play quickly through the thirds and create some dangerous attacks.
Milwall have players in their line-up that are more than capable of getting a goal or two. Tom Bradshaw and Zian Flemming have both hit double figures in terms of goals and then there is the set-piece threat to add in on top of that.
More than usual goal potential though there is the scenario of the match that plays into this bet. With Blackburn needing nothing but a win, Jon Dahl Tomasson has already admitted in local press that this is the time to take risks. If Blackburn require a goal or even two coming into the latter stages of the match then we can expect them to commit a lot of men forward which could result in a goal either way.
The matches at The Den recently have tended to go under 2.5 goals, which means that we are getting a good price about the overs here. A 1-1 draw does nothing for Blackburn, and may not even be enough for Millwall depending on Sunderland or West Brom’s results. There could be late fireworks here.
Norwich City v Blackpool
From the tension of a match where everything is on the line to a match where absolutely nothing is.
In the recent history of the Championship final day this has been a recipe for more goals and a bit more freedom in the play. If this is the case in this match then one has to favour Norwich to come out on top.
The individual talent difference between the two sets of players is fairly big. Blackpool do have some talented forward players in their ranks for sure, but so do Norwich. There were signs in the West Brom away match that when Norwich are given some space on the break that they are well capable of creating chances.
Teemu Pukki looks to be saying goodbye to Carrow Road after a phenomenally successful few years for the Canaries, and it will be interesting to see if David Wagner gives in to sentiment to allow Pukki to start the match, but regardless, they will be looking to put on a show in front of the fans to try and get them to stick with Wagner and the players over the summer.
Blackpool went eight matches in a row losing away from home until their last match at Birmingham. They did still lose the xG battle in that match, as they have in nine out of the last ten matches away. The Seasiders are running at an xG differential of -0.5 over that period.
Norwich’s home form is pretty poor. Indeed, they haven’t scored at home in their last four. The thesis of this bet will therefore be tested as the freedom that should come with a match such as this should help both loosen up the players, but also, will mean that perhaps Blackpool won’t just stick men behind the ball for the whole match in an effort to simply restrict.
The main reason that I feel confident in this bet is again as a result of research. Already relegated teams in the Championship have been really poor. In 19 matches in the last decade involving already relegated sides, 13 have ended in defeat, and only 3 have been won.
Indeed, teams playing away in this scenario have lost every single time. Usually by a wide margin.
Watford v Stoke City
This match has nothing riding on it, but the amount of forward talent that there will be on the pitch for both sides leads me to believe that there are goals on offer here.
Neither side is in particularly sparkling form right now. Stoke went through a relatively bizarre period where they turned into the best team in the league for a six-week spell and have since broken out of that as quickly as they launched into it.
Watford are particularly unpredictable at the moment, even more so than usual. They almost completely spoiled Sunderland’s season last week by taking a two-goal lead, but befitting their travails this season, then went on to collapse and concede a late equaliser.
Watford have BTTS land in six of their last ten home matches, with Stoke having the same ratio in their away matches. However. I think that a lot of that form can be ruled out on the basis that we are now at the end of the season and probably both squads are looking forward to a break.
Chris Wilder literally has nothing to lose here. It is a well-known fact that he will not continue in the role of Watford manager after this match, so from his perspective, he may as well throw everything at it to be entertaining and leave a positive impression on the Vicarage Road faithful.
Middlesbrough v Coventry City
Could we be about to see a precursor to an upcoming Championship play-off tie? Middlesbrough are guaranteed fourth regardless of their result on Monday, the culmination of a fine turnaround under impressive manager Michael Carrick. The Boro sat just above the relegation zone when Carrick was appointed in late October, quickly flying up the division and spending the latter months hoping to hunt down Sheffield United and the second automatic promotion spot. That second place is now out of reach, as indeed are third-place Luton Town, but the overall strength of Middlesbrough’s team compared to the rest of the league is why they have secured a top-six finish with time to spare. The Teessiders came into this final day on the back of consecutive defeats against Luton Town and Rotherham United though, having to adapt to absences in their squad. Dynamic left-back Ryan Giles didn’t feature at Rotherham, likewise experienced midfielder Jonny Howson. Aston Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey and Finnish International Marcus Forss have been missing the last couple of games, leading to Isaiah Jones and Riley McGree getting the starts as wingers in Carrick’s 4-2-3-1.
Whilst Middlesbrough have their play-off place secured, visitors Coventry City need just a point to guarantee a finish in the top six. Currently fifth, a victory in turn ensures that they will face Middlesbrough again in their semi-final tie. The Sky Blues’ turnaround this season is even more impressive than Middlesbrough’s. Issues with the Coventry Building Society Arena’s pitch meant that Mark Robins’ side had to play exclusively away games until the 1st of October. It wasn’t until then that they picked up their first victory with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Coventry were bottom of the Championship before the end of August, and it wasn’t until the start of November that their many games in hand enabled them to climb out of the relegation zone and start a phenomenal rise up the table. Coventry’s movement into the play-off places has come off the back of a current six-game unbeaten run and a run of just one defeat in their last 16 league matches. Top scorer Viktor Gyökeres is always a standout up top in a 3-5-2, likewise, Dutch midfielder Gustavo Hamer who operates in a more attacking role alongside Josh Eccles and Liam Kelly.
Whilst the hosts will likely want to keep confidence high ahead of their play-off campaign, it is the visitors who ultimately need the points more this Monday afternoon. A draw is enough for Coventry to guarantee a place in the Championship play-off places, but a win secures fifth place and a pair of additional meetings with a side they have just pulled off a victory against. Middlesbrough have lost each of their last two games with rotation forced into their starting eleven. Coventry will be keen to extend that losing run to three.
Huddersfield Town v Reading
Neil Warnock has done it again. When the 74-year-old made his return to Huddersfield Town in mid-February, the Terriers were spending yet another week in the Championship’s relegation zone and had just six wins to their name all season. A 2-1 home victory over Birmingham City came in Warnock’s first match back, and what followed unfortunate successive defeats was a run of just two losses in their next 11 matches, collecting 19 points from a possible 33 in that time. Having beaten already-promoted Sheffield United on Thursday, it means that Huddersfield have secured survival from the most unlikely of situations, and Warnock deserves all the credit for completing the turnaround with a game to spare.
Matty Pearson, deployed at right-back or as the wide centre-back in a back three, has been a big goalscoring threat from Terriers’ set pieces. Tom Lees and Michał Helik play in defence with him, whilst Jonathan Hogg is a regular in midfield alongside David Kasumu and the more creative Jack Rudoni. Josh Koroma forms part of the frontline alongside or behind Danny Ward, who scored the crucial goal at the John Smith’s Stadium just a few days ago. Expect Watford loanee Joseph Hungbo to be available in reserve as part of the frontline.
With Huddersfield’s win and survival secured, it means that Reading have been relegated to the third tier for the first time since 2001-02. A six-point deduction has not helped Reading in their failed attempt to remain in the second tier, but they cannot blame their relegation simply on matters off the field. The Royals have been on a 12-game winless run, split evenly between draws and defeats, and Interim manager Noel Hunt has been unable to find sufficient success in a 4-4-2. Andy Carroll will be back from suspension for this final day game and has vowed through his social media to continue to play for Reading next season in League One. Carroll can form part of a frontline with Lucas João that possesses a notable quality, but there hasn’t been too much of note behind. Forward Tom Ince has been out of action since the March International break.
We could have potentially seen a straight shootout for the final survival spot this Monday, but Huddersfield have got over the line early and doomed their opponents to third-tier football with a match to spare. The hosts would have been heavily fancied regardless of the context, a well-improved group under Neil Warnock with set-piece threat and the capability of getting decisive goals in decisive moments. Terriers fans can enjoy this final game of the season, and might well enjoy the final result.
Fulham v Leicester City
Leicester travel down to the capital to face Fulham at the Cottage and I fancy goals, goals, goals! The Cottagers have dipped in form since the turn of the year but are still well-positioned for a top-ten finish. They were beaten most recently by Manchester City but this fixture provides a much better opportunity of picking up some points! Their opponents Leicester were involved in a thoroughly entertaining affair on MNF. The Foxes drew 2-2 with Everton and the goals came courtesy of Jamie Vardy and Calgar Soyuncu. James Maddison did miss from the penalty spot and he will be hoping for better fortunes here. During this encounter they racked up an impressive 3.4xG, something they’ll be striving to emulate once again.
With goals set to be the order of the day, there’s plenty of reason to optimistic for us to reach the 3 goals needed! Over 2.5 goals has returned a winner in 70.58% of Fulham home matches in the Premier League this season. In addition to this, Leicester have also seen three or more goals in 66.66% of their last 15 PL matches!
Marco Silva has been in a bullish mood this week and has been quoted saying ‘We’re going to fight really hard until the end of the season’. This is in regard to Fulham’s attempt of reaching a record-breaking points tally in the Premier League which is 53 points. They can reach a total of 57 and I believe they are far from on the beach, as their eyes are set on a strong finish.
Carlos Vinicius, Solomon, De Cordova-Reid, Wilson and Willian are all pushing for starts in attack and have all chipped in with goals. Whoever may be given the nod by Silva will fancy their chances against a Leicester side that have conceded in 9 straight away games. They’ve also shipped multiple goals in 7 of these, so, they’ll all be excited at the prospect of facing this Leicester defence.
Back to the stats and it’s the recent xG numbers that the Foxes have accumulated that I’d like to highlight. As I touched on earlier, they hit 3.4xG in their last game but previous to this, their xG numbers read 2.1,2.4, and 2.3! So, even though they haven’t quite attained this in actual goal output, they’re clearly creating big goal-scoring chances! It’s bound to click into place at some point and this inviting fixture is where I see them notching at least once, if not twice.
James Maddison has been the stand-out playmaker in the team and it has not gone unnoticed. The England international has a superb 17 goal contributions in his 24 appearances this season! This leads me to believe he will be on the scene in front of goal again, either on the scoresheet or providing an assist. Another player I have to mention is Jamie Vardy, he’s looked extremely sharp recently too, and has found the back of the net in his last 2 starts.
Overall I see this being an open game with chances aplenty at either end of the field! Take over 2.5 goals and we should have a great run for our money!
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