There ain’t no rest for the wicked, there’s even less for those poor souls plying their trade in England’s second tier in the Football League Championship.
We had a decent week last time out going five from eight in a round that saw four games postponed because of the FA Cup. Normal service resumes on Tuesday, with a full round of mid-week fixtures set to take place.
Tuesday 23 February
Bristol City 14/10
Brighton and Hove Albion 19/10
Bristol City took another step closer to safety as the ousted fellow relegation candidates MK Dons at the weekend. Two strikes either side of half-time from Frenchman, Jonathan Kodjia meant that the Robbins moved eight points clear of the relegation zone. He was gifted the first strike in first half injury time as Dons ‘keeper David Martin botched a goal-kick directly into the path of Lee Tomlin who squared for Kodjia to tap home from close range. He again showed a cool head as he beat the off-side trap, calmly sliding the ball past Martin for his second.
Brighton were awful at the weekend, suffering a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Cardiff City as their five-match unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt. The game was effectively put to bed in the first half as Peter Whittingham, Anthony Pilkington and Lex Immers gave the Bluebirds a 3-0 half-time lead. Dale Stephens pulled a goal back for the Seagulls before Pilkington was brought down in the box following a clumsy challenge from Connor Goldson. The spot kick was duly converted by Whittingham to secure a 4-1 victory. Bristol City have won their last three on the trot, however, they come up against an immensely strong Brighton side who will no doubt bounce back from last week’s defeat. The Seagulls’ defence has leaked goals all season, Brighton + Both Teams to Score at 5/1 offers immense value – get on!
Preston North End claimed their third successive league win as they scraped past 10-man Sheffield Wednesday at Deepdale last weekend in a game which saw Fernando Forestieri given a second yellow card for intentionally handling the ball. Preston would grab the winner seven minutes later as Joe Garner powered a header in at the far post following a beautifully directed cross from Calum Woods.
Charlton remain rooted to the bottom of the table following their 3-0 hammering away at Fulham at the weekend. A double from Tom Cairney either side of Michael Madl’s strike condemned the wounded Addicks to their 17th loss of the season. Worryingly for Charlton manager, Jose Riga, Fulham barely clicked into third gear as they ran riot in West London. Charlton now are surely preparing for life in League One. Back Preston to claim all three points here at 6/10.
Brentford would have been bitterly disappointed to lose out to Derby County as they threw away their lead in the last 10-minutes of the game. Alan Judge gave the hosts the lead as he rifled a shot past Scott Carson following a magnificent break from the half-way line. The Bees looked well on course for victory before a three goal blitz from the Rams condemned Brentford to their 14th loss of the season. They’re on a particular bad run of form at the moment, losing their last three league games as they continue to slip down the table.
Wolves’ poor run continued at the weekend as they suffered defeat at the hands of an ever-improving Huddersfield Town side. Nahki Wells scored the winner in the 79th minute as he finished from nine yards out. The result means that Wolves are now winless in their last six matches as they continue to slide toward mid-table irrelevance. This match looks as though it’ll be too difficult to call. Neither side has had trouble finding the net this season while both have also conceded regularly – back both teams to score at 17/20.
Ipswich were one of the Championship sides who enjoyed a weekend off thanks to the FA Cup. They needed it too, especially considering two disappointing results against QPR and Bristol City. The Tractor Boys are still in the hunt for a spot in the play-offs, and will need to win this week to remain in touch with Sheffield Wednesday who currently occupy sixth place.
Hull City showed just how good they are as they held Arsenal to a goalless draw at the weekend in the FA Cup. The Tigers have goalkeeper, Eldin Jakupovic to thank for keeping their cup hopes alive as he pulled off a series of spectacular saves to keep his side in the hunt for the oldest cup in world football. Hull City have been absolutely magnificent this season and look as though they could well be promoted to the Premier League via automatic qualification. They should prove far too strong for even a well-rested Ipswich side. Take the away win at 13/10.
Leeds’ miserable season continued this weekend as they were dumped out of the FA Cup by Premier League high-flyers, Watford. Lee Wootton put through his own net 10 minutes after the restart as he failed to get out of the way of Ben Watson’s cross, the ball deflecting off the defender into his own net. The defeat means that Leeds have won only once in their last six games and sit just 11 points clear of the bottom three.
Fulham will come into their mid-week fixture on a high after cruising past fellow Londoners, Charlton Athletic at the weekend. Two goals from Tom Cairney and a strike from Michael Madl saw Fulham move to within two points of their Yorkshire opponents. Leeds have struggled to find the net this season, especially in front of their home fans; scoring just 12 times in 16 appearances at Eland Road. They may well struggle against Fulham who’ve been banging in goals for fun this season. Back the away side at 18/10.
Middlesbrough had time to put their feet up this weekend as their fixture with Reading was postponed due to the Royals’ on-going involvement in the FA Cup. The break couldn’t have come at a better time as they will no doubt look to stop the rot that’s seen them drop off the top of the league. Disappointing draws against Leeds, MK Dons and Blackburn were preceded by defeats to Forest and Bristol City. Manager, Aitor Karanka could well see his stock fall is he fails to get Boro out of the Championship this season.
It won’t be easy as they come up against an unpredictable Cardiff City side, fresh off a 4-1 thrashing of Brighton and Hove Albion – who were the League’s form side leading into this past weekend’s fixtures. That win now means that Cardiff are unbeaten in their last six games in which they’ve won three and drawn three. Boro have only conceded four goals at home this season – the best record in the league while Cardiff haven’t exactly been prolific away from home. Back the Total Goals Under 2.5 market at 6/10.
Sheffield Wednesday 17/20
Sheffield Wednesday’s red-hot run of form came to an abrupt end at Deepdale at the weekend as they went down 1-0 thanks to a 73rd minute Joe Garner strike. Carlos Carvalhal’s problems were compounded as the Owls’ top scorer, Fernando Forestieri was sent off for a second bookable offence. The centre-forward will miss out on his side’s clash against QPR in a game that the Owls simply have to win if they want to consolidate their place in the top six.
QPR needed a 93rd-minute equaliser from Matt Philips to secure a Draw against relegation-bound Bolton Wanderers at the weekend. Bolton took the lead thanks to an absolute wonder-strike from Zack Clough who drove the ball a into the back of the net with magnificent right-footed shot in the 68th-minute. QPR leveled with virtually the last kick of the through Philips game as he broke free to coolly slot the ball past a despairing Ben Amos. Back Wednesday to click back into gear with a win this weekend at 17/20.
MK Dons 2/1
MK Dons slipped to a somewhat surprising defeat at the Hands of fellow strugglers, Bristol City last weekend. Strikes on either side of the half-time break from Jonathan Kodjia condemned Dons to their 17th defeat of the season, leaving Karl Robinson and his charges glancing nervously over their shoulders at Rotherham, Bolton and Charlton who occupy the bottmo three places on the table.
Huddersfield claimed their first back-to-back wins under manager David Wagner as Nahki Wells scored his third goal in four games to claim a 1-0 victory against Wolves. The Terriers will be looking forward to playing an out of sorts MK Dons side who have only won once in their last five. Both sides are short of goals this season, take the Under 2.5 Goals market at 7/10.
Birmingham will come into this round of fixtures with renewed energy having not played since the 13th of February when they were held away at Rotherham. Gary Rowett and his charges will look to get back to winning ways after two draws and a defeat in their last three saw them lose ground in the race for sixth place. The Blues do, however, have a game in hand over the four sides that currently sit above them in the league, so a big performance here could set them up quite nicely for an assault on the top six.
They know then that a win against relegation-haunted Bolton Wanderers is of the utmost importance. Bolton were denied an all-important victory this weekend as Matt Philips’ 93rd-minute goal cancelled out a wonder strike from Zack Clough. Bolton have showed signs of improvement of late, however, they shouldn’t really trouble Birmingham, especially at St. Andrews. A straightforward home win is tipped at 9/10.
Nottingham Forest 33/10
Burnley secured a regulation 2-0 over struggling Rotherham United this weekend thanks to goals from Sam Vokes and Scott Arfield. In truth, it probably should have been more as the league’s top scorer, Andre Gray missed a whole host of opportunities on a day he’d probably like to forget. The Clarets are now unbeaten in eight league games and will be looking to put a bit of distance between themselves and Middlesbrough who are point worse off with two games in hand.
Nottingham Forest had the weekend off as their match against Hull City was postponed as they Tigers fought to a 0-0 draw against Arsenal in the FA Cup. Dougie Freedman would have welcome the break following their surprise 2-0 defeat at home to Huddersfield last time out. Burnley look different class this season, especially when they play at Turf Moor. The home win is tipped here 17/20.
Reading will be buzzing following their somewhat surprising 3-1 win over Premier League strugglers, West Bromwich Albion. Darren Fletcher opened the scoring for the Premier League outfit before Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon brought Reading roaring back into the game and into the sixth round of the FA Cup.
Rotherham were easily dispatched this weekend by a Burnley side who never really had to get out of first gear. Goals from Sam Vokes and Scott Arfield condemned The Millers to their 20th defeat of the season – the most losses suffered by anyone in the division. They haven’t won in their last six and I don’t expect that to change this weekend. Reading to win at 15/20 looks a good bet, even if the Royals’ league form hasn’t been that great in recent weeks.
Wednesday 24th February
Derby claimed their first league win since Christmas as they came from behind to beat Brentford 3-1 at Griffin Park at the weekend. The victory went a long way in easing the pressure on the Rams who looked as though they’d blown their chances of automatic promotion this season. Last weekend’s win just about keeps them in touch with Burnley in second place while consolidating their place in the top six.
They will take on a Blackburn Rovers side who collapsed to a 5-1 defeat at the hands of West Ham in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Despite taking the lead in the 20th minute through Ben Marshall, the Hammers roared back into the game in spectacular fashion scoring five unanswered goals. The result means Blackburn’s sole focus for the remainder of the season will be avoiding relegation to League One. Derby look as though they may have turned a corner following their win last time out. Back them to put a beleaguered Rovers side to the sword at 8/10.