English Championship Preview

The race for promotion places is heating up as the Football League Championship enters its 27th week. Middlesbrough look sure to win promotion to the Premier League barring any major slip ups, their win against Brentford in midweek put them five points clear of Hull City at the top of the standings with a game in hand over the remainder of the top 10. At the other end of the table, cash-strapped Bolton Wanderers are clinging on for dear life as they try to avoid slipping into football obscurity. Charlton and Bristol City make up the remainder of the bottom three heading into week 26. It’s shaping up to be a massive weekend of football, and we think we’ve found a few winners!

Friday 15 January

27/20 Brentford | Draw 22/10 | Burnley 19/10 (21:45)

Brentford put in a brave performance against table-topping Middlesbrough at Griffin Park on Tuesday. Ultimately, however, a goalkeeping mistake from David Button; who from a second half Boro corner miscued his punch, slipped over and could only watch as the ball rolled over the line. It was a bit harsh on the Londoners who dominated their northern opposition for extended periods of the game. Failure to capitalise on one of a slew of chances cost them in the end. Burnley recorded their biggest away win since May 1947 when they hammered MK Dons 5-0 at the MK Stadium on Tuesday evening. English football’s bad boy, Joey Barton opened the scoring in the 13th minute before second-half strikes from Sam Vokes, Andre Gray, Matt Lowton and George Boyd put the polish on a fine performance by the Clarets as they tightened their grip on fourth place. Burnley will be on a high after their drubbing of MK Dons at the weekend, and with the league’s top scorer, Andre Gray back in the fold, they look good value to beat Brentford at 19/10.

Saturday 16 January

17/20 Sheffield Wed. | 23/10 | Leeds United 31/10 (14:30)

Wednesday edged out basement-dwellers, Bolton Wanderers 3-2 in an absolute thriller at Hillsborough on Wednesday. Wednesday were twice pegged back by Bolton after Fernando Forestieri gave the hosts the lead with a smashing strike from 30 yards out. Gary Madine would equalise for the hosts before Gary Hooper bagged his first goal of the game after prodding home Daniel Pudil’s low cross. Wanderers would again equalise, but it was Hooper, the former Celtic man, who would wrap up all three points for the hosts when he lashed home Ross Wallace’s dinked ball late on. Leeds were unlucky to lose out to Ipswich at Portman Road on Tuesday evening after a late Brett Pitman goal condemned Leeds to their first defeat in nine matches. Leeds took the lead through Souleymane Doukara who fired them into the lead with the quickest goal of the season after just 12 seconds. The Tractor Boys would equalise through captain Luke Chambers early on in the second half before Pitman nodded home a 92nd minute header to secure all three points. Both sides are scoring as many as they concede at the minute. Go for the Matchbet: Draw + Both Teams to Score: Yes at 7/2.

1/1 Huddersfield | 5/2 | Fulham 24/10 (17:00)

Huddersfield extended their unbeaten run to five games with a comprehensive 5-0 trouncing of struggling Charlton at John Smith’s Stadium. First half goals from Mark Hudson and Nahki Wells were followed by second half strikes from Jamie Paterson, Duane Holmes and Jason Davidson put the gloss on a fine performance as Town continue their push for promotion. Fulham will have been disappointed to lose out to promotion-chasing Wolves in their midweek fixture. Two early goals from debutant Michael Zyro, the man brought in to replace Benik Afobe, helped was followed by a Lasse Vigen Christensen strike in the 24th minute to bring Fulham back into the game. Fulham would again go two goals behind early in the second half as Matt Doherty’s long range strike put the hosts back in front. Despite a late strike, 16 minutes from time, by Ross McCormack, Fulham couldn’t find the equaliser. Huddersfield have looked good this season under manager David Wagner, and look good value at even money – back the home side to breeze past the former Premier League mainstays.

19/20 Ipswich Town | 9/4 | Preston North End 39/10 (17:00)

Ipswich Town consolidated their play-off hopes with a 2-1 win over leads on Tuesday evening thanks to a late Brett Pitman’s 92nd minute winner at Portman Road. The Tractor Boys could jump up to fourth spot if the win and Burnley draw or lose against Brentford on Friday evening. Preston North End piled more misery on relegation scrappers, Bristol City, as an 80th minute Greg Cunningham volley gifted the Lilywhites all three points after Joe Garney’s 54th minute opener was cancelled out by City’s Aaron Wilbraham two minutes later. Preston have been solid enough this season and look as though they will finish mid-table. Promotion chasing Ipswich, however, have it all to play for; and as such, I’m backing them to get the job done at home. Back them at 19/20.

13/20 Nottingham Forest | 26/10 | Bolton 4/1 (17:00)

Nottingham Forest were lucky to stretch their unbeaten run to 10 games after they snatched a 1-1 draw in a tight-fought affair against Birmingham at the City ground on Tuesday evening. The Blues opened the scoring thanks to a spectacular diving header from Jon Toral midway through the first half. His strike, however, was cancelled out by Forest’s skipper, Matt Mills after his powerful header restored parity. Forest would go on to end the game with 10 men after David Vaughn was controversially sent off after an innocuous looking challenge on Clayton Donaldson. The decision has been appealed by the club. Bolton have been woeful this season. The cash-strapped Manchester side have been forced to sell off their best players in a bid to keep their heads above water, and it’s shown in their results this season. The Manchester club currently occupy 24th place in the Championship and look as though they’ll start next season in League One. Back Forest to win this game at 13/20.

17/10 Rotherham | 23/20 | QPR 31/20 (17:00)

Rotherham condemned Brighton to their sixth straight game without a goal on Tuesday evening as they cruised to a 2-0 win to ease their relegation worries. Neil Redfearn’s men scored in either half thanks to strikes from Danny Ward and former Blackburn Rovers striker Matt Derbyshire. The Millers never really looked in danger of conceding against a toothless Brighton side who only managed one off target shot in the first half. QPR looked on course to secure their first win under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as they conceded in the final 10 minutes for the fourth straight game. Leroy Fer struck midway through the first half before Hope Akpan’s 85th minute equaliser secured a draw for Rovers who are flirting with relegation this season. QPR have defended well this season, however, they simply haven’t been able to convert their chances. The draw is backed here at 23/20.

14/10 Blackburn | 2/1 | Brighton 19/10 (17:00)

Blackburn managed to snatch a late draw against QPR last time out thanks to an 85th minute Hope Akpan strike. Rovers haven’t looked particularly strong this season and are hovering worryingly close to the relegation zone. They’ve been solid enough at the back, conceding just 22 goals this season, however, it’s their form up front that has been their undoing. They’ve only managed 23 goals in 26 games – simply not good enough for a club of their stature. Their opponents for Saturday, Brighton and Hove Albion, have been on a difficult run themselves, failing to score in their last six matches in all competitions, putting the brakes on their early season promotion push. Considering how poor both teams have been in front of goal this season, I’m tempted to back the Matchbet: Draw plus Both Teams to Score: No at 13/2.

7/20 Hull City | 36/10 | Charlton Athletic 77/10 (17:00)

Hull City did their automatic promotion chances no harm thanks to a 2-0 victory at the KC Stadium against Cardiff City on Wednesday evening. Goals from Abel Hernandez and Sam Clucas piled more misery on Russell Slade and his Cardiff City side. Conversely, Steve Bruce’s men have been magnificent this season, and Wednesday’s result was their 10th home win of the season. Charlton have been pretty poor this season. They were humbled 5-0 last time out by Huddersfield town who haven’t set the world alight themselves this season. The Addicks have only mustered 21 goals so far this campaign while conceding 47. This means they’re join-lowest scorers with Bolton and MK Dons while also laying claim to the worst defensive record in the league. They look as though they’ll be relegated. Hull City are tipped to win at 7/20.

5/10 Derby County | 3/1 | Birmingham City 5/1 (17:00)

Derby County will have been bitterly disappointed with their home draw against Reading on Tuesday evening. Despite taking the lead through Jason Shackell. Reading looked the better team for much of the game and deservedly grabbed an equaliser through Daniel Williams. That draw meant the Rams slipped into third place following Hull City’s win over Cardiff on Wednesday. Birmingham will have been equally disappointed not have claimed all three points against Nottingham Forest earlier in the week. After taking the lead through Jon Toral, Forest equalised through Matt Mills. Birmingham were the better side for much of the 90 minutes, and when Forest’s David Vaughn was given his marching orders in the 74th minute, and the Blues pushed for the win. They weren’t able to find the back of the net again but will have been happy with the away point. Both teams have looked slightly shaky in their last few games and Saturday’s game should be a cagey affair. Back the draw at generous odds of 3/1.

2/1 MK Dons | 21/10 | Reading 13/10 (17:00)

It’s been a week to forget for MK Dons who were hammered 5-0 by a rampant Burnley at the MK Stadium on Tuesday night. The Dons are without a win in their last four outing and will be desperate to distance themselves from the bottom three when they play host to reading on Saturday afternoon. Reading sprung a bit of a surprise when they held Derby County to a 1-1 draw at the iPro stadium last time out. In fact, they were the better team for much of the match and spurned plenty of opportunities to claim all three points. They went behind in the first half, only to equalise in the 38th minute. The draw did put an end to a streak of six straight losses away from home which will have pleased manager Brian McDermott. Dons are wounded, and I expect Reading to claim their first away win in seven attempts here – back them at 13/10.

11/10 Wolves | 23/20 | Cardiff 24/10 (17:00)

Wolves played out a thrilling 3-2 victory over struggling Fulham in midweek. New signing, Michael Zyro scored twice early on to knock the win out of the struggling Londoner’s sails. Although they pulled a goal back through Lasse Christensen, Matt Doherty rifled home a shot from distance to restore Wolves’ two-goal cushion. There was a late rally from Fulham late on as Ross McCormack struck 16 minutes from time, however, Wolverhampton would hold on for the win. Cardiff were pretty average last time out against Hull City as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the KC Stadium. In truth, the 2-0 scoreline flattered the Welsh side as they put in yet another uninspired performance to increase the pressure on their beleaguered manager, Russell Slade. Expect Cardiff to continue their slide down the table this weekend – back Wolves at 11/10.

29/10 Bristol City | 23/10 | Middlesbrough 9/10 (17:00)

Bristol City remained in the bottom three after their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Preston North End last time out. They went behind in the 54th minute thanks to a Joe Garner header. City would go on to equalise two minutes later through Aaron Wilbraham, who rifled the ball home from nine yards out. Greg Cunningham would break City hearts though, as his 80th minute volley wrapped up all three points for Preston. Middlesbrough have been absolutely sensational this season and look certain to claim their place back among England’s elite. They saw off a spirited Brentford side last time out to secure their 17th win of the season, going five points clear at the top of the Championship with a game in hand. I can only foresee one winner here; back Boro to claim all three points at 9/10.

Written by Jason Dewey