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The Pitch EFL Betting Tips and Odds, With Gab Sutton

EFL betting tips and odds from our EFL expert Gab Sutton. Gab will scour the upcoming matches in League One, League Two and the Championship. Gab will tell you what games to watch every week, offering tips and advice based on his experience and knowledge from being a lifelong fan of all things EFL.

Gab will also cover any league changes, promotions, relegations and staff and player changes. As well as the occasional FA Cup game.

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Football League expert Gab highlights his best tips for Saturday’s EFL matches.

Saturday 27th January

Stoke to win at Sunderland – 5/2

Stoke suffered their first defeat of Steven Schumacher’s reign last weekend, losing 2-1 at home to Birmingham, but we can already see some of his ideas from his time at Plymouth Argyle coming through.
The Potters possess quality in attack in Bae Jun-Ho, Ryan Mmae and André Vidigal, while Wouter Burger stars in midfield alongside Luke Cundle, a high-volume passer poached from Schumacher’s previous employers.

As such, the visitors are a stronger team than they were under Alex Neil, and a better proposition to what their 19th-place position might suggest.
On the other hand, Sunderland might be 10th but they’ve lost their last three in all competition, as supporters have turned very early on head coach Michael Beale – the atmosphere could be sour.

BET HERE

Port Vale to beat Portsmouth – 5/2

Port Vale have done well in the loan market this season, and in January they’ve added defender Rhys Williams from Liverpool, plus midfielders Dan Gore and Jensen Weir from Manchester United and Brighton respectively.

Williams played first team football for the Reds during that injury crisis of 2020-21, the year after being on loan at Kidderminster, Gore has featured for United in the Premier League this season as a substitute, and Weir starred at this level last season with Morecambe.

With those additions, Vale are strengthened as they seek to extend the four-point gap to the drop zone, although Andy Crosby’s side have games in hand on everyone.

Visitors Portsmouth might be top of the league, but they’ve also taken just eight points from the last seven league games, and four of them came against bottom side Fleetwood.

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Carlisle to beat Bolton – 33/10

Carlisle have strengthened their squad significantly in the January window, as expected, with the signings of goalkeeper Harry Lewis, defender Seán Grehan, midfielders Harrison Neal and Josh Vela, forward Jack Diamond and target man Luke Armstrong.

Vela was poached from bottom side Fleetwood, where he was captain, so the fact United have the financial muscle to prize a key man from a relegation rival shows they mean business under a legendary manager in Paul Simpson.

After a competitive showing at Barnsley last time out, albeit in a 2-1 defeat, Carlisle will feel they can use the cauldron of noise at Brunton Park to upset Bolton.

The Trotters should be favourites for automatic promotion and look tough to stop, but they’ve also lost two of their last four away league games and were unconvincing in victory over Cheltenham in midweek.

 

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Sutton to win at Walsall – 33/10

Since losing 8-0 at Stockport in December, Sutton have stabilized with a steady four points from four games under Jason Goodliffe’s interim tutelage, then another two from two under Steve Morison.

The U’s have been competitive in all their games going back to the festive period, and they have established a solid base performance level which gives them a chance of putting a run together to catch some of the teams above them, ominous an assignment though that looks.

Morison has been able to add left-back Nino Adom-Malaki on loan from his former club Millwall, midfielder Charlie Lakin on loan from Burton, Deon Moore from Lewis and fellow striker Olly Sanderson on loan from Fulham.

Those additions should enhance the South Londoners for their trip to 15th-placed Walsall, who’s slim Play-Off hopes took a hit with a 3-1 loss at Stockport last time out.

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Colchester to win at Morecambe – 21/10

Colchester have begun life under Danny Cowley with successive draws with Swindon and Bradford.

The U’s came back from two goals down at the County Ground to earn a point, and also clawed back the deficit against the Bantams, showing there’s a new spirit about them.

Cowley’s appointment has re-enthused supporters, who will likely take twice as many fans to Morecambe as they would have done previously, and there’s hope that the new regime can get the best out of star man Arthur Read.

The Shrimps have responded superbly to adversity this season, with off-field uncertainty, the loss of manager Derek Adams and key players being recalled from loan spells all upsetting the apple cart, and they’ve dealt with the setbacks defiantly – but it is just two league wins in 12.

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*Odds correct at time of publishing. Available to UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland) aged 18+ only. T&Cs apply. www.begambleaware.org

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Previous Week’s EFL Betting Tips

Saturday 20th January

Huddersfield to win at Blackburn – 16/5

Huddersfield are having the strong January transfer window they needed.

After the takeover in the summer, new owner Kevin Nagle wasn’t able to spend what he needed to straight away and it led to a window in which the Terriers didn’t strengthen while the rest of the league did.

The problem was compounded when Neil Warnock left after a middling start, and Darren Moore began slowly as his replacement, struggling to both fix the defence and get the team creating chances.

There have been signs of progress in recent performances, though, and the signings of Radinio Balker in defence and Alex Matos in midfield plus Bojan Radulović and Rhys Healey in attack significantly strengthen the Terriers.

Balker arrives with a reputation from Holland as one of the Eerste Divisie’s (2nd tier) top talents, earning flattering stylistic comparisons with Virgil Van Dijk.

Matos, on the other hand, played more advanced earlier in his youth career, but has embraced a deeper midfield role in the PL2 in 2023-24 and should bring ball-carrying qualities, as well as tenacity and bite.

Radulović is a physical focal point with good hold-up play and an aerial threat, while Healey can threaten cutting in from wide.

Those four additions could prove game-changers for Town, who are hoping for victory at a Blackburn side who look potential plummeters, having accrued one point from their last six league games, and lost Boxing Day’s reverse fixture 3-0 in West Yorkshire.

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Carlisle to win at Cheltenham – 11/5

Cheltenham and Carlisle still have plenty of work ahead of them to save their League One status, but there’s reason to think either could stay up.

The Cumbrians have new owners in the Piatak family, who budgeted for two windows rather than one due to the takeover having been expected to be completed earlier than it was, and the owners of Castle Sports Group are prepared to use all that money on a crucial January.

As such, United have strengthened their squad with the signings of goalkeeper Harry Lewis, defender Seán Grehan, midfielder Harrison Neal and target man Luke Armstrong, while Bradford forward Jake Young – who has flourished on loan at Swindon – has also been linked.

Those additions could make a massive difference, likewise the returns from injury of Paul Huntington, Fin Back, Callum Guy and Josh Kayode – Huntington returned to central defence for the 2-1 loss at Barnsley, bringing much-needed organisational qualities in an improved showing.

As such, Carlisle are likely to be stronger than form suggests.

We don’t quite know how the new faces will translate into performances and results just yet, but the signs are hopeful.

Conversely, Cheltenham boss Darrell Clarke has proven to get the best out of existing personnel, which in one sense is positive because it puts less pressure on recruitment to make a difference.

At the same time, the Robins are limited in what they can do this January, and haven’t yet brought anyone new into the building.

Superbly though Clarke has done to give them a fighting chance – and he’s surely Manager of the Year if they stay up given where they were when he took charge – there may come a stage at which they need some new blood.

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Lincoln to beat Derby – 7/2

Lincoln avoided a fifth straight league defeat thanks to Ethan Erhahon’s 98th-minute equalizer at Wycombe last week.

The Imps were much improved when Teddy Bishop came on for Jack Burroughs to join Erhahon and Ethan Hamilton in midfield, with Lasse Sorensen switching to right wing-back, and Michael Skubala may go to that system again.

The Head Coach has also loaned in Joe Taylor from Luton, pairing the striker with Freddie Draper, with the duo hoping to build on strong first halves of the season in League Two with Colchester and Walsall respectively.

Draper is a physical, industrious striker who loves to attack crosses into the box, while Taylor is a nippy poacher who is deadly in front of goal, and the two of them should give City the firepower they need to make the most of their strengths elsewhere.

If Skubala’s side play to their best, they may beat a Derby side who looked unconvincing in Monday’s 3-2 victory over Burton.

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Morecambe to win at MK Dons – 5/1

It’s been a tough time for Morecambe, who have lost legendary manager Derek Adams, poached by Ross County, along with key loanees in Tom Bloxham, Michael Mellon and Eli King, in a period of off-field uncertainty – on it, they’re winless in six in all competitions.

Their start to 2024 offers some hope, though, as the Shrimps fought on to secure an injury-time equalizer against Harrogate, were competitive in their 2-0 FA Cup loss at Swansea, and drew 1-1 with a top side in Mansfield, creating enough chances to win.

Plus, the Lancashire club have had the funds to strengthen their squad recently with the signings of Archie Mair on loan from Norwich, Grenada international defender Kayden Harrack, attacking midfielder Joe Adams on loan from Wigan, plus free agent wingers Gwion Edwards and Brandon Barker.

All those signings seem to improve Ged Brannan’s squad, which gives Morecambe a modicum of hope for the second half of the season, as they seek to stay in a respectable midtable position rather than finish with a whimper.

As such, they’ll strive to pull off an upset at MK Dons and perhaps that Dunkirk Spirit will serve the club again in Saturday’s trip to Buckinghamshire.

Mike Williamson’s side might be in excellent form, with five wins in their last six league games putting them in a great position to secure a top seven finish, but the 3-0 loss at Doncaster shows they’re not infallible.

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Newport to beat Wrexham – 13/5

Newport County and Wrexham share a rivalry steeped in history.

When Newport was granted city status in 2012, it prompted discontent from natives of Wrexham, who had applied for the honour that same year, with accusations of royal southern bias.

On the field, meanwhile, Newport won the 2013 Conference Play-Off Final between the clubs 2-0 to complete their return to the Football League, and subsequently didn’t meet again for five years (10 in the league).

There’s been no love lost in that period, and perhaps unlike 2018’s FA Cup meetings, it’s County this time who have the bigger axe to grind.

Whether the Amber Army are jealous of their foes’ Hollywood ownership, and the resultant national coverage that exceeds that of even Cardiff and Swansea, or genuinely see it as less pure than their own fan-owned model, it sticks in the craw.

Our purpose here isn’t to judge who is or isn’t in the right, given that football rivalries are so rarely based on reasonable logic, but what’s clear is that the grudge Newport have can often cultivate a siege mentality – and Rodney Parade on Saturday will be a hostile atmosphere.

Exiles boss Graham Coughlan has built the kind of teams who thrive in that sort of environment, so for Wrexham, the assignment is a little more complex than simply winning, as the team in 2nd, away to the team that’s 17th – a point would be a reasonable outcome for the visitors.

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*Odds correct at time of publishing. Available to UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland) aged 18+ only. T&Cs apply. www.begambleaware.org

Saturday 13th January

Rotherham to beat Stoke – 14/5

Rotherham are fighting under new boss Leam Richardson, and they’ve given themselves a fighting chance by going three games unbeaten early in his reign.

Technically, Richardson began with successive defeats, but the first was an encouraging performance at Plymouth Argyle in a 3-2 loss, and the second was the 3-0 defeat at Leicester, who are in a different league – as well as being in the same one.

The battling 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough was a major boost for the Millers, likewise competitive performances in subsequent draws with Sunderland and Blackburn.

Under new management, the South Yorkshire outfit operate with a deeper defensive line than they had under Matt Taylor, and the playing style suits the personnel better, none more so than experienced centre-back Sean Morrison, who’s been outstanding recently.

Rotherham also rely heavily on goalkeeper Viktor Johansson, who is likely to be at the club come the weekend, although they may have a decision to make as to whether to cash in on the Swede – the reason why they’re still in with a fighting chance.

The Millers will make the New York Stadium a fortress, and with Jamie Lindsay battling in midfield and Sam Nombe grafting selflessly up top, they might be able to pull off three points here, even against a Stoke side currently unbeaten since Steven Schumacher took charge in November.

BET HERE

Bristol Rovers to win at Barnsley – 14/5

Joey Barton’s sacking as Bristol Rovers boss in late October has come as something of a relief to the club.

Although Barton did a good job on paper, getting the club to promotion from League Two at the first attempt after relegation the year before, and overseeing a safe, midtable finish last season, his conduct definitely caused some consternation around the club.

As a character, Barton is at best confrontational and divisive, inflammatory and toxic at worst – and there were almost certainly fans, as well as possibly people within the club, who weren’t comfortable having him as manager.

With that in mind, appointing a far more grounded and level-headed person in Matt Taylor gives the club a bit of respite, and that’s been borne out in the turnaround in fortunes.

Since Taylor took charge, the Gas have amassed 14 points from nine games, impressive considering they’ve faced three of the top eight in that period.

In fact, wins over Bolton and Portsmouth suggest Rovers might even perform best against the top sides, because they also drew 1-1 at Norwich in the FA Cup last weekend, and had the better of that game.

Hosts Barnsley currently occupy a Play-Off spot, like they did last season, but they’ve regressed significantly, and are where they are more because of the standard of the competition than perhaps their own merits.

They’re nowhere near as good as, for instance, an Ipswich side that finished 11th in 2021-22 with 70 points, but because the top half of the league is weaker than two years ago, they find themselves in 6th.

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Lincoln to win at Wycombe – 16/5

Lincoln have strengthened their striking options by signing Joe Taylor on loan from Luton.

Despite being in a position in which the possibilities of a Play-Off spot and relegation look equally remote, and with striker Ben House returning in February with Freddie Draper recalled from Walsall, the Imps have still prioritised their short-term needs.

The implications for Saturday’s game are positive, and the thought of Draper – strong, industrious and athletic – paired with Taylor – nimble, speedy and prolific – will have City fans salivating.

Local observers like Gary Hutchinson from the Stacey West Blog have mooted a two up top system, which is something head coach Michael Skubala has hinted at in his pre-match press conference.

The two will hope to strike up an instant connection at Wycombe, who are underachieving in the bottom half, with one win in the last 14 for Matt Bloomfield’s side.

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Harrogate to win at Forest Green – 9/4

Harrogate have taken 20 of their 37 points this season away from home, with no other side in League Two stronger on the road relative to overall form.

Simon Weaver’s side have the pace to hit teams on the counter-attack in Abraham Odoh and Sam Folarin, which may explain why they enjoy playing away, although the latter is absent for their lengthy jaunt to Nailsworth.

Town have one of the best centre-backs in the league in Anthony O’Connor, and right-back Kayne Ramsay is in fantastic form too.

The Sulphurites have taken 13 points from their last six games, in fact, turning what looked another season of bottom half obscurity into the hope of an unlikely Play-Off challenge, with the North Yorkshire outfit just two points off the top seven.

While Simon Weaver is the longest-serving manager in the EFL, his opposite number only became one before Christmas, and it’s three points from an opening five games for Troy Deeney.

The former striker’s application had been in question as a player, and his relationship with the dressing room seemed to be mixed, so quite how the dynamic will work for him as a manager is anyone’s guess.

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Wimbledon to win at Wrexham – 13/5

Wrexham bounced back from the 3-1 loss at Walsall, their last game of 2023, by starting 2024 with a 4-1 victory over promotion rivals Barrow.

The Red Dragons weren’t at their best in the first half, but three goals in an extended stoppage time period saw them go into the break with a two-goal cushion, before Steven Fletcher completed the scoreline and his hat-trick in the second period.

Goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo is having a fantastic season for Phil Parkinson’s side, George Evans looks an inspired recruit in midfield, Elliot Lee has been a magician between the lines – and Paul Mullin is the most dangerous striker in the league on his day.

For all their strengths, though, Wrexham are short on pace in their team, so Wimbledon will feel they can defend with a high line.

The Dons will miss strikers Ali Al Hamadi and Omar Bugiel, away with Iraq and the Lebanon respectively, but they do have Josh Davison raring to go in their stead.

Johnnie Jackson’s side a double-figured group of other players who have been performing at a 7+/10 all season, and if Jake Reeves can dictate as intended in midfield, they’ll feel they have the minerals to cause a minor upset.

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Saturday 6th January

Charlton to win at Port Vale – 2/1

Charlton have bolstered their midfield with the signings of Tyreeq Bakinson and Lewis Fiorini, on loan from Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City respectively.

Bakinson is a dynamic, all-action midfielder hoping to benefit from a run of games in League One, having been secondary to George Byers, Will Vaulks and Barry Bannan with the Owls, meaning opportunities depended on injuries.

Fiorini, meanwhile, is a technical, creative midfielder with an excellent passing range, best known as a number eight but with the skillset that might translate nicely to operating as a number six too.

Those additions should strengthen Michael Appleton’s side, especially with the Mancunian head coach having worked with the latter at Blackpool, with success prior to injury.

Carlisle to win at Exeter – 13/5

Carlisle have bolstered their survival hopes with the signings of Luke Armstrong, which was announced a few days prior to the window, Seán Grehan and Harrison Neal.

Armstrong is a target man who has bagged 12 and 16 League Two goals in the previous two seasons with a bottom half Harrogate side and, if he’s fully motivated now he’s got his move, can be a dangerous focal point.

Grehan is a ball-playing defender, on loan from Crystal Palace, who is strong on basic attributes like positioning and tackling, while Neal arrives on loan from Sheffield United with great reviews from Barrow and should be a great replacement for the tenacious Callum Guy at the base of midfield.

Those three additions already strengthen the Cumbrians, and should bring more out of the players around them – for instance, Neal’s defensive work should free up fellow midfielder Owen Moxon to bring his extensive passing range to the table.

Fellow strugglers Exeter also need a busy January, and should get it, but Welsh teenager Luke Harris, on loan from Fulham, is their only acquisition so far, and Gary Caldwell’s side are still crying out for a centre-forward.

Doncaster to win at Harrogate – 9/5

A lot of modern fanbases are pretty reactionary around managers, especially when results aren’t everything they’d hope, so it’s been refreshing to see Doncaster fans rally around boss Grant McCann.

The Northern Irishman has seen his squad ravaged by injuries since returning to the Eco-Power Stadium, and he’s not had much luck on the pitch either, with competitive performances often going unrewarded.

Those factors, combined with McCann’s considerable credentials, has meant natives have been willing to stand by him with the team underachieving in 19th.

Their patience has been rewarded slightly with four points from the last two games, with a 1-1 draw at prime promotion contenders Mansfield followed by an impressive 3-0 win over in-form Play-Off candidates MK Dons.

Sometimes adversity can unite, and that seems to have been the case in this corner of South Yorkshire, so don’t be too surprised to see Donny surge up the table in 2024.

They could complete back-to-back victories at the other end of the county, where Harrogate have lost seven of their 13 home league games.

Colchester to win at Swindon – 21/10

Danny and Nicky Cowley’s appointments at Colchester United boosts the Essex club’s chances of finishing a fourth consecutive season of disappointment, at least, in the EFL, and inspires some optimism around their hopes of putting this underperforming era behind them.

Locally born and raised, the brothers have had enormous success with Concord Rangers, Braintree and Lincoln, whom they led to two titles in three seasons, either side of EFL Trophy glory and a top seven League Two finish, with FA Cup history thrown in for good measure.

The Cowleys are meticulously detail-driven in their work, but they also know how to galvanize and connect with people, making them the ideal management team to re-enthuse a disillusioned fanbase.

The last four years haven’t gone exactly as they’d have hoped, but they’ve still delivered competitive results at higher levels, keeping Huddersfield in the Championship in 2019-20 from a position in which they threatened to mirror Sunderland’s decline, and getting 73 points with Portsmouth – enough for a Play-Off spot in four of the previous six full seasons – form there only dropped off in an injury-decimated final three months.

As such, Colchester have got a more wizened version of the duo than they would have got in 2019, when their stock would’ve been too high for a League Two club, but there’s no reason why they can’t get their careers back on an upward curve.

ColU fans will be hoping that starts at Swindon, who face off-field uncertainty, have the third-worst defence in the league, and have lost by far their two most productive attackers in Jake Young and Dan Kemp, recalled by League Two rivals Bradford and MK Dons respectively.

New Years’ Day

Rotherham to win at Blackburn – 9/2

Rotherham boss Leam Richardson has made a positive impact at the New York Stadium.

The Millers lost 3-2 at Plymouth Argyle in his first game, but they had some good periods at Home Park in a game that turned on Daniel Ayala’s red card, before the 3-0 defeat at runaway leaders Leicester in which they held out until half-time.

Richardson’s side then battled to a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough, thanks to inspired showings from goalkeeper Viktor Johansson and centre-back Sean Morrison in a dogged victory, before a welcome point and encouraging performance against Play-Off chasers Sunderland.

Nonetheless, Rotherham still have a lot of work ahead of them with an eight-point gap to safety, but a good result at Blackburn could haul them into the mix.

Rovers have lost their last four league games, conceding 12 goals in the process.

Lincoln to win at Blackpool – 4/1

Three straight defeats have put pay to Lincoln’s Play-Off hopes for this season, with the gap to the top six now as big as 11 points, having played one or two games more than most above them.

Michael Skubala’s side have a lot of ingredients in place, but they’re missing a centre-forward, as injuries in that department have undermined their whole season.

However, striker Freddie Draper may be recalled from a successful first half of the season on loan at Walsall, while forward Jack Moylan is eligible to play as, having trained with the club recently, his signing from Shelbourne will be officially ratified on January 1st as Skubala seeks solutions.

Otherwise, Lincoln are strong with a rock-solid defence and an irresistible ‘Ethan compound’ midfield of Erhahon and Hamilton, joined more recently by Teddy Bishop, who’s been able to dodge his own injury troubles.

Hosts Blackpool have lost four of their last six league games, as chronic inconsistency has blighted their top six bid.

Stevenage to win at Portsmouth – 13/5

Stevenage saw their clash with Cambridge on Friday abandoned due to a power cut, and they’ll be hoping the extra rest prepares them well for Monday’s game.

The Boro can take huge confidence from their Boxing Day performance against Northampton, in which they restricted a good side to just two (off-target) shots all game, such was the control from Steve Evans’ side.

Carl Piergianni has been a huge part of their defensive consistency, as the team that kept clean sheets in 19 of their 46 League Two games last season, have already recorded 11 in 24 in League One.

Piergianni has a relentless mentality and seems to be intrinsically motivated – he doesn’t occupy himself with social media, and goes to the gym every day before training, setting, in doing so, the standards for everyone else.

Jamie Reid has been in sumptuous form this season, and is now third-top goalscorer in League One with 14, which is more than he got in the whole of last year in the division above.

The persistent poacher is playing with better quality around him, especially in midfield, where Louis Thompson, Ben Thompson, Fin Burns and Nick Freeman have all proved outstanding additions, and where Jordan Roberts has lifted his game again.

Hosts Portsmouth might be top of League One, but they’re three winless from what was on paper a favourable fixture list, with Fleetwood at home followed by Bristol Rovers and Exeter away.

Harrogate to win at Morecambe – 21/10

Morecambe find themselves in a chaotic period right now, on and off the field.

Most significantly, the takeover the club wanted didn’t happen, so they’re stuck with a non-communicative majority shareholder in Jason Whittingham.

The accusation has been that Whittingham doesn’t engage enough with interested buyers, despite supposedly wanting to sell, and they subsequently lose their interest, which is frustrating for an honest, hardworking Board of Directors who don’t have the ultimate power.

The BoD plus CEO Ben Sadler wanted some semblance of stability, and therefore gave Ged Brannan the permanent job on an 18-month contract off the back of his only game as caretaker, a 6-0 loss at Wrexham.

It’s since been a mixed bag, with a 5-0 victory at Doncaster, competitive performances with a point each against Stockport and Bradford, and an impressive FA Cup showing at Wycombe that earnt a Third Round tie with Swansea, but also a home defeat to Newport and a 5-0 tonking at Notts County.

Uncertainty lies over the immediate future of loan stars Eli King, Tom Bloxham and Michael Mellon, each of whom could be recalled by parent clubs Cardiff, Shrewsbury and Burnley respectively, and even permanently-owned assets like Jacob Bedeau and Adam Mayor.

As such, it’s probably not the worst time to play the Shrimps, and visitors Harrogate have the fourth-best away record in League Two, with Simon Weaver’s midtable side boasting an in-form right-back in Kayne Ramsay.

Barrow to win at Wrexham – 3/1

Since a fantastic performance at Grimsby in early October, where they miraculously lost 2-1, Barrow have gone 14 games unbeaten in League Two.

The Bluebirds are playing like arguably the best team in the league on current form – the shot data backs that up – with Pete Wild’s side possessed with a sense of invincibility.

James Chester has recently agreed an extended contract with the north-west club, which shows the appeal Wild holds for internationally experienced players, with his passionate, authentic management style.

The knowhow Chester brings, along with the likes of David Worrall and Jamie Proctor, gives Barrow a more seasoned, accomplished feel that has allowed them manage games better than they did last season, and it’ll certainly help them compete with the quality Wrexham have.

The Red Dragons go into this game with pressure to respond to a disappointing performance at Walsall, in a 3-1 defeat, whereas their hosts are there to just enjoy the ride.

 

*Odds correct at time of publishing. Available to UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland) aged 18+ only. T&Cs apply. www.begambleaware.org

Friday, 29th December

Rotherham to beat Sunderland – 5/1

Rotherham’s 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough on Boxing Day was integral to keeping their survival hopes alive, because even with that win, the gap’s as big as nine points.

New boss Leam Richardson, though, has thrived in adversity before, having kept Wigan in League One in 2020-21 with a ravaged squad, skeletal staff and grave financial instability, before winning the title with them under new ownership the following season.

Richardson excels at building teams that are big on the intangibles: heart, spirit and togetherness, and they’ll certainly need that to beat the drop.

The 44-year-old’s playing style arguably suits defender Sean Morrison, who’s vastly experienced at this level and was imperious on Tuesday.

He’s also getting the best out of Liam Lindsay, who rats around breaking up play in midfield.

The Yorkshire outfit have a competitive first XI, even if they’re light on depth, and might have enough to grab some results against the better teams in the league at home.

Visitors Sunderland will almost certainly have more of the territory on Friday, but issues with all four of their natural striker options has prompted new Head Coach Mick Beale to play Jobe Bellingham as a false nine, which can sometimes see them miss a clinical edge to make the most of the work done by the likes of Dan Neil, Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke.

If Rotherham can win the battles in their own penalty area, then they might only need one moment to win the game.

Barnsley to win at Peterborough – 19/5

We can appreciate Peterborough as a hot in-form side who have established themselves as serious promotion contenders, with some of the very best players in the league in defender Ronnie Edwards, plus forwards Ephron Mason-Clark and Kwame Poku.

Nonetheless, the Posh don’t have a huge amount of depth to justify the heavy favourites tag, especially at such a congested festive fixture period, against a Play-Off contender.

Plus, visitors Barnsley have been able to welcome key midfielder Luca Connell back into the side lately, which could be a game-changer for the Reds.

The reasoning for Connell’s prolonged absence is a little ambiguous, but the Irishman is highly tenacious, which makes him vital in terms of protecting the defence from the base of midfield and stopping transitions.

He also brings a touch of class to proceedings, and his long-range passing can really open games up.

Since Connell returned, Barnsley have taken 10 points from four games, so they could be a different proposition.

Cambridge to win at Stevenage – 4/1

Neil Harris has made an instant impact at Cambridge, overseeing an impressive seven points from his first four games in charge, with a team with limited options up top that had been almost in freefall before he took charge.

It was late heartache for the U’s at Oxford on Boxing Day, but a spirited performance in which they came so close to a well-earned point.

In this one, the visitors may have opportunities to counter-attack via John-Kymani Gordon, with Jack Lankester bringing left-footed craft from the right and George Thomas breaking forward from midfield.

Stevenage are having a fantastic season, flying high in six and defying all expectations in doing so, but they drew 1-1 with Exeter recently with a man advantage, which shows they’re not infallible, despite being rightful favourites.

Sutton to win at Gillingham – 3/1

Jason Goodliffe deserves a huge amount of credit for how he’s handling the interim period at Sutton.

It’s been a dark time for the club because, while fans have mixed views on whether the decision to part company with Matt Gray was correct, he’s a club legend, and the U’s joint-greatest ever manager with Paul Doswell.

Goodliffe has lifted the club admirably in difficult circumstances, and after delivering a competitive showing just before Christmas against a top Mansfield side, in a 2-0 defeat, he oversaw a 1-0 victory at South London rivals Wimbledon.

The 45-year-old has made a subtle tactical tweak, going away from Gray’s favoured 4-4-2 and towards a 4-4-1-1, with Harry Beautyman in attacking midfield, and wide men Josh Coley and Omari Patrick given a touch more creative freedom.

The 4-4-2 had worked with David Ajiboye and Will Randall as the wide men, because they had incredible stamina to make the system effective, but Coley and Patrick don’t offer the same defensive balance, so the slightly different remit for those two has helped a lot.

Sutton have a formula that could allow them to steadily accumulate points, and there’s a chance they win at Gillingham, who have dropped into the bottom half – not where the ambitious Kent club want to be with the squad they have.

Tranmere to win at Harrogate – 17/10

Tranmere have become one of the form teams in League Two since Nigel Adkins was handed the permanent job, winning five of their last eight.

Also in that sequence were a 1-1 draw at Sutton and a 1-0 loss at Walsall, and Rovers had the chances to win both those games, as well as a 2-2 draw at a top Mansfield side.

A few weeks ago, it was the Wirral outfit’s strength out wide carrying them through, but more recently they’ve solidified defensively, Lee O’Connor has picked up as an auxiliary right-back, and Regan Hendry and Brad Walker are in excellent form in midfield, while Connor Jennings has excelled as a back-up reference point to injured target man Luke Norris.

Tranmere have momentum, and after thrashing Salford 5-1 on Boxing Day with a quintet of goalscorers, they’re ready for anything.

Harrogate are in form themselves – they’ve won their last three league games, in fact – but not to the point that they quite convince as a Play-Off prospect.

Boxing Day

Sheffield Wednesday to win at Coventry – 18/5

Sheffield Wednesday were hit by a late sucker-punch against Cardiff on Saturday, leading through Anthony Musaba’s strike late on before two goals swung the tide against them.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot more hope for the Owls under Danny Röhl’s guidance, and Huddersfield’s problems gives them encouragement that the six-point gap to safety is bridgeable, although they may need to find a plummeter from above if QPR continue to improve.

Wednesday are pressing with more conviction under their new Head Coach, who has unearthed a potential star in striker Bailey Cadamarteri, now preferred to more experienced strikers like Lee Gregory and Ashley Fletcher, highlighting the boss’ egalitarian approach to selection.

Barry Bannan is playing with a swagger, too, and if the Scot can bring the magic, they could upset even a resurgent Coventry side.

The Sky Blues had struggled to adjust to the losses of Gus Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres at the start of the season, but they’ve been more defensively solid since boss Mark Robins’ switch from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1, and Callum O’Hare’s return from injury has brought them some of the stardust they were missing earlier in the campaign.

Nonetheless, they’ve gained a lot of their points playing on the counter-attack, against possession-heavy sides, and Wednesday might be able to nullify them if they press with a mid-block, and don’t dwell on the ball as much.

Cambridge to win at Oxford – 18/5

Neil Harris has brought a fresh energy to Cambridge.

The U’s had looked in danger of hurtling towards the drop zone before the former Gillingham boss came in, and oversaw seven points from three games, with a fightback from two-goals down at Charlton preceding successive home wins over Blackpool and Exeter.

The team’s playing with more intent under Harris, who has livened the place up, and got the best out of the likes of right-back Liam Bennett and centre-back Jubril Okedina.

Many believed the former could only thrive as a wing-back, and that the latter would struggle to rekindle his 2021-22 form, but they’ve been proved wrong on both counts, while striker Gassan Ahadme is himself defying doubters – in fact, with six goals in his last six games, you might say he Ahadme at hello…

On the other hand, Oxford head coach Des Buckingham hasn’t had the instant impact he wanted, with four points from his first four games looking an underwhelming start at the promotion contenders.

Wigan to beat Derby – 33/10

Derby are one of League One’s form sides right now, with Paul Warne’s side responding to October’s 3-1 loss at Stevenage by taking 19 points from the last 21 available.

However, the Rams have been reliant on wide man Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, still quick and direct as ever at 31, to drive them forward in transitional attacks.

Mendez-Laing could miss Boxing Day’s trip to West Lancashire, though, having been away on international duty with Guatemala – and if he did play, he’d likely be fatigued and/or jetlagged.

This is an aging Derby squad that otherwise misses the injection of pace: Tyreece John-Jules might provide some of it, but whether he can be as potent is up for debate.

A youthful Wigan side, by contrast, might be better-placed to handle the tight fixture turnaround.

The Latics are 17th, but would be 10th without the eight-point deduction, and their opening day win at Pride Park in the reverse fixture was one of four wins in six against top six opposition.

Shaun Maloney’s side have one of the highest-potential goalkeepers and midfielders in the league in Sam Tickle and Baba Adeeko respectively, the latter having been rested in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Reading, while centre-back Liam Morrison is on loan from Bayern Munich, of all clubs.

Sutton win at Wimbledon – 9/2

Sutton began life without legendary manager Matt Gray on Saturday, losing 2-0 to Mansfield under the interim tutelage of Jason Goodliffe.

It wasn’t the result the U’s wanted, and defeat leaves them nine points adrift of safety, but there are small signs of encouragement to take from spells of the performance, against serious promotion contenders.

Goodliffe has made much-needed tweaks from Gray’s 4-4-2 and, recognizing that existing wide men don’t have the stamina or work ethic to do what David Ajiboye and Will Randall previously did to make the system work, has gone to a 4-4-1-1 with Harry Beautyman as an attacking midfielder.

Having a third man who can drop into midfield, in theory, gives Sutton the opportunity to find a little bit more control in central areas, easing the pressure on Craig Clay and Christian N’Guessan – the latter stepping up this season from National League South football with Ebbsfleet last year.

It also frees up the wide men, Josh Coley and Omari Patrick – the former is a quick, direct type who loves to attack the flank, while the latter brings a smattering of flair, and could find the form that made him a fans’ favourite at Carlisle, now the system allows him a smidgeon extra tactical freedom.

 

Barrow to beat Stockport – 9/4

One aspect that determines success in football, that isn’t discussed too much, is imagery: the process of mentally recreating sensory experiences.

When we vividly imagine something happening in our minds, it can sometimes become likelier to come to fruition, within reason of course.

Pete Wild’s post-win fist-pumps at Barrow began as a way of simply celebrating and engaging fans, but it may have become a kind of psychological device – a form of imagery that feeds into the muscle memory of a team, staff and fanbase that now half-anticipates victory.

It’s seven straight league wins now, for the Bluebirds, after Friday’s 3-1 victory at Crewe, and Wild has done the fist-pumps to the fans each time – it’s become a sort of a good luck charm, a symbol that cultivates a sense of destiny.

Whether you buy into the psychological nuances of that theory, or whether you see it as simply a man celebrating, there’s no doubting that Barrow are on the crest of a wave right now, flying high in second.

With a sturdy, experienced rearguard, an industrious midfield, and a strike-pairing of Emile Acquah and Dom Telford who complement one another superbly, they’re quite the force.

And, while it is the leaders travelling to Holker Street on Boxing Day, the profile of the clash could only bring more out of Barrow, and the cauldron of noise there’ll be with a large banner set to be unveiled in the home end, and a likely sell-out – the atmosphere will be electric.

Visitors Stockport County won’t necessarily be at their best, despite having recently demolished Sutton 8-0, they’ve had lots of injuries in full-back areas, midfield and attack which have weakened Dave Challinor’s side, who were unconvincing in Friday’s 2-1 win over Notts County.

*Odds correct at time of publishing. Available to UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland) aged 18+ only. T&Cs apply. www.begambleaware.org

Saturday 23rd December

QPR to beat Southampton – 18/5

Queens Park Rangers have taken 12 points from Martí Cifuentes’ first eight games in charge, after accruing eight from the previous 14.

The Rs’ return of 1.5 PPG under the Spaniard is identical to Sunderland’s over the course of the season, so the improvement has been drastic.

The West Londoners look after the ball a lot better under Cifuentes, while Asmir Begovic has been a key shot stopper, Steve Cook has established a strong centre-back pairing with Jake Clarke-Salter, Kenneth Paal brings quality from left-back, Elijah Dixon-Bonner has made a midfield spot his own alongside the industrious Sam Field, while Ilias Chair brings a sprinkling of genius.

The Hoops still need a striker in January, but right now they’re doing enough to be competitive.

Visitors Southampton might be 14 unbeaten in the league, but Russ Martin’s side have also won just one of their last five on the road.

Bristol Rovers to win at Blackpool – 33/10

Bristol Rovers have taken four points from Matt Taylor’s first two games in charge, albeit in a different order to what might have been expected.

The Gas were held 1-1 by Cheltenham at the Mem, but then won 2-1 at Bolton, arguably the best team in the league, in a tactical masterclass from the new boss.

In goalkeeper Matthew Cox, right-back Jack Hunt, defenders James Wilson and Connor Taylor, right-sider Luke Thomas, midfielder Grant Ward, attacking midfielder Anthony Evans, forward Aaron Collins and front-man Chris Martin, Rovers have the makings of a strong side.

With the right January additions, they could yet make a charge for the Play-Offs, as it’s a relief for the club to have an honest, down-to-earth personality managing the club.

Blackpool are one of the best teams in League One on their day, but they’re plagued by inconsistency.

Northampton to beat Oxford – 21/10

Northampton have settled into life in League One extremely well.

They were never going to get the same kind of results that fellow promotees Stevenage have, because they didn’t have the budget to strengthen their squad in the same way, so to be sitting pretty in the top half is commendable.

The Cobblers have a consistent core of 7-8 players who perform at a solid 6-7/10 every week, and they have a smattering of 8s in Marc Leonard, Mitch Pinnock and Sam Hoskins.

Leonard is one of the top playmakers in the league, Pinnock can always make something happen in the final third, and Hoskins is such a reliable goalscorer.

Teyn have won five of their 11 home league games this season, and will be hoping to hit the 50% rate in Saturday’s hosting of neighbours Oxford.

The Yellows are flying high at the summit, but they’ve won just one in five league games since Head Coach Liam Manning left for Bristol City, and it’s been a tricky settling in period for his replacement, Des Buckingham.

Morecambe to beat MK Dons – 19/10

Morecambe owner Jason Whittingham has been charged by the EFL forfailing to adhere to an agreed decision imposed in August, after the club failed to pay players on time.

That uncertainty hanging over the club is never ideal, but at the same time, it’s a club that’s well-run on a day-to-day basis, as Whittingham isn’t on the Board of Directors.

Co-chairs Rod Taylor and Graham Howse do a great job for the Shrimps in testing circumstances, likewise directors James Wakefield and Charlie Appleyard, and CEO Ben Sadler.

As such, it should be business as usual for the club, and manager Ged Brannan, who oversaw a stunning 5-0 victory at Doncaster last week.

In a season that was looking bleak in prospect, and saw legendary boss Derek Adams get poached as well as the off-field issues, they actually have an exciting young side.

Defender Jacob Bedeau, midfielder Eli King, attacking midfielder JJ McKiernan and forwards Tom Bloxham, Adam Mayor and Michael Mellon are all lighting up League Two.

MK Dons have only lost once in seven under new Head Coach, Mike Williamson, but Morecambe are the highest-placed side they have faced under him so far.

Newport to win at Wrexham – 11/2

The last time Wrexham and Newport met outside cup competitions, it was the 2013 Conference Play-Off Final, which the Exiles won to secure their return to the Football League as a reformed club.

The derby will not have lost any spice over the last decade, if County’s 4-0 FA Cup win of 2018 is anything to go by, and it’s a game that means everything to the people.

When Newport was granted city status in 2012, it prompted discontent from natives of Wrexham, who had applied that same year, with accusations of royal southern bias, as the North Wales town didn’t receive that honour until 10 years later.

This time around, the boot could be on the other foot, and there may be a bit of needle from Newport fans around Wrexham being the perceived Welsh media darlings, and them not getting enough credit by comparison.

County boss Graham Coughlan is not the type of manager who will play that down, either: he’ll embrace the battling spirit required for a grudge match.

The Exiles have taken seven points from their last four league games, too, and while the hosts are in a healthy position on paper, they’re yet to truly convince.

Championship Saturday 16th Coventry to win at Leeds – 9/2

Mark Robins is quite the expert when it comes to mid-season systematic alterations that really alter the course of his side’s campaigns.

In the first full season of his second spell at Coventry, his initial plan was a solid, rigid template, asking winger Jodi Jones to bring the individual quality to carry his side through games, but when the wide man got a long-term injury, he went for a more attacking system to maximize the productivity of forward Marc McNulty, who went onto score more goals for the club in a season than anyone since Bobby Gould in 1967-68, as the team won promotion at Wembley.

Two years later, he responded to the dilemma posed by the form of Liam Walsh and the return from injury of positional rival Liam Kelly by switching from 4-3-3 to 3-4-2-1 with a box midfield at half-time against Fleetwood in October that season, and they subsequently won both that game, 2-1, and the title eight months later.

Robins is working his magic again, because since switching from 3-4-1-2 to 4-2-3-1, his side have conceded just three goals in six league games, losing only once, having shipped 21 in and lost six from the first 15.

Bobby Thomas has rekindled the understanding he had with Liam Kitching at Barnsley, Ben Sheaf and Jamie Allen have forged a solid pairing in midfield, while Callum O’Hare, in the number 10 role, brings the sprinkling of stardust which had been missing, after the key losses of Gus Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres.

The midweek 1-1 draw with Southampton showed the Sky Blues have a system with which they can attempt to compete with the best teams in the league.

Leeds are one of those, but Tuesday’s performance in a 1-0 loss at Sunderland suggests Daniel Farke’s side aren’t the finished article – they do their best work on the counter-attack, and Coventry are unlikely to grant them space in behind.

League One Saturday 16th Cambridge to beat Blackpool – 11/4

Fun fact: two of Neil Harris’ four permanent managerial stints have begun with his side overturning a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 at Charlton. Random.

The new Cambridge boss can take heart from his team’s valiance at The Valley and, even though he’d only taken charge two days previously, straight away you could see the Harris essence infused into the team.

The U’s were immediately more aggressive under his guidance, played forward quicker, and put in more crosses – all the raw ingredients of his Millwall sides at their best.

Harris’ mischievous mannerisms and direct methods might be a little old-fashioned, and there are probably reasons why they’re not the modern mainstream way.

At the same time, there’s an endearing authenticity to his work, his style can stun opponents at times, and when he gets buy-in, he creates a siege mentality that can take his sides a long way, like he did at Millwall, and like Cambridge have had previously with John Beck, Richard Money and Mark Bonner.

Plus, while visitors Blackpool are one of the top sides in the league on their day, they’re inconsistent and have dropped points against four of the bottom nine, having faced eight of them, bearing in mind this is an away game too.

League One Saturday 16th Cheltenham to beat Leyton Orient – 19/10

The traders have inevitably factored Cheltenham’s form under Wade Elliott into the pricing for Saturday’s game, and an 11-game goalless run at the start of the season can’t be ignored, but this feels like a different team now.

Had the season started when Darrell Clarke first took to the dugout in early October, the Robins would be 16th, or even 14th on PPG – the turnaround in results and performances has been as stark as it realistically could have been.

Visitors Leyton Orient have an excellent manager in Richie Wellens, and should beat the drop this season, but they are winless in eight league games.

The O’s have been hit by injuries to defenders Omar Beckles and Dan Happe, wide man Jordan Graham, plus forwards Aaron Drinan and Ruel Sotiriou.

 

League 2 Saturday 16th Crewe to beat Accrington Stanley – 8/5

Crewe produced their worst performance of the season last Saturday, in a 2-1 loss at Grimsby, and after midweek’s 4-2 FA Cup defeat to Bristol Rovers, Lee Bell’s side will be determined to bounce back.

Don’t get us wrong, we can understand why the Alex are as big as 8/5 for the victory, seeing as they’re missing key midfielders Jack Powell and Joel Tabiner through injury, as well as a back-up option in Charlie Colkett plus forward Chris Long, while defenders Zac Williams and Connor O’Riordan are being assessed.

Equally, Crewe have been the masters of finding a way to win this season, and while the injury crisis isn’t helpful, it’s not exactly new, either, and Bell’s adaptability has been a huge part of why they’re flying high in 5th.

Joe White has been fantastic this season, on loan from Newcastle, and it should make a difference to have him starting alongside Conor Thomas, as they did to good effect in November’s 1-0 win over Notts County.

Visitors Accrington Stanley have struggled on the road this season, losing five of their nine away league games, and it’s just one win in six for John Coleman’s side – or two in seven since owner Andy Holt aired his grievances, on social media, over assistant Jimmy Bell’s public pursuit of a new contract.

League 2 Saturday 16th Tranmere to win at Walsall – 12/5

Not everyone agreed with Tranmere’s decision to appoint Nigel Adkins as manager on a permanent basis, after a mixed stint as caretaker, but subsequent form has been excellent.

Rovers have taken 11 points from their last five league games, they’re the top scorers in the league in that time with 11, while defensive issues appear to have been repaired with Tom Davies and Jordan Turnbull enjoying something of a renaissance in central defence.

Connor Jennings’ adaptability has been crucial to the turnaround: he’s provided bite in advanced midfield when called upon, or acted as an auxiliary reference point in the absence of striker Luke Norris, who’s had two bad injuries.

Brad Walker has channelled his inner-Vieira alongside the assured Regan Hendry in midfield, but Rob Apter has been the real star.

It’s funny to think the Blackpool loanee has only started six league games, with the flanks being the strongest areas for the winger-wowing Wirralians, but he’s made them count with four goals and some moments of individual brilliance.

As such, Tranmere look a different proposition to the chaotically hapless outfit we saw earlier in the season, so the timing of the fixture doesn’t favour the hosts.

Walsall won 2-1 at Notts County last week, their first success in six, but they’re falling short of top half expectations under rookie Head Coach, Mat Sadler.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for December 9th, 2023: Underdogs to watch this weekend

Football League expert Gab highlights his best tips for the weekend’s EFL matches.

Huddersfield to beat Bristol City – 21/10

Having shipped goals at an alarming rate early on in Darren Moore’s reign, 15 in his first seven to be precise, Huddersfield have recently solidified.

The Terriers have conceded four goals in their last five, and while their performance in last week’s 1-1 draw at Swansea left something to be desired, they were resolute after taking an early lead and only an injury-time goal denied them all three points.

The defensive trio of Matty Pearson, Michał Helik and Tom Lees are hard for a single striker to get much change out of, and they’re protected well by the tenacious Jonathan Hogg and the athletic David Kasumu in midfield.

Huddersfield have since had a full week to recuperate, and will feel they can extend the six-point gap to the drop zone with a win over midtable Bristol City, who have taken four points from four games under new boss Liam Manning.

Watford to beat Southampton – 11/5

Since October’s international break, Watford have taken 17 points from eight games and are one of the Championship’s form sides.

Valérien Ismaël’s side rode their luck somewhat in last week’s 2-1 victory at Hull, which came thanks to a stunning 50-yard lob from centre-back Wesley Hoedt.
Nonetheless, the left-sided combination of Jamal Lewis, Ismaël Koné and Ken Sema is proving a real strength for the Hornets, while midfielders Jake Livermore and Edo Kayembe are defying their doubters.
Managed by one of the top pressing coaches in the Championship, Watford will feel they have a chance of stopping Southampton’s build-up play in their defensive third.
The Saints have improved in the last two months, but they’re still liable to individual errors given the extreme, possession-heavy nature of how they play.
Cheltenham to win at Bristol Rovers – 9/2

Darrell Clarke is one of the most loved managers in Bristol Rovers history, having taken the club through it’s lowest ebb, the loss of it’s 94-year Football League status, to the glory of back-to-back promotions, and was revered for his honesty, drive, and digs at Bristol City.

On Saturday, Clarke returns to the Mem as Cheltenham boss, and while he’s since gone back as a manager previously with Port Vale, he’s sure to get a welcome reception once again.

It’s early days, but the 45-year-old is having a similar impact on the Robins, as a season in which the club had been half-resigned to relegation when he first took charge now has a modicum of hope.

It’s 11 points from Clarke’s first eight games in charge of Town, including a 2-0 victory over high-flyers Oxford, and a continuation of that form would get them to 50 points.

Clarke has brought in Tom Pett, who’s infectious energy has made a difference in midfield, Curtis Davies has looked reborn at the back, ably flanked by Owen Bevan and Lewis Freestone, while Will Goodwin is enjoying the best season of his career up top.

Doncaster to win at Accrington Stanley – 12/5

The main positive of Doncaster’s season so far has been the strike-pairing of Joe Ironside and Mo Faal.

Ironside is an experienced front-man who, without being brilliant in the air, certainly provides a physical focal point, while 6’2″ Faal brings pace and an eye for goal alongside him.

Rovers are a better side than 17th might suggest, but they’ve found themselves on the wrong side of fine margins at times this season, as well as having struggled with injuries.

Grant McCann’s side have a better squad than Accrington Stanley and they look underrated for their visit to East Lancashire, especially with the hosts having lost four of their last five league games.

Harrogate to win at Sutton – 12/5

The fact Sutton are still bottom of the league, and four points adrift of safety, shows how important their five-game unbeaten run was to keep them in touch.

Nonetheless, Matt Gray’s side only won once in that sequence (and lost the previous three), while the four draws were obtained somewhat fortuitously, as a couple of the ties with Colchester, Tranmere, Grimsby and Crewe could have gone against them.

As such, the U’s could be vulnerable hosts against a Harrogate side who have won four of their last five away league games, and have welcomed star creator Matty Daly back from injury, while full-backs Kayne Ramsay and Matty Foulds are enjoying excellent form.

Simon Weaver’s side have steadily climbed the table and while a Play-Off push seems a tad fanciful, the North Yorkshire outfit are closer in points to the top seven than they are to the bottom two.

 

FA Cup Betting Tips and Odds for December 2nd, 2023: Underdogs to watch this weekend

Football League expert Gab highlights his best tips for the weekend’s FA Cup matches.

Gillingham to beat Charlton – 13/5

It’s been a mixed bag for Stephen Clemence in his first Head Coach role at Gillingham, with the FA Cup 1st Round progression at Hereford preceding two wins and two defeats in the league, as the former Birmingham midfielder looks to evolve the style at Priestfield.

What Clemence has in his favour, though, is an excellent spine, with a top shot stopper in Jake Turner, a fine centre-back pairing of Conor Masterson and Max Ehmer, one of the best midfielders in League Two in Ethan Coleman, and Macauley Bonne up top.

Bonne hasn’t quite caught fire just yet, but he’s scored goals in the Championship with Charlton, Saturday’s opponents.

The Addicks have been carried by individuals so far this season: Corey Blackett-Taylor started the season in great form, and more recently it’s been Alfie May grabbing the headlines for Michael Appleton’s midtable side, but they’re a little short of being a fluid, coherent side.

Barnet to win at Newport – 17/10

Newport eased their relegation fears with back-to-back victories over Stockport, stopping the leaders from beating a record winning streak that had lasted 21 years (the record, not the winning streak).

The Exiles have a thin squad, though, and are only just getting players back from injury, while visitors Barnet are sitting proudly in third in the National League with 42 points from their first 22 games.

Dean Brennan’s side reached the Play-Offs last season, and look like they can repeat the trick this year if they can bounce back from a tricky run of fixtures.

Doncaster to win at Peterborough – 5/1

Doncaster are a better side than 17th in League Two might suggest.

Grant McCann’s troops have often found themselves on the wrong side of fine margins this season, and have had to contend with a long injury list, but they’ve started to get some key players like Tom Anderson and Tommy Rowe back fit.

In attack, meanwhile, the pairing of Joe Ironside and Mo Faal can do damage to anyone.

Donny will target the cup as a massive opportunity to build some confidence, whereas Peterborough are challenging for promotion from League One with a thin squad, so if they were to rotate, they’d give their hosts an excellent chance.

Grimsby to win at Oxford – 11/2

Grimsby earned a valuable point at MK Dons on Tuesday, in an encouraging performance.

Head Coach David Artell had just one coaching session with the players before the trip to Buckinghamshire, after being officially appointed Mariners boss on Monday.

With that in mind, it could have been a tough evening for Town, at an MK side further along down their trajectory of their own stylistic progression.

Instead, they were able to impose themselves on the game very well, especially in the first half, and they had the better chances in the second too.

With that in mind, Grimsby can be hopeful of being competitive at the Kassam Stadium, where Oxford may rotate as they find themselves in a race for automatic promotion with Bolton, Portsmouth and Peterborough.

Horsham to win at Sutton – 11/2

Without going full-on Andy Tate, Horsham got this tie on a technicality!

The Isthmian League outfit earnt a 3-3 draw at Barnsley in the 1st Round, losing the replay 3-0 at The Camping World Community Stadium – but their League One opponents were subsequently disqualified from the competition for fielding an ineligible player.

As such, Horsham have another shot, and they’ll be determined to make it count.

Hosts Sutton are unbeaten in five in League Two, but they drew four of those games and the bottom side were fortunate to avoid defeat in at least three of them.

Matt Gray’s team look far weaker than the one that’s challenged for the Play-Offs at this level in the previous two seasons, after winning the National League title, so Dominic di Paola might smell blood – the Hornets have won three of their last four league games.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for November 25th, 2023: Underdogs to watch this weekend

Football League expert Gab highlights his best tips for the weekend’s matches.

Championship: Saturday, QPR to win at Norwich – 17/5,

Norwich are very much in a transitional phase as a club after a series of mistakes have led to a disappointing couple of years, as such the expectations on Head Coach David Wagner weren’t astronomical.

Nonetheless, 46 points from 36 league games in charge isn’t the return the Canaries were hoping for, especially with the defensive issues that haven’t been addressed, with the team shipping 32 goals, the joint-most in the Championship, and form points in only one direction.

A lot of time has been wasted because outgoing Sporting Director Stuart Webber handed in his resignation in March, but it’s taken eight months from that point for replacement Ben Knapper to take office.

Knapper hasn’t wanted to make the early call to replace Wagner, opting instead to review the situation, but the risk is that the current form reading two wins in 11 continues.

QPR, meanwhile, have steadied the ship under Martí Cifuentes with the relegation strugglers beginning the Spaniard’s reign with successive draws and more positive performances.

The Rs can welcome defender Jake Clarke-Salter and wing-back Reggie Cannon back into the fold after injury, and if they can find their end product, they could pull off a surprise result.

Championship: Saturday, Plymouth Argyle to beat Sunderland – 85/40

Plymouth Argyle are about where most expected after winning promotion from League One last season, hovering just above the drop zone in 19th, with a healthy five-point cushion.

Perhaps more surprising is that the Devonians are the Championship’s second-highest home goalscorers, having hit 20 in eight games at Home Park this season, winning four times.

Finn Azaz and Morgan Whittaker have lit up the second tier, after making the step up: the former is inventive, creative, and not shy to taking risks, while the latter has 10 direct goal involvements.

Steven Schumacher will have to go without star striker Ryan Hardie, who remains sidelined with a hamstring problem, but they possess plenty of alternative threats.

Visitors Sunderland have taken seven points from the last nine available, but they’ll be without left-back Dennis Cirkin, and are sweating over the fitness of key defender Dan Ballard, while the striker situation is one they’ve had trouble with all season.

League One: Saturday, Carlisle to beat Charlton – 9/5

It should be a full house at Brunton Park, in terms of home fans at least, as natives welcome in the Piatak regime.

The American family, who own the logistics business Castle Sports Group, have completed a takeover of Carlisle United, which supporters are thrilled about.

Andrew Jenkins and other board members leave with goodwill for saving the club in the past, but it was clear the club needed new investment and fresh ideas, which should be exactly what the Piataks provide.

The consortium have shown all the right signs leading up to the takeover, which suggests they are coming in with the right intentions, so this could mark the start of an exciting new dawn for the Cumbrians.

There’s every chance it begins with a bang against Charlton, who have won just one in their last four, and needed an FA Cup replay to get past eighth-tier Cray Valley Paper Mills.

League One: Saturday, Lincoln to beat Barnsley – 19/10

Michael Skubala got his first win as Lincoln City Head Coach in midweek, winning 1-0 at Leyton Orient after a defeat by the same scoreline the previous Saturday, at Stevenage.

Athletic ball carrier TJ Eyoma has been imperious at the back since Skubala took charge, and dynamo Ethan Hamilton continues to impress in midfield.

Elsewhere, Jack Vale has impressed with his work ethic up top on Tuesday, before forward Jovon Makama replaced him to make a big impact, along with the creative Danny Mândroiu.

The Imps have an exciting squad and aren’t far off being a top-six side, whereas visitors Barnsley are in something of a false position.

The Reds are 6th, but they’ve taken just one point from six games against top-half opposition.

League Two: Saturday, Harrogate to win at Crawley – 14/5

Harrogate have enjoyed life on the road of late, winning their last four away league games in succession, as well as thumping Marine 5-1 in the FA Cup at Rossett Park.

Simon Weaver has nearly enough confirmed that talisman Luke Armstrong, whose application hasn’t been exactly what was hoped for since a Deadline Day move to Wrexham fell through, won’t be in his plans between now and January.

If anything, though, that clarity seems to have helped the Sulphurites, who have been able to find a way of playing without the target man.

Town has the creative Matty Daly, two speedy attackers in Sam Folarin and Abraham Odoh, as well as one of the league’s top right-backs in Kayne Ramsey.

Hosts Crawley, meanwhile, are on the slide with five defeats in their last seven league games.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for November 18th, 2023: League Two underdogs to watch this weekend

Accrington Stanley to beat Wrexham – 23/10

Accrington Stanley have won five of their nine home League Two games this season, and seem to be making The Crown (the ground, not the Netflix series) something of a fortress.

There’s a raucous atmosphere there, normally, because of the spirit of the Clayton End and the fans being so close to the pitch, and it could be especially true of the visit of Wrexham.

The Red Dragons will bring a lot of supporters themselves, and there’s a grudge against them as, while Stanley have defied the odds almost every season for the last 24 years, their visitors get far more mainstream, global coverage due to their Hollywood owners.

Logical? Of course, but that doesn’t mean Accy fans don’t understandably get a little indignant about it, and that may contribute to a lively atmosphere.

On the pitch, John Coleman has recruited well with defender Brad Hills and striker Josh Andrews proving fabulous acquisitions.

The visitors are flying high in second after three straight wins, but you can count on one hand the number of games they’ve played well in this season, so perhaps the gap in budget between these sides may not be mirrored on the pitch.

Harrogate to beat Swindon – 23/10

Swindon look in danger of plummeting down the table.

The start of the season was very exciting for Town, as they were the ones scoring all the goals with Dan Kemp and Jake Young running riot in a frenetically attacking system, but more recently the boot’s been on the other foot.

Michael Flynn’s side were thumped 7-4 by Aldershot in the FA Cup, having been, astonishingly, seven behind in that game to a side in the league below, and they’ve lost their last four league games too, leaving them with the division’s third-worst defensive record.

The timing of the fixture looks favourable for Harrogate, who won 1-0 at Walsall last time out, and they know how to defend when experienced centre-backs Anthony O’Connor and Rod McDonald are around.

The Sulphurites don’t have an out-and-out goalscorer due to Luke Armstrong’s perceived falling out with boss Simon Weaver, with the target man’s attitude in question after his deadline day move to Wrexham fell through.

However, Jack Muldoon has played the false nine role nicely, and when he drops in to link up with the creative Matty Daly, there’s more space for direct runners Sam Folarin and Abraham Odoh to get in behind.

Folarin and Odoh will feel they can wreck havoc against an uncertain opposing rear-guard.

Tranmere to win at Sutton – 2/1

Tranmere boosted their survival chances with an emphatic 3-0 victory over relegation rivals Forest Green.

Centre-backs Tom Davies and Jordan Turnbull were back to the kind of form that was expected of them before the season, Rob Apter offered effervescent craft and trickery on the right, while Kristian Dennis proved why he’s one of the best finishers in League Two with an ice cool strike.

The only negative from that afternoon at Prenton Park is that Luke Norris sustained an injury, so it could be that Connor Jennings moves up top to partner Dennis as a physical reference point, while Sam Taylor – back from injury – takes his place on the left.

Rovers look to have a formula to take them into the festive period, where they will be hoping the right two or three additions carry them to safety, ahead of a summer rebuild.

Sutton, meanwhile, are two points adrift at the bottom with 12 defeats in their first 17 league games.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for November 11th, 2023: Championship underdogs to watch this weekend

Championship: West Brom to win at Southampton – 14/5

West Brom’s 3-1 victory over Hull last weekend was one of sumptuous counter-attacking football: they sat deep, set up the traps and pounced on the break.

The Albion adapted far better to their opponents to the rainy conditions, and had a star in Grady Diangana – who looks confident, reinvigorated, and full of energy, grabbing a wonderful pair of assists.

Alex Mowatt kept play ticking over in midfield, too, and was economical in his use of the ball, but the key once again is Carlos Corberan.

The Spaniard is arguably the best manager in the Championship, and despite inheriting a largely ageing squad, so many of his players have improved over the last 12 months.

With that in mind, the Baggies have a chance.

Southampton have a less proven boss in Russ Martin, who is highly committed to his extreme, possession-heavy style of play.

The Saints can be vulnerable without the best plan sometimes to handle turnovers, and that’s where the visitors will feel they can profit.

League One: Cambridge to win at Peterborough – 4/1

In a sparse region, Peterborough and Cambridge would consider one another their primary modern day rivals, despite being 42 miles apart.

It’s a game that means a lot to both sets of fans, and the derby day atmosphere could be something of a leveller, with the Posh having the better players on paper.

Darren Ferguson’s side do their best work in quick, transitional attacks, using their quality out wide, which is why they’ve been able to win away at the better teams in the league like Barnsley and Blackpool.

Peterborough won’t be able to do so much of that against Cambridge, who will sit compact, and make sure veteran centre-backs Michael Morrison and Ryan Bennett get lots of protection, both from Paul Digby at the base of midfield, and from full-backs Liam Bennett and Danny Andrew.

The U’s have maintained a consistent XI this season, too, with 10 players starting 11 out of a possible 16 league games, and the only bone of contention has been who starts on the left wing, the answer often being Sullay Kaikai or Saikou Janneh.

That familiarity and synergy could be an advantage for Mark Bonner’s side on derby day…

League One: Reading to win at Shrewsbury – 2/1

Reading were ensured that the losing streak, which saw them fail to add a single point to their tally in October, did not extend beyond five league games thanks to a 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers in midweek.

Rubén Sellés’ side are now seven points adrift of safety, but the good news is that owner Dai Yongge has flown into England this week for takeover talks, with former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley reportedly interested, along with Luxembourg-American fund Genevra Associates, an investment management company.

Whether the encouragement translates to the travelling fans, it’s plausible the Royals might be able to get the win they need to breathe fresh hope into their season.

And, while their position suggests a team with none of that, they’ve won 9-0 in the EFL Trophy this season at Exeter – sure, that was with first-team squad players against a team made up largely of schoolboys, but 12 of the 16 players who featured for them that night were also 21 or under.

The Royals also won 5-0 at Swindon in the same competition, and they’ve beaten prime promotion candidates Bolton 2-1 in the league, too – so on their day, they can be dangerous, it’s just they’ve not had their day anywhere near often enough.

However, they travel to a Shrewsbury side who have been turgid this season, have lacked creativity and lost their last three league games without scoring, dropping to 19th in the process.

League Two: Doncaster to win at Wimbledon – 3/1

It seems increasingly likely that League Two’s automatic promotion places will go to three from Stockport, Wrexham, Notts County and Mansfield, with a scramble for the remaining three Play-Off places – Wimbledon and Doncaster are hoping to be part of that.

The Dons come into Saturday’s game off the back of a stunning 5-1 thumping of League One strugglers Cheltenham, but their league form paints a less favourable picture, with no wins in five for Johnnie Jackson’s side.

The visitors, meanwhile, are steadily climbing the table with three wins in their last four.

Louis Jones is having a fantastic season between the sticks, Tom Anderson has marshalled the back-line superbly, Zain Westbrooke is changing minds in midfield, while Joe Ironside is forging a strong pairing with Mo Faal.

Grant McCann’s side have momentum on their side, and the six-point gap to the Play-Offs looks more than bridgeable.

League Two:  Salford to beat Mansfield – 3/1

Since key midfielder Elliot Watt returned from injury to start, Salford have taken 15 points from eight games, having accrued a mere six from the opening eight.

It may be too small a sample size to declare that Watt makes the Ammies 150% better, but his influence can’t be understated, both in terms of deliveries, from open play and set pieces, and also his feather touch and sublime passing range.

With the 23-year-old, Neil Wood’s side are a completely different proposition, which is why they shouldn’t be underestimated, even for the visit of unbeaten Mansfield.

The Stags squad was already thin due to injuries, and it’s been stretched in the last two weeks by fixture congestion, with Nigel Clough’s side competing in four different competitions in that period.

To make matters worse, Ollie Clarke came off in the FA Cup defeat to Wrexham with a thigh problem, joining fellow midfielder Stephen Quinn on the sidelines, along with defenders Alfie Kilgour, Elliott Hewitt and John-Joe O’Toole, plus forward Lucas Akins.

Saturday could be a game too far, and if the visitors aren’t at their best in terms of intensity, there’s a chance Watt takes control of proceedings.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for November 5th, 2023: Championship underdogs to watch this weekend

Championship: Sheffield Wednesday to win at Bristol City – 5/2

Naturally, Sheffield Wednesday will be judged by the traders partly as the team that had the worst start in Championship history and have just six points and seven goals to their name from their first 14 games.

However, there’s been a notable improvement from the Owls under new Head Coach Danny Rohl, even in the back-to-back away defeats to nil that preceded Sunday’s 2-0 win over Rotherham.

Wednesday had been competitive at Watford and Plymouth Argyle, where they couldn’t quite put their chances away, and fully deserving of their victory over the Millers, in which they could.

The first 11 games had come under Xisco Munoz, who appears to have a very surface-level understanding of tactics, and for a certain period, he got away with a lot of poor management because of the drama around the unpopular and outspoken owner, Dejphon Chansiri.

Danny Rohl, however, is a lot more detail-driven, and as a result, the Steel City outfit look a different proposition.

Wednesday are pressing aggressively, using the ball nicely, have a solid back-three of Dominic Iorda, Bambo Diaby and Di’Shon Bernard, Callum Paterson and Reece James put in excellent shifts in the wing-back spots, while George Byers has been running the midfield.

Josh Windass had cut a frustrated figure under Munoz but is now coming alive under Rohl, and so are Michael Smith and Anthony Musaba.

Target man Smith put in a vigorous performance capped by his brace, with both goals assisted by Musaba, who delivered an electric performance with his direct running.

With that in mind, Saturday’s game could be trickier for Bristol City than the table suggests – especially with the BS3 outfit managerless, following Nigel Pearson’s dismissal.

 

Championship: Plymouth Argyle to beat Middlesbrough – 11/4

Joint-sixth top goalscorers in the Championship, Plymouth Argyle aren’t to be underestimated.

The side that have thumped beaten Huddersfield 3-1, defeated Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday both 3-0, and annihilated Norwich 6-2 are quite the threat on familiar soil, having scored 17 of their 23 league goals at Home Park, which is also where each of their league victories have come.

Recently, Steven Schumacher has been able to strengthen his side further by bringing star goalkeeper Michael Cooper back into the fold: Summer recruit Conor Hazard has proved a strong shot-stopper in the interim period, but Cooper’s comparative strength with his feet is a significant plus for how Argyle like to play.

While the Devonians haven’t yet established defensive stability due to frequent formation changes, and the fact they’ve sometimes had wing-backs operating as full-backs, they do have quality.

Luke Cundle, in midfield, is a technically accomplished high-volume passer who connects play well between Adam Randell or Jordan Houghton and the more attacking players, like the more high-risk, high-reward Finn Azaz, who can frustrate but can also create – on his day he’s a match-winner.

In attack, Ryan Hardie and Morgan Whittaker are the Championship’s joint-fifth top goalscorers, with the former bringing strong running into the channels and the latter offering pace, agility and guile – and while the prodigiously talented Bali Mumba hasn’t set the Championship alight just yet, we could be close to see the best of him.

Middlesbrough might be in great form with six wins in their last seven league games, but they were quite a languid side earlier in the season that struggled to do the basics, and if complacency were to creep in, the hosts have the wherewithal to capitalize.

 

Championship: Cardiff to win at Stoke – 23/10

Cardiff are on a high after last weekend’s 2-0 Severnside Derby victory over Bristol City, with back-to-back wins taking Erol Bulut’s side into the top six.

It was a game high on effort and short on chances, but the Bluebirds grew in confidence from star man Perry Ng’s first-half header, before clinching the points through Rubin Colwill’s firm strike in stoppage time.

It was the same XI that had thrashed Huddersfield 4-0 in midweek, and it seems Bulut has established his best team, so City now have a synergy and understanding that could see them put a good run of form together.

Dimitrios Goutas’ battling qualities complement Marc McGuiness’ ball-playing talent, while the powerful Manolis Siopsis continues to capture the hearts of natives in midfield for his tenacity and heart.

Cardiff will hope to find another level in terms of quality in the final third, more akin to what we saw at Huddersfield, but they have some great foundations.

Hosts Stoke have won their last three, but they’ve not won a game with more possession than their opponents since the opening day, and that might be something they’ll have to do on Saturday.

 

Championship: Sunderland to win at Swansea – 8/5

Ok, so underdog might be pushing it, but 8/5 looks a big price for a side that’s won half their games this season, facing bottom half opposition.

Sunderland come into Saturday’s game off the back of a 3-1 victory over Norwich, showing belief to overturn an early setback.

Although Tony Mowbray’s side operates with a 4-1-4-1, they build-up with a 3-2-4-1 shape with right-back Trai Hume inverting into deep midfield alongside Pierre Ekwah, allowing the other three defenders to shuffle across.

Because opponents have both Hume and Ekwah to target, their press can become stretched and it allows Dan Neil and Jobe Bellingham – two of the most exciting midfield talents in the country – to find spaces between the lines to turn and create.

They have the best parts of a possession side and those of a transitions side, because when they do play through the press, the game opens up for two of the Championship’s top ball-carriers Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts.

Clarke was outstanding against the Canaries, bringing aggression against the ball and grace with it, gliding past defenders with ease, as well as the ability to create dangerous openings – and then there’s Nazarii Rusyn.

Mowbray has struggled to find the right striker this season, despite four additions in that area, with Mason Burstow and Luís Hemir struggling for form, while Eliezar Mayenda and Rusyn have been injured – but the latter was largely impressive last time out.

The Ukrainian worked tirelessly against the ball, ran the channels, hassling and harrying defenders, and while his game remains unrefined, he should have enough to extract the quality elsewhere in the team.

Sunderland have one of the best players in the league in their position in seven or eight of their XI, whereas for Swansea, that’s only true of four or five areas – and Michael Duff’s midtable side have lost two of their last three.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for October 28th, 2023: EFL underdogs to watch this weekend

EFL pundit Gab Sutton continues a new feature, picking out potential surprise results across the weekend’s action.

Bristol City to win at Cardiff – 85/40

Bristol City might have lost four of their last six league games, but three of those defeats have come to the best teams in the league in Leicester, Leeds and Ipswich, and Nigel Pearson’s side have been broadly rock solid this season.

Pearson was happy with his side’s showing against the latter, and while they may not be at full strength defensively if Zak Vyner is still out, there’s reason to think they can bounce back with a win, like they had from the previous two league defeats.

Cardiff ran riot at Huddersfield in midweek, winning 4-0 in West Yorkshire, but they’d taken one point from the previous three and despite decent recruitment, it’s hard to see them finishing higher than midtable.

West Brom to win at Coventry – 2/1

Patience was the order of the day for West Brom, when they scored twice in the last half hour to see off QPR.

Carlos Corberan’s side could take some encouragement that they could still be creative, even in the absence of John Swift, who picked up an injury in the 3-1 loss at Birmingham just before the international break.

It’s 10 points from the last five games for the Baggies, who are now in the Championship’s top six and look good value for victory in their short hop across the Midlands.

Hosts Coventry had been hoping to build on last season’s run to the Play-Off Final, where they lost to Luton, but back-to-back defeats has left them languishing in 20th – although, it’s such a packed table that if they’d won those two games, they’d be fifth.

The Sky Blues lost 2-0 at strugglers Rotherham on Wednesday, as they continue to adjust to life without star men Gus Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres.

Lincoln to win at Exeter – 21/10

Lincoln produced arguably their best performance of the season in midweek, defeating Charlton 3-1.

Hakeeb Adelakun was set to leave the club in the summer, but a deadline day move fell through and an injury crisis that left the Imps without a natural centre-forward has seen the winger by trade get his chance down the middle, in the absence of Ben House, Tyler Walker and Jack Vale, until the loanee’s substitute appearance on Tuesday.

Adelakun starred with a brace in that game, and so did Lasse Sorensen, while the midfield of Ethan Hamilton and Ethan Erhahon continues to impress.

Now that City have shown signs of solving their goalscoring issues, they could put a run together under the interim guidance of Tom Shaw, who’s begun with back to back victories to put his case forward for the permanent job.

Hosts Exeter, meanwhile, have lost their last six and put in a particularly poor showing in their midweek 2-0 loss at Derby.

Wycombe to win at Oxford – 14/5

Wycombe lost 4-2 to Bolton in midweek, but they showed a level of resilience we might not have associated with them at the very start of the season when they came back from two down to draw level with eight to play, even if they couldn’t quite make it count.

Matt Bloomfield’s side have made strides this season, and while the former Chairboys stalwart wouldn’t claim to have quite his predecessor’s level of charisma and motivational qualities – then again, few do – he’s evolved this team stylistically, and it seems they haven’t needed to write themselves off a transitional season in midtable to do that.

The loan signings of 6’5″ defender Joe Low, midfield prodigy Freddie Potts, tenacious number 10 Killian Phillips and talented striker Dale Taylor have unquestionably helped, especially with the latter two proven to deliver at this level.

The younger players have come into a strong dressing room, where Max Stryjek, Richard Keogh, Josh Scowen, David Wheeler and Sam Vokes bring the leadership, giving Wanderers a lovely mix of youth and experience.

With that in mind, there’s nobody for them to truly fear and they have every chance of getting a result on Saturday, even at an impressive Oxford side.

Sutton to beat Bradford – 19/10

It might seem foolhardy to side with the league’s bottom side, but Sutton have shown signs of life recently.

Matt Gray’s side thumped Walsall 4-0 in early October, as fans found themselves stunned to see their team four ahead before half-time, after a poor showing against Salford the previous Tuesday.

The U’s couldn’t follow it up, losing 4-1 at Doncaster the following week, but they then played well against Morecambe, though conceding soft goals was their undoing in a 3-2 defeat, before a gallant showing at Wrexham in midweek – though again, they lost, 2-1.

Nonetheless, the pummelling of Walsall – and Notts County on the opening day – suggest Sutton can turn it on sporadically, and if they can ally a gradual improvement in recent performances with stronger defending at individual moments, they might have hope.

For visitors Bradford, it was a short-lived honeymoon period for interim head coach Kevin McDonald, who’s side were taken apart by MK Dons in midweek: it finished 4-1, with the hosts having hit the woodwork four times, and missed three one-on-ones.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for October 21st, 2023: EFL underdogs to watch this weekend

EFL pundit Gab Sutton continues a new feature, picking out potential surprise results across the weekend’s action. In a reduced slate this international weekend, he kicks off at Brunton Park…

Championship: Cardiff to win at Blackburn – 12/5

Cardiff were expected to be battling relegation this season, but have surprised a few people under Erol Bulut, sitting pretty in 8th with a respectable 17 points from their first 11 league games.

Plus, the Bluebirds have physical front-man Yakou Meite back fit, and the former Reading forward should give them a better reference point from which to bring Ollie Tanner, Karlan Grant and Joe Ralls into the game.

City could be underrated for their visit to Blackburn, who went into the international break with a 4-0 win at a QPR side in turmoil, but had previously lost four league games on the spin.

Rovers are languishing in 17th, and while they’ve struggled for a clinical centre-forward this season, they also have defensive issues with only Rotherham conceding more league goals than their 21.

Championship: Sheffield Wednesday to win at Watford – 4/1

A speculative pick? Perhaps. Wednesday are bottom of the Championship with three points from their first 11 league games, and are the lowest scorers with five.

There’s a world, however, in which new Head Coach Danny Röhl has an instant impact on the Owls, with the first-time boss coming in with glowing reviews for his coaching work at RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich, as well as with the German national team, where he was assistant to Hansi Flick.

And, considering how big a factor poor coaching from Xisco Muñoz arguably was behind the Steel City club’s disappointing form, then if Röhl as good a coach as is being reported, it’s plausible we see a completely different version of them on the other side of the international break.

Hosts Watford are themselves struggling, and have taken a mere two points from the last 15 available to Valérien Ismaël’s side, while players who were expected to thrive for the Hornets this season – defender RyanPorteous, midfielder Imrân Louza and forward Yáser Asprilla – have all flattered to deceive.

League One: Wigan to win at Exeter – 9/4
Wigan have one of the highest-potential squads in League One, but so far they haven’t quite found the formula to maximize their talent.

In defence and midfield, they’re stacked with young players who could have great seasons individually, but they’re missing some experience.

Between now and January, when the Latics will be hoping to add that despite their transfer embargo, boss Shaun Maloney’s best hope is that Jason Kerr’s return in defence can provide some organisational qualities, and the Celtic loanee Liam Shaw can be the steadying presence in midfield.

Nonetheless, this isn’t a team that’s a million miles away, and with the right subtle tweaks, they’ll have leadership at the back, cohesion in midfield and confidence in attack – everything could click into place very quickly.

Maloney’s side travel to Exeter, who have themselves lost four on the spin and will have to play somebody out of position at right wing-back, with Ilmari Niskanen and Dion Rankine still injured.

League One: Port Vale to win at Stevenage – 3/1

There’s arguably a couple of teams in the top six of League One who would trade their own midfield options for those of Port Vale.

The Valiants boast Sheffield United’s Oli Arblaster, who will almost certainly be in Paul Heckingbottom’s 2024-25 plans if the Blades are relegated to the Championship this season, as well as another loan star in Alfie Devine, who’s played nine games for England Under-20s.

Funso Ojo has been arguably Vale’s best player this season, offering a steadying presence at the base of midfield, while Ben Garrity provides relentless box-to-box energy.

Boss Andy Crosby has had to deploy him as a second striker at times to get him in the team because of the quality of options elsewhere, including the creative Ethan Chislett, who’s enjoyed a good start after joining from AFC Wimbledon.

Vale might have taken just one point from their last five, but they’ve faced some good sides in that period as well and aren’t to be underestimated.

Hosts Stevenage currently sit proudly in fifth, and the newly-promoted club have had an exceptional start, but they’ve taken just one point from four league games against top half opposition.

League Two: Forest Green to win at Mansfield – 5/1

Forest Green’s 5-0 thrashing of Colchester was one of the shock results of League Two last weekend, seeing as it followed six consecutive league defeats for David Horseman’s side, who had previously shown no signs of progression in performance leading up to it.

Nonetheless, the Green Devils were outstanding against the U’s, with Dom Bernard offering nous and experience in defence, as Jacob Maddox and Harvey Bunker providing the kind of midfield tenacity Horseman has wanted from the outset.

Elsewhere, Troy Deeney offered class up top alongside Callum Morton, who hassled and harried all game, Tyrese Omotoye starred out wide, and so did Kyle McAllister, so often the rose among thorns over the last 18 months.

The fans got behind the team from the outset, too, and the full-time celebrations led by Horseman, somewhat resembling the end of a play, suggested a turning of a new leaf at The New Lawn.

Can they build on it? Who knows. But they are a chunky 5/1, and while hosts Mansfield ran out 4-1 victors at rivals Notts County last time out, they have struggled in recent games to break down stubborn, well-drilled opponents, so if Forest Green can emulate last week’s showing, they’re in with a chance.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for October 14th, 2023: EFL underdogs to watch this weekend

EFL pundit Gab Sutton continues a new feature, picking out potential surprise results across the weekend’s action. In a reduced slate this international weekend, he kicks off at Brunton Park…

Leyton Orient to win at Carlisle – 9/5

Carlisle boss Paul Simpson was surprisingly damning of his players after the EFL Trophy loss to Nottingham Forest U21s.

It came days after the second-most memorable day of his second stint in charge, in which his side won 3-1 at promotion contenders Bolton in front of 4,500 away fans, and could have scored more.

“It was as if tonight, asking professional footballers to play a game of football was a bit of a chore to them.”

The trouble with going public on his disappointment is that Simpson may come to rely on some of those players on Saturday, not necessarily in the starting XI but on the bench, in fact he admitted he would only choose to use three substitutes against Leyton Orient, but he has to pick seven.

Orient are steadily climbing the table with 10 points from their last five league games, after George Moncur’s winner gave them a 2-1 victory over Reading.

Jordan Brown’s midfield partnership with Idris El Mizouni has been a real strong point for the O’s, who are starting to get the kind of results their early-season performances merited.

Sutton to win at Doncaster – 5/2

Harry Smith coming into Matt Gray’s starting XI made a huge difference for Sutton, who went into last week’s hosting of Walsall with just one point from the last 30 available, and went into half-time four goals ahead!

The 6’5″ target man has proved the perfect foil for technical forward Aiden O’Brien, while the hope is that Josh Coley and Omari Patrick are starting to get to grips with the defensive requirements of playing wide in a midfield quartet.

Coley and Patrick are arguably more gifted individuals than stalwarts David Ajiboye and Will Randall, who left this summer, but learning to track back and hold the shape will be crucial, while Christian N’Guessan is starting to step up to league football after making the National League South Team of the Season with Ebbsfleet last year.

After such a strong showing last week, the U’s will be hoping to pile the pressure on Doncaster, who are yet to convert promising performances into results, with Grant McCann’s side – much fancied in pre-season, languishing in 20th.

Bradford to win at Wimbledon – 5/2

Bradford begin Kevin McDonald’s interim stewardship with a 1-0 win over Swindon, and arguably their best showing of the season so far.

Giving the permanent job to a rookie, who hasn’t yet officially retired from playing, would be a huge gamble for a club still unsure of itself on a structural level, even if the experience of Mark Hughes didn’t pay off.

Nonetheless, there could be mileage in the Bantams letting the McDonald effect breathe, in the hope that it will lead to a series of positive performances and results that boost the club’s Play-Off prospects after an underwhelming start.

Richie Smallwood is looking, once again, like the Championship mainstay City signed last summer, and it’s partly because he’s spending more of the games facing the opposition’s goal rather than his own.

Smallwood is not particularly mobile or agile, so collecting the ball off the defence and turning an opponent to play can be a problem, but once he’s facing the right way, his technical prowess comes to the fore straight away, while Alex Gilliead covers the extra defensive ground capably.

Plus, Bobby Pointon looks a prodigious talent: loves to cut inside from the right, and either bring rampaging right-back Brad Halliday, ping a diagonal to Adam Wilson on the other flank, or play an incisive through ball into the creative fulcrum that is Jamie Walker.

Bradford are playing with the handbrake off, and will be hoping the new lease of life can see them into a honeymoon period under McDonald, even as they travel to a Wimbledon side flying high in fourth.

Barrow to win at MK Dons – 12/5

Barrow produced arguably their best performance of the season at Grimsby at the start of October, and although they lost that game 2-1, they could take a lot of positives from a performance in which Pete Wild’s side totalled 23 shots, eight on target.

The Bluebirds built on that showing against leaders Notts County the following Saturday, earning a point thanks to Dean Campbell’s late penalty.

Campbell has been an assured presence in midfield while Luca Stephenson, on loan from Liverpool, replaced Tyrell Warren at right wing-back early on in the 1-1 draw with the Magpies, and subsequently earnt man-of-the-match with a tenacious, all-action display.

Stephenson was a regular for Liverpool U21s last season, helping Barry Lewtas’ side attain second spot in the PL2, and could be an asset to Barrow.

Their hosts, MK Dons, are in freefall: unconvincing wins over Tranmere, Colchester and Doncaster helped put Graham Alexander’s side in a great position at the end of August, but since then they’ve plummeted with three points from the last 21 available.

EFL Betting Tips and Odds for October 7th, 8th 2023: EFL underdogs to watch this weekend

EFL pundit Gab Sutton begins a new feature, picking out potential surprise results across the weekend’s action. He starts at the Ricoh Arena…

Coventry to beat Norwich – 6/4 – The Championship

Coventry completed back-to-back wins in midweek with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn, following Saturday’s 3-1 triumph at QPR. The Sky Blues needed to ride out some pressure against Rovers, in the second half and even the latter stages of the first, with goalkeeper Ben Wilson, wasteful opposition finishing, and favourable officiating getting them over the line.

Nonetheless, Mark Robins’ side have been more clinical in the last two games, with Ellis Simms’ weekend double getting the tall, powerful former Blackpool striker off the mark, and Haji Wright nodding home from close range on Wednesday.

Coventry managed to keep a clean sheet despite some nervy defending: a first shut-out in six will help their confidence, and there has been signs of an identity starting to emerge for them in patches.

Robins wants his centre-backs stepping into midfield to contribute to attacks, and while it’s taken some time for players to acclimatize to the new instructions, it could begin to bear fruit.
The tactical move does allow wing-backs, midfielders and strikers to take up more advanced positions, which increases the passing options for those in possession, and that could help Coventry unpick the aggressive Norwich press.

Plus, the Canaries have lost three of their last four league games, and Simms will fancy his chances of outwitting an ageing centre-back pairing of Shane Duffy and Ben Gibson, who are instructed to play a high line – the outcome could be ominous for the hosts…

Blackpool to win at Charlton – 9/5 – League One

Blackpool lost 3-1 at home to Derby on Saturday, but nonetheless, it’s three wins in five league games for Neil Critchley’s side, who are threatening to climb the table.
Broadly, the Tangerines have been improved since deploying Owen Dale as the corresponding wing-back to CJ Hamilton, rather than Callum Connolly, who has looked at home on the right of a back-three.

Plus, the two games Kylian Kouassi has started have resulted in two wins for the Seasiders, with the Sutton recruit’s energy and running power complementing the movement and finishing ability of strike-partner Jordan Rhodes.
With persistent striker Shayne Lavery also back fit, and prodigiously talented wide forward Karamoko Dembélé in the mix too, the Lancashire outfit have options that should allow them to change the game.

Charlton are favourites after a 4-1 win over Exeter in midweek lifted them to 14th, but the visitors have the minerals to grab a result.

Northampton at Shrewsbury – 17/10 – League One

Northampton might have stayed 17th after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Reading, but the result moves them closer in points to the top 10 than the bottom four, on track to secure comfortable survival.

The Cobblers deserved that midweek victory after such a fast-paced start, with stalwart Shaun McWilliams the driving force in midfield, Mitch Pinnock floating between lines to create, and Marc Leonard dictating from deep like the League One Andrea Pirlo.

Northampton then showed another side to their game to hold on in the second half, after influential defender Jon Guthrie was forced off through injury, with strong defending from his replacement, Manny Monthe, and partner Sam Sherring.

Jon Brady’s side have a culture that allows them to thrive in adversity, as we saw last season when they won promotion from League Two despite having a double-figured injury list from January onwards.

Northampton have an excellent goalkeeper in Lee Burge, who showed his value against the Royals with fine reflexes at crucial moments, a solid right-back in the underrated Akin Odimayo, and a left-back in Patrick Brough with outstanding stamina.

So, too, do forwards Louis Appéré and Kieron Bowie, which can create the space for Sam Hoskins to produce the finishing touches as Northampton look to build on a healthy tally of 13 points from their first 10 games.

Shrewsbury, meanwhile, haven’t scored in any of their last seven in all competitions and have plummeted to 19th.

Barrow to beat Notts County – 11/5 – League Two

Barrow produced arguably their best performance of the season on Saturday, although it resulted in defeat, 2-1 at Grimsby.

The Bluebirds “terrorized” their hosts according to boss Pete Wild, in his post-match interview, reflecting on a performance in which his side had 24 shots whilst limiting their hosts to very little, but couldn’t quite fine-tune the details in both boxes as refereeing decisions went against them.

Nonetheless, if Barrow replicate that same performance level with home advantage on an awkward Holker Park pitch, there’s every chance Wild’s side could cause problems for Notts County.

The technically Cumbrian, spiritually Lancashire outfit can create chances through working play patiently but, more relevantly for facing League Two’s possession kings, they are very aggressive in the final third and are so often challenging for second balls.

Visitors Notts County have been outstanding going forward, but they have defensive issues due to playing a back-three comprising only of orthodox centre-backs by trade, and two converted wingers in the wing-back spots.

It’s created a situation whereby the wide centre-backs aren’t aggressive enough, and the wing-backs don’t have the defensive instincts, thus there’s a chasm that some teams have been able to exploit – something the hosts can take encouragement from.

Doncaster to win at Stockport – 5/1 – League Two

Stockport are understandably favourites, after securing a fifth league win in succession, 2-0 over 10-man Forest Green.

The Hatters have been much improved since Dave Challinor switched from his preferred 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 diamond system, with left-back Ibou Touray in his natural position, and more football on the deck to suit a prolific front-two of Louie Barry and Isaac Olaofe.

If County were close to evens for the three points, there’d be every reason to back them to continue their sumptuous form, but it’s hard to justify backing them as short as 40/85.

Visitors Doncaster are not as bad as their 20th-placed position would suggest, because they played reasonably well at the start of the season without quite getting the rewards, and have since enjoyed a change of fortune with three wins in their last four, leaving natives hoping for a Play-Off charge.

Goalkeeper Louie Jones is building confidence, with battler Tom Anderson and the athletic Joseph Olowu forging a sturdy defensive trio with Owen Bailey, a versatile midfielder who has been putting in some solid shifts.

Wing-backs Tom Nixon and Luke Molyneux are finding form, with the latter starting to show the quality expected from him after he signed from Hartlepool in 2022, while the experienced Tommy Rowe, the cultured Zain Westbrooke and solid Ben Close complementing one another nicely in midfield – but the ones to watch are the front-two.

Joe Ironside is an outstanding chest, feet target man, while Mo Faal is starting to blossom on loan from West Brom, and has proved a serious handful – Donny are better than the odds suggest.

*Odds correct at time of publishing. Available to UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland) aged 18+ only. T&Cs apply. www.begambleaware.org