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EFL Pundit Gab Sutton is back with his tips for the midweek action

Bournemouth to win

AFC Bournemouth v Preston North End

4/7

Bournemouth dropped points on Saturday, with a 2-2 draw at Rotherham last time out, missing an opportunity to leapfrog leaders Norwich.

The Cherries certainly missed Jack Stacey, arguably the best right-back in the Championship on current form, as well as midfield controller Lewis Cook and wide forward Arnaut Danjuma.

Jason Tindall is hoping to have at least one of the latter two players back fit on Tuesday night, which would be a massive plus.

Cook has a fantastic passing range that enables him to switch play effortlessly and keep opponents guessing, which is a skill missing when Bournemouth operate with a midfield trio of Jefferson Lerma, Dan Gosling and Phillip Billing.

Danjuma, meanwhile, has fantastic balance, skill and awareness that puts him up there with the likes of Emi Buendia and Ismaila Sarr as the best players in the Championship.

That makes this game look ominous for Preston North End, who had difficulty containing Sarr in Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Watford.

Alex Neil’s side were painfully light on options in numerous areas, most notably missing four possible full-back options in Darnell Fisher, Alan Browne, Andrew Hughes and Joe Rafferty.

Part of this is ill-fortune, but part of it is the Lancashire club not building a squad in a sustainable way.

Most Championship clubs, in North End’s situation, would be able to dip into the Under-23s setup and give youngsters an opportunity to ensure they do not have players operating out of position.

Preston chairman Trevor Hemmings, though, has operated without an Under-23s which means that however much promise youngsters are showing at academy level, they do not get opportunities to prove themselves against senior players in a Development Squad.

For that reason, Neil sees it as a massive risk to take a chance on a youngster for the first team, which is evidenced by the fact on Saturday, he preferred to play wide forwards by trade in Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair as wing-backs than dabble with youth.

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Bournemouth didn’t quite get the result they wanted at the weekend but, with one or two key men back, they should have enough to beat a depleted Preston side.

Gabriel Sutton

Bristol City draw no bet

Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City

5/4

Bristol City lost 3-1 at Reading last time out and head coach Dean Holden was disappointed with his side’s display.

City created little all afternoon, with Nahki Wells’ second half equalizer being one of just two efforts on target from a paltry four attempts, and defensively they were carved open.

Wells had replaced Tommy Rowe, their left-sided centre-back, to facilitate a shift from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 but once Jack Hunt and Jay Dasilva became full-backs rather than wing-backs, they were guilty of almost forgetting they had extra defensive duties which is why Holden’s side were caught on the break.

Queens Park Rangers suffered defeat in more painful fashion, losing 2-1 on Friday at West London rivals Brentford.

The Rs dictated much of the play in the first half of that match, which is something Mark Warburton will take heart from considering the calibre of opposition. And, as the former Bees boss was not shy to point out at full time, refereeing decisions went against his side.

In terms of the season overall, though, Bristol City have fared far better than QPR, in terms of both performances and results.

City have only had two no-shows all season. Both have come against top six opposition, the other side being leaders Norwich, so they should have the better of Tuesday’s game.

Midfield metronome Adam Nagy can dictate play against QPR, Jamie Paterson will be a key creative force and Antoine Semenyo brings nifty trickery around the fringes of the penalty area.

If those three players are at their best, Bristol City have a great chance.

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Bristol City were unquestionably poor at Reading but I’m willing to write that game off as an anomaly and back them to reach their usual performance levels against an ordinary QPR side.

Gabriel Sutton

Both Teams to Score

Blackpool v Portsmouth

4/6

Blackpool’s three game winning streak was interrupted by a 3-2 defeat in their previous league game at Doncaster.

The Tangerines dominated the first half in South Yorkshire and found themselves two goals ahead at the break, so their most recent 45 minutes of action was certainly at odds with what we have generally seen from them in recent weeks.

Head coach Neil Critchley had five substitutes to use but he did not make any from the start of the second half until Doncaster’s winner on 76 minutes, with the quadruple alteration coming with nine minutes of normal time to play.

Substitutes did work for Critchley, though, in Saturday’s 4-0 FA Cup win at Harrogate, where Demetri Mitchell assisted fellow substitute Dan Kemp for the final goal, after Luke Garbutt, Grant Ward and Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel’s second half goals had given Pool a commanding lead.

Portsmouth also racked up an FA Cup cricket score, thrashing King’s Lynn 6-1 with six different goalscorers, not including their most productive attacking player in Ronan Curtis. That shows the quality available to Kenny Jackett.

Pompey are in good form domestically, too, having accrued 17 points from the last 24 available and, whisper it, but the quality of football has recently improved, with more fast-paced, incisive, transitional play.

Blackpool have predatory finishers up top in Jerry Yates and Gary Madine, so both teams have plenty of firepower and this has the makings of an exciting encounter.

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If recent FA Cup performances are anything to go by, there could be goals in this one; Neil Critchley wants his Blackpool side to press high but Portsmouth have the quality to hurt teams in transition.

Gabriel Sutton

Burton +2 handicap

Sunderland v Burton Albion

1/2

Phil Parkinson has been dismissed as Sunderland manager.

It’s a decision many supporters have welcomed due to the style of football on show which was perceived as uninspiring, with long balls up to Danny Graham and Charlie Wyke.

Parkinson’s style might have been more palatable if, like his promotion-winning Bolton side in 2016-17, key players were winning lots of individual battles, which has not recently been the case for Sunderland.

Australian international Bailey Wright has wilted under pressure in the last two games. Additionally, Grant Leadbitter has looked slow and ponderous in possession while fellow former Premier League man, Danny Graham, has struggled to keep his balance.

Burton Albion, therefore, will sense an opportunity to build on a shock 4-2 win over Charlton in their previous league game.

The Brewers have been hindered in some games by not having an out-and-out centre-forward who can play with his back to goal. But the attacking duo Lucas Akins and Charles Vernam worked surprisingly well against the Addicks.

When their opponents played with a high line, as Sunderland must do in pursuit of victory, Akins and Vernam can get space to hit teams on the counter-attack.

Jake Buxton has recently been able to welcome defenders such as John Brayford, Michael Bostwick and Colin Daniel back to full fitness, which is a massive plus in their battle to beat the drop.

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Managerless Sunderland are heavy odds-on favourites for this game but Burton will be buoyed by their win last time out and I think with key defenders back, Jake Buxton’s side can make this game closer than perhaps the odds suggest.”

Gabriel Sutton

Both Teams to Score

Colchester United v Crawley Town

Colchester and Crawley are two sides who have been on the fringes of the Play-Off conversation so far this season, but both have seen their hopes take a hit with disappointing defeats for different reasons.

Col U were thrashed 6-1 at Exeter last time out in what was a defensive horror-show for the Essex outfit.

There is a feeling among natives that the U’s have a better squad than last season due to the rise of Miles Welch-Hayes, Noah Chilvers and increased attacking depth, with Josh Bohui and Michael Folivi joining on loan.

There are question marks, though, about whether Steve Ball is maximizing this squad and whether the club are right to persist with it’s faith in internally appointed managers.

Four of Colchester’s last five permanent managers had worked for the club in a different capacity before taking the number one gig, which shows chairman Robbie Cowling likes to appoint people he knows he can trust on a personal level and who have knowledge of the club’s strong youth academy.

However, this policy also massively restricts the pool of managers from which the club have been selecting. That may be why they have not quite been able to meet their targets since relegation to this level in 2016.

Crawley, who came down a season earlier, are an unpredictable side under John Yems.

The Red Devils have forwards in Max Watters and Tom Nichols with perhaps a point to prove, after the former, on loan from Doncaster, had had various decent but profligate loan spells in non-league, while the latter scored just four League One goals in 94 games for Bristol Rovers.

It is slightly surprising, therefore, to see the duo have 11 league goals combined – only Cambridge and Leyton Orient have two players who have scored more league goals combined.

And yet, despite the form of Watters and Nichols, as well as some good midfield showings from Jack Powell, Crawley remain patchy and have taken just one point from their last four games.

Yems’ side hit four past Morecambe and Tranmere, but also lost 3-0 to Carlisle, gave away a one-goal lead to lose to out-of-form Grimsby and were held by cellar-dwellers Southend.

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There’s lots of parallels to be drawn this season between Colchester and Crawley, so I’m expecting an open, end-to-end contest.

Gabriel Sutton

Tranmere to win and both teams to score

Oldham Athletic v Tranmere Rovers

4/1

It has been a winning start to Keith Hill’s tenure as Tranmere Rovers manager, with a league victory over Carlisle followed by progression to the FA Cup Third Round.

Rovers are in excellent form generally, too, with a run of seven straight wins including Ian Dawes and Andy Parkinson’s time in charge as joint-caretaker managers.

James Vaughan is grabbing a lot of the headlines, having scored seven League Two goals for the Wirral outfit, but the return of Corey Blackett-Taylor has been crucial.

Vaughan has the physical prowess but Blackett-Taylor has searing pace that would allow him to beat most in the EFL in a footrace, so if he can add moments of quality like the curling effort he scored from in last Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Carlisle, he will be a major asset.

At the other end, Rovers needed to show aerial and physical qualities to deal with direct play, but Manny Monthe is among League Two’s best when it comes to winning those duels.

Monthe has a vastly experienced centre-back partner, too, in Peter Clarke, who is missed to some extent by former employers Oldham.

The Latics have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 13 games in all competitions and Harry Kewell was forced to play Ben Garrity, a box-to-box midfielder by trade, at centre-back for Saturday’s 2-1 FA Cup win at Bradford.

Harry Kewell’s side are short of a seasoned midfielder, too, which is something Tranmere have in the tenacious Jay Spearing.

With hold-up front-man Danny Rowe and the lively Connor McAleny, Oldham carried a threat in West Yorkshire – though they were without bright finisher Zach Dearnley and the skilful Dylan Bahamboula.

Oldham should get on the scoresheet here but could have difficulty keeping them out at the other end.

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Oldham are in good form but they still look short in key defensive areas, so Tranmere might be able to continue their impressive winning streak.

Gabriel Sutton
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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