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EFL pundit Gab Sutton picks his six best bets for the midweek EFL action

Huddersfield to win

Derby County v Huddersfield Town

5/2

Huddersfield turned the Championship form guide on it’s head with a shock 4-1 thumping of Swansea last time out.

Carlos Corberán has been questioned at times but, with a thin squad seemingly low on confidence, he worked wonders to deliver such a commanding display.

The former Leeds coach switched to a 3-5-2 with Aaron Rowe acting as a replacement for Harry Toffolo, who has suffered a long-term injury and the academy graduate produced some excellent driving runs which made him a key part of their attacking play.

Rowe had the pace to attack on the outside but, with the turbo-charged Lewis O’Brien often making overlapping runs from the left of a three-man midfield, he sometimes cut inside and that unpredictability could be a real weapon for the Terriers.

The other key combination for the West Yorkshire outfit was between Fraizer Campbell and Duane Holmes, who returned to the club last month.

Campbell runs the channels and holds the ball up superbly, laying the ball off for Holmes, who operated as a more withdrawn second striker last time out and hit a fantastic brace.

Holmes moved to Huddersfield from Derby, who lost 2-1 at Watford last time out and were extremely fortunate to win 2-1 at Wycombe the previous Tuesday.

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I’m taking a bit of a risk here in assuming that Huddersfield’s performance against Swansea was a sign of things to come rather than a flash in the pan, but 5/2 seems a massive price for a team that was so dominant at the weekend.

Gabriel Sutton

Under 2.5 goals

Luton Town v Milwall

Luton produced arguably their worst performance of Nathan Jones’ reign against the Welshman’s former club, losing 3-0 at Stoke.

It felt as though any team could have turned up and beaten the Hatters, who were described as “miles off it” by Jones, who felt his outfielders were “outworked, outbattled, outgrafted, out-thought”.

The likes of Sonny Bradley, Martin Cranie, Glen Rea, Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu and James Collins, who should be the leaders in this Luton sides were nowhere near good enough on the day and Jones was puzzled as to where such a weak performance came from.

Under a lot of managers, that kind of capitulation would set alarm bells running, but Jones is so good at setting and re-enforcing standards through the way he speaks and because this kind of performance is such a rarity, we can expect a far more diligent display from the Bedfordshire outfit.

Luton will use the short training time they have to focus primarily on re-establishing the defensive basics to ensure Tuesday brings a far firmer, better organised and gutsier display.

The Hatters face a Millwall side who have based their feint Play-Off push on those very qualities, keeping 13 clean sheets in 29 games.

That solidity means the Lions have lost just seven games, fewer than fifth-placed Reading, but they have also won only nine, the same number as 23rd-placed Sheffield Wednesday.

Gary Rowett’s side struggled to carve open bottom side Wycombe on Saturday and could have similar difficulties against a Luton side likely to have tightened up.

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71% of Millwall’s game’s and 73% of Luton’s encounters have seen Under 2.5 goals scored. BetVictor’s 8/15 on a repeat of that eventuality suggests a probability of 65%.

Gabriel Sutton

Sunderland to win and over 2.5 goals

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town

9/4

Sunderland are in a good place.

Off the field, they have seen Kyril Louis-Dreyfus complete a takeover that sees the Frenchman acquire a majority stake in the club.

The 23-year-old has plans to modernize the club and while the proof will be in the pudding, the early indications are positive.

On the field, the Black Cats have completed 4-1 and 3-0 wins over two in-form sides in Doncaster and Burton.

One thing Johnson has got right since taking charge is coax the best out of Charlie Wyke, who has scored 11 goals in 12 – a run of form that not long ago looked beyond him – since the change of manager.

Aiden McGeady assisted all four of Wyke’s goals against Donny and has rediscovered his excellent 2018-19 form under Lee Johnson’s guidance, while Lyndon Gooch has allied the ability to take on opponents at right wing-back with the intelligence to pick out teammates at the right times.

The wing-back system is something Johnson has switched to due to injuries, which seems counter-intuitive given that none of the centre-backs he selected – neither Conor McLaughlin, Dion Sanderson nor Luke O’Nien – would see themselves as a dominant defender in the traditional sense.

And yet, the fact the Wearsiders have three centre-backs almost makes up for the fact that none of them perform the traditional centre-back role, because they can always outnumber opposing forwards.

With Max Power doing the simple things well in midfield, Sunderland should be able to quieten Fleetwood, who have won one of Simon Grayson’s first four games in charge.

Grayson has been appointed based on his four promotions as a manager at this level, but he comes into the job off the back of disappointing stints at Sunderland, Bradford and Blackpool.

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Sunderland have scored three or more goals in four of Lee Johnson’s 15 league games in charge, which shows they can be dangerous on their day. Add consistency and it’s not too late to push for an automatic promotion spot.

Gabriel Sutton

Oxford to win

Oxford United v Portsmouth

6/4

Portsmouth’s automatic promotion hopes have taken a hit with back-to-back defeats to Bristol Rovers and Blackpool.

In the 3-1 loss at the Mem, Pompey at least created chances but they fashioned very little against the Pool, with manager Kenny Jackett criticized for picking square pegs in round holes.

When the Portsea Islanders enjoyed a winter run of four consecutive wins to nil, they tended to break lines centrally and play through the middle, which is something they have lost in recent games despite the additions of George Byers and Harvey White.

Jackett brought Byers on for the last half hour on Saturday and shunted the Swansea loanee, a playmaker by trade, to the right of midfield.

Their only angles of attack came out wide, where the likes of Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness looked jaded, or through long balls to John Marquis, who is a capable goalscorer who can hold the ball up on the deck, but is not a target man.

This Portsmouth side looks unrecognizable from the one that kept six clean sheets in a row, with their defence constantly caught out by the lack of pace.

Callum Johnson is the fast player in the previous rear-guard and the right-back can be caught out of position but the left-back Charlie Daniels, is slow on the recovery at 34.

Sean Raggett can dominate his penalty box well in the right system but, as we saw for Blackpool’s winner, he struggles to defend well on the turn and his centre-back partner, Rasmus Nicolaisen, is not the quickest either.

These issues have been exposed by the reluctance from Jackett and assistant Joe Gallen to freshen up the side: 10 players have started at least 20 of Pompey’s 28 league games yet surely, given the volume of games, the unique nature of this season demands more rotation.

The issues at Portsmouth could be exploited by Oxford United, who have won nine of their last 11 games, scoring 27 goals – and have been strengthened going forward by the January additions of Elliot Lee and Brandon Barker.

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Oxford have taken 11 more points than Portsmouth over the last 11 games and should arguably be shorter than 6/4 for victory here.

Gabriel Sutton

Cambridge draw no bet

Cambridge United v Cheltenham Town

6/5

Paul Mullin continued his outstanding campaign with a second half brace in Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Mansfield, but Mark Bonner was quick to praise the team as well as the individual.

Mullin may be by some distance the division’s top goalscorer with 22 goals, but the former Morecambe striker is only able to poach as well as he does because of the work of strike-partner Joe Ironside.

The former Macclesfield man occupied both opposing centre-backs on Saturday with his bold, aggressive runs, which fashioned the space for Mullin to produce the finishing touches.

Cambridge have also been strengthened in midfield by the return of Liam O’Neil, who had the tenacity to land on second balls and exert control on games, which is something the U’s struggled to do in the previous 0-0 draw with Southend.

When Adam May is paired with the talented but more inexperienced Declan Drysdale, the ex-Pompey man generally feels obligated to drop deeper and protect the defence from being carved open like against Salford.

Because O’Neil is a more reliable presence, May can push on that bit further and become another source of creativity to compliment evergreen playmaker Wes Hoolahan and left-back Harrison Dunk, who gets forward with the purpose one would expect from a winger by trade.

Cambridge could cause problems for Cheltenham, who were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Bradford last time out.

The Robins have relied at times on the long throws of captain Ben Tozer, but the efficiency of his touchline takes have been boosted by the presence of 6’3” centre-back Will Boyle, who is now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a knee ligament injury.

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Cambridge are top of League Two and have accrued 21 points in 2021, which is more than any other side. Given Cheltenham’s no-show at the weekend, I’m amazed our traders believe Mark Bonner’s side to be bigger underdogs than Arsenal are at Leicester next weekend.

Gabriel Sutton

Half-Time/Full-Time: Draw/Bolton

Bolton Wanderers v Scunthorpe United

Bolton moved themselves just four points off the Play-Off places thanks to a third consecutive league victory, winning 1-0 at Southend.

In that game and the shock 3-2 turnaround at Mansfield the previous Wednesday, Ian Evatt’s side needed to step things up in the latter stages.

Evatt has recently plumped for a 4-2-4 system that can at times leave his team looking somewhat top-heavy.

January recruits MJ Williams and Kieran Lee act as the double-pivot and, in the first half of games, they can get overrun by three-man midfields, especially when their opponents are high on energy.

As games transpire, though, it typically becomes easier for Bolton to get the ball into the final third and that is where they are dangerous.

The Lancashire outfit have a predatory poacher in Eoin Doyle, an enigmatic magician in Marcus Maddison, a lively attacking talent in Oladapo Afolayan – and a super-sub in Arthur Gnahoua.

The former Kidderminster forward has come off the bench 11 times for Bolton in the league this season and, in those appearances, the Trotters have made a net gain of seven points when comparing their result with the outcome projected when Gnahoua came on.

Bolton will hope to continue their resurgence when they host Scunthorpe, who have won their last four league games – all against sides with inferior PPG returns to themselves.

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Bolton have thrived in the latter stages of their last two games so while Scunthorpe are in good form, Ian Evatt has game-changers on the bench like Arthur Gnahoua which could be telling in this one.

Gabriel Sutton
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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