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EFL pundit Gab Sutton is back and he reckons Bournemouth are too, tipping the Cherries for victory in one of his six best bets from his EFL Midweek Preview.

Bournemouth to win

Huddersfield Town v Bournemouth

Many were underwhelmed when Jonathan Woodgate, somebody who struggled as a head coach at Middlesbrough, took charge of Bournemouth in February. But the former defender is proving his doubters wrong.

The Cherries have accrued 26 points from 13 games since the 41-year-old took charge and the boss could be rewarded with a contract to start the 2021-22 campaign in charge, be that in the Championship or in the Premier League.

For a spell this season, the Dorset outfit have looked imbalanced – even lazy at times – but essentially missing a coherent framework in which supremely gifted individuals can flourish.

High-pedigree performers like Jefferson Lerma and Arnaut Danjuma have pulled their weight recently, though, while David Brooks has returned from injury and thus Bournemouth have more threats to distract opponents from the obvious quality of main man Dominic Solanke.

Woodgate can pair Lerma with Jack Wilshere in midfield in games in which his side are expected to dominate the ball, but bring Ben Pearson in when they need more tenacity in that area.

Either combination looks appealing, whereas Huddersfield face greater tactical dilemmas ahead of this game.

Carlos Corberan is very much a possession-based coach, but he will not want his side to be as open as they were in mid-December’s 5-0 loss to this opposition.

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Jonathan Woodgate is surprising a few people at Bournemouth but I’m expecting no surprises at Huddersfield, where his in-form side are rightly odds-on for victory.

Gabriel Sutton

Rotherham draw no bet

Rotherham United v Queens Park Rangers

After a 3-0 defeat to Wycombe on Easter Monday, Rotherham needed a response on Saturday.

They got it, at Huddersfield, creating by far the better chances, which will hearten manager Paul Warne – even if they had to settle for a point.

Ben Wiles, a young, exciting midfielder, went on an excellent run down the left channel to set up Matt Crooks, who also had a goal disallowed in the second half – while Richard Wood will feel he could have earnt a penalty.

Wood is confounding his critics once again this season; in the last 12 games in which the veteran starts in the middle of a back three, the Millers have kept five clean sheets.

Paul Warne should be credited for his choices of formation since late November, because there are lots of players who suit the 3-5-1-1 – or 3-5-2, depending on whether Crooks is playing off target man Michael Smith or Freddie Ladapo is partnering him.

One of those players is attacking left wing-back Ryan Giles and the Wolves loanee could come in here for Matthew Olosunde to allow Wes Harding to shuffle across to his more natural side, where he has been one of the divisions most underrated performers.

That moniker may also apply to Jamie Lindsay, whose return from injury has helped the South Yorkshire outfit, with the tenacious midfielder doing the bulk of the dirty work with dynamos Lewis Wing and Wiles – two players who back themselves more in an attacking sense – chipping in.

All three support the press very well, to the extent that Daniel Barlaser – a key performer in the promotion season – is having to make do with a place on the bench.

Barlaser has obvious ability as a deep-lying playmaker, but it makes sense for Warne to pick an energy-heavy midfield reflective of the urgent nature of their situation, with the Newcastle recruit an appealing option to bring on from the bench when Wing, Wiles and Lindsay have tired their opponents.

QPR are in good form but, with promotion and relegation both out of the question, it would not be a huge surprise if they dropped their levels in two or three games between now and the end of the season.

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Rotherham rallied against Huddersfield last time out and could easily have won. Take that spirit into Tuesday’s encounter and they could out-battle a QPR side with nothing major to play for.

Gabriel Sutton

Wimbledon to win

AFC Wimbledon v Ipswich Town

2/1

It does not seem to matter whether Wimbledon have just lost 3-0 – as they did to Peterborough and Hull in February – or won 5-1 – as they did at Accrington Stanley on Saturday: Mark Robinson’s interviews do not change in nature.

Many rookies would be emotional and reactive in their post-match duties, but Robinson is so cool, so process-driven, so aware of the bigger picture, he appears to have almost relaxed his players – even though they are battling against the club’s first relegation in its current guise.

A criticism of the Dons is that they are overly reliant on Joe Pigott, who has scored 37% of their league goals but high-flying Blackpool, Sunderland and Peterborough sides have individuals who have scored a similar proportion.

Pigott works hard, holds the ball up well and is a good finisher, but he needs players running off him to make his work effective; Ryan Longman has done that job a lot this season but, in the Brighton loanee’s absence, Ayoub Assal stepped up.

The 19-year-old is one of the most exciting products of the Dons academy, showing neat feet, a willingness to stretch defences and promising goalscoring instinct, complimenting Pigott and tall striker Ollie Palmer, who proved a point himself in East Lancashire with a first half brace.

Wimbledon have a mix of qualities: the vibrant skill and flair of Jack Rudoni in midfield, combined with the tenacity of Alex Woodyard as well as the energy and ball control of George Dobson at the base of the diamond.

Had the League One season started when Robinson took charge, Wimbledon would be 15th – or 14th on PPG – having scored 15 goals in 14 games which, in two fewer encounters, is one more than Ipswich have scored in the same time frame.

Paul Cook is taking his time to show his managerial class with the Tractor Boys, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the South West Londoners bloody the nose of their illustrious visitors.

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Paul Cook has not made the desired impact at Ipswich with just two wins in nine. I’m therefore happy to side with an AFC Wimbledon side that have just boosted their survival prospects with a thumping 5-1 victory.

Gabriel Sutton

Oxford to win and over 1.5 goals

Oxford United v Shrewsbury Town

6/4

Oxford are four points off the Play-Offs after a 6-0 demolition of Crewe last time out.

The result does not change the Yellows’ need for higher-placed sides slipping up, especially given that they have played more games than most of their rivals, but it does re-enthuse the fanbase after defeats to Sunderland and Accrington Stanley.

Karl Robinson’s side combined superbly down the right flank, where experienced technician James Henry and mobile operator Elliott Lee interchanged smoothly, while Sam Long got forward well from defence.

Long’s corresponding full-back, Josh Ruffels, was also in adventurous mood – the long-serving duo now have seven goals between them and nine assists.

Ruffels offered an option in possession for his wing-partner, Brandon Barker, but the Rangers loanee showed fine individual dribbling ability, especially en route to the game’s fourth goal.

Mark Sykes, meanwhile, was arguably Oxford’s star man in midfield, showing flair, passing ability and confidence to carry the ball forward, which is testament to Cameron Brannagan’s open-mindedness about taking on a more circumspect role in the absence of Alex Gorrin.

If Robinson’s troops get anywhere near Saturday’s levels in midweek, they should be too hot to handle for Shrewsbury.

The Shropshire visitors enjoyed a resurgence between November and February to get out of trouble, but they have won just three of their last 11.

Having hit the 50-point mark with a 0-0 draw at Gillingham last time out, Salop are already safe and could be vulnerable to a no-show.

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I’m siding with League One teams that won heavily at the weekend and Oxford, after a 6-0 demolition of Crewe, could make the rest of their season interesting with all their remaining opponents sitting below them.

Gabriel Sutton

Half-Time/Full-Time: Harrogate/Draw

Harrogate Town v Leyton Orient

Simon Weaver has done a glorious job at Harrogate Town.

The Sulphurites were playing National League North football as recently as 2018 and are now consolidating in League Two, having looked at least safe throughout their maiden EFL campaign.

The North Yorkshire outfit will be hoping to make inroads into the top half next season and there is reason to think they can do that.

Weaver has got a group of essentially non-league players looking at home at this level and such a solid first season will help the club attract a higher calibre of player in the summer, which should allow them to build steadily.

The manager has favoured versatile operators like reliable defender Warren Burrell, left-footer Ed Francis, right-sided technician George Thomson, flexible midfielder Brendan Kiernan and mobile forward Jack Muldoon, because playing one of those away from their natural area has been preferable to the second-string players in certain positions.

Thomson can part the Red Sea with the most casual flick of his boot, so handing the stalwart a more central role proved successful – until winger Simon Power’s hamstring injury forced a re-think – but Weaver will want to be able to make those calls through design rather than circumstance.

With the right additions, Harrogate will hope to emulate Leyton Orient’s progress – a consolidation season in 2019-20, followed by a feint Play-Off tilt this term.

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Harrogate have played well in the first half of their last two matches, before ultimately falling to defeat. Their high-pressing style can be effective early on in games, but Leyton Orient had a strong bench last time out and could come on strong in the second half.

Gabriel Sutton

Carlisle to win

Newport County v Carlisle United

9/5

Carlisle United’s winning streak came to an end on Saturday, with a 2-2 draw at Barrow, but Chris Beech would have been delighted with 10 points from the previous four games.

Brisk, crisp and incisive in the final third, the Cumbrians boast an enterprising front-three of Omari Patrick, Offrande Zanzala and Lewis Alessandra.

Patrick, the godson of Linford Christie, has searing pace and has shown some individual ability in flashes during this run. Zanzala is similarly speedy but is also developing his back-to-goal work and using his physical attributes more effectively than he has done previously in his career. Meanwhile, Alessandra uses his intelligence to bring it all together.

Throw in the physical presence and knack of goalscoring that Jon Mellish provides in midfield, combined with assist-king Callum Guy’s strong showings next to the energetic Joe Riley and Carlisle have potential.

The defence looked suspect last time out and Beech will be hoping Aaron Hayden can revisit the form he has shown for large portions of his Brunton Park stint to date.

If he can, then Carlisle might just look good value for a crucial victory at Rodney Parade, a venue at which Newport have won just two of their last eight.

Michael Flynn has attempted to evolve the style this season by converting Matty Dolan into a half-back in his 3-5-2 formation, with greater responsibility on creator-in-chief Josh Sheehan to get on the ball and dictate.

That worked earlier in the season, but the bobbly Parade pitch has made that style awkward – to the extent that Newport arranged to play two of their games at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Flynn will have to be pragmatic and go for direct balls into target man Ryan Taylor, which is not what the Exiles fundamentally want to do, whereas Carlisle can comfortably unleash the pace of Patrick and Zanzala.

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After a stormy period, Carlisle’s Beech party is back on – the Cumbrians have accrued 10 points from the last 12 available and now have the opportunity to leapfrog Newport into the Play-Off places.

Gabriel Sutton
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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