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It’s a busy weekend of EFL action and Gab Sutton looks ahead to the Good Friday games, which have an impact on promotion and relegation.

“I knew Keinan Davis was a strong, selfless centre-forward but I wasn’t expecting him to make such an impact on Forest’s attack after joining in January, let alone be so prolific. But he’s more than won me over and I see him firing at the Kenny.”

Gabriel Sutton

Luton Town v Nottingham Forest

Keinan Davis to score anytime

Rarely if ever under Nathan Jones had Luton served up three poor performances in succession, but that’s what has happened after a three-game winless run culminating in a defeat at Huddersfield on Monday.

The Hatters need a reaction, and what better time to bounce back than with the hosting of Nottingham Forest?

The Reds, however, are arguably the hardest opponent in the Championship right now and are putting the heat on Bournemouth for automatic promotion.

Six points might look a difficult bridge to cross with seven games to play, but the nuance of this promotion race is that Steve Cooper’s side play the Cherries on the penultimate game and are only two worse off on goal difference.

Essentially, therefore, it’s a case of Forest gaining three points on the Dorset club across their next five games and if they can do that, then victory in that showdown would put them in the driving seat.

One man who is certainly making the engine tick right now for the Tricky Trees is Keinan Davis, who has proved a revelation since joining from Aston Villa in January.

Not only has the striker added physicality in attack, but he has also proved surprisingly quick and potent, scoring five in 13 league starts.

If Davis brings his A-game, this could be another tough day for the out-of-form hosts.

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“Isaiah Jones could be back fit for this one, which would make a huge difference for Boro in their Play-Off bid after successive home defeats in his absence – as for Bournemouth? The pressure is on.”

Gabriel Sutton

Bournemouth v Middlesbrough

Double Chance: Draw/Middlesbrough

4/5

Bournemouth’s return of one point and no goals from their last two games has added fuel to the automatic promotion fire.

For a long time, it looked like the Cherries might limp over the line in the absence of credible challengers, but the form of Nottingham Forest means Scott Parker’s side are feeling the heat.

They were deservedly beaten by West Brom before the draw with Sheffield United, in which their opponents created by far the better chances.

The good news for Bournemouth is that they are still in an advantageous position, six points clear of third-placed Forest but – as mentioned above – they still have to play them on the penultimate weekend.

Because of that, it’s a case of ensuring that their promotion rivals do not gain more than two points on them in the five games leading up to that fixture, so that even if they lose, promotion is still in their hands going into the final day hosting of Millwall.

Middlesbrough are under pressure themselves, however, after back-to-back defeats to Fulham and Hull, and manager Chris Wilder admitted his side were way off it in the 1-0 loss to the latter.

Boro are short in the wing-back positions: left wing-back is one of their weaker positions generally, but right wing-back is their strongest when Isaiah Jones is fit, and the Player of the Season candidate is hoping to return here.

If Jones is available, then that transforms the Teessider’s chances for their long trip south.

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“Charlton have picked up recently, but it’s the stage of the season where the extra incentive for teams in the dogfight to haul themselves clear can make a real difference against midtable outfits, which is why I fancy Morecambe to nick something.”

Gabriel Sutton

Charlton Athletic v Morecambe

Double Chance: Draw/Morecambe

Charlton have picked up, with Johnnie Jackson’s side taking 13 points from their last six games.

Corey Blackett-Taylor has brought searing pace from his left wing-back role after coming into the side, despite being right-footed, and has been a thorn in most opponents.

Elsewhere, Jackson has re-established the strike pairing of target man Jayden Stockley and his nippy partner, Conor Washington: the Addicks have scored 22 in 16 when the duo start simultaneously, against 27 in 26 when they do not.

There remains certain holes in this Charlton squad, especially the wide centre-backs and right wing-back roles for a 3-5-2, which will need to be recruited for in the summer.

And with owner Thomas Sandgaard looking rather hands on in recruitment and his son having much authority too, it is questionable whether the club will have the specialists they need in that department to maximize their spending power.

Immediately in front of them, though, is the visit from Morecambe, who are locked in a dogfight, tied on 38 points with Gillingham and Fleetwood, though the latter have a game in hand.

The Shrimps lost 2-1 at Cambridge last time out, despite a stunning strike from Cole Stockton, who looks ready to rediscover his strong form from the first half of the campaign.

If Jacob Bedeau can maintain his strong centre-back pairing with Anthony O’Connor, if Adam Phillips can bring his creative best and if “Cole the goal” can fire, they have a chance.

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“This could be a game for young strikers to thrive in. Under-23s prodigy Connor Salisbury may get a look-in for Crewe under Alex Morris, while the talented Zach Robinson may fire for Wimbledon.”

Gabriel Sutton

Crewe Alexandra v AFC Wimbledon

Zach Robinson to score anytime

Crewe’s relegation was confirmed on Saturday, when the Alex lost () to (opponent), but in truth it was an outcome that had been known for some time.

The consequence was club legend David Artell losing his job after eight years at the Alexandra Stadium, six as a manager and 10 including a prior stint as a player, with the former defender inspiring the Railwaymen to promotion in two different leadership capacities.

Artell’s departure represents a sad day for the Cheshire club, but Alex Morris – who takes charge off the back of a few games as assistant following some excellent work with the Under-23s – looks a promising coach taking charge in the interim period.

Morris spoke with great dignity in his first interview, and will be a new dominant voice in the dressing room which could help Crewe finish a horrendous campaign with something positive for fans to grab hold of.

It could be, therefore, that the hosts will be tougher opponents than the table suggests for Wimbledon, who remain winless in 24 league games.

Mark Bowen has been encouraged by the three performances that have come under his watch, two of which having come up against top six opposition.

The Dons have suffered from the January loss of Ollie Palmer to Wrexham and had hoped Birmingham loanee Sam Cosgrove would replace the centre-forward, but it’s arguably Zach Robinson, from the academy, who has fared better.

Bowen has opted for 4-4-2 since taking charge with Robinson paired up top by Ayoub Assal, and the youthful duo have fared well – it would not be a huge surprise to see the former rewarded for some lively showings with a second league goal for the club.

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“This is a game I see Mansfield taking control in through their rotating midfield diamond and intelligent full-backs, against the more rigid 4-4-2 that Sutton have, as the Stags chase down the automatic spots.”

Gabriel Sutton

Mansfield Town v Sutton United

Mansfield to win

With Forest Green being the division’s champions-elect and Exeter not far behind them, Mansfield appear to be in a three-way shoot-out with Port Vale and Bristol Rovers for the golden, third and final automatic promotion spot.

With the way Vale are playing especially, there will be no room for error for the Stags, who themselves have been in imperious form: just three defeats in 22.

Sutton have been a breath of fresh air to League Two this season and can take enormous pride from the progress they have made, but may fall short of the Play-Offs.

Matt Gray’s 4-4-2 system allows them to defend with two banks of four, and then look to attack with a front-four including the wide men cutting inside, but the middle phase between defending and attacking and vice versa can be challenging.

It’s that middle third where Mansfield could dominate with their midfield diamond of Ryan Stirk, George Maris, Stephen Quinn and Matty Longstaff.

Stirk, on loan from Birmingham, controls games well and has a lovely left-foot, but needs support against the ball from Maris and Quinn.

The latter two have very strong relationships, though, with their corresponding full-backs, Elliott Hewitt and Stephen McLaughlin, both of whom are intelligent in supporting play from behind.

It’s that midfield flexibility that could see the Nottinghamshire outfit dominate, potentially and the press that Longstaff triggers will force the U’s to go long from deep, but Omar Bugiel could struggle aerially against Oli Hawkins.

Mansfield could dictate against the Play-Off outsiders, and further their promotion bid.

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“We called a 1-0 win for Oldham at Stevenage by the exact score and I’m happy to go with that again. The Latics are improved defensively under John Sheridan, while promotion-chasing Northampton simply do not have a focal point.”

Gabriel Sutton

Oldham Athletic v Northampton Town

Oldham to win 1-0

Northampton drew 0-0 with Bradford on Saturday, in a performance that highlighted once again the defensive prowess that has kept the Cobblers in the mix, but also the attacking deficiencies which mean they would not consider themselves prime candidates for promotion.

Jon Brady’s side boast one of the best shot-stoppers in the division in Liam Roberts, a sturdy centre-back pairing of Fraser Horsfall and Jon Guthrie as well as a midfielder in Jack Sowerby who will run all day.

Going forward, however, Teyn rely all too heavily on the craft of Mitch Pinnock, and have been unable to identify a reliable focal point, despite the acquisitions of Chanka Zimba and Louis Appere.

Either could struggle aerially against Carl Piergianni, who is having arguably his best season yet for Oldham and looks more dominant than he has in previous seasons, whilst taking young defenders like Will Sutton under his wing.

With Christopher Missilou and Callum Whelan protecting this solid rear-guard, Oldham should be able to nullify Pinnock and keep the clean sheet they need to boost their own survival prospects.

The Latics currently find themselves outside the drop zone on goal difference alone and while they may be unlikely to stay in that position if they lose, with Stevenage having a relatively favourable fixture against Rochdale, avoiding defeat would keep them out if Barrow are beaten as expected by leaders Forest Green.

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Odds are correct at the time of posting

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