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EFL pundit Gab Sutton picks his best bets for the weekend’s action.

“Bournemouth thrashed Barnsley 3-0 in September’s reverse fixture and it could be a similar story at Oakwell.”

Gabriel Sutton

Barnsley v Bournemouth

Bournemouth -1 (Handicap Betting)


Two months ago, Bournemouth endured a blip of one win in eight which did not impact their automatic promotion chances greatly, because the form of their competitors was so weak.

After successive league defeats to Luton and Hull, the Cherries have less room for error, because Blackburn currently occupy second spot on goal difference – albeit having played a game more – and Tony Mowbray’s underdogs look every inch the real deal.

With that in mind, is it any wonder that Scott Parker is closing in on the signing of Siriki Dembele from Peterborough? The skilful forward looks set for a move, having missed out on Posh’s match-day squad at Birmingham in midweek.

The Dorset outfit dominated much of the play in the first half against the Tigers, and simply did not find the finishing touch that their chances deserved, but were a “different team” according to Parker in the second half.

If Bournemouth can bring in Dembele before Saturday’s game, though, it could make a big difference to their ability to change a game that may not be going their way.

Otherwise, though, the likes of powerful midfielder Jefferson Lerma and wide creator Ryan Christie are high-pedigree players at this level who should be grabbing Bournemouth and dragging them through tough periods in games.

The Cherries need to deliver at Barnsley, who find themselves eight points adrift of safety after a 3-0 loss at Nottingham Forest last time out.

Tarn are on course not only for relegation, but to be statistically one of the worst second-tier teams of all time and look a rudderless ship devoid of leadership, ideas, fight and hope.

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“Fulham’s record-breaking goalscoring form is quite remarkable and there is nothing to suggest Marco Silva’s swashbucklers cannot hit four or more for a 10th time this season.”

Gabriel Sutton

Fulham v Blackpool

Fulham -3 (Handicap Betting)

Fulham lost 1-0 at Bloomfield Road back in September, in one of the shock results of the Championship season so far.

It was a statement to Marco Silva’s side, who had been unbeaten up to that point, that even with a squad jam-packed with quality including a handful of supremely capable Premier League players, complacency is not an option.

That message will linger in the Londoners’ minds before kick-off against the Seasiders, so the Whites will have the perfect balance of confidence – which comes naturally after 22 goals in four games – and focus.

That, added to the ability that Jean-Michel Seri – potentially back from AFCON duties with Ivory Coast – Harry Wilson and Aleksandar Mitrovic naturally possess, on top of the fine form of winger Neeskens Kebano, and the Cottagers could be set for another rout against Blackpool.

Neil Critchley’s side employ a brave, high-pressing style which involves a lot of work against the ball on the best of days, but against a side with as much quality of Fulham the demands will be extremely high.

Critchley likes to keep one physical, back-to-goal striker up top in his 4-4-2, which is why he signed Jake Beesley from Rochdale as back-up to Gary Madine, but that leaves the wide midfielders with an unenviable balancing act.

Josh Bowler and Charlie Kirk, if the new Charlton recruit comes straight into the side, must track back diligently to halt Fulham’s triangle combinations in wide areas, whilst also getting forward to ensure Madine and either Shayne Lavery or Jerry Yates are not isolated as a strike-pairing.

Blackpool will be in for an arduous afternoon and as well as their debut Championship campaign is going, Fulham could run riot.

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“Wimbledon have had goalscoring troubles lately while Shrewsbury are out-of-form too despite favourable opposition, so this could be a low-scoring clash in which neither side is firing on all cylinders.”

Gabriel Sutton

AFC Wimbledon v Shrewsbury Town

Under 2.5 goals

When Wimbledon drew 0-0 with Morecambe earlier this month, it was not the worst result for Mark Robinson’s side, because the share of the spoils kept the biggest relegation rival at arm’s length.

Since then, though, the Shrimps have produced two great performances against promotion contenders Wigan and Wycombe including a 3-2 victory over the latter, while the Dons have seen their winless streak extended to seven league games.

To make matters worse, the Londoners have failed to score in five of those encounters after a midweek 2-0 loss to Ipswich, and are hoping youngster Aaron Cosgrave or Fulham loanee Terry Ablade can replace Ollie Palmer, now at Wrexham.

That is a huge ask, because while Cosgrave and Ablade both have certain minerals, they miss the leadership qualities Palmer brought, as well as the maturity to play back to goal.

Robinson, though, is the best head coach for Wimbledon when it comes to nurturing young talent, and it’s hard to avoid the notion that he would have done a better job with Khanya Leshabela than Steve Cotterill did at Shrewsbury.

Leshabela arrived in Shropshire with a stellar reputation from the Under-23s circuit, and supposedly had all the attributes to make a real name for himself with the Shrews.

Instead, the South African been confined to a mere 27 minutes of league action. It may be that the 22-year-old, playing senior football for the first time, struggled to adjust to a different intensity, but it may also be that Cotterill – old-school in his approach – did not always have the patience to guide him through that process.

Either way, Salop have missed an opportunity to put more distance between themselves and danger during a favourable run of fixtures, winning one in five league games, all against teams outside the top eight including primary relegation candidates Crewe (who had a makeshift XI) and Gillingham.

Shrewsbury are now a mere four points above the drop zone, having played at least one more game than all their rivals.

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“Very rarely can you back a team that has won three league games in succession to avoid defeat against a side seven places below them at quotes as big as 31/40.”

Gabriel Sutton

Fleetwood Town v Cambridge United

Double Chance: Draw/Cambridge

Stephen Crainey and Mark Bonner, to different extents, are flying the flag for internal appointments.

Crainey was promoted from Academy Manager to First-Team Manager after Simon Grayson left as part of Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley’s plan for youth development, while Bonner is thriving as a long-term Cambridge devotee.

Of course, the former Blackpool defender has merely delivered () points from () games in charge in contrast to his opposite number, who led the U’s to promotion in his first full season in charge, has them well on track for comfortable survival at this level and led the club to a famous FA Cup victory at Newcastle.

Cambridge are not safe yet, though and while they should reach the tally of 14 points from their remaining 19 games to beat the drop, it’s not exactly a formality.

The U’s still have to play eight of the top nine, many of those games without top goalscorer Joe Ironside, who is out for around two months with an ankle injury – Bonner is looking for a striker on-loan.

Relegation, though, is a more immediate danger for the Trawlermen, who fought back against Plymouth Argyle for a much-needed point in midweek.

The Fylde-coast outfit found themselves two goals behind late on, but Crainey brought on energetic forward Cian Hayes, raw right-sided runner Shayden Morris and experienced forward Anthony Pilkington, all of whom helped salvage a 3-3 draw late on.

That kind of battling spirit could be the difference between relegation and, in all likelihood, joining Cambridge in League One again next term.

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“Bradford are 7/10 for victory on Saturday and while the league table does not suggest a gulf between these sides, the Bantams should justify those quotes following some good form and positive midfield additions.”

Gabriel Sutton

Bradford City v Crawley Town

Bradford to win

Bradford have fresh hope of a Play-Off finish this season after Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Walsall, which gave Derek Adams’ side a return of 10 points from their last five games.

The task for the Bantams, who remain five points off the top seven, is to essentially maintain that form between now and the end of the season in order to hit 75 points: the projected requirement for seventh spot.

The West Yorkshire club have a tough March, though, so it is vital they finish winter well and the hope is that January recruits Jamie Walker, Matty Daly and Dion Pereira can bring creativity and goals, but they will need a reference point.

Andy Cook did that job to devastating effect in August and September, but his injury affected Bradford – especially in conjunction with the loss of Lee Angol – so Tom Elliott has been drafted in from Salford as an alternative target man.

The Bantams are heavy favourites to get the three points they need to keep themselves in the Play-Off mix against Crawley, who have dropped to 15th after back-to-back defeats.

Manager John Yems missed the 1-1 draw at Carlisle owing to a family matter which may or may not have subsequently affected him: family matters are of course more important than football, but nonetheless these things could be taken into consideration from a more calculated perspective.

Either way, the Red Devils produced a poor showing at Stevenage and mustered a mere six efforts at goal against Tranmere, with only one of them hitting the target.

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“Although Newport have won 1-0 in their last two games, they generally continue to create chances once they have gone ahead and are likely to bag one or two more this time around against out-of-form Barrow.”

Gabriel Sutton

Newport County v Barrow

Newport to win and over 1.5 goals

It may be partly because leaders Forest Green have set such high standards for themselves that their brilliance is no longer appreciated objectively, but right now Newport look the most exciting side in League Two.

James Rowburry’s side are tactically flexible, have established nuanced patterns of play, they create a plethora of chances, they keep two up top and have threats from all over the pitch.

Michael Flynn had looked at evolving the style in the last year or two of his Exiles tenure, so it is not as if Rowburry has had to transform the team completely, but nonetheless there has been a significant shift in a short space of time with no pre-season – and in his first job in senior management.

Already, Rowburry has built a team reminiscent of Ryan Lowe’s swashbuckling Bury and Plymouth Argyle sides at this level in previous seasons, which is hugely impressive.

The style was clearly a factor in Rob Street’s decision to join on loan from Crystal Palace, with the 20-year-old – described as a hardworking, 6’2”, old-fashioned number nine – having scored six goals in 12 Premier League 2 appearances.

Street will have to compete for a starting spot with Courtney Baker-Richardson, who has certainly contributed to County’s 42 goals in 25 since Rowburry took charge, but the recruit from Barrow has a chequered history with injury, so Street’s arrival represents insurance as well as competition and a rotation option.

The way Newport have been playing, they have a great chance of beating a Barrow side that have struggled significantly in recent weeks.

The Bluebirds have taken a paltry four points from their last six league games, failing to score in three of those encounters.

Mark Cooper’s side have tidy midfielders in Tom White and Ollie Banks, as well as a youthful set of forwards who are not physically developed, so the resort to long balls in recent games makes little sense and has led to more pressure on the manager.

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Odds are correct at the time of posting

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