After making a profit last week, Adrian Clarke is back with two EFL Championship tips.
It was nice to return two winners from three selections in last weekend’s column, even if Middlesbrough left it rather late to beat Reading! Honestly, it was never in doubt.
This time around we’re heading back to the Championship for a pair of handicap angles involving two on-song away sides…
Spirited Preston Are Capable Of Extending Swansea’s Winless Run
Ryan Lowe is one of the most attack-minded coaches in the EFL so I guess it’s no surprise to see that after swapping Plymouth for Preston last month he’s breathed fresh life into Deepdale and the floundering squad he inherited.
Unbeaten in four Championship matches so far, there’s a new energy and vibe about the Lilywhites, who came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Sheffield United in midweek – with just ten men!
Performing with fire in their bellies and no fear whatsoever, Lowe has got the PNE fans fully engaged and excited.
Can they go to Swansea City this weekend and pick up another decent result? I firmly believe they can.
Captain Alan Browne is in superb form, leading by example, striker Emil Riis moved on to 13 goals for the season with a strike against the Blades, and as a team they’ve scored in eight of their last nine matches in all competitions.
Clean sheets are proving a little elusive but when a team is scoring goals they will always be in the mix to win matches.
Flip it around and all is not well in Russell Martin’s camp at the moment.
Attacking midfielder Jamie Paterson, responsible for eight goals and four assists this term, is embroiled in a contract dispute with the club and he’s now training with the kids.
Paterson’s guile and creativity will be sorely missed on Saturday.
The Swans have no momentum results-wise either.
Their only win since November 2 was at beleaguered Barnsley, and during this poor spell, they were also beaten at home to Reading (3-2) and Nottingham Forest (4-1).
Aside from the excellent Joel Piroe upfront, not too many Swansea players are in top form and the squad does look a little thin on the ground. The departure of loanee Ethan Laird at wing-back has also weakened the balance of the side considerably.
Martin is a wonderful coach that’s dramatically changed the playing style but it feels that progress in terms of results is going to be stunted until the club shows a bit more ambition in the transfer market.
Right now they are weaker than they were at the start of the January window and that’s a concern.
Riding a new boss wave of sorts I do fancy Preston to pick up a result in South Wales. With the draw onside as well as the away win I’m drawn to North End +0.5 on the handicap at 1.74.
Having won at Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Stoke City they will believe a three-point haul is possible.
ROONEY’S RAMS ARE A SERIOUSLY TOUGH NUT TO CRACK
Derby County’s players and staff have had their backs super-glued to the wall since day one of this campaign, but they’ve never stopped fighting for something better. Their courage in adversity has been one of the stories of the season.
If they pull off the greatest of great escapes, they will be THE story of the season.
Dark clouds continue to linger over the Rams as a club with more alarming news over their survival prospects raised this week, but Wayne Rooney and his team of soldiers continue to swing away in the faint hope of a miracle.
Now just eight points from safety (despite a 21-point deduction) they are entitled to dare to dream.
The Brian Clough Trophy is up for grabs on Saturday lunchtime when Derby travel to East Midlands neighbours Nottingham Forest for a tete-a-tete that’s always soaked in rancour.
Derby County haven’t won it in their last nine attempts, but I do give them a puncher’s chance of stealing some glory at the City Ground.
When the going gets tough, Rooney and his side often raise their game – and that’s no mean feat given how small and inexperienced his squad of players are.
After 26 matches the Rams would effectively be sat just two points behind play-off chasing Forest right now had the EFL not sanctioned them.
Avoiding defeat in eight of 13 away games, conceding 13 goals, they are stubborn opposition on the road (a testimony to Rooney’s tactical nous) and over the course of the entire season so far they have been beaten by more than one goal, just once.
This Derby County, no matter how much of a battering they take off the pitch, know how to grit their teeth and battle.
Nottingham Forest, who have improved greatly under Steve Cooper, are deservedly considered favourites at 2.04 but up against a Rams outfit which is unbeaten in five, they are certainly no sure thing.
Just three teams have amassed fewer points in front of their own fans, and at the City Ground Forest are invariably involved in close-fought encounters.
Considering it’s a bitter local derby, considering the Rams thrive under distress, and considering they would love nothing more than to put smiles on their fans’ faces, I want to side with Derby County on the handicap.
By getting the draw onside (the last four derbies have ended 1-1) with a +0.5 handicap in favour of Rooney’s scrappers I believe there is value in a price of 1.9 with Matchbook.
After all that they have been through so far this term, picking up at least a point against Forest this Saturday, feels doable.
- Preston North End +0.5 at Swansea City (1.74)
- Derby County +0.5 at Nottingham Forest (1.9)
Best Bets Double
Last week’s Best Bets Double from our Weekend Football Podcast clicked so here’s hoping for this week ⬇️
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