FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over the final day of action in League Two on Saturday.
Hartlepool v Doncaster | Saturday 17:30 | Sky Sports 1
Doncaster must better Plymouth and Portsmouth’s results to secure the League One title whilst Hartlepool are battling relegation.
Luton v Morecambe | Saturday 17:30
Bar an unlikely five-goal turnaround, Luton should conclude the regular campaign in fourth and be eyeing the upcoming play-offs.
The Hatters welcome Morecambe to Kenilworth Road on Saturday having lost the fewest league games (9) in League Two and Town boss Nathan Jones has already said he will resist the temptation to rest players as he wants to keep Luton’s recent good form going.
The hosts are unbeaten in six games – earning Jones a nomination for League Two Manager of the Month – but their record in front of their home support hasn’t been as bomb-proof as fans would have hoped (10-D7-L5).
A big part of Luton’s failure to record at least a 50% win ratio at Kenilworth Road is their sloppy defensive record – keeping just 4/22 (18%) clean sheets – and that’s an angle of attack I’m keen to explore here.
Morecambe manager Jim Bentley is apparently considering his future after what’s been– at times – a tumultuous campaign on and off the pitch. But the Shrimps supremo has reiterated his desire to end the season on a high.
Bentley thanked fans for their support following last week’s 1-1 draw at Wycombe and given what has happened over the course of the campaign, Football League survival should be considered a success.
The continuing doubts over the club’s ownership, late payment of wages, a threadbare squad and poor training facilities have all combined to test Bentley, his players and the staff to the limit.
So I’d be confident we’ll see another spirited display from Morecambe here and they can play their part in a Both Teams To Score winner at a value 10/11 with Bwin.
It’s a selection that’s proven profitable in 16/22 (73%) of Luton’s home fixtures and 15/22 (68%) of Morecambe’s road trips. Collectively, the BTTS bet has banked in 31/44 (70%) of home/away games, a percentage success rate that implies betting odds of 4/9.
Portsmouth v Cheltenham | Saturday 17:30
Cheltenham cut ticket prices for last weekend’s crunch relegation clash with Hartlepool and with nearly 5,000 home fans included in the highest attendance at Whaddon Road for years, the Robins sealed League Two survival.
It was only Town’s 12th triumph of the campaign and means the Gloucestershire club cannot finish any lower than 21st in the first season back in the Football League and so in that sense, it’s mission complete.
No team has suffered an immediate drop from the League since Doncaster in 1905 but this season has been too close for comfort for most Cheltenham supporters. So following the wild celebrations of last Saturday and with the pressure well and truly off, I’m happy to oppose the Robins here.
Stand-in manager Russell Milton joined fans in the bar to enjoy last week’s moment but it wasn’t at all clear-cut. Loan goalkeeper Scott Brown was Cheltenham’s star once more and midfielder Carl Winchester is now a major doubt for Saturday’s trip to Fratton Park.
What’s more, now League Two football has been guaranteed in 2017/18, the other members of the squad are set to discover their futures before the Portsmouth game. There could be a fair few minds elsewhere in the away dressing room.
Portsmouth weren’t at their best when dispatching Mansfield 1-0 last time out but having garnered 16 points from six unbeaten matches in April, Paul Cook has been shortlisted as League Two manager of the month award and the Pompey boss is now eyeing the league title.
Portsmouth are the outsiders of the trio chasing top spot but a W9-D1-L1 return since early March has propelled the Blues into focus. With the manager and squad now aiming for one last hurrah, I’d fancy Pompey to bring the curtain down on their promotion campaign with a comfortable victory.
The hosts have won 13/22 (59%) of their Fratton Park fixtures – 10 (45%) of which saw the south coast club lead at the interval. Considering 9/22 (41%) of Cheltenham’s away days ended in L-L double results, there’s mileage in odds-against quotes of 23/20 (Ladbrokes) for Portsmouth/Portsmouth here.
Luton v Morecambe – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Bwin)
Portsmouth v Cheltenham – Portsmouth/Portsmouth (23/20 Ladbrokes)