FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Gabriel Sutton takes a look at Thursday night's live fixture between Blackburn and Peterborough.
Blackburn v Peterborough | Thursday 19th April 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
All season, Blackburn Rovers have been prime candidates for automatic promotion.
They are a Championship side in waiting; the only previous problem had been that there were two others. Wigan Athletic have an equally strong squad while Shrewsbury Town have shown the required relentless consistency to merit the same respect.
Thankfully for Blackburn, Salop’s recent dropped points against Bradford and Charlton suggests their resistance is waning, thus handing Rovers the initiative to finish the job.
They have not quite done that in their last two games. A poor performance in a 0-0 draw at Gillingham was followed up by the concession of an injury-time equalizer in a 1-1 tie at Bristol Rovers.
While they had marginally more openings against the latter, there have been suggestions creativity could be drying up and the overreliance on Charlie Mulgrew’s set piece quality is not ideal.
Thankfully, the defensive solidity provided by midfielders like Richie Smallwood and Corry Evans has helped Tony Mowbray’s side keep six clean sheets in their last 10 league games, so defeats have been few and far between; one since mid-October, in fact.
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Peterborough United’s play-off hopes took a blow on Saturday, when they lost 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Rochdale, despite facing 10-men for the final 37 minutes.
To many fans, that result and performance represented the end of the season, but victory here would take them temporarily in to the top six through goal difference; things can change.
They will rely on two talented individuals: striker Jack Marriott is the division’s top scorer with 26 goals, while Marcus Maddison has been one of the most productive wingers at this level for some time.
Debates rage on about whether forward Danny Lloyd or wide midfielder Gwion Edwards can reach the same level, but certainly Marriott and Maddison’s moments of magic have carried the team.
There are question marks not only about the ability of the rest of the team, but also whether the players are suited to the current regime.
Steve Evans’ template for promotion is a powerful spine, early balls into a selfless front-man and only then does the technical football begin; the gaffer might have to wait until the summer to build a squad capable of carrying out that blueprint.
The betting angle
The best odds for a Blackburn win is 8/15, which imply a 65% chance, much higher than the combined records suggest. Only 45% of League One games involving either side this season have seen a Blackburn win or Peterborough defeat, a percentage that moves to just 46% if we look at only home and away form respectively.
While common sense makes Mogga’s men the likeliest to win, we just don’t see the value.
There aren’t enough faults in Rovers – or enough positive signs in Posh – for us to consider recommending the away win, so we’ll look at the middle-ground. The draw at 7/2 with Smarkets might catch the eye given that Posh have tied nine of their 20 league games on the road, but we’re having a bash at opposing goals.
Evans might not see enough of what he likes in his squad to take the game to the promotion-favourites, so organisation will be the primary focus; Blackburn’s recent performances suggest they might have difficulties breaking them down.
Under 1.5 Goals – which has occurred in two of Rovers’ last three games – is an option at 71/20 with Marathon (22%).
For our best bet though, we’re taking the Under 2.5 Goals at 57/50 with the same bookmaker; this one would have landed in four of Peterborough’s last five games and four of Blackburn’s last five, too.
Blackburn v Peterborough – Under 2.5 Goals (57/50 Marathon)