Derby vs Middlesbrough | Saturday 13th February 2021, 15:00
Derby have had 10 days to stew over their 3-0 defeat at fellow relegation rivals Rotherham ahead of this meeting with Middlesbrough. The Rams, built on firm foundations since Wayne Rooney was given the managerial gig, were strong starters in South Yorkshire but looked well beaten after conceding three times in the final quarter of an hour.
Rooney remained philosophical about the result post-match, pinpointing his side’s fragility defending set-plays on the night and will have had plenty of time on the training paddock to get Derby back up to speed. With the Rams keeping eight clean sheets in their past 12 league outings, it’s fair to say the hosts have been hard to open up during Rooney’s reign.
Scoring goals though, has been an issue for County. The hosts have only twice plundered more than a solitary strike this season and no Championship club has been nilled more often than Derby (14). So I’m not anticipating a thrill-a-minute affair when a Neil Warnock-led Middlesbrough pitch up at Pride Park.
Boro have fired blanks in four of their last six encounters, as well as 11 (39%) of their overall 28 matches this term, six (43%) of which arrived on the road. Nevertheless, the Teessiders are relatively accustomed to keeping teams competitive, conceding multiple goals in just five fixtures across the 2020/21 campaign.
With that in mind, I’m happy to take the 17/20 (BetVictor) on ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score column. It’s a play that’s landed in 38/55 (69%) of the duos combined Championship contests this season, and 18/28 (64%) of their respective home/away games.
Cambridge vs Southend | Saturday 13th February 2021, 15:00
Cambridge can consolidate their position at the top of the League Two table by overcoming Southend at 4/5 (William Hill) quotes on Saturday. Beaten heavily in midweek by a strong Salford side, the U’s will be eager to bounce back and maintain their promotion charge against one of the league’s weakest sides.
Southend have returned W6-D3-L7 since mid-November. Results-wise, Mark Molesey’s men have proven reasonably competitive and are back in the fight for survival. However, look a little deeper and the Essex’s club’s process remains woeful with the Shrimpers rock-bottom for Expected Points (xP), Expected Goals (xG) and shots in the box.
Whether we look at the league as a whole, the last 16 games, the most recent 12, eight or even four fixtures and Southend are right in the mire. In midweek, their 1-0 success at Newport came courtesy of a deflected free-kick and Molesey’s strugglers can’t continue picking up points off such miniscule margins. I suspect they’ll meet their match here.
The Shrimpers have been beaten in 13 of 18 encounters when excluding the bottom-eight and were hammered 5-1 at Port Vale in their last away day. In contrast, Cambridge have taken 17 points from a possible 24 in 2021, earned eight victories from 14 as hosts this term and are performing above average in both boxes under Mark Bonner.
Forest Green vs Barrow | Saturday 13th February 2021, 15:00
Forest Green’s home form hasn’t always convinced under Mark Cooper yet the Green Devils are worth supporting at almost even-money quotes when toiling Barrow arrive on Saturday. The hosts are one of League Two’s strongest suits and return to league action for the first time since an impressive 2-1 success at fellow promotion hopefuls Carlisle a fortnight ago.
Stevenage and Grimsby have both been dispatched here this season so Rovers have proven they’re capable of picking up top honours at home to the lesser lights. And Forest Green should have ample opportunity to enhance that return against a Barrow side that boasts the division’s worst road record (W2-D1-L9), including W0-D1-L4 at the top-half.
The National League champions haven’t found the step-up to the EFL easy and despite a managerial change, plus an influx of new players during the January transfer window, results have continued to disappoint. The Bluebirds struggle for goals in games as guests and were comfortably swatted aside by Cambridge in their most recent outing.