WITH League One and League Two teams preoccupied by FA Cup football, Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes aim at the Championship this weekend.
Ipswich Town v Leeds United | Saturday 15.00
What a magnificent season Ipswich are enjoying. And what a marvelous job Mick McCarthy continues to do at Portman Road. From relegation battlers under Paul Jewell to promotion challengers under Mick, the transformation has been steady and very impressive.
Last season I backed the Tractor Boys to win promotion but it proved a bit too early for the Suffolk side. However, with no obvious standout contender this term, there’s every chance Ipswich could stake a serious claim for a top two finish – that’s certainly the aim at the club.
The team cost just £10,000 to assemble and it was new loan signing Noel Hunt who grabbed the winner last weekend at Charlton – inflicting the Addicks’ first home defeat of the season.
But their best work has been done at Portman Road since McCarthy took charge and in 48 Championship home games under Mick, Town have W28-D11-L9.
What’s interesting about those nine defeats is seven came against top-six teams, one against Norwich earlier this campaign and one against Leeds last season. The Whites are Saturday’s visitors but I don’t envisage a similar result this time around.
Leeds have lost 18/32 away league fixtures since the start of last season – a loss percentage of 56%. Compare that to Ipswich’s win percentage at home under McCarthy of 58% and you can see where I’m coming from.
You can back the hosts as 17/20 with BetVictor but I’m going to be bold and take Ipswich to win and Both Teams To Score at 3/1 with Coral. The Tractor Boys have seen BTTS backers collect in 27/48 (56%) games at home under Mick with Leeds’ road matches producing goals at both ends in 18/32 (56%) since the start of last season.
We could look towards Ipswich’s record of keeping four clean sheets in nine Championship outings in Suffolk this season as a deterrent but despite Leeds’ on and off pitch woes in 2014/15, they have managed to score in their last nine, in 15/19 games overall and in seven of their nine on their travels.
Cardiff City v Rotherham United | Saturday 15.00
Don’t hold it against me but I’m a big Steve Evans fan. He’s a bolshie, brash, loud-mouthed, self-obsessed tube, but I love him. The Football League needs characters like him – without Evans or a Graham Westley for example, it would be quite dull, no?
Anyway, I admire his coaching and managerial talents too and that’s why I’ve found it hard to oppose Rotherham for most of the season. I felt they were underrated pre-season and I expected them to stay up and quite comfortably too.
However, two wins since August and seven games without a victory have sent the Millers tumbling towards the bottom three. Adam Collin’s mistake in the Rotherham goal gifted Blackpool an equaliser last weekend and left Evans fuming.
But goals have been an issue for the Millers. Tom Lawrence was signed on loan to bolster the attack but Jordan Bowery’s strike against the Tangerines was their first and only goal in five league outings. They’ve failed to score in four of their nine away games and possess a worrying W1-D4-L4 record on the road.
This weekend they travel to Cardiff and I’ve just got to be with the Bluebirds. Russell Slade’s hosts hold the Championship’s best home record (W7-D0-L2) and have taken 15 points from their last five outings at the Cardiff City Stadium – their best spell of home form since the start of their victories promotion campaign in 2012/13.
Last weekend Slade’s men piled more misery on Watford with a well-earned 1-0 win away – their first on the road this season – and they should be trusted at odds of 9/10 with BetVictor to continue their excellent record in front of their home fans this weekend. It’s a super price.