UK & Ireland Football

Championship Betting: Can Preston push on for a play-off spot?

Championship RSS / / 27 November 2008 / Leave a Comment

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Andrew French issues another bulletin from the frontline of Championship punting.

We're not even in December, and yet already many teams who might have harboured hopes of promotion to the Premiership must look at the league table and be fearful that the top two places are already out of their reach.

Two such clubs meet in the Saturday tea-time live game as Preston host Bristol City. Both have had brushes with promotion in recent seasons, and yet they go into the weekend 12 points or more behind second-placed Birmingham, and at least 18 adrift of leaders Wolves.

Although Watford showed last season that a big lead at this stage can count for very little, it's hard to imagine that both of the Midlands pair will collapse - and even if they do, Reading have looked more than capable of filling one of the spots.

So, for Preston and City, it's already looking like a fight for one of the four play-off spots - and that means, even this early on, this is a game with plenty of significance, especially when you factor in that both clubs are outside the top six as things stand.

Preston have had a rollercoaster campaign already, and we're little more than a third of the way through it. Off to a flying start, Alan Irvine's men then hit the buffers, but have bounced back recently and are unbeaten in four, three of which were away from home.

City, on the other hand, have been on the slide of late. A clutch of draws at Ashton Gate have combined to leave them with just one win in seven games. In midweek, they were ahead against Watford for just 60 seconds before being held 1-1.

Gary Johnson's side have traditionally been hard to break down, but even that characteristic has slipped recently as they have shipped 11 goals in their last five games. The City boss has threatened to swing the axe, but I can't see much respite for him this weekend.

Preston would be my choice in the Match Odds market at [2.16], and I can see it being relatively open. Nine league games at Deepdale have averaged three goals apiece, and while Johnson will want to halt City's slide, packing men behind the ball and trying to kick a point is not generally his style. Therefore, Over 2.5 goals at [2.04] is my preference.

With that in mind, my Correct Score choice would be 2-1 at [9.4], although I'm not averse to backing Preston for a 3-0 success at [23.0] - City have twice conceded four goals in their last five outings.

Elsewhere, Charlton's defeat at QPR in midweek was a winner for me, but by all accounts they put up a much better show than in recent weeks. Although caretaker boss Phil Parkinson worked closely with axed manager Alan Pardew, it seems that once again a different voice and a few new ideas can often revitalise an ailing side.

The Addicks have the perfect opportunity to gain a much-needed win when they host fellow strugglers Southampton at the weekend
. The Saints have a much better record on the road than they do at home, but notwithstanding that, I still think Charlton will build on their midweek display and lift some of the gloom at The Valley.

The Addicks can be backed at [2.32], and I would strongly suggest a punt on Over 2.5 goals at [2.02]: Charlton's nine home games have produced 33 goals, while Southampton's nine away fixtures have seen the net bulge 27 times.

New manager Brendan Rodgers takes charge of Watford for the first time this weekend, and that that would be a good reason to back the Hornets anyway - given they are at home to Doncaster makes me urge you even more strongly to do so at a price of around [1.84].

Watford have struggled so far this season, but a comprehensive win over QPR last weekend and a hard-earned point at Bristol City in midweek suggests they shouldn't really be as close as they are to the drop zone.

One thing the Hornets do well is score goals: 29 goals makes them the third highest scorers in the division. Alright, so they also have the joint worst defensive record, but that ability to hit the net ought to be enough to see of Doncaster, who just don't score goals. They have netted a miserable eight in 19 league games, and have not managed more than one in a match all season.

If you're considering a Correct Score bet, then something 'to nil' must be high on the agenda. Watford to win 2-0 appeals at [10.5].

Lastly, I'd suggest backing Crystal Palace to beat QPR at odds of [2.12]. Rangers have won only one away league game and scored just two goals in nine attempts. They were, by all accounts, quite dire at Watford last week. Palace have won three of their last four and can extend Rangers' woeful away run.

I'll be combining Preston, Charlton, Watford and Palace in a fourfold on Betfair Multiples, which pays around [17.6].

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