League Two Betting: Back cup kings Southend to win at Cheltenham

Phil Brown needs to make sure his Southend keep winning if they are to make the play-offs
Phil Brown needs to make sure his Southend keep winning if they are to make the play-offs

Southend need to pretend the play-offs start now and put on one of their great runs, while Bury have great Hope of a win, says Ian Lamont, who also goes for an outsider's chance on Torquay, who really must win to stay up...

"Pompey fans had plenty to cheer this week, off the field. If Liverpool win the Premier League title the south coast club gets an extra £1m for Glen Johnson – and Pompey are months ahead of schedule on clearing their debts. The dreams of the sages in the stands will be doing overtime drooling over possible new signings."

Cheltenham 3.02/1 v Southend 2.89/5; the draw 3.3512/5 

Value. That's what we're seeking this week. Southend represent some if they can convince themselves that the play-offs start now.

They have never been the most consistent - under Paul Sturrock or now - but having overcome their glut of draws, during which boss Phil Brown moaned about luck, injuries and opposition keepers' form, they seem ready to put together one of their good runs. 

Now he thinks they have turned a corner, after two wins, and is thinking about offering Freddy Eastwood a new contract and the players relishing competing for places.

When Southend are good - when Kevan Hurst is flying, when Anthony Straker strides forward, when they get to grips with a game - they can be very, very good.

They can put good runs of form together. They need to do that, starting now, as their last six games include Rochdale (a), Fleetwood (a) and Burton (h). They also need to turn recent wins into away performances, having not won in nine away games, stress Opta.

The first thing Brown did a year ago when taking charge was to tighten the defence and four straight clean sheets owes much to finally solving the centre back issue with Jakob Sokolik, on loan from Liverpool. Southend have 17 a clean sheets  this season, so 3.185/40 seems high for 'yes' in the 'Southend clean sheet' market. Opta point out that the Shrimpers have conceded the fewest goals (36), jointly with Chesterfield, this season.

Jacob Murphy, a speedy winger from Norwich, could be just the sort of secret weapon to add to Canaries team-mate Jamar Loza, who has already scored on loan.

Wins at Morecambe and Chesterfield and against Millwall in the FA Cup show Brown can forge great spirit. After they lost to Hull, the hangover ensued. That cup feel needs to return. 

As Accrington's James Beattie assessed, early goals is the way to defeat Cheltenham. Wily Brown will have noted that. Cheltenham's Jermaine McGlashan, Byron Harrison and Michael Ihiekwe will need containing, but the Robins are effectively working for next season. Shellshock early tactics would put the visitors in the ascendancy in the match and in the play-off picture, because York and Plymouth are chasing hard.

Recommended Bet:
Back Southend @ 2.89/5

Portsmouth 2.89/5 v Hartlepool 3.02/1; the draw 3.39/4

Portsmouth suddenly seem unshackled under Andy Awford. Sacked Richie Barker, who bounced back quickly by joining MK Dons to replace Gary Waddock as No 2, had plenty of detractors, but he did at least sort out Pompey's penchant for leaking goals, to a large extent.

In his four months, he oversaw nine clean sheets, eight in 2014. But his team also drew 10 blanks in front of goal, leading to their fall to the bottom four.

Nobody can pretend everything is suddenly rosy after one win under Awford, but maybe promoting from within will work.
Hartlepool are in no state to be facing a team with fresh impetus after three straight defeats. They have scored just once in four away games and won once away in seven. 

Furthermore Pompey fans had other things to cheer this week, off the field. If Liverpool win the Premier League title the south coast club gets an extra £1m windfall for Glen Johnson - and Pompey are 'months ahead of schedule'  on clearing their debts. The dreams of the sages in the stands will be doing overtime drooling over possible new signings.

Expect an expectant Fratton Park crowd to be rewarded.

Recommended Bet
Back Portsmouth @ 2.89/5

Bury 2.35/4 v Exeter 3.55/2; the draw 3.613/5

David Flitcroft still has critics after his stint at Barnsley, but his Bury team - and board - seem to be giving him plenty of backing. After the weather thwarted momentum in January, there are plenty of signs of improvement and momentum building after one defeat in 13 games.

But with only five of those wins, the Shakers did slip to just above the relegation zone, such has been the roundabout between places 13 and 20.

With a little help from his friends, however, Flitcroft found hope. To be precise, Everton's Hallam Hope, who has scored in consecutive games on loan. His impact has delighted the boss.

With eight clean sheet in those 13, Bury will fancy their chances against an ever-evolving Exeter side who must be driving Paul Tisdale mad.

The Grecians, with a pretty even away record, may fancy a positive result here, but Bury appear to be on a more consistent run and so offer value at 2.26/5. Opta offer useful pointers. Bury are 12 unbeaten (eight draws) at Gigg Lane, while Exeter have scored in eight consecutive away games, the joint-longest current run in League Two, but have also gone 13 away without a clean sheet. A high-scoring home win then!

Recommended Bet
Back Bury @ 2.35/4

Torquay 4.03/1 v Scunthorpe 2.26/5; the draw 3.412/5

Are you ready for an 'outside chance' value punt? 

Torquay pretty much have to win to stay up - if they don't and Wycombe and Portsmouth win, it's pretty much curtains - so here goes. 

To win, the Gulls might have to rely on Scunthorpe suffering complacency on the scale of England's cricketers against Holland.

But then again such a scenario and a home victory is not impossible. Never, in football, is anything a certainty: I give you Wigan defeating Manchester City in the FA Cup. Twice, that is, in 10 months! And Crystal Palace beating Chelsea.

Scunthorpe's contenders need to be pushed into having an off-day by some astute tactics from Chris Hargreaves, as well as the father of all team talks, starting with 'you're playing for your contracts, whatever division we're in next season' and moving on to a video of the greatest FA Cup Final upset I can remember - Wimbledon beating Liverpool. 

In any case if the Torquay lads can't fire themselves up for this, they might as well quit sport.

Chinks of light for Torquay include:
1 letting in just once per match in nine of the last 10 games. 
2 winning 2-1 twice at home last month (the price for a repeat correct score is a miserly 13.012/1 seeing as 0-2 is as short as 10.09/1 
3 Signing defender Baily Cargill from Bournemouth and striker Shaquile Coulthirst from Spurs (to show the underperforming likes of Karl Hawley and Elliot Benyon how to score, presumably).

They also need Scunthorpe's nerves to jangle. An historic 24-game unbeaten run can weigh heavy, when it becomes more a case of 'let's not lose, to keep it going' rather than 'let's try to win', dropping your guard and making one mistake.

All bubbles burst. Like stock market runs, they do so when everyone catches onto them and tries to make some money. Being the contrarian often pays.

And it's now or never for the Gills.

Recommended Bet
Back Torquay @ 4.0

P/L 2013-14

Wagered: 154 points
Returned: 121.94 points
P/L: -32.06
FA Cup +5.1pt

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