Dave Artell's men should have the bit between their teeth now they are back in the top three, says Ian Lamont, who tips Stevenage for a hard-fought home win...
"Walsall's inability to keep clean sheets should give optimism to Crewe, who have rescued more points (19) from losing positions than other teams in League Two, point out Opta"
Colchester's frontline must take advantage
Cambridge United 3.613/5 v Colchester 2.26/5; the draw 3.711/4
It seems the inevitable has happened and Cambridge's slump has cost Colin Calderwood his job as manager.
A casual observer might ask why they didn't act earlier than three days before the end of the transfer window. A new man doesn't exactly have time to bring in new faces. But the truth is the decision to "part company" with Calderwood came after a second 4-0 defeat in 10 days. At home, too.
The Abbey Stadium was a disgruntled place on Tuesday night. It is ironic that Cambridge became the 10th team to change managers this season, just as they sank into the bottom eight, where all the others have already changed bosses. The price of 6.05/1 on them in the relegation market is beginning to look quite generous.
Anyone thinking Dan Jones, Paul Lewis or Victor Adeboyejo, just brought in on loan from Barnsley, had an immediate chance to rectify the past few weeks' poor run of results with another home match should imagine Colchester being a train that could easily have derailed them again. If first Stevenage and then Salford could stick four past keeper Dimitar Mitov and his defence, then what score could the U's muster after beating leaders Swindon 3-1 and tightening the gap, in fifth, to the automatic promotion places?
Well, a note of caution. For a start, that Colchester win was at home, where John McGreal's men have only two defeats and have scored twice as many - roughly - as they have conceded. And this match is away, where the Essex side have drawn eight of their 15 games and have a +4 goal difference.
Plus, a frontline led by Luke Norris (7 goals) and Theo Robinson (8) had failed to score in the previous two matches: goalless draws at Exeter and at home to Bradford.
The visitors' long unbeaten run of 16 games (Opta say their longest run better than that - of 18 - last happened in 1997) has also consisted of nine draws, six in their past eight games. Of their past eight away games in that period, they have won just twice, the last at Leyton Orient on Boxing Day. They have since been held at bottom clubs Stevenage and Morecambe and high-flyers Exeter.
Tuesday was the first time in eight games either Norris or Robinson had scored. McGreal could do with Frank Nouble (two goals in the last seven games) or Harry Pell (a rare scorer but industrious nuisance to oppositions in midfield) pulling all their resources together to ensure they don't miss the opportunity to rub salt into Cambridge's wounds. Perhaps Cohen Bramall's first appearance after injury since December 29 proved the catalyst. Now they must continue that momentum. A place in the top three is tantalisingly close.
Cambridge, desperate to impress, are sure to want to keep Colchester keeper Dean Gerkin on his toes as Swindon did, but this is where we find out if they have the quality Calderwood couldn't get out of them in the past couple of months, during which time they have slipped out of the top of the division.
Crewe need points to keep their top three spot
Walsall 3.55/2 v Crewe 2.245/4; the draw 3.711/4
Crewe can see the light again at the head of the pack of automatic promotion chasers, after their midweek win against Leyton Orient. And having tasted top spot in the autumn Dave Artell's men will surely want it back. Swindon, four points ahead of them, don't often look like dropping points and it is games like these that the Railwaymen have to win.
The visitors are quite capable, having beaten Cheltenham - also without conceding - in a recent run of five unbeaten. They can also win big, 4-1 and 3-1 over Carlisle and Scunthorpe respectively, or 5-1 at Stevenage. They have scored in each of their last 10, netting 16 times and conceding 12, which means their fans get plenty of entertainment.
Ideally I would like their price to be a little bigger if I am to back them on their travels, where they might be League Two's second highest scorers away (24, two behind Swindon) but have also let in the most (21, joint with Northampton).
In their last three away, they have drawn at impoverished Macclesfield and lost at Swindon and Salford. So can they be trusted at 2.26/5 to win at Walsall, who have won four and lost four of their last eight (Opta remind us) and in the past six matches scored seven and conceded nine? For a direct comparison, Crewe have netted 11 and let in seven in six matches.
Home boss Darrell Clarke has refused to blame recent reverses on playing Josh Gordon, their top scorer with nine, on the wing instead of through the middle, preferring to give Elijah Adebayo the central striking role and Jack Nolan minutes. He was also resigned to not signing anyone on transfer deadline day, indicating that he is giving people chances to impress for the rest of the season. Winger Wes McDonald recently celebrated a new deal with a goal, too.
Their inability to keep clean sheets should give Crewe, who Opta say have rescued more points (19) from losing positions than other teams in League Two optimism that their huge scoring fraternity can find sufficient goals to rekindle the form that brought them five wins a draw and a defeat from their opening seven away games this season.
Chuma Anene, Chris Porter, Tom Lowery and Daniel Powell et al really shouldn't need too much encouragement from Artell to go about converting chances if they want to earn automatic promotion.
Revamped Stevenage need to start coming good
Stevenage 2.767/4 v Leyton Orient 2.915/8; the draw 3.412/5
At what point are Stevenage going to come good on their potential, having inflicted that first 4-0 defeat on Cambridge a fortnight ago? Graham Westley's public pep talk that Boro have Championship potential perhaps worked on the players for that one. But he can't use the same line every week on the players or the Press.
League Two continues to be as impossible to read as ever, with inconsistency from bottom to top. Westley is right to keep mentioning Stevenage have plenty of chances - at Grimsby when chasing the game perhaps skews the statistics. But there they had 19 shots (seven on target) in a 3-1 reverse. Simeon Jackson used his experience to keep the Grimsby keeper on his toes. Clearly they are still finding their way under the manager.
Jake Cassidy is one who seems to have settled in after signing from Maidenhead, although it was Charlie Lakin who netted.
It could be that Dan Nugent and his fellow defenders have slightly less to do against Leyton Orient, who have scored once in four away games. Opta point out they haven't scored in their last three on their travels, losing all three. But then again Ross Embleton's team will see this as a chance of a rare away win (four so far, the last at everyone's favourite current fall guys, Cambridge, 3-2).
Two wins in 16 doesn't bode well for the visitors, whose top scorers remain midfielders - Josh Wright and winger Jordan Maguire-Drew.
Stevenage have just the two wins in 16, too, but at least have four clean sheets in 10 games under their re-appointed manager, while Orient last kept a clean sheet ten games ago. I'm going for Stevenage to sneak victory.
Goals aplenty at both ends for Stags and Cumbrians
Mansfield 1.910/11 v Carlisle 4.84/1; the draw 3.711/4
Topsy turvy League Two land is perhaps no better summed up than by Mansfield, a club who had huge potential when managed by both Steve Evans (he told us loudly) and David Flitcroft, who couldn't get them over the promotion line and turned them into draw specialists.
John Dempster sadly, for him, couldn't improve matters and now the Stags have lost five of their last seven League Two games, Opta remind us, and face a side who have won back-to-back league games for the first time since January last year (six), the statisticians point out.
One thing these two teams seem to be producing is goals - at either end of the field. Mansfield have scored 11 times in six games Nicky Maynard snaffling five) and conceded 13, so their games average four goals. Opta add that nobody has scored more goals in League Two in the past couple of seasons than Maynard, 21 last season for Bury and 12 in this campaign.
Carlisle have scored 10, Nathan Thomas scoring four of his season's five in that time after his hat-trick against Forest Green, and conceded 11, an average of 3.5.
With Joshua Kayode having also scored for the Cumbrians since signing on loan from Rotherham, it is easy to imagine that both side will see this as a chance to gain points and go for the jugular as they try to move away from the bottom. Logic takes us to the over 3.5 goals market where a price of 3.55/2 is hugely inviting.
Back Colchester to win at Cambridge United @ 2.26/5
Back Stevenage @ 2.767/4 to beat Leyton Orient
Back Crewe @ 2.245/4 to win at Walsall
Back over 3.5 goals in Mansfield v Carlisle @ 3.55/2