Hartlepool should enjoy the relatively short trip to hapless Morecambe, says Ian Lamont, who backs Carlisle's continued revival and goals at Accrington...
"Shay McCartan and Billy Kee need to find their top form for the rest of the season for John Coleman's men to bridge the gap to the playoffs."
Morecambe 2.68/5 v Hartlepool 2.915/8; the draw 3.613/5
Relatively speaking, Hartlepool don't face a particularly long trip to Morecambe. It is "only" just over two hours, which must be a relief to weary minds when they consider League Two's longer trips to places such as Yeovil.
It's got to be an advantage for an away side, feeling relatively fresh from a shortish journey, when they are used to travelling long distances, especially when the home side are struggling.
Dave Jones' men got nothing from the just slightly longer trip to Blackpool a fortnight ago, but then Gary Bowyer's side are in pretty good nick, unlike Jim Bentley's side who have suffered seven straight defeats.
A third late payment of wages at the Globe Arena clearly weighs heavy with Bentley, who seems to be at the end of his tether when he says he will consider his future at the end of the season. If you are looking for a manager of the year, the Shrimps boss would be a strong candidate up to mid-February, considering how he had fashioned a team to ride high in mid-table against a backdrop of the second-lowest crowd averages in the division and off-field troubles.
He needs something big from Paul Mullin, Lee Molyneux or Kevin Ellison here, to avoid Morecambe, placed 20th, slipping further down the table. The final five fixtures don't look pretty: Stevenage, Colchester, Exeter, Wycombe and Luton all consider themselves to be playoff contenders.
It would be a miracle if second-bottom Newport could make up the 10-point gap to Morecambe, given their own run-in which includes Exeter, Plymouth, Accrington and Carlisle.
This game, however, is all about how much Dave Jones' visitors, in 22nd place, can find to claw themselves away from Newport, who are five points below them.
Pools have suffered three straight defeats themselves, to in-form sides, but did catch Cambridge unawares in their previous away game. Lewis Alessandra, Nathan Thomas and Padraig Amond need to respond to Jones' call to "shoot on site". It is all very well not registering a shot on target against the likes of Portsmouth (8 off target), but at least they struck 15 off (8 on) against Blackpool.
As Jones moans, they just have to pick out the right pass. Well, and then convert the chance.
They should be boosted by the return from injury of Carl Magnay after a knee injury, but he might not start. Scott Harrison and Brad Walker have been keeping returning players such as Matthew Bates out of the team, as Jones sees potential in those who have taken to the field. The away win is worth the gamble.
Back Hartlepool @ 2.915/8
Carlisle 2.447/5 v Notts County 3.211/5; the draw 3.613/5
Talking of feeling fresh and relieved, Carlisle's players must be on several clouds higher than they were a week ago, when they had fallen out of the playoff positions after not even scoring in seven games.
Although their positive goal difference has been totally wiped out, being back in the top seven with two goals - one scored early in each half - and a clean sheet will really have boosted their confidence and belief for the run-in.
The early goals meant Jason Kennedy and Jabo Ibehre were not rushed back from injury and used as substitutes in the win at Yeovil, while new face Ben Tomlinson has also had to bide his time. Samir Nabi's attacking prowess could also be key if they are to unlock a Notts County side who have won four of their last six matches, with Shola Ameobi scoring four times.
The Magpies are seriously unlikely to make up 13 points across six games to reach the top seven, however, but a team playing with a carefree freedom will be a danger to the Cumbrians. Keith Curle knows all about sides like that. Now it is time to knuckle down to ensure they are best placed for promotion at the end of the season - and that means winning this one.
Back Carlisle @ 2.447/5
Accrington Stanley 1.981/1 v Crewe 4.216/5; the draw 3.814/5
Much was expected of Kenny Lunt years ago, as a player. There was one summer when rumours persisted that he was on his was to play for Liverpool. It never happened and now his lot, as assistant manager of Crewe, is to big up the case for his boss, David Artell, to be manager of the month for March (the result will be announced on Friday).
Artell has certainly done well since his appointment in January. He was a little slow to settle in, taking one point from his first four games, but six wins in his last 11 matches shows you the depth of improvement. A defeat to Newport was the only blip in March.
Goals have been in decent supply, through the likes of Chris Dagnall and Jordan Bowery.
There are positive noises about next season.
Accrington, meanwhile, have something to aim for this season. Just. They remain seven points off the playoff positions, although it seems a tall order to force their way into the top seven at this juncture, especially given a vastly inferior goal difference to most realistic candidates (bar Carlisle).
Shay McCartan and Billy Kee need to find their top form for the rest of the season for John Coleman's men to bridge that gap, while Seamus Conneely needs to keep up the blistering form that has helped propel Stanley from strugglers to mid-table safety in a matter of weeks.
Accrington's 5-0 win over Leyton Orient might give a false impression of their "goals for" in the last six games. However, combined with Crewe's recent tally of 10, I'm prepared to suggest that this game might garner more than 2.5 goals.
Coleman's men, who haven't lost at home in seven games (winning four), fear nobody after victory at Plymouth, so it is worth siding with them for victory, too.
Back Accrington Stanley @ 1.981/1
Back over 2.5 goals @ 2.111/10