Mike Holden on the EFL: Seasiders can make a splash at Spotland

Gary Bowyer can guide free-shooting Blackpool to victory over Rochdale on New Year's Day
Gary Bowyer can guide free-shooting Blackpool to victory over Rochdale on New Year's Day
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Rochdale's season is going from bad to worse and they could be in the wrong place at the wrong time against frustrated Blackpool, who remain winless over the festive period despite spending most of the past three matches on the front foot...

"On current form, you wouldn't bet against the Blackpool attack scoring two goals for the third game in a row, which would surely go a long way to netting maximum reward against beleaguered Dale, especially if its combined with a bit more common sense from the visiting defence early doors."

Rochdale v Blackpool
League One, Monday 15:00

Problems are breeding problems for Keith Hill. His Rochdale side find themselves in unfamiliar territory, second from bottom with just two wins in their last 15 league outings. And the Boltonian, having been blessed with the midas touch for so long, has seemingly forgotten how to arrest a slump - everything he has tried in this faltering campaign so far has backfired.

Dale were well beaten at Doncaster on Friday night. Behind after just four minutes and 2-0 down after 27, Hill was compelled to shuffle his pack long before half time but is now lamenting the damage he might have done in rushing Calvin Andrew back from a sickness bug, while fellow striker Steve Davies, later introduced as a second-half substitute, also hobbled off with an injury.

With other players low on confidence, and their plight not helped by positional tweaks and various changes of system, things could get a whole lot worse before they get better for the Spotland outfit. Blackpool look well placed to take advantage. They've been dominant over the festive period, having twice given themselves a mountain to climb.

Scunthorpe (2-3) and Plymouth (2-2) raced into two-goal leads at Bloomfield Road last week but were both made to graft for the four points they eventually departed with, having withstood a bombardment as Gary Bowyer's men racked up an astonishing 45 shots.

On current form, you wouldn't bet against the Blackpool attack scoring two goals for the third game in a row, which would surely go a long way to netting maximum reward against beleaguered Dale, especially if its combined with a bit more common sense from the visiting defence early doors.

Recommended bet:
1pt Blackpool to beat Rochdale at [3.70]


Norwich v Millwall
Championship, Monday 15:00

Neil Harris has challenged his Millwall players to start 2018 with a bang, by winning their first away game of the season. The Lions were triumphant thanks to a solitary Steve Morison strike in a tasty London derby with QPR on Friday night but the game itself wasn't so dramatic that we should be overly concerned about them succumbing to fatigue.

The Londoners have been fairly solid on the road, keeping things tight and frustrating their opponents for the most part. The likes of Wolves (0-1), Brentford (0-1), Sheffield Wednesday (1-2) and Fulham (0-1) have edged them out by the odd goal, while other promotion hopefuls Bristol City, Preston, Cardiff and Aston Villa have been held to goalless draws.

But all of that means a lighter schedule in the new year, with six of the next seven away trips against teams who currently occupy the bottom half, and the challenge that awaits at Carrow Road should seem painless by comparison. Norwich are ordinary and while doubts remain over the relationship between Daniel Farke and his players, the Canaries are crying out to be opposed.

Farke has eased the pressure on himself by picking up four points from trips to Birmingham (2-0) and Burton (0-0) last week and he tried to combat Millwall's rest advantage by making six changes at the Pirelli, although that was arguably more out of necessity than the strategic gamble he has subsequently attempted to claim.

Flair players Alex Pritchard and James Maddison started on the bench against Nigel Clough's men, with Farke later admitting both players are vulnerable to the demands of the current schedule. It leaves you harbouring the suspicion that Norwich have made scant progress in spite of those last two results and this might be exposed against a slightly better class of opposition.

Recommended bet:
1pt Millwall to beat Norwich at [4.00]


Mansfield v Carlisle
League Two, Monday 15:00

It's been a frustrating season for Steve Evans, his Mansfield side finding their best form only fleetingly during the first half of the season. But the Glaswegian was cock-a-hoop with their "heroic" performance two days ago as the Stags came from behind to beat fellow promotion hopefuls Wycombe with second-half goals from Alfie Potter and Lee Angol.

However, it was an extreme high that could come at an immediate price because it transpired that Evans had subjected his players to an old-fashioned rollicking when they were trailing at the break, despite the fact many of them had been struggling with a virus in the days leading up to the game. In his view, they were hiding behind it and feeling a bit too sorry for themselves.

So kudos to Evans for getting the reaction he wanted but he might only be deferring the lethargy by 48 hours and Carlisle are perfectly capable of exploiting any lack of energy at Field Mill. The Cumbrians are accustomed to low-scoring encounters, having nicked 1-0 wins at Crawley, Colchester, Grimsby and Forest Green in their last seven away games.

Keith Curle's men were edged out by Coventry two days ago but had been impressive 3-1 winners against Accrington prior to that and they will consider the festive season to be something of a leveller on the back of two home games. Long journeys are customary all year round for them, so this mission - a fourth game in nine days - will be considered nothing out of the ordinary.

Recommended bet:
1pt Carlisle to beat Mansfield at [3.80]

Mike Holden Profit/Loss 2017-18

Staked: 67 pts
Returned: 38.26 pts
P/L: -28.74 pts

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