Mike Holden on the EFL: Plucky Brewers can end Pirelli gloom

Nigel Clough can guide Burton to a huge three points against Norwich
Nigel Clough can guide Burton to a huge three points against Norwich
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Burton have suffered eight straight defeats at the Pirelli Stadium but it hasn't knocked their indomitable spirit and they can finally get their rewards on home soil against an uninspiring Norwich side, says Mike Holden.

"The former Ipswich centre back still considers himself a rookie in management terms but Colchester picked up maximum points from five games between December 17 and January 7 last season, and they’ve already taken 10 points from a possible 12 this month, so we should trust McGreal to have the U’s prepared right."

Burton v Norwich
Championship, Saturday 15:00

Burton suffered an eighth straight home defeat against Leeds on Boxing Day, having held the lead for 30 minutes either side of the break only to then concede twice in the space of four minutes. It was the sort of demoralising setback that would generate a sense of foreboding at most clubs but the Brewers will carry on regardless.

There's arguably no team in the country that picks up themselves up from the canvas better and keep coming back for more. Burton are cast-iron relegation fodder in terms of budget and personnel but Nigel Clough has made them ultra-resilient, able to brush off each disappointment and go again.

They are dogged and consistent, generally reducing games to fine margins, and it has reaped big rewards on the road over the past couple of months with wins at Millwall, Bolton and Reading, plus a draw at Brentford. According to Clough, performances at the Pirelli have been no worse, his players have just made more individual errors at key moments.

However, their persistence on home soil can finally pay off against an unconvincing Norwich side this weekend. Last week, alleged discontent behind the scenes at Carrow Road reached the mainstream media when the Independent carried a report on player mutiny over the training methods of Daniel Farke.

The Norfolk club were well beaten at home by Brentford in their next outing but responded with a much-needed win at beleaguered Birmingham, although that result probably said as much about the state of play at St Andrew's. This ought to be a bigger barometer of their character and Burton are worth chancing.

Recommended bet:
1pt Burton to beat Norwich at [3.85]


Blackpool v Plymouth
League One, Saturday 15:00

No single player has had a bigger impact on results in the EFL this season than Toumani Diagouraga. Plymouth were bottom of the table with five points from 12 games when the French midfielder rocked up as a free agent in October, they've since taken 22 points from the next dozen outings.

So it was inevitable that the Pilgrims would alter their stance on the length of a permanent contract ahead of the January window and table an 18-month deal for the 30-year-old Frenchman with his current one due to expire in the next few weeks. But the market seems a little slower to react to his impact.

'Expected Goals' probably goes a long way towards explaining why Blackpool have made it into odds-on territory for this clash. The Seasiders are posting mid-table numbers over the entire 24 matches, whereas Plymouth remain the second-weakest team in the division by that metric.

But it seemingly makes few allowances for the turnaround in between, the fact that Argyle are now consistently keeping 11 men on the pitch -
they picked up five red cards before the end of September - because Diagouraga is patrolling things in the middle of the park and anticipating situations where they might otherwise become stretched.

By my reckoning, these two teams have posted almost identical numbers in terms of shot count and chance creation in relation to quality of opposition faced over the past eight matches and Argyle represent another lively runner at a big price. These two teams were promoted together and they are currently separated by just one point.

Recommended bet:
1pt Plymouth to beat Blackpool at [5.00]


Chesterfield v Colchester
League Two, Saturday 15:00

Chesterfield's revival under Jack Lester has hit the buffers since captain Ian Evatt sustained a knee injury in the first half at Stevenage last weekend. Suddenly, they are looking stretched and disjointed, and the transfer window cannot open quick enough.

The Spireites had picked up 15 of their 20 points in the nine games prior to Evatt's absence but they've since had to change shape to 3-5-2, which isn't a system they want to play, and they've been comfortably brushed aside by the Boro (1-5) and Crewe (0-2), two teams who have been hardly setting the division alight in recent months.

Lester might strike upon a solution of sorts on the back of those two humbling defeats but Chesterfield would surely need a huge hike in standards to be suddenly ready for Colchester, who climbed up to fifth with a 2-0 away success at Crawley on Boxing Day.

That was their ninth win in the last 14 league outings and fifth out of seven on the road. Now McGreal is fixating on the recovery of his players ahead of the trip to the Proact, confident that not much work needs to be done on the training ground in their current form.

The former Ipswich centre back still considers himself a rookie in management terms but Colchester picked up maximum points from five games between December 17 and January 7 last season, and they've already taken 10 points from a possible 12 this month, so we should trust him to have the U's prepared right.

Recommended bet:
1pt Colchester to beat Chesterfield at [2.38]

Mike Holden Profit/Loss 2017-18

Staked: 64 pts
Returned: 38.26 pts
P/L: -25.74 pts

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