Mike Holden on the EFL: Be cheeky and side with Micciche

Dan Micciche can bag his first win as MK Dons boss against Portsmouth
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It's been a tough start for Dan Micciche following his return to MK Dons but the visit of Portsmouth could be timely with a couple of key absentees likely to weaken Kenny Jackett's men...

"Portsmouth are still trading like a team that belongs in the top six but last weekend's 2-2 draw at home to Doncaster means they haven't won in five attempts or managed a clean sheet in nine. Moreover, they also lost keeper Stephen Henderson to injury and centre back Christian Burgess to a late red card in that game."

Pompey visit offers Dons a chance to win again

MK Dons v Portsmouth
League One, Saturday 15:00

MK Dons are trying to rediscover their identity as a team that dominates possession and plays out from the back under new boss Dan Micciche and successive 1-0 defeats to Coventry and Walsall suggest it could be a long road to salvation. The Dons are currently third from bottom and three points off safety.

However, the visit of Portsmouth could be a timely pick-me-up against opposition made to measure because Kenny Jackett's men aren't known for pressing aggressively high up the pitch and that might just allow the hosts to settle into this one and generate the necessary confidence as time progresses.

The visitors are still trading like a team that belongs in the top six but last weekend's 2-2 draw at home to Doncaster means Pompey haven't won in five attempts or managed a clean sheet in nine. Moreover, they also lost keeper Stephen Henderson to injury and centre back Christian Burgess to a late red card in that game.

So now Jackett must revert to Luke McGee, the keeper he went out of his way to replace in the loan market on deadline day, with 19-year-old academy product Alex Bass the only other back-up option. Henderson did his groin against Donny and won't be back for at least two months.

Milton Keynes have only won twice since the end of September but they consistently deal in fine margins and their last six home games have all finished under 2.5 goals, producing two wins (against Fleetwood and Peterborough), three draws and only a solitary defeat (against in-form Plymouth).

Recommended Bet
1pt MK Dons to beat Portsmouth at [3.80]

Rowett's rock-solid outfit good value for the win

Derby v Norwich
Championship, Saturday 15:00

The market isn't sold on Derby as the team most likely to follow Wolves up into Premier League automatically, mainly due to the emergence of Aston Villa in recent weeks, but the Rams are looking like a team who will be extremely difficult to shift from the coveted second spot.

They might have drawn four of their last seven matches but 11 clean sheets in the last 14 is a pretty bold statement of intent. Gary Rowett has put a rock-solid structure in place and now Derby are starting to reap the rewards of growing confidence by adding greater variety to their build-up play.

The 3-0 win over Brentford last weekend might be mitigated by some as the inevitable consequence of the visitors losing Sergio Canos to an early red card but it's an argument that overlooks the fact the Rams haven't been behind at any stage in the last 11 matches.

Daniel Farke is quick to admit his Norwich team lack ideas going forward. Speaking after the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough last weekend - in which they also benefited from an early red card for Rudy Gestede, later rescinded - the German spoke with an air of resignation about his team not moving the ball quickly enough or having enough runners from deep.

The first goal is invariably crucial for the Norfolk outfit in allowing them to sit back and play on the counter, which is by far their most effective strategy, as demonstrated by 1-0 away wins against five of the seven teams immediately above them in the table.

Derby should be too streetwise to fall for that trick, though, and they look value to turn the tables by landing a low-scoring victory themselves.

Recommended Bet
1pt Derby to beat Norwich at [2.14]

In-form Crawley a big price for another three points

Crawley v Grimsby
League Two, Saturday 15:00

Crawley have won eight of their last 11 matches since November exits from the FA Cup and Checkatrade Trophy left them with only League Two survival to think about. On that evidence, they should be too strong for a beleaguered Grimsby side that lacks any sort of identity.

The natives are getting restless in Cleethorpes with hundreds of fans joining a protest march before the 1-1 draw with Cheltenham last weekend, calling for the heads of chairman John Fenty and manager Russell Slade. So playing away might suit the Mariners right now but that doesn't cure their many other shortcomings.

A goal inside three minutes by new signing Simeon Jackson against the Robins should have been the launchpad for a first win in 11 attempts but it was a performance that fizzled out long before Will Boyle's equaliser 13 minutes from time. Yet it says a lot that both Fenty and Slade were encouraged.

Jackson - on loan from Walsall - is just one of eight strikers that Slade can choose from in a bloated squad that lacks any standout quality, togetherness or leadership. Indeed, you have to wonder about the atmosphere in the dressing room and how the other seven feel about his arrival.

By contrast, Harry Kewell is clearly fostering a wonderful team spirit at the Braodfield Stadium and that's bringing the best out of Dutch forward Enzio Boldewijn who is currently on a hot streak of seven goals in his last eight matches.

The Red Devils have won five of their last six matches on home soil and came from behind to beat Chesterfield on the road last weekend, which leaves them with an incredible 18-point cushion on the drop zone. Attention has now turned wholeheartedly towards bridging a six-point gap that separates them from the play-off places.

Recommended bet:
1pt Crawley to beat Grimsby at [2.36]

Mike Holden Profit/Loss 2017-18

Staked: 91 pts
Returned: 46.92 pts
P/L: -44.08 pts

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