Mike Holden on the EFL: Robins can make the most of second wind

Bristol City players Korey Smith and Bobby Reid
Bristol City look a decent price to bag a surprise win at Middlesborough
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Bristol City mixed things up to revive their play-off hopes in midweek and they might be a spot of value to continue their strong head-to-head record against a labouring Middlesbrough...

"The Robins have hit the reset button and we should give them the benefit of a clean slate because the prize in front of them remains a tantalising one in spite of recent disappointments. They also boast a fine record against Boro, having triumphed in each of the last five meetings stretching back to November 2012."

Variety can add spice to Robins

Middlesbrough v Bristol City
Championship, Saturday 15:00

The race for the Championship play-offs is hotting up with seven teams just five points apart in contention for two places and a throng of pivotal six-pointers lurking on the horizon.

Each team brings something different to the table and while Derby and Middlesbrough both benefit from an obvious class advantage in terms of personnel, there's no obvious standout contender. If anything, the seven involved are mostly distinguishable by their flaws.

That alone should raise eyebrows about an away team being [4.70] in a head to head where nearly all the pressure is on the hosts, even more so when you take into account the home side's awful record against top-half opposition.

Boro dropped out of the top six after their 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United in midweek, meaning they've managed just two wins in 17 attempts against the ten other teams still involved in the race for the Premier League.

It's a problem that has been consistent through two managers playing a variety of different systems with many local pundits suggesting the problem is probably mental.

Boro should be challenging and still ought to finish in the top six with what Tony Pulis has at his disposal but, in truth, there's an underlying impression that another season at this level might be for the best all things considered.

Bristol City have spent much of 2018 in a tailspin but they returned to winning ways against Birmingham (3-1) in midweek with Lee Johnson making some bold changes in response to their limp 2-0 defeat at Millwall last weekend and the tactical reshuffle had the desired effect.

Whether Johnson opts to stick with target men Milan Duric and Famara Diedhiou as a front two - with 20-goal striker Bobby Reid coming in from the left flank - remains to be seen. But he has the options to mix things up better than Pulis.

The Robins have hit the reset button and we should give them the benefit of a clean slate because the prize in front of them remains a tantalising one in spite of recent disappointments. They also boast a fine record against Boro, having triumphed in each of the last five meetings stretching back to November 2012.

Argyle to tighten their play-off grip

Plymouth v Portsmouth
League One, Saturday 15:00

The play-off race is a similar story in League One, albeit with fewer protagonists, as five teams fight for two places, separated by just two points. Yet there's one standout candidate to nail down one of those berths in Plymouth, who have kept pace with leaders Wigan since mid-October and show no signs of letting up.

The Pilgrims have won 11 of their last 12 home games - including each of the last six - and they look too good to resist at [2.80] in the Dockyard Derby against seventh-placed Portsmouth.

An intense rivalry has developed between two clubs in recent years, who had barely crossed swords for 20 years prior to this decade. Kenny Jackett might approach these games differently to his predecessor Paul Cook, but opposite number Derek Adams is well briefed on many of the Pompey players now and can adjust his tactics accordingly.

This will be Adams' eighth match in charge against the Hampshire club and while the home team has only won two of the previous seven, a full house at Home Park can rekindle the memory of the most important meeting of the lot, when Argyle pounced in stoppage time in the play-off semi-final second leg two years ago to book a trip to Wembley.

Plymouth can open up a four-point cushion with victory and they shouldn't fear the consequences of defeat too much with a game in hand on everyone else. Portsmouth have upped their game in recent weeks but their away record on the whole is nothing to shout about with ten defeats in 20 matches.

If the hosts can marginalise Brett Pitman and reduce his involvement in open play, they will go a long way towards nullifying the visitors altogether.

Either way, Plymouth are the better side in terms of shot ratio - whereas the market tends to lean heavier on expected goals - and that's why the Green Army represent consistent value. The big hitters have been opposing them all season have long since done their dough, whereas those with faith in Adams and his methods can continue to reap the rewards.

Mike Holden Profit/Loss 2017-18

Staked: 136 pts
Returned: 94.65 pts
P/L: -41.35 pts

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