Saturday Championship Tips: The Lions and the Tigers to share the spoils

Saturday Championship Tips: The Lions and the Tigers to share the spoils

Millwall to settle for a point in East Yorkshire

Hull [3.15] v Millwall [2.36]; The Draw [3.25]
Saturday, 15:00

Millwall‘s play-off hopes are effectively over following their 2-0 defeat at home to Middlesbrough on Wednesday evening, and boss Gary Rowett may find it tricky to rally his troops ahead of this weekend’s long trip to Humberside. The former Birmingham manager was livid with the level of officiating at the Den, however, his side were second best throughout the contest, and were unable to match the passion shown by the Teessiders.

The Londoners are typically tough to beat at home, yet their recent form has been patchy, and they’ll probably be pleased to get back on the road. Millwall have the tenth best away record in the division, and only three teams can boast better figures on their travels across the last five Championship games.

The majority of their recent away fixtures have come against struggling sides, although they also eased past Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in mid-March. With just a single goal conceded in their last five away fixtures, the men from Bermondsey are incredibly tough to break down with the central defensive partnership of Alex Pearce and Jake Cooper seemingly flourishing. Eight of their 14 clean sheets have come on the road this season, and only five teams, including high-flying duo Leeds and Brentford have netted more than once when playing host to the Lions.

Millwall’s problems have largely been in the final third this season and having scored just four times since the restart, Rowett will be keen for his side to improve their conversion rate. They out-shot Boro 10-8 in midweek, yet came away empty handed, clocking up their ninth blank of the campaign.

They have also struggled to finish sides off, and have drawn seven of their nine away encounters against teams in the bottom ten. The remaining two matches were decided by just a single goal, and there is unlikely to be much between the these two sides on Saturday afternoon.

Matt Smith has netted 11 times this season, although he isn’t always a guaranteed starter, whilst second highest scorer Jed Wallace hasn’t struck since late January. Tom Bradshaw has eight for the campaign, yet his last effort arrived in the FA Cup third round. If they have any hopes of breaking into the top six next year, investing in the striking department this summer is an absolute neccessity.

Hull were defeated at Bristol City in midweek, and have now lost back-to-back Championship encounters. Despite being firmly entrenched in the relegation zone, there have been signs of life in East Yorkshire with last week’s late show against Middlesbrough offered them brief hope.

Grant McCann‘s men troubled West Brom on numerous occasions last weekend, and they also saw plenty of ball against the managerless Robins on Wednesday evening. Unfortunately, their finishing let them down once again, and they must improve their productivity in the final third against the Lions.

The hosts have nothing to lose this weekend, and with just four games left to play, they cannot afford to be passive in this contest. The visitors have very little left to play for, and aren’t quite firing on all cylinders. Neither side inspire confidence, and backing the points to be shared could be the best option. At [3.25] on the Exchange, the draw appears to be the sensible pick in this one.

Rovers and WBA to exchange blows at Ewood Park

Blackburn [5] v West Brom [1.84]; The Draw [3.6]
Saturday, 15:00

After a barren run of form, which saw them lose three consecutive Championship contests, Blackburn surprisingly got back to winning ways at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Tony Mowbray‘s gameplan was executed perfectly with full-backs Ryan Nyambe and Joe Rankin-Costello pushing high up the field in order to exploit the space. The latter hobbled off in the second half, and it remains to be seen whether he is able to recover in time for this fixture.

Rovers used the width of the pitch effectively and they also had plenty of possession, although they are unlikely to be able to exert the same level of control against their high-flying visitors on Saturday afternoon.

Adam Armstrong has found the net in back-to-back fixtures, and his long-range strike made it 15 for the campaign. More than 50% of his goals have come from outside the box, and he will be keen to add to his impressive tally against the Baggies.

Although Tuesday’s victory came on the road, the Lancastrians have largely relied upon their home form this season. They have a 9-8-4 record at Ewood Park, with only Leeds and Fulham having left here with maximum points since late September. They’ve scored six times in their last three matches at this venue, and have drawn a blank on just four occasions.

West Brom‘s accomplished victory over Derby in midweek sent them temporarily back to the top of the Championship table and it was a superb all-round performance from Slaven Bilic‘s men. The Baggies have been slightly better on the road this season, and have conceded just twice in their last five away games.

However, this is a tough game for the leaders and although title rivals Leeds left this ground with three points last weekend, they had to work for that victory, and if Sam Gallagher had converted his first half opportunity, the game could easily have taken a very different turn.

Blackburn will ask questions of the visitors defence, and should be able to find a way past the impressive Sam Johnstone this weekend. Mowbray’s men rarely draw a blank, and following on from their confidence boosting midweek win, they are likely to attack with real purpose here.

Backing BTTS in this game at 9/10 on the Sportsbook looks worth chancing, especially considering that games between these two sides are rarely dull. Four of the last five meetings have seen both sides register, and this weekend’s contest is expected to follow suit.

Nottingham Forest to leave Deepdale with at least a point

Preston [2.62] v Nottingham Forest [2.88]; The Draw [3.2]
Saturday, 15:00

It’s been a demanding couple of weeks for Championship clubs, and with the fixtures coming thick and fast, key players are slowly beginning to pick up niggling injuries. On Tuesday evening, Nottingham Forest lost the influential Joe Lolley, and the midfielder will be assessed ahead of this tie. In the same game, Samba Sow was also taken off as a precaution, with manager Sabri Lamouchi admitting that the Malian had very little left in the tank.

These are worrying developments for the East Midlanders, who will need to keep their squad fit and firing ahead of the play-offs.

Likewise, this is a quick turnaround for Preston, who left it late to snatch all three points at Hillsbrough on Wednesday evening. The Lilywhites were exceptionally poor form prior to that victory, losing four of their five previous outings. Alex Neil‘s side have dropped out of the play-off picture as a result, and the Scot will almost certainly have one eye on next season.

Forest are incredibly difficult to beat this season, and with four of their last five losses coming by a one goal margin, they rarely go down without a fight. However, turning draws into wins has been their biggest downfall in recent months. Although their away form has been eyecatching this campaign, they’ve drawn both of their away games since the restart, and with an 8-10-3 record on their travels this year, they’ve become rather predictable on the road.

Relegation-threatened Hull and Charlton are the only two sides that Preston have beaten at Deepdale since mid-December, so we can almost certainly rule out a home victory in this one. Backing Nottingham Forest Draw No Bet at 10/11 on the Sportsbook seems like a decent way of keeping our options open in this one.

You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7

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