Bolton merely clinging on now

March 12th, 2016 | Ian Carnaby's Sports News

Last week’s games may have been every bit as close as we expected but they didn’t end up as draws, which made for the poorest weekend in quite a while. The desire is always there to hit back quickly but the forthcoming matches look very tricky indeed, with various possible traps for backers.

Among them I include Manchester City at Norwich, who are in a parlous state but whose recent efforts have suggested a fighting spirit to make the other relegation-threatened teams sit up and take notice. City should win but it may well be closer than many suggest and I would not include them in a short-priced accumulator.

Derby at Rotherham would not go in either, because they are going through their usual late-season flakiness and face a team galvanised by Neil Warnock. The latter is not everyone’s cup of tea and some of his touchline antics are tiresome but there is no doubt he organises teams very quickly and Rotherham have notched two narrow wins to hint at survival.

As I said a few weeks ago, I’d have had a decent bet on all three promoted teams to survive in the Championship, this at a time when they all looked to be in trouble. MK Dons are well coached and managed and they will do just enough, I think, quite possibly making things difficult for high-flying Hull. Bristol City are a complete enigma but will stay up and can hit the target at Fulham, who are very nearly as hard to predict. Both teams should score, though I have come away from that bet.

Alll of which leaves Preston, who have fared best of the three and are making steady progress. They go to Bolton, whose off-field problems continue to mount, though there are signs of a revival under new owners. Staying up looks a huge task now, though, and I see this as a close encounter with few if any goals.

Bolton v Preston as a draw would therefore have been my only bet over the weekend but Portsmouth are looking as if the first step on a very long road back is now more than likely and the 3-1 win at Accrington will have acted as a very handy boost. They can account for Newport at Fratton Park and push the visitors closer to the trap-door, though the 8/15 with Betfred is the very shortest price you should take.

I shall be at Stoke, where I expect the home team to dictate against Southampton. The visitors will have to play Maya Yoshida alongside Virgil Van Dijk at the back, Jose Fonte having been sent off last week. Yoshida is a worry for Saints fans because he makes costly mistakes but he is a fine club professional, never complains despite being used almost exclusively as a utility player and will be happier in the middle than playing as a stop-gap full-back. This looks 1-0 or 0-0 to me, though I do not feel strongly enough about it to reach for the pocket.

Bolton v Preston 15 units THE DRAW at 23/10

PORTSMOUTH 30 units at 8/15 to beat Newport