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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Danny Cowley's Lincoln should solidify promotion potential

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Lincoln manager Danny Cowley
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Port Vale v Lincoln
Lincoln have topped the Sky Bet League Two standings for the last seven weeks and they can increase the pressure on the teams below them with a victory at Vale Park.

Danny Cowley's side have registered nine league wins this season – more than any other team in the EFL – but still do not seem to have fully won over the markets and are odds-against to overcome their 16th-placed hosts, who are wrestling with injury problems.

Port Vale manager Neil Aspin was reluctant to give too much away in his pre-match press conference but key midfielder Manny Oyeleke is a definite absentee and there are concerns over attacking midfielder Ben Whitfield and top scorer Tom Pope, who were left out of Tuesday's 1-0 success at home to Burton in the EFL Trophy.

Vale were 1-0 winners at home to Lincoln in last season's corresponding fixture but are facing a stronger Imps side this time.

Cowley has been busy strengthening his squad and made ten changes for Tuesday's EFL Trophy clash at Scunthorpe which finished 1-1 before Lincoln won 3-1 on penalties.

Lincoln are showing they can compete on even terms with third-tier opposition and are likely to be playing those teams on a regular basis next season.

The Imps are no bigger than 4-11 to go up and those odds could get even shorter after their trip to the Potteries.

3pts 6-5 Betway

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Oxford v Plymouth
Plymouth are in the familiar position of having to recover from a poor start to the season but they can edge closer to Sky Bet League One safety by beating relegation rivals Oxford at the Kassam Stadium.

After an 11-game winless start to the campaign, Argyle broke their duck with a 1-0 win at home to Wimbledon last Saturday.

It was a win that had been coming (Plymouth had picked up a well-deserved 1-1 draw at highfliers Barnsley four days previously) and should provide the platform for the Devonians to climb the table.

At the same stage of last season they were two points worse off but staged a remarkable recovery and finished the campaign only one place and three points adrift of the playoffs.

Nobody will be thinking about doing something similar in 2018-19 but Plymouth's players will be more aware than most that there is plenty of time to improve their position.

Oxford also have time to improve but their situation is more of a concern because they have the worst defensive record in the division (23 goals conceded) and haven't won a league game since August.

Injuries have not helped and they are stretched even further this week after winger Gavin Whyte was called up by Northern Ireland.

Whyte, who has scored three goals in 12 games, has been one of the few bright sparks for Oxford this season and his dynamism will be missed.

Plymouth +0.25 on Asian handicap
2pts 43-40 bet365

Cambridge v MK Dons
MK Dons have put together back-to-back league wins for the first time since August and their charge up Sky Bet League Two can continue with victory over struggling local rivals Cambridge at the Abbey Stadium.

It has taken a while for Dons boss Paul Tisdale to settle on his best team but he has come up with a winning formula this month, steering the team to wins at Port Vale (2-0) and at home to Cheltenham (3-0).

Key attacker Chuks Aneke scored in both of those games and his reintegration into the squad has been a major boost after he was widely tipped to leave the club this summer.

Aneke is capable of playing at least one level higher and his quality could be enough to see off injury-hit Cambridge, who are without centre-forwards Barry Corr and Jabo Ibehre.

MK Dons
2pts 5-4 bet365, Betway

Carlisle v Morecambe
Carlisle have been a little too inconsistent for manager John Sheridan's liking but they are just a point adrift of the Sky Bet League Two playoffs and look rock-solid odds-on favourites to beat lowly Morecambe.

Only two of Carlisle's six league wins have come in home games but their struggles at Brunton Park are unlikely to persist for long.

They were 3-1 winners at Oldham last Saturday and should be too strong for the Shrimps, who have lost eight of 12 league games this term.

2pts 5-6 bet365

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The Imps are no bigger than 4-11 to go up and those odds could get even shorter after their trip to the Potteries
E.W. Terms
Sky bet