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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Flying Fulham should keep up the pressure

Lee Bowyer's Charlton can boost League One playoff hopes

Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates a goal against Sheffield United
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English Football League, 3pm Friday

Norwich v Fulham
Fulham are doing everything in their power to achieve automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship and they can ratchet up the pressure on the teams above them by beating Norwich at Carrow Road.

Last season the Cottagers produced a sprint finish to climb into the top six but they were strangely subdued in the playoffs, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Reading in the semi-finals.

They would obviously prefer to avoid another playoff campaign but there is little room for error with seven points separating Fulham from second-placed Cardiff.

Two precious points were frittered away when Fulham gave up a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at home to local rivals QPR before the international break but the Cottagers have been extremely consistent since mid-December, posting 40 points from 16 matches at an average of 2.5 per game.

Over that period they have claimed away wins against promotion rivals Cardiff (4-2), Middlesbrough (1-0), Derby (2-1) and Preston (2-1), so they are unlikely to be fazed by a Norwich team marooned in mid-table obscurity.

There were high pre-season expectations that Norwich would feature prominently in the promotion race but they have been out of the top ten since November and are ten points adrift of the top six.

It looks too late for them to mount a playoff push and any lingering hopes could be extinguished by the division's form team.

2pts 6-5 general

Match odds

Sky Bet Championship standings

Northampton v Charlton
Lee Bowyer began his spell as Charlton's caretaker manager in impressive fashion, steering them to a comprehensive 2-0 win over Plymouth in League One last Saturday, and he can lead the playoff-chasing Addicks to victory at struggling Northampton.

Charlton banked just one point from their last four games under former manager Karl Robinson but Bowyer said that he still believed in their top-six credentials and his positive words have rubbed off on the players.

Plymouth arrived in London looking to extend an eight-match unbeaten run but they were outfought and outclassed by a fired-up Charlton side, who raced into a two-goal lead inside 17 minutes and won the shot count 15-7.

The win lifted Charlton to within two points of the top six and they head to Sixfields boosted by the return of internationals Ezri Konsa (England Under-20s) and Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

Northampton will be significantly stronger in midfield with key man Matt Crooks back after a three-game ban.

However, confidence has been seeping out of the Cobblers during a seven-game winless run and they are running into Charlton at the wrong time.

2pts 11-8 bet365, Betfair, Hills

Sky Bet League One standings

Match odds


Rochdale v Shrewsbury
Rochdale are responding well to the pressure of their League One relegation scrap and they can grab a precious three points at home to highflying Shrewsbury.

The markets have plenty of respect for Keith Hill's side, who are favourites to defeat a Shrews team 43 points above them in the table.

But Rochdale are a better side than their league position of 23rd indicates and that is beginning to be reflected in their results.

They were distracted by their FA Cup run which ended with a 6-1 fifth-round replay defeat to Tottenham at Wembley.

Since the trip to the national stadium, they have lost just one of six league games and Shrewsbury are weakened by the absence of some key players.

Captain Abu Ogogo and midfielder Bryn Morris miss the game through suspension while Ben Godfrey has not featured since lasting just 31 minutes of the 2-1 success at Scunthorpe two weeks ago.

Paul Hurst's understrength side scrapped their way to a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened AFC Wimbledon on Saturday but the trip to Rochdale looks tougher and they may struggle to take any points.

2pts 8-5 Hills

Sky Bet League One standings

Match odds

Port Vale v Chesterfield
There was nothing fortunate about Chesterfield's televised 3-1 victory at home to Notts County on Sunday and Jack Lester's side can follow up by taking at least a point from their Sky Bet League Two relegation six-pointer at Port Vale.

Chesterfield welcomed back busy midfielder Louis Reed from a three-game ban for the match against County and they played with far more purpose and energy.

As the game went on they grew in confidence and the victory has pulled them to within three points of safety.

They are only five points worse off than fourth-bottom Vale, who haven't won in 14 games.

Given the importance of the game, there is unlikely to be much free-flowing football but Vale look poor-value favourites to get the win and are well worth opposing.

Chesterfield or draw double chance
2pts 8-11 general

Sky Bet League Two standings

Match odds

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The Cottagers have been extremely consistent since mid-December, claiming 40 points from 16 matches
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