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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Free-scoring Hull could damage Cardiff's automatic promotion dreams

Bantams can reignite playoff hopes with victory over poor travellers

Hull striker Abel Hernandez has netted five goals in his last seven games
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Sky Bet Football League
3pm Saturday

Hull v Cardiff

Hull have not threatened to muscle in on the Sky Bet Championship promotion race this season but they can have a major say in the top two battle by taking at least a point against Cardiff.

It has been a tough season for the Tigers, who started poorly and have had to claw their way away from the relegation scrap.

Slowly but surely they have improved and safety was mathematically confirmed last Saturday after they twice fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 5-5 at playoff-chasing Bristol City.

Hull played with desire and quality at Ashton Gate and their performance should serve as a warning to Cardiff, who have lost their way at a crucial stage.

Cardiff went into their match at Derby on Tuesday knowing two more wins would be enough to seal promotion and they looked comfortable when Callum Paterson gave them the lead.

However, they folded alarmingly after Cameron Jerome's equaliser and the 3-1 defeat, their third loss in five games, has cranked up the pressure.

Bluebirds' manager Neil Warnock has been involved in many promotion battles and won't be fazed by the situation but some of his players are less battle-hardened and are showing the strain.

It might seem ideal for them to take on a side perched in mid-table but Hull are driving to the finish line in an effort to give something back to their long-suffering fans.

They have scored 14 goals in their last four matches and have a couple of danger men - Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson has scored six goals in eight games and Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez has bagged five in seven.

Hull are the fourth-highest scorers in the division and have scored two more goals than Cardiff.

They are playing some of their best football of the campaign and can sign off their home schedule with a victory.

Hull +0.25 on Asian handicap
2pts Evs Betfred

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Colchester v Swindon

Last weekend marked the end of the road for Colchester's Sky Bet League Two playoff push but the Essex side can climb into the top ten by beating Swindon.

Colchester have not been in the top seven since the turn of the year and their hopes were finally extinguished by a 2-1 loss at Lincoln last Saturday.

But they played with positive intent against the Imps and will hope for better luck as they try to win their last home game of the season.

There was a good tempo to Colchester's performance against Lincoln but the same could not be said of Swindon, who ended their promotion push with a dismal 1-0 loss at home to third-bottom Grimsby.

It was Swindon's seventh game without a win and left manager Phil Brown questioning the desire of his players.

Brown has said he would like to stay for next season but has admitted that major changes are necessary for Swindon to compete at the top end.

Improving the defence will be a priority. Swindon have shipped 65 league goals and have the worst defensive record among the teams in the top 15.

They haven't kept a clean sheet on their travels since January and their dodgy rearguard may condemn them to another defeat.

2pts 6-4 bet365, Hills

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Bradford v Southend

Bradford are clinging onto their Sky Bet League One playoff dream and can stay in mathematical contention by beating Southend at Valley Parade.

A top-six finish is a long shot for Bradford, who need to win their last three games and hope that two of Charlton, Scunthorpe and Plymouth have a disastrous finish.

But the Bantams are unbeaten in four games and have steadily lifted the mood of their supporters, which was close to rock-bottom after a 5-0 loss at Blackpool earlier this month.

They were 2-0 winners at home to MK Dons on Tuesday and look value to follow up with a win against the Shrimpers, who tend to produce their best results in Essex.

Southend bucked the trend on Tuesday, winning 3-0 at Oldham, but it was a flattering outcome as they lost the shot count 18 to 14.

They had lost three away games in succession before that and may struggle to avoid defeat.

1pt 7-5 Betway

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Oxford v Rochdale

Oxford need one more point to guarantee staying in Sky Bet League One but they could get all three when taking on fellow strugglers Rochdale.

It would take an improbable set of results to send Oxford down but their fate will remain undecided if they lose to Rochdale and Oldham win at home to Doncaster.

United manager Karl Robinson will be asking his players for one last effort and they are playing well enough to trouble sixth-bottom Dale, who are five points worse off.

Rochdale were in dire trouble a couple of months ago but they have lost just two of their last 14 games.

However, Tuesday's 1-1 draw at home to Plymouth was an edgy performance and they remain without 13-goal top scorer Ian Henderson, who is completing a four-game ban.

Dale's need is greater than Oxford's but there are signs of tiredness creeping into their play and a damaging defeat may be on the cards.

Oxford draw no bet
1pt 6-5 Hills

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The Bantams are unbeaten in four games and have steadily lifted the mood of their supporters
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