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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Free-scoring Luton look a cut above but impressive Lincoln are on the up

Cowley's Imps could be value for back-to-back promotions

Danny Cowley's Lincoln could get past League One strugglers Rochdale
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Manchester City are rewriting the record books in the Premier League and Luton have proved just as irresistible, on their day, in Sky Bet League Two.

While the Citizens are over the hill and far away in the top flight, the Hatters are just two points clear in their division yet victories over Yeovil (8-2), Stevenage (7-1) and Cambridge (7-0) give a flavour of their attacking quality at this level.

Bookmakers expect the front-runners to kick on in the second half of the season and Luton, advised at 7-1 in the Racing Post's Big Kick-Off, are no bigger than 2-5 for the title.

Those routs of Yeovil, Stevenage and Cambridge all came at home and a lack of ruthlessness on the road is a minor concern for Luton backers.

They lost 1-0 at struggling Barnet early in the campaign and have been held to surprise draws at Cheltenham (2-2), Crawley (0-0) and Morecambe (0-0).

On the other hand, Nathan Jones's men have no baying pack of challengers on their tail, waiting to pounce on any slip-ups.

Notts County are second, with boss Kevin Nolan proving that their excellent end to last season was no fluke. However, the Magpies' lofty position owes much to an early-season run of eight wins in ten and they have claimed only four victories in their subsequent 12 games.

Nolan will be particularly concerned with a tally of four points from their last six away games although they were good value for this month's 1-1 draw at Luton, winning the shots battle 19-10, and are worthy second-favourites for promotion.

Luton's position in the market is strengthened by the fact that 11-2 ante-post favourites Mansfield are down in tenth, 12 points behind the Hatters and a whopping 27 goals worse off on goal difference.

There are question marks over most of the other contenders, with all seven of Exeter's league defeats coming in their last 14 games, including a 4-1 home loss to Luton.

Wycombe have moved up the standings thanks to a fine run of home results but their six victories on their own patch all came against teams in the bottom eight and their fixture list gets tougher with trips to five of the other top-seven clubs to come.

Accrington are a solid outfit but they have scored only twice in their last five games and Coventry are really struggling against the weaker teams in the division.

The Sky Blues beat the top three - Luton, Notts County and Wycombe - by an aggregate score of 8-0 but they have failed to score in nine of their 22 games, including away trips to four of the bottom five, and talented winger Jodi Jones has been ruled out for the season.

There is still time for Steve Evans to get things right with his expensively-assembled Mansfield squad, as promotion odds of 3-1 suggest, but Lincoln are a more attractive bet to go up at this stage.

Promoted after winning the National League with 99 points last season, the Imps have rarely looked out of their depth in the Football League.

Five of their six defeats have been by a one-goal margin while they have won their last three games, beating Port Vale 3-1, Yeovil 2-0 and promotion rivals Accrington 2-0.

Matt Green and Matt Rhead have formed a powerful partnership up front, with Green notching in his last four appearances in all competitions and Rhead joining him on the scoresheet against Yeovil and Accrington.

Manager Danny Cowley will be delighted with his side's record of 27 points from a possible 36 against teams in the bottom half and the layers' respect for Lincoln, who were 12-1 fourth-favourites before a ball was kicked, looks to be merited.

Lincoln to be promoted
2pts 5-2 bet365

Pre-season advice
1pt each-way 14-1 Sky Bet
2pts 7-1 general

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Luton's position in the market is strengthened by the fact that 11-2 ante-post favourites Mansfield are down in tenth, 12 points behind the Hatters
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