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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Millwall can steal a march in race for the playoffs

Rowett's Rams set to punish his former club

Millwall can claim a valuable win at Gillingham
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Gillingham v Millwall
The battle for playoff places in Sky Bet League One is getting tight and seventh-placed Millwall can boost their chances by defeating lowly Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium.

Millwall lost a bit of confidence after last month's 6-0 loss at Tottenham in the FA Cup quarter-finals and followed up with two draws and two defeats in their subsequent league matches.

However, last Saturday's 3-1 victory at home to Scunthorpe was a massive improvement and they backed it up with a 2-1 success at Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

Both wins were achieved without top scorer Lee Gregory (stomach) and first-choice keeper Jordan Archer (quad).

The pair are pushing to be involved against the Gills but Millwall manager Neil Harris may be tempted to stick with the same starting line-up for a third successive match.

Either way, Gillingham are facing with a difficult task against physically and mentally tough opponents.

The Kent club are two points above the drop zone and on the slide at a dangerous moment of the campaign.

Last Saturday's 3-2 loss at MK Dons was their fourth defeat in succession. It stretched their run of games without a clean sheet to 19 and took their goals conceded tally to 71, the highest in the division.

They have done reasonably well offensively but are without key attacking midfielder Bradley Dack, who serves a one-game ban.

Dack was on target in the Gills' 2-1 loss at Millwall earlier in the season and his absence should make the visitors' task a little easier.

Recommendation
Millwall
2pts 5-6 general


Derby have flourished under Gary Rowett

Birmingham v Derby
Gary Rowett's removal from the Birmingham hotseat was one of the strangest decisions of the season and he can punish his former club by steering playoff-chasing Derby to victory at St Andrew's.

Birmingham's owners dismissed Rowett last December despite the team being just one point outside the playoff positions.

A little less than four months on and Birmingham, under Gianfranco Zola, are six points outside the drop zone.

They have won just two of their 21 matches under Zola, who has changed the style of play to disastrous effect.

Under Rowett, Birmingham were a well-organised team who used to rely on counter-attacks and set-pieces.

Since the change of manager they have a lot more possession but much of it is in harmless areas of the pitch.

Birmingham seem to be a classic example of a club who have put style over substance – a lesson which seems to have been learned by Derby owner Mel Morris.

The Rams had a reputation as one of the better passing teams in the division but they often failed to get the results expected of them and have appointed Rowett to address the situation.

Rowett is off to a fine start – steering Derby to a draw and two wins – and his honeymoon period could be extended by another victory.

Recommendation
Derby
1pt 7-5 Betfair


Carlisle v Notts County
Notts County are not going to be relegated or promoted from Sky Bet League Two but they could be dangerous opponents for promotion-chasing Carlisle at Brunton Park.

At this stage of the season it should be an advantage to play against mid-table sides but County are on a three-match winning sequence and showing no signs of thinking about their summer holidays.

They have improved dramatically since Kevin Nolan's appointment as manager in January and are particularly strong in attack with former Premier League strikers Shola Ameobi and Jonathan Stead joining forces.

Carlisle will have their hands full containing the experienced duo and may find it difficult to respond.

The Cumbrians have struggled since the January sale of star striker Charlie Wyke to Bradford - scoring nine goals in 12 games.

They won 2-0 away to a poor Yeovil side last Saturday – ending a seven-match winless sequence – but will probably find it tougher against County, who are one of the form teams in the division.

Recommendation
Notts County +0.25 on Asian handicap
2pts 4-5 bet365


Cambridge Utd v Leyton Orient
Basement boys Leyton Orient appear set to be relegated with a whimper and are likely to suffer a heavy defeat against Cambridge at the Abbey Stadium.

Eleventh-placed Cambridge need a strong finish to push into the playoff places but couldn't have asked for a better fixture.

They are boosted by the recent return from injuries of key strikers Uche Ikpeazu and Barry Corr and have a chance to significantly boost their goal difference against the Londoners, who have lost each of their last five games by at least two goals.

Rookie manager Omer Riza is the fifth man to take the Orient reins this season and is without key defender Tom Parkes, who starts a three-game ban.

Recommendation
Cambridge -1 on Asian handicap
2pts 31-40 bet365

Rowett is off to a fine start, steering Derby to a draw and two wins, and his honeymoon period could be extended by another victory.
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