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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Bruce may be the master of a Latics disaster

Jonathan Kodja's Aston Villa have won four of their last five games
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Wigan v Aston Villa
Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare has demonstrated the potential short-term benefits of promoting from within and Wigan have gone down a similar route to the Foxes by asking Graham Barrow to take over from Warren Joyce, who left the club on Monday.

Barrow faces a daunting task with Wigan five points adrift of Sky Bet Championship safety and in desperate need of a victory at home to Aston Villa.

It might seem ideal to be playing a mid-table team at this stage of the season but Villa - 14 points adrift of the playoffs and ten clear of the drop zone - are enjoying playing without pressure. 

Villa have won four of their last five games, offering some comfort to their long-suffering fans and lifting them into the top half for the first time in more than two months.

The dream of winning back top-flight status at the first attempt is almost certainly gone but Villans manager Steve Bruce is still mulling over which players to keep for next season and will be anxious to go into the 2017-18 campaign after a strong finish to this term.

Bruce has been dealing with a long injury list but Henri Lansbury, Scott Hogan and Jack Grealish have returned to contention allowing him the option of freshening up the side.

Wigan are stronger in midfield with Sam Morsy back from suspension and Shaun McDonald available after injury but they are the lowest scorers in the division and their struggles look set to continue.

Aston Villa
1pt 31-20 bet365

Oxford celebrate during the FA Cup game against Middlesbrough

Oxford v Scunthorpe
Three defeats in four games have put the brakes on Oxford's push towards the Sky Bet League One playoffs but hope could be rekindled by a victory over fourth-placed Scunthorpe.

Oxford's poor run has come at a bad time but they have had a largely successful start to 2017, winning seven league games out of 12 and advancing to the EFL Trophy final.

Reaching the playoffs would be the icing in the cake for an Oxford side who won promotion from League Two last year.

They are not playing under a massive amount of pressure but the same cannot be said of Scunthorpe, who have not been outside the top five all season.

Scunny have been in the automatic promotion berths for most of the campaign but went on a dismal run at the start of January and had gone nine matches without a win until Matt Crooks's injury-time goal gave them a 2-1 victory at home to Rochdale on Tuesday.

Scunthorpe fans celebrated wildly after the final whistle but one victory may not have changed the course of their season and the sinking feeling could return at the Kassam Stadium.

1pt 13-10 bet365, Betfair, Hills

Cheltenham v Cambridge Utd
Newport's recent revival is increasing the pressure on the teams just outside of the Sky Bet League Two drop zone and third-bottom Cheltenham can respond the right way by defeating Cambridge at Whaddon Road.

Cheltenham have slipped closer to danger after back-to-back away defeats at high-flyers Doncaster (2-0) and Exeter (3-0) while manager Gary Johnson has been out of action with heart problems.

Those results were not entirely unexpected with assistant manager Russell Milton in charge but the Robins have been doing better against the teams around them and are unbeaten in their last four home fixtures.

Cambridge have been eyeing up the playoffs but hopes of a top- seven finish are disappearing after just three wins in their last 12 matches.

They lost 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Hartlepool on Tuesday and may not fare any better this weekend.

1pt 9-5 Betfair, BoyleSports

Luton v Exeter
Luton are going through a sticky patch at the wrong time with one win in their last six matches and their League Two promotion hopes could suffer another blow with the visit of seventh-placed Exeter to Kenilworth Road.

Exeter have the second-best away record in the division and were 1-0 winners at Portsmouth in late January.

They are capable of winning anywhere in the section and can plunder three points from their trip to Bedfordshire.

Exeter draw no bet
1pt 6-4 Paddy Power

It might seem ideal to be playing a mid-table team at this stage of the season but Villa are enjoying playing without pressure
E.W. Terms
Sky bet