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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Wood worth a wager against Newcastle

Chris Wood (left) celebrates a goal against Birmingham
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm Friday

Newcastle were the cornerstone of most ante-post accumulators but it promises to be an edgy Easter for those waiting on the Magpies to justify pre-season favouritism in the Sky Bet Championship.

Rafael Benitez's side trail Brighton by two points and are no longer market favourites to finish on top, while Leeds could give Newcastle backers further jitters at St James' Park.

There's not much value around but visiting forward Chris Wood is a fair option to open the scoring.

Newcastle, particularly for a side managed by Benitez, have surprisingly not found it easy to control matches and have recorded only four home clean sheets since Christmas.

Those shutouts came against relegated Rotherham, lowly Burton and against Derby and Aston Villa when both were struggling.

Even in recent weeks Wigan scored once, Bristol City twice and Fulham found the net on three occasions against Newcastle so that should offer Wood all the encouragement he needs.

Wood is the top goalscorer in the Championship with 24 goals, two clear of Newcastle's Dwight Gayle who misses out through injury.

Leeds have a five-point cushion on seventh-placed Fulham in the battle for a playoff spot, although successive defeats to nil at Reading and Brentford had increased the pressure on Garry Monk's men.

However, last week's 3-0 win over Preston should have eased the nerves. Wood didn't score in that victory and has gone three games without a goal, which is his joint-longest drought of the campaign.

April is the only month in which he has failed to score this season and you can't keep a good 'un down for too long even if Leeds fail to oblige in the match market.

Gayle's absence should not overly concern Newcastle, who have won 63 per cent of the 27 matches he has started this season and 62 per cent of the 21 fixtures in which he has been absent from the starting 11.

Indeed, Newcastle have lost only two of those 21 games without Gayle and Benitez has built a squad to cope with most issues.

Daryl Murphy or Aleksandar Mitrovic will lead the line in Gayle's absence and the midfield usually chip in with goals, none more so than Matt Ritchie who is in double figures.

This should be a decent game to watch but it's difficult to quibble with the match prices.

C Wood first goalscorer
0.5pt 7-1 Sky Bet

Bet on this game at

Team news
DeAndre Yedlin may return and Ciaran Clark is close to a return but Dwight Gayle is out. Jack Colback and Isaac Hayden need to be checked.

Liam Bridcutt and Hadi Sacko return for Leeds, but reserve keeper Marco Silvestri is sidelined and Liam Cooper is suspended.

Key stat
Chris Wood has opened the scoring in a divisional-high 14 league matches this season. 

Newcastle have lost only two of those 21 games without Gayle and Benitez has built a squad to cope
E.W. Terms
Sky bet