Middlesbrough v Preston
Saturday, 15:00
Garry Monk needed six weeks of competitive match action to stamp his identity at Leeds and there's enough ambiguity in his early results at Middlesbrough to believe this campaign is going down a similar path. The Teessiders have been turned over twice in their first four league outings and defeat at home to Preston this weekend would really set the cat amongst the pigeons. Take the 5.00 available on the away win.
The sense of deja vu around Monk is only heightened by the fact that Boro went down 2-1 at Nottingham Forest last weekend, in a game almost identical to the 3-1 defeat Monk suffered at the City Ground last September. Forest grabbed a lead inside the opening 20 minutes, then sat on it for over an hour before doubling their advantage. A late flurry from Monk's men saw the deficit halved but it was too little, too late.
To complete a full-on Groundhog Day scenario, Preston would now play the role of Huddersfield a year ago and nick a 1-0 win at the Riverside in a scrappy game of few chances. Monk would lose his temper with a local reporter in the post-match inquest, over a perceived lack of identity, and the whole meltdown would prove to be therapeutic with Boro then mounting a purposeful charge into the top six.
From a tactical perspective, it's not remotely far-fetched. Alex Neil has played three different formations in his first four matches as Preston boss, with each one tailored to suit the opposition, and all four games have finished under 1.5 goals. After six hours of match action, keeper Chris Maxwell has only been beaten once - by a Matej Vydra penalty - and North End come into this clash with the benefit of a full week to prepare.
Monk has moved away from the 4-2-3-1 that served him well at Elland Road but has ditched the midfield diamond he started with at Wolves for a 4-3-3, yet their attacking play remains a little bit too deliberate. But he isn't one for chopping and changing willy-nilly, he values continuity and repetition, so we should expect the 4-3-3 to remain and Boro could be a sitting duck for Neil and his analyst Ali Lishman.

Recommended bet:
1pt Preston to beat Middlesbrough at 5.00

Bristol Rovers v Fleetwood
League One
Saturday, 15:00
Bristol Rovers caused the biggest upset in the midweek Carabao Cup action, edging out Fulham with an early Ellis Harrison goal at Craven Cottage, but the Pirates could pay a heavy price for their prolonged rearguard action in that game with defeat at home to Fleetwood. Back the 3.75 available on the Cod Army maintaining their 100 per cent record in League One.
It's a game that comes with the promise of a few tetchy exchanges on the touchline because there's no love lost between the respective managers. Uwe Rosler seems to have an uncanny knack of getting under Darrell Clarke's skin with his remarks in both pre-match and post-match media briefings, and the astute German might just come up with a cunning plan to frustrate the hosts.
When he's not playing mind games or doing his best to control the narrative, Rosler also fancies himself as a big-game tactician and his record in matches of this magnitude stands up to scrutiny. The onus will be Rovers to make the running but the Fylde coast outfit give little away in terms of territory and it could be an afternoon of fruitless probing for the Gasheads.
The recent away win at Northampton was a fine example of how Rosler can outfox an opponent from very little information. The Cobblers had only switched to 3-5-2 a few days earlier but Rosler shifted Fleetwood's default 3-4-3 to a bizarre 3-5-1-1 and basically out-packed the midfield. The upshot was an awful game to watch but the visitors grabbed their big chance when it came along and prevailed with a solitary strike on 75 minutes.

Recommended Bet:
1pt Fleetwood to beat Bristol Rovers at 3.75

Cambridge v Morecambe
League Two
Saturday, 15:00
Cambridge eased the pressure on Shaun Derry with their first points of the season at rock-bottom Crawley last weekend but there's no let-up in the hiding-to-nothing stakes with the U's now playing host to summer horse Morecambe. It's 18 wins out of 30 matches during the month of August for the Shrimps under Jim Bentley and they should be chanced at 4.50 for the trip to the Abbey Stadium based on that record alone.
There's no real comparison between these two teams on paper, most of the Cambridge starting XI would walk into the Morecambe side. But Derry has somehow managed to construct a team that's no more competitive than it should be, and much less than the sum of its parts when it comes to the fine detail - and that's been the case throughout his tenure. Games always seem to be in the balance but the U's routinely come out on the wrong side of fine margins.
Derry's job title changed from manager to head coach in the summer, which was presented as a triviality but left the distinct impression it was anything but, and while he said all the right things about staying calm and composed ahead of the 1-0 win at Broadfield Stadium, his body language told a different story. Morecambe did the double over Cambridge last season and they can prey on simmering discontent in the stands once again.

Recommended Bet:
1pt Morecambe to beat Cambridge at 4.50

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