Blackburn returned to winning ways with a routine 3-0 success over a well-organised Portsmouth side last weekend and Tony Mowbray might suddenly have settled on the formula that could raise a few eyebrows by toppling the runaway title favourites. Back the visitors to take the spoils in this eagerly-anticipated Lancashire derby at 4.70.
Few punters could have imagined at the start of the season that Rovers would be entering this fixture as such rank outsiders, given the manner in which they finished last season following Mowbray's arrival in February, the Championship pedigree they retained over the summer and the list of stellar names that were added to the mix.
However, the surplus of talent has proved troublesome with the first three months spent searching for the right blend between attack and defence, width and cover, experience and youth. The return of Corry Evans could be crucial here, because his industrious central midfield partnership with Richard Smallwood enables Mowbray to play his favoured 4-4-2.
It's a system with which Rovers have performed well on the road at Bradford (1-0), Rochdale (3-0), Scunthorpe (1-0) and Shrewsbury (1-1). They were fortunate to come away with maximum points at Glanford Park but otherwise they were measured, reducing the opposition to very little from open play and gradually taking control as each contest progressed.
Overall performance data explains the odds-on quotes for Wigan. They've put Blackburn in the shade on Expected Goals, having carved up mediocre opposition for fun. But defeats at Shrewsbury (0-1) and Peterborough (2-3) raise question marks about their big-game mentality. They trailed for nearly an hour at Salop, during which time they could muster only three shots on target.
Meanwhile, after last weekend's 3-1 victory at Blackpool, Latics assistant Leam Richardson joked that two-goal hero Chey Dunkley would be in trouble because the back six aren't supposed to leave their stations and venture into the opposition penalty box. It was tongue in cheek, but does raise a valid point about the underlying principles of Paul Cook's religious commitment to 4-2-3-1.
With Evans and Smallwood screening the solid centre back partnership of Paul Downing and Charlie Mulgrew, space might be tight and Nick Powell's impact through the centre could be reduced as a war of attrition develops. Should that prove to be the case, then Blackburn have the quality out wide to deliver the pivotal moment with a killer ball into their two strikers.
Recommended Bet: 1pt Blackburn to beat Wigan at4.70
Port Vale v Swindon Saturday 15:00
Neil Aspin has triggered a sensational turnaround at Port Vale, winning three straight matches against Cheltenham (3-1), Morecambe (3-0) and Exeter (1-0) to drag the Valiants out of the drop zone. Prior to his arrival, they had scored just three times in the last nine league outings, having claimed just two points from the last available 30.
There's no luck involved either; the performance data is emphatic. The Staffordshire club have won the shot count 48-27 under Aspin's watch (24-11 on target) and their expected goals superiority is fully four goals over six hours. It's only a small sample but, make no mistake, this is automatic promotion form.
The switch from a back three to a back four appears to have been key. Aspin tweaked the previous default 3-5-2 into a slightly more adventurous 3-4-3 in his first challenge against Grimsby at home but Vale didn't get their rewards, as they took the lead and had the better of the 90 minutes but slipped to a 2-1 defeat in a painful second-half turnaround.
However, the move to 4-1-4-1 with veteran Danny Pugh in the holding role and Tom Pope operating as a lone striker eventually got them firing. Pope now has six goals in October, having netted the opener in all four matches, while only a stoppage-time consolation for Cheltenham has denied Dutch keeper Kelle Roos from registering three successive clean sheets.
All of which makes the home win a tasty price at 2.70 here. Swindon are clinging on to the coat-tails of the promotion race in seventh place following last weekend's morale-boosting win over Wycombe (1-0) but they are far too inconsistent to be a regular fixture on anyone's coupon, having won seven and lost six of their last 13 matches in a sequence that reads WLLWLWWLWLWLW.
Recommended Bet: 1pt Port Vale to beat Swindon at 2.70