Midweek Championship Tips: Swans to end the season on a high
Although Swansea look likely to miss out on a top six spot, Jack Critchley believes that Steve Cooper's men can still pick up maximum points at the Madejski on Wednesday night...
Reading to finish with three consecutive defeats
Reading3.90 v Swansea 1.99; The Draw 3.70 Wednesday, 19:30
It's job done for Reading boss Mark Bowen this season with his side safely in mid-table going into their final game. The Welshman has divided the fanbase since he replaced Jose Gomes, with some supporters bemoaning the manager's penchant for sitting deep and defending a fragile lead. However, he's managed to successfully steer the Royals away from danger, and should be commended for making them much harder to beat.
There has been an 'already on the beach' feel about their recent performances, with six goals conceded in their last two fixtures. Although Bowen will be keen to avoid a third consecutive Championship defeat on Wednesday night, this game is entirely inconsequential for the Berkshire outfit.
Having criticised his side for being both slow out of the blocks and inconsistent in recent weeks, the 56-year old is expected to oversee a significant turnover in playing staff this summer, and with many players expected to depart the Madejski in the coming weeks, it wouldn't be a surprise to see some half-hearted performances here.
Reading have won just one of their last 10 home matches, and although they've picked up points against Hull, Huddersfield and Stoke here, they have struggled for firepower on their own patch, drawing four blanks and netting just seven times during that sequence of results. With a (W7-D4-L11) home record this year, only two Championship sides have a poorer record in their own backyard.
With Cardiff hosting hapless Hull and Nottingham Forest at home to Stoke, Swansea appear likely to miss out on a play-off spot this season. Nevertheless, there is still a small possibility that Steve Cooper's side could potentially usurp their near-neighbours and steal sixth spot. Although it is difficult to imagine the Bluebirds slipping up, the Swans must approach this game in a positive manner in case the Potters are able to do them a huge favour at the City Ground.
The Welshmen have the sixth best away record in the division and, with a (W7-D11-L4) record on their travels this campaign, Cooper's men will fancy their chances of extending their unbeaten streak on the road to five games. The visitors have scored at least two goals in five of their last seven away matches, and although they've conceded the first goal in seven of their last nine, they have more than enough firepower in their ranks to turn the tie around.
After successfully seeing out a 1-0 victory against Bristol City at the weekend, Cooper praised the growing maturity of his team, and with only three squad players currently aged 27 or above, they are an exciting young side who have enormous potential.
Saturday's performance was extremely assured, and that bodes well for this crucial midweek encounter. Unfortunately, it is largely out of Swansea's hands, but as long as they do their bit, they will give themselves every chance of pipping their bitter rivals to that all-important final play-off spot.
The odds are dropping on Swansea, and at the time of writing, they can still be backed at 1.99 on the Exchange. The visitors should be highly motivated for this one, and should be able to take full advantage of a Reading side who are already on of their summer holidays.
Boro to guarantee Championship safety at Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday2.34 v Middlesbrough 3.25; The Draw 3.35 Wednesday, 19:30
With the possibility of a points deduction looming over them, Sheffield Wednesday's Championship status is far from guaranteed, despite finding themselves eight points clear of the bottom three. Garry Monk has challenged his players to end on a winning note but the Owls are the lowest home scorers in the second tier, and have struggled to pick up points in South Yorkshire all season.
With a (W7-D7-L8) record on their own patch this campaign, only five sides have a poorer return on home soil, including today's visitors Middlesbrough. December 7 was the last time they netted more than a single goal at this venue, and they've registered in just six of their last 12 matches at Hillsborough.
Wednesday's defence has looked particularly fragile in recent weeks with 13 goals conceded in their last six. Dominic Iorfa struggled against Fulham at the weekend whilst both Tom Lees and Julian Borner had an afternoon to forget. They will need to be at their very best to contain the in-form Britt Assombalonga on Wednesday evening.
Boro's comprehensive defeat at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday afternoon left their Championship status hanging in the balance. Although Neil Warnock has undoubtedly improve their fortunes on the road, the experienced coach is still waiting for his first victory in Teesside.
Luckily, the strugglers are back on their travels this week, and having won four of their last five away games, they should be able to guarantee their place in the division with three more points on Wednesday evening.
If Warnock remains in the north east next season, he has a huge rebuilding job to oversee, and he will be expected to put together a competitive Championship squad on a limited budget. They were outplayed by his former employers throughout the 90 minutes, and they will need to significantly improve their performance if they have any hopes of avoiding relegation. Safety remains in their own hands, and they will need to make a faster start this time around, and simply must take the game to their opponents.
Boro have scored seven and conceded three on their travels since the 71-year old replaced Jonathan Woodgate, and they should be able to continue their superb run of form in South Yorkshire.
As the 3.25 outsiders in this fixture, away specialists Middlesbrough appear to be overpriced and are worth backing to win on the road once again.
Hull to draw another blank in South Wales
Cardiff1.40 v Hull [7.1]; The Draw 4.90 Wednesday, 19:30
The Bluebirds have a three point cushion over their rivals Swansea, and simply avoiding defeat will be enough to book their place in the end of season play-offs.
Neil Harris' men have been excellent since the restart winning five of their last eight matches. They were fantastic at the Riverside Stadium at the weekend, and appear to have got back on track following a brief wobble.
Lee Tomlin's return to the side has given them an extra edge in the final third whilst Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson have been extremely effective at the back. The Welsh side can boast plenty of width, and have also become far more composed in central areas since Harris arrived in mid-November.
At 1.40 on the Exchange, the hosts are likely to be a popular bet this midweek, and having avoided defeat in eight of their last ten matches here, they should be able to get over the line largely unscathed.
Hull's season goes from bad to worse with Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to relegation rivals Luton seemingly the final nail in the coffin for Grant McCann's side. The Humberside outfit have struggled for goals in 2020, and have failed to find the net in each of their last three outings. At the other end of the field, the Tigers' defence has been extremely porous, and with 22 goals conceded in their last five away trips, it could be a long 90 minutes for the visitors on Wednesday night.
The away side sit bottom of the table, and have a three point deficit to make up. Even if they pull something out of the bag at the Cardiff City Stadium, safety is far from guaranteed. The second half of the campaign has been a complete disaster for McCann's men with just six of their 45 points having been collected since Jan 1.
The pair drew 2-2 when they met at the KCOM earlier in the campaign, and each of Hull's last seven matches have featured at least three goals. With plenty riding on this fixture, goals are to be expected and backing Cardiff to Win and Over 2.5 Goals at 10/11 on the Sportsbook looks like a logical bet.