Ben Coker celebrates scoring the winner for Southend against Scunthorpe

Have a Brush with Southend in Johnstone’s Paint Trophy

Ben Coker celebrates scoring the winner for Southend against Scunthorpe

The focus of the football world is on the international break and the European Championship qualifiers, but the football league in England continues unabated. This midweek it’s the turn of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to steal the limelight, and the last of the League One and Two sides yet to play in the competition will join the fold.

There’s plenty at stake with a place in the last 16 awaiting the winners of this week’s ties, and it’s at this point that many clubs begin to take the competition seriously. Southend are a club that have always treated this trophy with the respect it warrants, and they’ve made it to three finals in recent memory – in 2004, 2005, and 2013. Swansea (2006) and Southampton (2010) are two notable winners of the trophy during their years in the lower leagues, and plenty of the teams left in this year’s competition would like to follow in the footsteps of those two clubs.

The Shrimpers face an away tie at Crawley on Tuesday night, and are fancied to put their name in the next round at the first time of asking. Port Vale and Oxford are two other teams that catch the eye on the night, and both can be backed to secure home victories and safe passage to the last 16.

Crawley v Southend

Southend are a decent price at  +110  with Skybet to get the better of Crawley, who are struggling at the foot of League Two.

The Shrimpers were promoted via the play-offs last season, so they know all about Wembley finals, and they’re making a good fist of things back in League One this year. They currently sit 11th in the table, a mere point outside the play-off zone, and fans will be dreaming of back-to-back promotions. Three recent wins in a row against Millwall, Scunthorpe and Crewe lifted them up the table, and there was little shame in the last-time-out 1-0 defeat to league leaders Burton Albion. In Phil Brown they have a very experienced manager, and the club is definitely on the upswing again.

The same cannot be said for Crawley who dropped into League Two after relegation last season, and who are in danger of successive relegations. They lost a host of players over the summer and the finances appear to have dried up for the Surrey club. They’re 21st in the league table, just three points off the bottom, and they’re on the back of a run of five defeats in the last six.

Southend have won two of their last three away games – at Millwall and Crewe – and they should be too good for Crawley, provided Brown doesn’t elect to rest too many players.

Port Vale v Blackpool

Another side who have had a remarkable fall from grace is Blackpool, and despite a couple of recent wins, there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel for the Lancashire club. After a demoralizing relegation from the Championship last term they already find themselves deep in the mire in League One, lying in 22nd place with just 11 points from 11 games. six of those have come in the last two matches where they secured successive wins for the first time in two years with a 2-0 victory over Chesterfield and a 1-0 win over Swindon.

However, both of those wins were against out-of-form teams, and it would be too early to call it a turning point. Blackpool have still lost four of the last five away games, and they face a trip to a strong home side in Port Vale.

Port Vale are good value on home ground at  -110  with William Hill

Vale are 8th in the League One table, a point outside the play-offs, and they’re on a good little run of form. They’re unbeaten in the last three matches, with the last of those an impressive 2-1 home win against pre-season title front-runners Sheffield United. They’ve won five of the last eight on home ground and can be expected to give a good account on Tuesday night.

A good run in this competition would be a boost for a club like Port Vale who are looking to move up to the next level, but it could well represent an unwelcome distraction for Blackpool who will need all their resources to fight for league survival.

Oxford v Swindon

Another home side at a decent price is Oxford who are quoted at  +150  with Skybet and Betfred to overcome League One Swindon on Tuesday night.

Oxford are making a habit of challenging for promotion from League Two, and they’re in the thick of things again this season in 5th place. They’ve amassed 20 points from 11 games – three less than leaders Plymouth – and have been beaten just once all season. You have to go back to March since they were last beaten on their own turf, and they’ll be relishing the chance to carry out a minor giant-killing.

Swindon have flirted with promotion back to the Championship in recent years, but it’s not looking like a vintage season this time around. They’re languishing in 17th place and are on a run of five defeats in the last seven games. The 1-0 defeat at Blackpool last weekend means its now over a month since their last victory, and they couldn’t be backed with any confidence here.

Oxford are the side in form, and with home advantage make for a decent bet at the price. Swindon supposedly have the superior quality, but they are lacking in confidence and may not fancy this tie as much as their opposition.

Tips Summary

Southend to beat Crawley
Tuesday 6th October, 19:45 GMT
Odds: +110

Port Vale to beat Blackpool
Tuesday 6th October, 19:45 GMT
Odds: -110

Oxford to beat Swindon
Tuesday 6th October, 19:45 GMT
Odds: +150

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