The League One title race is wide open at the moment with just five points separating the top four in the table. That means its a good time to look at the odds for the potential league winners and pick up a bit of value. MK Dons are having an excellent season so far, boosted by their famous 4-0 victory over Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, and they fit the bill for a value punt at the title.
Since that memorable win over Man. United, MK Dons have lost just twice in the league. Their run of good form has taken them to 4th place in the table, five points behind current leaders Bristol City, with two games in hand. Points on the board are always better than games in hand, but if they were to grab 4-6 points from those two, it would put them right up around the top. Their Capital One Cup run was halted in the last 16 by Sheffield United, but the club confirmed that the money raised by that run enabled them to sign Carl Baker and Jordan Spence, as well as hand new contracts to Mark Randall and Dele Alli.
They’re clearly a side brimming with confidence at the moment, after thrashing Colchester 6-0 in their last league game on Saturday. Benik Afobe scored a hat-trick in that one, and the on-loan Arsenal striker now has 18 goals in 23 appearances since joining the Dons in August. They have a couple of tough away games to come in the next two league encounters – away at rival promotion chasers Sheffield United and Preston. Those games will be a real test of the Don’s credentials as title-winners, and they couldn’t be going into them in better heart.
Bristol City – +175 with Unibet
The biggest danger at this stage looks to come from Bristol City, who are looking to get back to the Championship at the second time of asking, after relegation two seasons ago. They were an unsatisfactory 12th in the table last year, but look like the big fish in a small pond this time around. They beat Peterborough 3-0 away from home in their last game, but back-to-back 1-0 defeats to title rivals Swindon and Preston show that they are not going to run away with it. They’ve recently drafted in Fulham’s Matt Smith on loan, and the former Leeds striker will ease the pressure on top scorer Aaron Wilbraham.
Swindon’s continued good form has seen them rise to second in the table, just a point behind their close neighbours in Bristol. Their recent 1-0 win over City will have given them great confidence, but their last-gasp win against Fleetwood at the weekend suggests they may struggle to maintain their good form. They were held 0-0 by Fleetwood until the 85th minute when Ben Gladwin headed home to snatch all three points. Chairman of the club, Lee Power, issued a rallying cry to fan’s before that Bristol game, asking them to come out in force to support their local team. He also admitted that Swindon’s dwindling crowds may force him to sell players in January to balance the books, and that does not bode well for a sustained push for promotion.
Preston North End are currently in third place in the league, two points behind Bristol City, and may pose a more serious threat to the selection. Having suffered three consecutive defeats to Rochdale, Swindon and Bradford, they bounced back with two wins over Bristol City and, most recently, Yeovil. They have an experienced squad at this level, but were dealt a double blow last week when it was revealed that top scorer Joe Garner is set to miss the next four months with a tendon injury, and fellow striker Callum Robinson has been recalled by parent-club Aston Villa. They’ve mitigated those losses somewhat by signing Bradley Fewster on loan from Middlesborough, but it’s a tough break to lose both first-choice strikers in the space of a week. They missed out in the play-offs last season and will be desperate to go one better this time around, and can be expected to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
The Chasing Pack
Sheffield United and Oldham fill the other two play-off spots at present, with Notts County in 7th on the same 30 points mark as Oldham. Sheffield United were one of the pre-season favourites and were expected to do well under Nigel Clough. However, they do seem to struggle for goals – they’ve only scored 25 this season in the league, while Bristol City, Preston and MK Dons are all above the 35 mark. The Blades have also got the distraction of a Capital One Cup quarter-final against Southampton to come, and the fall-out over Ched Evan’s proposed return to the club has put them in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. These things shouldn’t affect performances on the pitch, but such a high-profile drama being played out in the media can only destabilize the club.
Neither Oldham or Notts County look like they have the squads to mount a significant challenge, and both will probably look at the play-offs as a target for the end of season. Last year’s play-off runners up, Leyton Orient, have had a terrible start to this term and are languishing in the bottom reaches of the table. Beyond Oldham and Notts County, every team below them has already lost 7 or more matches from the 19 or so they’ve played so far. Wolves lost just five in winning the league last year, and seven at this stage is surely too many for any other sides to be considered.
MK Dons are a strong bet at +650 to continue their rise up the league ladder, and as pre-season favourites Bristol City haven’t won a league title in over fifty years, they can be opposed in this market.
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