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Norwich choked in the English Championship last weekend and one thinks that bookmakers are underestimating the chance of Preston doing likewise in English League One this weekend.
Norwich had Lewis Grabban sent off in the first half of its 1-1 English Championship draw at Rotherham, taking the lead through Gary Hooper only to concede a late Jordan Bowery equaliser. Norwich’s slip up means that it must win the English Championship play-offs to return to the English Premier League, with Bournemouth and Watford up already.
Preston will secure automatic promotion to the English Championship if it equals or betters the result of Milton Keynes in the final round of English League One games. All the pressure will be on Preston because, while Milton Keynes has a home match versus relegated cellar dweller Yeovil, the first English championship winner has an away game against Colchester, one of six sides fighting to avoid the drop.
No English League One team is on a longer undefeated run in the competition than Preston, which has won 12 and drawn six of its 18 divisional matches since losing 1-2 to Crawley on the final day of January. Preston’s impressive unbeaten English League One streak has coincided with the return from injury of its leading marksman, Joe Garner, and it has put North End in pole position for the second automatic promotion place behind impressive champion, Bristol City.
So why does one want to bet against Preston on its English League One date with destiny on Sunday? It is all about pressure and Preston’s ability to cope with the level of expectation that comes with being one of English League One’s biggest clubs. And Preston has already fluffed its lines when under pressure to perform in a gargantuan game.
Preston was the overwhelming favourite to win the English Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area final versus Walsall and qualify for a Wembley Stadium showdown against either Bristol City or Gillingham. Preston choked in the English Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area final first leg at Deepdale, losing 0-2 to Walsall and failing to turn around the tie in the second leg at the Banks’s Stadium.
There are several big clubs in England’s lower divisions and Preston is definitely one of them, with North End supporters believing that their side has a divine right to be higher up the pyramid than the third tier. A few months ago it looked as though Preston would have to settle for a place in the English League One play-offs so North End began their good run under nothing close to the pressure that they will experience away to 22nd-placed Colchester on Sunday.
Colchester could survive in English League One with a draw but the odds are that the Us will need a win and favourable results in two other matches to remain in England’s third division. One is not going to make out that Colchester is not under pressure but the bottom line is that it is odds on to go down and Preston is odds on to go up. The weight of expectation will be on Preston for 90 pressurised minutes.
One thinks that anything less than three points will result in Colchester dropping into English League Two so, rather than back the Us not to lose, one’s preferred course of action is back them to beat Preston at odds of 5/1 6.00 +500 5.00 5.00 -0.20 with Betfred. If Milton Keynes defeats Yeovil – and it should achieve its objective with something to spare – then only victory will be sufficient for Preston to secure second place on the English League One ladder. Therefore, a draw between Colchester and Preston is unlikely to help either team to realise its ambition on the season’s final day.
Colchester to beat Preston
3rd May 12:15 GMT
Odds: 5/1 6.00 +500 5.00 5.00 -0.20
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