Swindon's failure to beat Exeter last night, along with their inferior goal difference, has left them with a mountain to climb to claim what appears to be the single remaining automatic promotion spot. Therefore, we are virtually down to one from two, of Leeds United and Millwall.
Both have tough looking road games at Carlisle and Yeovil respectively tonight, but United must feel things are turning back in their favour after consecutive wins and the fixture compiler has done the south east London side few favours, with the schedule also throwing up an away game at playoff chasing Huddersfield on Friday night. Town are a very strong home side (11-8-1) and every point is vital for them. Millwall are faced with an enormous amount of travelling and two tough road games, in a very short space of time, when bodies are still recovering from the Easter programme.
Leeds know that whilst the last thing Huddersfield, arguably their biggest local rivals at the moment, would want to do, is help them in any way, but their need is equally as great which is perfect for United. They must feel that their destiny is back in their own hands and going to a venue where they have won on their last three visits, including 3-2 in the LDV Area Final in February, they will arrive with positive mental memories and looking for all three points.
Hosts are in reasonable form and have promised to attack and also look for the win, which is ideal and whilst it is always a big game when United come to town, they basically have nothing to play for. Also, I refuse to believe that they are not physically and mentally drained after one of the most gruelling schedules I can remember in the Football League. Carlisle is something of a football outpost and they are used to half a lifetime on the road, but the last month has been ridiculous in the extreme. They have been to Wycombe, Southend, Wembley and in the last eight days alone, Charlton and Brighton, all of which are round trips of circa 600 miles, So , we are talking about some 55-60 hours on a bus, 6-7 nights away from home and little true recovery time. I expect them to pay for this over the closing weeks of the season.
There is some bad feeling from the LDV game here, but it is hard to see how that will further motivate the locals, as there is never a lot of love for Leeds from opposing fans or players and really, it is the visitors who should be looking for revenge.
They played well for an hour at Yeovil last week and whilst they had to survive a few hairy moments at the end of the game, could and perhaps should, have been four goals up long before then. All that matters was that they claimed three much needed points and followed that up with an easy win over Southend. They created plenty of chances in both games, with double digit attempts on target in both, which with the offensive options they have, even with an out of sorts Jermaine Beckford, is enough to win almost any match.
They took a while to get going against Southend, but the visitors were looking to slow things down and Leeds are far happier when opponents play at a higher tempo, as the home side will this evening.
Beckford might be dropped, he was subbed before the goals came on Saturday and Gradel, Becchio and Snodgrass are in far better form and Sanchez Watt, who we discussed recently and who is on loan from Arsenal, will surely be given a little more game time after coming of the bench late in the last two. Arsene Wenger will not be overly pleased with the five minutes game time his youngster has had so far and I am sure we will see more of him tonight.
Carlisle are 10-3-7 at home, which indicates that they go for it at Brunton Park, which they have vowed to do this evening. They have already lost here to many of the top sides and with this game so important to the visitors and Leeds, despite recent woes, still having the best away record in the division (ok, same as Norwich), I fully expect Simon Grayson's men to come away with the spoils.
Took them last night at around 2.0, anything at or above 1.90 is acceptable in my book.