Championship Midweek Tips: Stuttering Robins to struggle at the Vitality

Cherries to maintain unbeaten streak

Bournemouth 10/111.9 v Bristol City 7/24.5; The Draw 14/53.8
Wednesday, 19:45

Bournemouth are one of only two unbeaten sides left in the Championship, however too many draws have left the Cherries six points behind early pacesetters Reading. The recently relegated outfit have seen four of their opening seven matches end all-square, including each of their last three. They still appear to be finding their feet back in the second tier, and Jason Tindall is still adapting to his new role, so it is perfectly understandable that they are yet to fully convince during the embryonic stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

At the weekend, they required a last-gasp Chris Mepham strike to rescue a point against a well-organised and resilient Watford side, and although the XG numbers would suggest that the south coast club were the better side throughout the 90 minutes, it was goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who came to their rescue on a couple of occasions. Tindall believed that his side “thoroughly deserved” their equaliser and after becoming the first Bournemouth manager since Harry Redknapp in 1997 to go seven unbeaten at the start of a new season, he’ll be hoping that his side can build on Saturday’s point.

The Cherries are certainly battling, and there is no doubt that they have plenty of quality in their ranks. Although Mepham and Begovic received the plaudits at Vicarage Road, Lloyd Kelly enjoyed another strong 90 minutes, whilst Phillip Billing and Diego Rico both scrapped away in midfield. The visitors also had the luxury of deploying both Junior Stanislas and Dominic Solanke from the bench. Dan Gosling, who was the match-winner against Coventry earlier in the campaign was an unused sub on Saturday afternoon. Tindall has terrific strength in depth and that could prove to be exceptionally useful during this busy period of the campaign.

Bristol City picked up a point against Swansea at the weekend, with the Robins managing to earn a share of the spoils at Ashton Gate. It was a decent way to bounce back following their first Championship defeat of the season just days earlier. However, despite this battling performance, many fans were left underwhelmed by the display, with some supporters suggesting that their side were rather fortunate to come away with anything at all.

It was a poor game overall, and the Robins could consider themselves a little lucky to have been awarded a second half penalty by fussy official Oliver Langford. Dean Holden admitted after the game that he would have been disappointed had that decision gone against his team, before expressing his relief at coming away from this encounter with something to show for their efforts. The draw was probably a fair result on the overall balance of play, however, it’s now three games without a win for Holden’s men, and they’ll be desperate to avoid extending that unwanted sequence on Wednesday evening.

There were several changes to the Bristol City XI ahead of their clash with Swansea, and with the injuries continuing to mount up, Holden will be forced into further alterations ahead of their trip to Dorset. Andreas Weimann, who has been excellent so far this season, was unable to finish the game, whilst Steven Sessegnon also hobbled off. With Alfie Mawson also out for the foreseeable, options in some areas of the field are beginning to look a little thin, although both Famara Diedhiou and Nahki Wells put in decent performances from the bench on Saturday afternoon.

City appear to have lost their early season mojo and the next few weeks will provide a stern test for the rookie boss. It has been relatively plain sailing for Holden since he was appointed on a full-time basis, and he has set extremely high standards both on and off the pitch. However, this will be a tough examination for the depleted Robins, and they may just come up short.

Bournemouth have now drawn three in a row, and they must be more clinical if they have any hope of returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking. The Cherries haven’t conceded more than a single goal in a game since the opening weekend of the campaign and should be able to keep the opposition at arms length throughout the majority of this contest. The hosts can be backed at 10/111.9 on the Exchange and they should be able to end their frustrating run of stalemates on Wednesday evening.

Warnock to outfox Robins at the Riverside

Middlesbrough 1/12 v Coventry 7/24.6; The Draw 12/53.4
Tuesday, 19:45

Following an indifferent end to last season, Middlesbrough have finally morphed into the side that everybody expected them to become under wily operator Neil Warnock. The 71-year old admitted that he would have ‘snapped your hand off’ if you’d offered him four points from his side’s last three Championship outings, so the fact that Boro managed to better that total, despite the prospect of three tough-looking fixtures against Reading, Bristol City and Cardiff, is testimony to the transformation which has taken place over the last four weeks.

The Teessiders are far from the finished article, however, they have managed to cut out the errors which saw them concede multiple soft goals last season, and they have become far tougher to beat this time around. They are yet to concede more than a single goal in a Championship fixture, and they remain unbeaten in the league since the opening weekend of the campaign.

Their 1-1 draw with Warnock’s former employers Cardiff was a predictably attritional affair which was far from a classic, however it was another textbook demonstration on how to absorb pressure and hit the opposition on the counter. They weathered the storm and kept the classy Harry Wilson quiet for the majority of the tie. Although it’s a quick turnaround for this young squad, they will be feeling confident that they can preserve their impressive unbeaten run on Tuesday evening.

Warnock suggested that the fans should be proud of the players following a gruelling week which saw them clock up over 1000 miles, and although not all supporters are yet to be completely convinced by this teams pragmatic approach, there is certainly far more optimism around TS3.

George Saville has netted in back-to-back fixtures, and adds some much-needed experience and know-how to the side, whereas Marcus Tavernier provides some much needed flair on the right hand side. With the aforementioned Saville joined by Jonny Howson and Sam Morsy in the centre of the park, Boro are always going to be tough to penetrate, and that bodes well for this midweek match-up with Coventry.

Mark Robins admitted that it was an incredibly difficult afternoon for his side, as they went a man down early in the first half against a lively Blackburn outfit. Michael Rose’s dismissal for the Sky Blues proved to be a hugely pivotal moment as the ten men were comprehensively outplayed at St.Andrews. Although an overreaction was always likely to follow, some supporters have suggested that it was the worst display since Robins arrived at the club, and that their side committed too many basic errors throughout the 90 minutes.

Although its far too early to suggest that Coventry could be out of their depth in the second tier, they simply must find a way to become less naive going forward, and this could be a difficult test for them against far more street-wise opposition.

Coventry aim to play it out from the back as often as possible, yet they looked bereft of confidence at times, with only Ryan Giles and Sam McCallum looking capable of producing something of note.

It’s now five without a win for the recently promoted side, and they’ve netted just two goals in their last five outings. Middlesbrough should be able to take full advantage of the opposition’s fragile confidence, and collect three points on Tuesday night. The hosts are 1/12.00 to pick up their second home win of the campaign and should be far too strong for the visitors.

PNE to finally score a home goal

Preston 11/82.34 v Millwall 5/23.5; The Draw 9/43.3
Wednesday, 19:00

Last season, Preston were a team that you could generally rely on when it came to playing at Deepdale. They won 12 of their 23 matches at home, and only failed to score on five occasions. However, this year, it has been a completely different story for Alex Neil’s men. Although the lack of noise around the ground may be a factor, PNE’s home struggles have baffled fans who have now seen their side go 270 minutes without finding the back of the net in Lancashire.

In stark contrast, their away form has been nothing short of sensational, and they remain unbeaten on the road so far. The Lilywhites picked up an impressive point at Carrow Road, and this was swiftly followed by an unexpected 4-2 victory over Brentford. West London remained a happy hunting ground for Neil’s men as they overcame QPR seven days ago, shortly before seeing off an upwardly-mobile Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Given their performance on their travels, that elusive first home goal will surely be just around the corner, and I suspect it will happen on Wednesday night. They have faced some stern opposition at this venue so far, with Swansea, Cardiff and Stoke all proving tough nuts to crack this season, and it is unlikely to be much easier against Gary Rowett’s Millwall. However, the Lions have managed just a single clean sheet in their last five matches, and although they won’t make it easy for the hosts, they are unlikely to hold firm.

Emil Riis has been hugely impressive since arriving from Randers, and Alan Browne‘s match-winning performance at the weekend should make him a guaranteed starter in this one. Patrick Bauer produced another rock-solid display on his 50th appearance for the club, with Joe Rafferty also looking dangerous out wide.

Millwall have begun the season with a 3-3-1 record, and are typically hard to beat. Their games contain an average of just 1.86 goals, but both teams have managed to notch in four of their last five. Preston are full of confidence, and as long as the pressure of finding that elusive first home goal of the season doesn’t weigh too heavily on them here, I suspect that BTTS will land again. It can be backed at 11/102.08 on the Exchange, and that looks the best way to approach this game.

You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7

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