Brentford and Orient still have plenty of work to do in League One
With just over half the season completed, Division One is looking more and more like a four-horse race with Brentford, Leyton Orient, Wolves and Preston eight points and more clear of the field.
Orient (7/2 with Coral) set a strong early pace, but have recently been overtaken by local rivals Brentford (6/4 favourites), who have put on a surge since Mark Warburton took over from Uwe Rosler a month ago.
Close behind in third and fourth come Wolves (15/8) – who missed an opportunity to go top themselves at the weekend when succumbing to an added time winner at Gillingham – and Preston, who continued their impressive run of form with a most creditable draw at Ipswich in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
Wolves meet Preston in the League One game of the day this weekend and are evens with Coral to take all three points, but Simon Grayson’s side have proved an extremely tough nut to crack in recent times (just one defeat in 16) and it would be no great surprise to see them upset the odds.
All four clubs have looked good this season and in another year might already be looking confidently towards life in the Championship. But only two will be promoted automatically and there is never any guarantee that the third spot won’t go to a team that just scrapes into the play-offs – indeed it’s often the way.
Of the chasing pack, Peterborough (4/1 for promotion) and Rotherham (6/1) are best placed at the moment, but free-scoring Coventry (9/1 to go up, 11/4 to make the play-offs) are dangerous dark horses. They have just 32 points from their 24 games, but that is after a 10-point deduction and they are clearly better than their mid-table position indicates.
Brentford have a good run of fixtures over the next two months (seven out of the next scheduled 11 games are at home) and it’s important that they maintain their momentum before things get tougher in the closing weeks of the season.
Orient, on the other hand, are struggling with injuries at the moment, which is why boss Russell Slade was so delighted when they ground out a 2-0 win at Shrewsbury on Tuesday.
Down at the bottom, Notts County, Stevenage (both 4/9) and Crewe (8/11) are Coral’s favourites for relegation, but there are several others in varying degrees of danger, including Tranmere (2/1).
This is despite the best efforts of veteran striker Ryan Lowe, who has scored half of Rovers’ 28 goals this campaign.