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Late play-off challengers Ipswich face big test against Derby

There’s usually one team that makes a late bid for a Championship play-off place each year and this time it might well be Ipswich Town (10/1 with Coral to finish top six, 33/1 to be promoted), who come through on the rails. A 2-0 win at Brighton at the weekend has moved them to within five points of sixth-placed Reading and there’s still plenty of time to close the gap.

We will know a lot more about the Tractor Boys’ challenge at the end of this week after they have played both Derby County and Nottingham Forest at Portman Road. Certainly they will not fail for lack experience at the helm, manager Mick McCarthy having taken both Sunderland (2005) and Wolves (2009) into the Premier League.

It’s not that Ipswich have been on a tremendous run – their last six results have been LWLWLW. But with some of the teams above them beginning to feel the heat, this is just the right time to start believing and build some momentum.

Derby (9/4 to be promoted) will have that belief after stuffing local rivals Forest 5-0 on Saturday and this should be a good battle. Coral go 17/10 Ipswich, 8/5 Derby, but the draw (9/4) looks the best bet.

Tottering Forest – out to 15/8 to make the play-offs, 11/1 to gain promotion – have now slipped out of the top six and their unhappy fans will be further annoyed that Neil Warnock, who also has two promotions to the Premier League on his CV (Sheffield United and QPR) and widely expected to replace the sacked Billy Davies, could not be persuaded to take over and weave some late magic..

But it might get worse before it gets better. Forest now have another tough match against Charlton (100/30), who were making a decent fist of their fight against relegation until unsurprisingly finding Burnley too hot last weekend.

Leicester and Burnley look nailed on for the two automatic promotion places, so it will all be about consolidation for the likes of fourth-placed QPR and fifth-placed Wigan, who clash at Loftus Road.

QPR, once considered shoo-ins for a quick return to the top flight, lost three in a row in February and have been beaten twice more this month. Wigan, on the other hand, are on a fabulous run, having won nine of their last ten games and their last six away games in all competitions, including that famous 2-1 FA Cup triumph at Manchester City.

Coral make QPR 7/5 favourites, but Wigan make more appeal at 19/10.