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Walsall worth backing to upset Preston in JPT North final first leg

Preston North End may be odds-on 8/11 favourites for a home win over Walsall in their Football League Trophy northern area final first leg clash, but the Birmingham-based outfit have beaten this opposition 3-1 in three of the last five meetings. A repeat scoreline is a massive 55/1 with Coral, but a 4/1 price on the visitors to Deepdale winning is well worth taking.

Simon Grayson’s side are in decent form at home with three victories and a draw since November, but Dean Smith’s Saddlers have taken the scalps of fellow League One promotion hopefuls Rochdale and Sheffield United in this cup run. The Bescot boys also upset MK Dons away in league action over Christmas, so they are more than capable of raising their game.

While North End are without leading marksman Joe Garner, they do have a number of alternative threats to worry Walsall. Winger Paul Gallagher has three in his last three, including a double in the previous outing – an FA Cup win over Norwich. Back the penalty-taking Scotsman to score again anytime here at 6/4. Gallagher is an 8/1 shot to two goals or more.

Up front, Grayson could go with some combination of one-time Premier League strikers Jermaine Beckford (6/5 to net here), Kevin Davies (7/4) and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (6/4). Defender Paul Huntington has posed a set-piece threat in recent cup outings, and grabbed the winner in the last round of this competition against at Notts County. He is longer at 7/1 in the anytime market.

Saddlers top scorer Tom Bradshaw has 14 goals across all competitions, and five in his last five, including two in the last away outing. This Wales Under-21 frontman has been behind many of Walsall’s upsets in league and cup, and is a tasty 10/3 to be on target at Deepdale.

Punters may feel Smith is over-reliant on star striker Bradshaw, but this purple patch is red-hot and, though Preston may well score themselves with their cadre of more illustrious names, a bet on Walsall winning and both teams being on target is a nice 9/1.