League Two Tips: Orient can sink Southend

Orient showing more desire than Southend

Southend 3.55/2 v Leyton Orient 2.56/4; the draw 3.55/2

Was Phil Brown‘s arrival as Southend boss with six games to go ever going to produce the desired effect of rescuing them from relegation? Or were the 14th League Two club to change manager this season planning longer term?

Would Brown manage in the National League? Who knows. The Shrimpers really are in the last chance saloon to stay up now. And even victory against Leyton Orient, who are still flirting with a top seven ambition, might not keep them up.

The new gaffer says he’s not given up yet. But his side had no shots on target in their crux Essex derby defeat to Colchester on Tuesday and their biggest problem remains goals. They have netted just 24 times all season. All other clubs bar Grimsby (32) and Stevenage (36) have at least 41. It’s a shame Stan Collymore‘s public offer of “help” this week, to chairman Ron Martin, didn’t come earlier, because they might have lined the 50-year-old up as a striker! Several other experienced out of work footballers have ventured into Roots Hall this season.

Whether Recco Hackett-Fairchild or Nathan Ferguson can score or not, or Ricky Holmes can find enough of the old magic to create them a chance, they have further problems: experienced defender Jason Demetriou was sent off in midweek and will be suspended.

Therefore there seems little chance of even “dead cat’s bounce”. Six of the past nine games have been draws, four of them goalless. But a draw won’t do. They have to win – and attacking will simply open up the game for Orient.

Jobi McAnuff made a bold statement when taking the O’s manager’s reigns 13 games ago: The play-offs were still “in reach”. Six wins and four draws have kept them in with a shout, boosted by a platform of seven clean sheets. But it is now or never for the visitors too. A 4-2 reverse against Cambridge on Tuesday at least allowed Dan Kemp to continue his goalscoring contribution since signing in January. Danny Johnson and Conor Wilkinson needed the midfielder’s help to maintain the push upwards.

The O’s also need goals to increase their goal difference to realistically find that top seven spot, which is now four points above them. The visitors will surely sense a big opportunity here. Opta point out that Southend have failed to score in 12 of their last 16 games, including their last seven at home. Meanwhile Orient might not have won their most recent two away, but have won four from seven on their most recent travels.

Goals back in fashion at Oldham

Oldham 2.47/5 v Grimsby 3.211/5; the draw 3.613/5

In contrast to Southend, Oldham are League Two’s top scorers with 70. The reason they sit in mid-table and have changed managers is that they are bang in mid-table, with the goals against column featuring also a divisional high, 72. Latics fans have really been missing out on thrillers while sat at home.

For a while over the period Harry Kewell‘s men transitioned into Keith Curle‘s side, they went all former Tottenham and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and stopped conceding. For several games, they also stopped scoring. But they have reverted to type in their past four games, banging in 15 goals and conceding seven. Conor McAleny will be pleased to have reached 16 goals, while Davis Keillor-Dunn has reached double figures. Other teams would love the regularity of contributions from Alfie McCalmont (8) and Dylan Bahamboula (6).

Opta say Oldham have never scored three goals in five consecutive games, being on a run of four. That’s a target worth pursuing here, surely? Add in that Grimsby have conceded in each of the last six and practically waved a white flag in their relegation battle by losing 3-0 at home to Morecambe in midweek (after the hard graft to beat Grimsby) and we have a recipe for a goals based bet.

The open football the hosts seem to play could bring the Mariners chances for James Hanson or Llenel John-Lewis perhaps. And as the bottom club can’t afford to be cautious, over 3.5 goals doesn’t seem unrealistic, especially if Grimsby do score. Look for 3.39/4.

Valiants are in a strong groove

Port Vale 2.35/4 v Bradford 3.412/5; the draw 3.613/5

The strong promise of Bradford’s revived season under Mark Trueman and Conor Sellers finishing with a play-off place seems to have disappeared. Making up a seven-point gap with four games left seems a gargantuan task. The current form kudos belongs to Port Vale, who could rub salt into the Bantams’ wounds by rising above them with victory.

Those chances seem very real, with the Valiants picking up 22 points from a possible last 24, a draw at Carlisle their only blemish – doubly so for being goalless. Opta point out it is twice as good a run as any other side in League Two at present – and that they have conceded just twice in those eight games.

Darrell Clarke‘s decision to quit Walsall seems to be paying dividends as the players audition for a place in his squad for the full revolution next season.

Devante Rodney would appear to be on the “keep” list having taken his season’s tally to 11, while Tom Conlon will be eager to reach double figures after a pair against Barrow. David Worrall has also been pitching in and with five clean sheets in those eight games the defence has earned plenty of plaudits. Exeter, Morecambe and Newport are among the sides seen off.

Bradford’s defeat to Tranmere in midweek was a third in a row, Andy Cook‘s strike at Harrogate the only goal. The visitors have gone off the boil, despite having quite a few who could chip in with goals, Danny Rowe and Clayton Donaldson among them. Come on Billy Clarke, show us those scoring boots! Even if he does, I think Port Vale have too much momentum.

Carlisle deserve to be trusted

Carlisle 2.245/4 v Harrogate 3.711/4; the draw 3.55/2

Carlisle are another club facing a last-ditch effort to achieve aims this season. The Cumbrians are five points off the play-off positions. They probably need to win all four games, but they have done it before, in 1993-94. Clubs do sneak into the top seven late, and it is worth giving Chris Beech‘s men the benefit of the doubt, at least to win this match, despite a defeat and three draws coming into the game. Previous to that form, they won three matches in a row.

Crucially, striker Offrande Zanzala could return, having missed the midweek defeat at Bolton. And defensive injury problems were plugged well in midweek by Nick Anderton, suggesting a strength in depth. The Cumbrians were seriously unlucky to have a huge interruption in January for Covid and weather reasons.

Focused minds could well notch a win against a Harrogate team not in great form. They might have a decent away record of eight wins this season, but they have one point from the last four on their travels. Two wins and two draws in their past 11 games indicates perhaps minds are collectively focusing on next season, having secured League Two status. They have plenty of personnel who could trouble the hosts, such as Jack Muldoon and Josh McPake.

But the hosts’ desire is more urgent. I like the statistic from Opta that Carlisle’s Callum Guy has assisted 10 goals in 21 home league matches this season, the most at home by a League Two player since Nicky Adams’ 11 for Bury in 2018-19.