Ian Holloway: Burnley to slip, Brighton and Middlesbrough can kick on
Last Updated: 23/04/16 9:31am
Ian Holloway previews the big games across the Football League as Middlesbrough, Burnley and Brighton chase automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Preston v Burnley, Friday, Sky Sports 1, 7pm
This could be a massive banana skin for Burnley. Preston are a nightmare to play against. I think they'd be in the play-offs if Jermaine Beckford had not missed the majority of the season.
It's hard to write off Burnley though as they are such streetfighters. Sean Dyche deserves huge credit for that dramatic late equaliser against Middlesbrough. He wasn't afraid to take off Andre Gray at 1-0 down and go more direct with Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes. It was a brilliant switch. They don't call him the "Ginger Mourinho" for nothing.
There's a fantastic atmosphere in Burnley - everyone from the town wears their shirt with pride. There's no Manchester United or City shirts, it's all Burnley. That said, I think they'll struggle to win at Deepdale. I'm on the fence.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Derby v Sheffield Wednesday, Saturday, Sky Sports 1, 12pm
I'm very lucky to be going to this one, it should be a very entertaining game. Derby will probably be more relaxed of the two as they are guaranteed a place in the play-offs while Wednesday still need one more win and take on Cardiff next weekend, which could swing things in the favour of the Welsh club. Things might get interesting in that department after this weekend as I think Derby will win this one.
Derby boss Darren Wassall will want his team to keep their habit of winning games. He's a professional man. I like the way he goes about his business - I don't think there's a chance of them easing up now the play-offs are guaranteed.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 3-2 (33/1 with Sky Bet)
Middlesbrough v Ipswich, Saturday, 3pm
Despite conceding very late on against Burnley, it was a very good point. You could see at the full-time whistle that the players and staff weren't too downbeat - it's a point gained rather than two dropped as the gap to Burnley remains the same. To go to your rivals' house and come away even is exactly what you need. That's title winning form.
I don't think much can stop Middlesbrough now, not even Mick McCarthy at Ipswich who will be relishing this challenge. I think Middlesbrough are nailed on to get promoted now. Jordan Rhodes has found his hot-shot streak again. He deserves credit, of course, but so does his manager. He has kept faith and is being rewarded now. Well done Mr Karanka.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 1-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Charlton v Brighton, Saturday, 3pm
What a chance this is for Brighton to bounce into the automatic promotion places. I think they'll whup Charlton. To put four past such a well organised QPR team was very impressive. They've now scored 17 goals in their last six matches. With Derby (h) and Middlesbrough (a) to come this is a game they have to win if they want to get automatic promotion.
The signing of Anthony Knockaert was a stroke of genius by Chris Hughton. It could end up being the difference. He's different class and can add a couple more goals to his tally at The Valley.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 0-3 (10/1 with Sky Bet)
Hull v Leeds, Saturday, 3pm
Both teams are finding form, but something will have to give. Hull are nailed on for the play-offs now and Steve Bruce may have his mind on that challenge. This will be a tough game for his boys, who still may have a bit of a hangover after their blip. Leeds have won their last three games and I think they'll make it four in a row. Steve Evans needs a lot of credit for getting the best out of his squad in the last three weeks.
Lewis Cook is a player with a big future. He's a 'top chef'. The way he plays is very natural. Leeds will do well to keep hold of him as Premier League clubs are watching him. Sam Byram left for West Ham and it's hard to stand in the way of these lads. You can't normally hold onto these gems.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 1-2 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
Cardiff v Bolton, Saturday, 3pm
Sheffield Wednesday are keeping the door ajar for Cardiff, but they haven't decided to walk through it yet. Cardiff can't afford to miss this opportunity. Surely they will take advantage against Bolton, who are the only Football League team without an away win this season. If results go the way I'm thinking, then Cardiff's trip to Sheffield Wednesday will be massive next week.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 2-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
MK Dons v Brentford, Saturday, 3pm
Karl Robinson got himself into a bit of trouble with the fans at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. You can see he cares about his players. They've come up together and they're going down together. You should be able to control yourself, but it's difficult. I fully understand what he's talking about.
It affects nobody like it affects the manager - it's your livelihood. If you lose your job, you're gone, end of. Sometimes it isn't fair, sometimes it isn't right. Robinson should be excused for that reaction as he cares about MK Dons. Well done to him. This game will be a tough one for MK, who need to win otherwise they're down. Brentford have picked up lately.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Huddersfield v Birmingham, Saturday, 3pm
It looks as though Birmingham are running out of steam at the wrong time. They've overachieved by a million miles this season but the Championship is a slog and Gary Rowett's squad perhaps lack strength in depth. He'll be a bit gutted with their recent run - winning just one of the last nine games - as he's a proud man. A couple more wins and the play-offs would have been in reach. That shouldn't deter from what has been an exceptional season though.
Nahki Wells is firing on all cylinders for Huddersfield - he's the fourth top scorer in the league now with 17 goals. He's a brilliant athlete. If you look at him, he'd look like he'd blow over in the wind but he's a tough cookie. Goalscorers like him are like gold dust. Andre Gray has turned out to be a cheap buy at £9m, so how much would Wells be worth? Not far off that, I'd say. He'll get the winning goal here.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 1-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Fleetwood v Blackpool, League One, Saturday 3pm
This is a huge game down at the bottom of League One. This fixture brings back sweet memories for me. We thumped Fleetwood 5-1 in the FA Cup in the first ever meeting between these two local rivals. We were magnificent. It was a banana skin and we thrashed them. I was a very proud manager. Jamie Vardy scored a cracker for non-league Fleetwood that day - I wonder what happened to him?!
It's a great rivalry between these two. The Cod Army are now above Blackpool in the football pyramid - football moves on so quickly. The Blackpool players need to step up this weekend. Be proud to wear that shirt and give their all. Forget about everything else off the pitch and show they're good enough to stay up. I've got faith in them.
Bradford v Walsall, League One, Saturday 3pm
This is a tricky one. Walsall have to win this game to keep chasing the top two but Bradford have only lost four games at home this season. It's a hell of tough place to go. Phil Parkinson is a great fella - he should be very proud of his work there. They'll be a dangerous outfit in the play-offs with Parkinson in their corner.
OLLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (11/2 with Sky Bet)