With Mansfield breaking into the League Two play-off places, Northampton falling into them and Wigan going odds-on for the League One title, we’re looking at some of the week’s biggest market movers.
Say it quietly, but Wolves are very much in contention for European football this season.
Just five of their games have seen Over 2.5 goals land this season – Newcastle, Aston Villa, Everton, Southampton and Brentford – and only one more has seen both teams score (the 1-1 draw against Leeds, and even that took a 94th minute Rodrigo penalty), but it’s that resolute defence that has seen them slowly climb the table.
Bruno Lage got off to a rocky start as manager, losing four of his first five games, the only win coming against Watford. But those games were at Leicester, where they had enough of the game to get a point, Tottenham, where they left wondering how they didn’t score, and at home to Manchester United, where again they were hard done by to lose late on.
There were no excuses following their 2-0 defeat to Brentford, after which they were 33/1 to finish in the top six, but sure enough things turned around quickly, and since those first five games, Wolves have been one of the form sides in the league.
Only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have more points than the Molineux side (Chelsea have only three more points despite playing three more games), and they’re now 10/3 for the top six following the drone-interrupted game, with a fabulous pair of strikes from midfield duo Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves securing their third straight win, leaving them just two points behind Arsenal and Tottenham.
One potential area for concern would be how few goals they’re scoring. Yes, if you concede as few as Wolves do, one is often enough to win, but only, Norwich and Burnley have scored fewer, and only Newcastle, Norwich and Burnley have a lower xG.
They will need their defence to be as watertight as it’s been all season if they’re to maintain a push for European football – only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals – but their xGA is 11 higher than their actual goals against, and as good as Jose Sa has been, it might not be too long before the bubble bursts.
It's been a very turbulent decade at the DW Stadium. Six of their last nine seasons have seen either a promotion or relegation. They were also unsuccessful in the Championship play-offs in 2014, and looked set for relegation from League One last season.
It’s looking like there’ll be another change of division at the end of this season, with them currently top of the table, with four games in hand over Sunderland and two over Rotherham.
Leam Richardson’s outfit were punted from 16/1 into 12/1 before a ball was kicked. They did suffer an opening day defeat at well fancied Sunderland and were back out to 16/1 for title success, but it’s been going pretty well since then.
Their price for promotion has steadily fallen throughout the season, and after eight wins and two draws in their last 10 games, most recently beating Gillingham 3-2, the Latics went odds-on for the title for first time, and are 1/5 for promotion.
Another side that were touted for good things this season were Mansfield – I know because I tipped both Mansfield and Wigan up in pre-season!
And hasn’t it been a campaign of two halves for the Stags this season? Nigel Clough’s side were touted as challengers for promotion, even winners of League Two, and won their opening two games… then went on a shocking run of 12 without a victory which saw them fall to 23rd in the table, only kept off the bottom via goal difference.
After that defeat to Exeter, the final game in their winless run, Mansfield were 16/1 for promotion and 8/1 for the top seven. Things were so bad the Stags had shortened to 6/1 for relegation.
In fairness to them, they struggled with a number of injuries and suspensions through that spell amd we’ve seen quite a transformation since with Mansfield winning 13 of their next 15 matches in all competitions, seven successive League Two victories and now priced at 6/5 for the top seven and 7/2 for promotion.
While Mansfield have broken into the play-off positions, Northampton Town have fallen into them.
After four straight wins, three of which came against fellow promotion chasers Leyton Orient, Exeter City and Harrogate Town, the Cobblers were into even money for promotion, sitting six points ahead of fourth-placed Newport.
The run of fixtures didn’t get much easier, taking on Swindon Town, Forest Green Rovers (where a 95th-minute equaliser prevents three straight defeats) and Sutton United, but it’s now four games without a win and they’ve slipped out of the automatic promotion places.
At 15/8, they’re still slightly shorter than the 10/3 quoted in pre-season though, and with a slightly more generous run of games approaching, Jon Brady will be looking to get his side back in the top three before long.
By Steve Freeth