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EFL League Two Boxing Day Preview: Orient in the driving seat

Leyton Orient are showing no signs of wilting at the top of League Two and, with the midway point of the season in sight, the Londoners find themselves seven points clear.

However, Stevenage are the team hot on their heels in second and those two sides lock horns in what already feels like being a definitive game in the title race on Tuesday.

There are 11 League Two fixtures to look forward to on Boxing Day first though and there are some massive clashes that could have a great impact on the relegation shake-up.

Rock-bottom Gillingham host second-bottom Colchester while Rochdale and Hartlepool, who sit 21st and 22nd and are split by only goal difference, meet at the Crown Oil Arena.

Play-off occupants Mansfield entertain third-placed Northampton in another important fixture, while Carlisle, in seventh, and eighth-placed Bradford City do battle at Brunton Park.

Orient could overwhelm title rivals

What: Leyton Orient v Stevenage, League Two
Where: The Breyer Group Stadium, Leyton, East London
When: 12:30, Tuesday 27th December
How to watch: Sky Sports Football
Odds: Leyton Orient 5/4, Draw 21/10, Stevenage 5/2

While league leaders Orient appear to be getting stronger, second-placed Stevenage are showing some signs of wilting, and this is a game Boro can't afford to lose.

Defeat for Stevenage would see them fall 10 points behind Orient, who have been formidable at home having won nine of their opening 11 games.

With 19 goals scored and only four conceded in that sequence, Steve Evans' men have their work cut out.

Orient, therefore, must make plenty of appeal at 5/4 given Stevenage have dropped points in five of their last eight league matches.

The visitors have failed to win on recent away trips to Gillingham and Colchester, the current bottom two, which doesn't bode well now they take on the best team in the division.

Orient have kept five consecutive clean sheets at Brisbane Road and the 12/5 available that they win this crunch clash to nil is worth considering.

Goal-shy Gills may be ill-prepared for relegation tussle

What: Gillingham v Colchester, League Two
Where: Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, Kent
When: 15:00, Monday 26th December
Odds: Gillingham 11/8, Draw 21/10, Colchester 9/4

Gillingham were relegated from League One last season and now find themselves rooted to the foot of the League Two table after 20 games.

This already feels like a must-win game for them against Colchester, who sit second from bottom and are only goal difference better off.

Gillingham's big problem has been their lack of firepower as they have netted only six goals this season, going six games without a goal.

With just two wins in the league this season and currently on a winless run of nine, it's hard to make a case for them as favourites, even against this Colchester side.

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The hosts may also be less prepared for this relegation tussle as they were involved in EFL Cup last-16 action on Tuesday, when they lost 2-0 at Wolves.

That effort must have taken plenty out of them given they had frustrated the Premier League side until the 77th minute, something Colchester could capitalise on.

Given what is at stake and Gillingham's poor goalscoring record, it is easy to see why under 2.5 goals is priced up at 1/2.

Draw or Colchester double chance is 8/15 but backing the Essex-based visitors in the draw-no-bet market at 6/5 could be the way to approach this.

Cobblers out for some revenge

What: Mansfield v Northampton, League Two
Where: Field Mill, Mansfield
When: 15:00, Monday 26th December
Odds: Mansfield 21/20, Draw 5/2, Northampton 13/5

Mansfield and Northampton were two of the unfortunate teams in the League Two play-offs last season but the pair have high ambitions of securing promotion this time around.

The Cobblers have started the season the better and find themselves third with 42 points from their 21 games, but Mansfield are fifth and only eight points worse off.

Mansfield got the better of Northampton in last season's play-off semi-final, winning both home and away, while they also won the regular-season meeting at Field Mill in April.

But Jon Brady's visitors look a much-improved outfit this term and that is despite having had to deal with their fair share of injuries.

While Northampton are unbeaten in eight games and have won at Stevenage, Swindon and Bradford, as well as taking a point at league leaders Leyton Orient, Mansfield's form has been patchy.

The Stags are struggling to put strong performances together and have won only two of their last eight league games, with those victories coming against relegation-threatened sides Rochdale and Colchester.

Having once been so formidable at Field Mill, Mansfield have now won only two of their last seven at home, so it is some surprise to see Northampton available at 13/5.

The visitors are 8/11 in the win or draw double chance market, something that is well worth consideration.

Bantams can get back on track

What: Carlisle v Bradford, League Two
Where: Field Mill, Mansfield
When: 15:00, Monday 26th December
Odds: Carlisle 29/20, Draw 11/5, Bradford 2/1

Just goal difference separates play-off-chasing rivals Carlisle and Bradford City in the League Two table and both teams are in need of a change of fortune.

While Carlisle have won only one of their last five after Tuesday's 2-1 defeat at Northampton, Bradford have endured back-to-back defeats to Northampton and Leyton Orient.

That said, those are two of, if not, the best two teams in the division that Bradford have come up short against and prior to that the Bantams had suffered just one loss in 14.

Mark Hughes' men have won six of their last eight away league games, which includes at Salford and Mansfield, suggesting they could get back on the victory trail.

They may also be fresher than the Cumbrians, who were in midweek action at Northampton, so the 2/1 about an away win looks overpriced.

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