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Thursday's League Two preview: Carlisle to maintain top-three charge

It is another packed fixture schedule in the English League Two on Thursday with Carlisle's trip to Crewe one of 10 matches taking place across the evening.

The Cumbrians currently occupy fourth place in the standings - seven points behind Northampton in third - while Crewe are down in 17th and find themselves 10 points adrift of the play-off positions and the same amount clear of the relegation zone.

Action at Gresty Road will get started at 19:00 before the other nine League 2 contests get going at 19:45, including Tranmere's trip to Barrow and Doncaster's visit of Rochdale. 

Bradford host Harrogate Town, AFC Wimbledon face a trip to Colchester, Salford City are at Grimsby and Mansfield are on the road at Hartlepool, while Northampton welcome Swindon, Gillingham head to Sutton United and Stockport are at Walsall. 

Cumbrians to march on

What: Crewe v Carlisle 
Where: Gresty Road, Crewe 
When: 19:00, Thursday 29th December 2022
Odds: Crewe 12/5, Draw 9/4, Carlisle 5/4 

It is getting on to nearly a decade since Carlisle last played in League One - the 2013/14 campaign being their most recent - but there is a strong belief promotion could be on the cards this season. 

Paul Simpson's men ended a three-game winless run across all competitions with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Bradford on Boxing Day, a result that has them fourth in the table and in with a shout of finishing in the top three. 

The Cumbrians have travelled well this term and they have only suffered three defeats from 11 away outings in League 2, while they have come away from Hartlepool, Salford, Tranmere and Grimsby with the spoils. 

Carlisle now head to Gresty Road to take on a Crewe side that are on a three-match losing run across all competitions, going down to Barnsley 3-0 in the FA Cup before losing to Newport County and Stockport - both in the league. 

With the momentum on the visitors' side and the hosts lacking confidence, backing Simpson's side to win at 5/4 looks like the way to go in this one. 

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Rovers eyeing play-off spots

What: Doncaster v Rochdale 
Where: Eco-Power Stadium, Doncaster 
When: 19:45, Thursday 29th December 2022
Odds: Doncaster 23/20, Draw 9/4, Rochdale 13/5 

Doncaster might occupy 13th position heading into Thursday's fixtures but they are only five points adrift of Carlisle in fourth, highlighting just how tight and competitive it is in the division. 

Rovers have lost three of their last four League Two games, failing to score in any of those defeats, but they are still in the play-off chase and Thursday's visit of Rochdale is a great chance to get back on track. 

The Dale are on a four-match losing streak and have only picked up four league victories from 21 attempts this season, all which has culminated in the club lying 23rd in the standings. 

Rochdale have lost each of their last three away games 1-0, and given the fact Doncaster's most recent home win was by that score, backing a Rovers Correct Score of 1-0 at 6/1 could be worth considering.  

Promotion hopefuls square off

What: Northampton v Swindon 
Where: Sixfields Stadium, Northampton 
When: 19:45, Thursday 29th December 
Odds: Northampton 23/20, Draw 9/4, Swindon 13/5 

There is a huge battle at Sixfields Stadium on Thursday as Northampton, who sit third in the table and nine points adrift of leaders Leyton Orient, play host to fifth-place Swindon. 

The Cobblers are on a terrific run of form and are unbeaten in their last nine league matches, while they haven't suffered a defeat on home soil since 18th October. 

As for The Railwaymen, their form has taken a nosedive and they have picked up just one victory from their previous seven assignments across all competitions. 

Swindon have also only come away with all three points once from their last five trips to Sixfields Stadium, so this hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Scott Lindsey's troops and they may find it difficult to get a positive result on Thursday. 

The confidence seems to be with Northampton right now and they can pick up a vital victory, priced at 23/20, to cement their place in third and deal a blow to one of the several teams trying to overhaul them.

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