Championship weekend betting preview: Seaside joy for irresistible Saints

 

In an ideal world, Southampton would be heading to Blackpool on the final day of the season with promotion already in the bag, looking to hold a title party by the seaside. But then it's not too far off an ideal world for the Hampshire club right now and they can take a step closer towards both goals with victory at Bloomfield Road on Saturday.

The Saints head to Lancashire on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run having won seven of the last eight, showing the kind of momentum that will have the engraver reaching for his chisel. It's a sequence that has enabled them to open up respective gaps of five and six points on second-placed Reading and third-placed West Ham.

And given that those two teams meet at Upton Park earlier in the day, it's difficult to imagine Nigel Adkins' men not being excited by the opportunity to increase the margin to seemingly unassailable proportions on whoever comes off worst in east London.

Adkins really comes into his own at this time of year and we shouldn't consider for one moment the possibility that Southampton might do a Devon Loch because they've been in a similar scenario, as a club, for the past two seasons, albeit in a division lower down. In 2009/10, they triumphed in eight of the last 11 matches. Last season, it was 13 of the last 15.

This might all sound rather dismissive of a capable Blackpool side that possesses a vast array of attacking options but it's important to make it clear that all of the pressure will be on the hosts. A five-point cushion with six games to play is the worst-case scenario for Southampton, whereas the Tangerines find themselves embroiled in a nip-and-tuck battle for three play-off berths with seven other teams.

In their case, it's difficult to imagine a scenario whereby this clash doesn't generate the illusion of added importance by virtue of other results earlier in the day, whether it's an opportunity to steal a march or the pressure of playing catch-up. The scheduling is all in Southampton's favour.

The Seasiders appeared to be building up a head of steam midway through February as they posted a sequence of seven wins and three draws from ten matches to go third and reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, but it now seems they peaked too early to repeat the blistering heroics of two years ago.

Ian Holloway is keeping expectations in check on the back of one win in six matches, which perhaps reveals something about the general confidence levels within the camp, but unfortunately parallels with that extraordinary final flourish in their last Championship campaign is a cross they just have to bear.

Recommended bet:

2pts Southampton to beat Blackpool at 6/4 (Coral)

For more betting news and views, please visit Bestofthebets.com. You can also follow Mike Holden on Twitter: @Miguel_BOTB

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