League Two preview: Back a basement blockade


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The Independent Football

Paul Cook might have his work cut out winning over the Chesterfield dressing room and we see more problems ahead for the Spireites when they host improving Oxford United at the Proact Stadium on Saturday. Take some of the 11/8 available on Oxford (draw no bet).

Cook was something of a left-field appointment when he was unveiled as successor to John Sheridan last month but chairman Dave Allen pulled no punches in his assessment of the working environment that had developed under the previous regime, vowing that the players could kiss goodbye to a cushy lifestyle.

So we can only conclude that Cook made certain promises to that effect and it's strange that he should be thrust into the role alongside Sheridan's former assistant Tommy Wright, who made no secret of his ambition to land the top job during a three-week caretaker stint before Allen turned to Cook.

Of course, we should be wary of jumping to conclusions about the current mood within the camp but probability says the formula is unlikely to be a winning one and the players have done little to challenge that judgement with their performances under the new man.

Cook did guide Chesterfield to a thumping 6-1 victory over managerless Hartlepool in the FA Cup but knockout football tends to provide its own motivation in an otherwise miserable campaign and a first league win has proved elusive in three attempts, leaving the 45-year-old Liverpudlian bemoaning the culture he has inherited.

Oxford might only be a point ahead of their hosts in 17th place but their season has taken a much more purposeful twist in recent weeks with the return of key players from injury and confidence is steadily being restored.

Captain Peter Leven and star striker James Constable were among those unavailable during a dismal six-match losing streak that spanned the whole of September but results have picked up since those two returned and we see no reason why the U's cannot match the top-seven standards they set for most of last season.

The recovery hasn't been without its setbacks but we find sufficient reassurance in recent defeats to Rochdale and Dagenham. Chris Wilder's men were the dominant force in a 2-0 defeat Spotland, while the Daggers view their 3-2 success at the Kassam as a particular highlight in what's shaping up to be an exciting season for them.

Meanwhile, Plymouth are familiar with the standards being set towards the top of the division after successive matches against Cheltenham, Rotherham, Burton and Cheltenham, so they might be pleasantly surprised by the size of the challenge that awaits at Fleetwood.

The Pilgrims are 4/1 for victory at Highbury Stadium and while most people can't see beyond the embarrassment of their televised ten-man FA Cup defeat to Dorchester, we rate their chances based on reports from those last four league outings and the complimentary remarks being dished out by opposing managers.

There have been questions asked about Carl Fletcher's position but we're convinced he has the support of his players and this could be the perfect opportunity for them to quell the speculation with a result that makes outsiders sit up and take notice.

Fleetwood will field the usual host of familiar names and they appear to be plodding along nicely in third spot, but they remain a side to be opposed while performances fail to match the hype that surrounds them. The Cod Army have seldom been a dominant force in any game this season.

Betting advice...

2pts Oxford to beat Chesterfield (draw no bet) at 11/8 (Boylesports)
Spireites have a dubious set-up and visitors are coming back to something like their best.

1pt Plymouth to beat Fleetwood at 4/1 (Coral)
Argyle have been performing well and look a big price to expose unconvincing newcomers.

For more betting advice, visit Best of the Bets by clicking here.