League Two preview: Trust in the almighty Cod

Betting advice from Michael Holden of Best of the Bets

The prospect of Fleetwood going off at 17/10 for a home game in League Two would have been unthinkable at almost any point in the past four months, yet that's the opportunity awaiting punters against Southend when that the Fylde outfit have got shot of the man chiefly responsible for them underachieving this term.

Micky Mellon was sacked after last weekend's surprise FA Cup exit to Aldershot and we're anticipating an upturn in fortunes for the Cod Army over the coming weeks, just as the bookmakers appear to be taking their projections in the other direction.

We don't wish to be overly harsh on Mellon but he was evidently under-qualified for the job he was now being asked to do. The goalposts moved with promotion to the Football League and the former Blackpool midfielder was suddenly out of his depth with no prior managerial experience at this level.

Driving the club upwards through the non-league pyramid with heavy financial backing is all well and good but you can't chop and change personnel so ruthlessly in the professional game. Once you start managing players of Championship pedigree, you need to bring more subtle qualities to the table.

So we're willing to wipe the slate clean and judge Fleetwood as though we've never encountered them before and what we find is a squad brimming with household names, players who are capable of - and probably have been - negotiating matches of this standard in their sleep, and a team sitting seventh in the table despite an apparent lack of cohesion.

Based on that information alone, you might be inclined declare this a contender for bet of the season but things aren't quite so clear-cut.

For starters, Southend are no ordinary opposition at the moment. They've been playing with renewed confidence in recent weeks, overcoming any prior psychological hang-ups to win their last three league matches in convincing fashion with Torquay, Wimbledon and Rochdale put to the sword by an aggregate score of 11-2.

The Shrimpers have also fared well against League One opposition over the past seven days, holding Bury to a 1-1 draw at Gigg Lane in the FA Cup before dumping Brentford out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday, although it's possible they could be stretched as a result of those additional exertions.

Both sides have injuries to contend with but should be able to field something vaguely resembling their strongest XI and though little is known about Fleetwood caretaker Craig Madden, we're working to the assumption that we'd fancy our chances at the price if a random bloke walked in off the street and simply told the players to go out and enjoy themselves.

Meanwhile, Bradford continued a remarkable season by prolonging their participation in both the FA Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy since playing out a 3-3 draw with Bristol Rovers in their last league outing but they could be vulnerable for the visit of play-off rivals Torquay with a mammoth Capital One Cup quarter-final with Arsenal just days away.

The televised clash against the Gunners is, without question, the biggest game to be played at Valley Parade since the Bantams were relegated from the Premier League over a decade ago and it's bound to have a distracting effect in terms of how Phil Parkinson's men approach things against the Devon outfit.

The Gulls are happy to set their stall out on the road and it could suit them to operate within those fine margins here when you consider how the hosts are struggling to cope with the demands of competing on four fronts. Bradford have only had two free midweeks since the middle of September and their six league matches prior to the goalfest in Avon produced a mere six goals.

As such, it makes sense to keep the stalemate onside and a small interest on Torquay (draw no bet) at 9/4 is the recommended play.

Betting advice...

2pts Fleetwood to beat Southend at 17/10 (Blue Square)

Cod Army could be a more formidable proposition with senior players left to their own devices.

1pt Torquay to beat Bradford (draw no bet) at 9/4 (Bet365)

Gulls could be heading to Valley Parade at the ideal time with Arsenal visit just days away.

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

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