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Nic Ladds 19th Mar 2010 - 15:01

Can the Robins put a cat among the Magpies?

Newcastle's assault on The Championship continues with a visit to Ashton Gate as they take on manager-less Bristol City.

After the midweek 3-0 home win over Scunthorpe, Newcastle are 12 points clear in the automatic-promotion spots and a if results go their way, promotion could be confirmed, even at this early stage.

It's not that often I get to write about Championship football recently, and as a Middlesbrough fan it pains me that it is always Newcastle on TV. It also pains me to admit a certain admiration for how well they have adjusted to life in what is such a tough league.

I have accepted this as a "consolidation and rebuilding" season, but right from the start of the season Newcastle have been strong and overpowered most that have faced them.

They are unbeaten at home conceding just nine goals in 19 matches and scoring 46. That is where they have succeeded, scoring plenty while also being tight at the back. Away from home they have won 7, drawn 6 and lost just 4.

Bristol City sacked their manager Gary Johnson on Friday. For me, a surprising decision. They are undoubtedly on a poor run of form and are 7 points off the relegation zone but on the other hand they are 7 points off Sheff Utd in seventh spot.

Johnson had been there for four-and-a-half years, taking them from League One to an established Championship side, even managing a 4th placed finish in 2008. I just find it hard to see how a new manager, unless he receives substantial financial backing, will be able to do any better. Stability is surely the key to any future success.

Bristol City (3/1) must forget about that now though as caretaker boss Keith Millen has a tough start, but what better way to throw your hat in the ring for a full time job than with a win over the league leaders?

He will be without Jamal Campbell-Ryce who was sent off in the last match against Plymouth. On-loan striker Stefan Maierhofer could be handed a home debut. Danny Haynes who looked good coming off the bench against Plymouth is pushing for a start too.

Evander Sno, Jamie McCombe and Marvin Elliot are all long-term absentees and are all big holes in the Bristol City team. Nicky Maynard's double in midweek were his first goals in 13 appearances and the youngster is 13/2 to get the first goal or 15/8 any time.

Newcastle (10/11) have two in-form strikers for you to choose from, Andy Carroll has scored in each of his last three away matches and is 5/1 to score first.

Peter Lovenkrands has scored in each of his last three which means he has six in his last five; he is also 5/1 to score first but is reportedly a doubt to start so check the teams.

In terms of betting on this match, it's hard to see anything other than an away win. I would be wary of the effect Johnson leaving will have on the squad though, they have lost only three at home all season.

The Robins are also one of the few teams to take any points off Newcastle at home this season, the match ended in a 0-0 draw. Bristol's goal difference at home is 0 after scoring and conceding exactly 27 so I think if City can defend well, I fancy a repeat of the 0-0 stalemate at 9/1.

Although Newcastle should win, I don't really see them romping it, to get a bit more value - have a go on the winning margins. You can get 5/2 on them winning by one goal or 9/2 on them winning by two which is where my money will be going.



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