Gord could yet save Boro
The pressure is mounting on Gordon Strachan at Middlesbrough ahead of Saturday's home game against Leeds. A recent poll in a local newspaper showed that just 7% of the participants believe he should stay on as manager and a defeat against Leeds will certainly not help his cause.
Despite starting the season as one of the favourites to gain promotion to the Premier League the Teessiders languish in 18th place and have managed just three wins from their ten matches.
As well as the damning newspaper poll the Boro fans have been voting with their feet recently, just 15,000 turned up for their last match against fellow strugglers Portsmouth. That attendance is down nearly 7,000 on their opening day attendance against Ipswich when optimism for a good campaign was still high.
What may give hope to Strachan is that Steve Gibson is known for being patient with his managers. Arguably, he stayed loyal to both Bryan Robson and Gareth Southgate long after the first signs of decline became evident.
However, some of Strachan's recent comments have led many to believe that Gibson could soon lose confidence in the Scotsman. When asked how he would cope with his team's poor form after the Portsmouth game he told journalists he would "take drugs, drink and smoke".
Despite their poor league position Boro's home form has not been too bad gaining ten points from five games at the Riverside. That will give their supporters and backers some confidence when they take on Leeds. They have registered wins over Reading, Sheffield United and Burnley on home soil and those teams are arguably more accomplished at this level than the current Leeds side.
In fact, if they hadn't blown it so spectacularly against Portsmouth last time out Middlesbrough would be coming into this game on the back of four straight home wins. They are 5/4 to get the much needed three points in this one to lift the doom and gloom around the Riverside.
Leeds meanwhile will be satisfied with their start to the season, sitting in tenth place following their promotion from League One. They have had a couple of bad days at the office recently, losing a 4-1 lead at home to Preston to lose 6-4 as well as suffering a 5-2 thumping at Yorkshire rivals Barnsley. Overall their points tally of 14 points from ten games will not cause too much concern but they will need to improve defensively if they are to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.
Manager Paul Grayson takes charge of his team for the 100th time. His first game was on Boxing Day back in 2008 and he guided the team into the Championship after finishing runners-up in League one last season. If you fancy Grayson to celebrate the landmark by leading his side to victory you can get 11/5 on a Leeds win.
Grayson's men have just one away win so far this season, a 1-0 victory over Watford. If you fancy another 1-0 away win the odds are 9/1. They will have good memories of travelling to Middlesbrough having not lost their since August 1992, winning two and drawing six games in that time. If you fancy another draw you can get 23/10.
Leeds are without suspended Alex Bruce and Shane Higgs, who has a hamstring injury. Paul Connolly is back in contention following injury whilst popular goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel could possibly make a return to the side. Many Leeds fans believe his absence has contributed to the recent glut of goals conceded and his return would be much welcomed. Leeds are 13/5 to keep a clean sheet.
There have been 21 goals in the last five Leeds United games and 19 in games involving Boro over the same period. On that basis a bet on a high-scoring match should be the selection. Over 3.5 goals is 9/4 and looks good value. For the more cautious a bet on both teams to score at 4/6 is not to be missed.
Kris Boyd has opening the scoring twice this season and will be the main threat again. He is 5/1 to score first.
I think home advantage will make the difference and I expect Middlesbrough to win (5/4). In the correct score market I would go for 3-1 to Boro at 16/1.