Crystal Palace travel to Pride Park on Saturday looking to carry on their impressive run of form by seeing off Derby County.
For the first time in three seasons, Dougie Freedman’s charges have comfortably avoided a gut-wrenching relegation battle, partly thanks to the gaffer’s hard work on the Eagles’ defence.
No fact better demonstrates this tendency than the five consecutive away draws Palace have snatched in the league, which will make Saturday’s tie a tight one to say the least.
With players like Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi holding the fort in midfield, Palace are likely to dominate the centre of park, forcing Derby to go down the wings.
The Rams are also safe and sound, just one point below their next opponents, and they too have tried their best to make up for their comparative lack of quality by working hard and fighting tooth and nail against whoever nears their doorstep.
They are priced up as 7/5 favourites in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, while the Palace victory can be backed at 2/1.
A draw would seem the safest bet at 2/1, but this would ignore the fact that Derby have only shared the points on two occasions at home this season, even losing three out of their last five Championship games there.
One factor which might have something to do with this is the Rams’ poor defence, which has picked up only one clean sheet in its last six games at Pride Park.
Ambrose is one of the league’s best box-to-box players and be counted on to deliver against a Rams defence which will be further weakened by news that club captain Stuart Barker has ruptured his medial and anterior cruciate ligaments.
Though the game will doubtless be low-scoring, one could be tempted to back Crystal Palace to win one containing less than four goals (at 11/4) or even three, priced at an inviting 19/4.
On first impression, this might appear to be a strange gamble: after all, three out of Crystal Palace’s last four goals on the road have come from Darren Ambrose penalties.
Then again, the former Newcastle man could be key down the left, as John Brayford’s (possibly long-term) thigh injury means Gareth Roberts will have to deputise at right-back again for the hosts.
This is hardly positive news for Derby, as Roberts naively allowed Vicente to skip past him to set up Brighton’s second goal at the Amex on Tuesday.
Ambrose is one of the league’s best box-to-box players and be counted on to deliver against a Rams defence which will be further weakened by news that club captain Stuart Barker has ruptured his medial and anterior cruciate ligaments. In layman’s terms, we’ll likely not see him on a football pitch until 2013.
Palace have recently discovered one player, Wilfried Zaha aside, who can really set pulses racing: Sean Scannell.
Starting his first game since January, the young starlet was Palace’s biggest threat against Barnsley last time out, creating a hatful of chances for himself before finally sealing the tie in the 93rd minute thanks to a wonderful diving header.
Were either he or Ambrose to open the scoring for Palace (at 27/20, something they have done in three of their last five games), the Eagles would be very confident of coming away with the victory.
Recommended bet: Palace to win a game of under 3.5 goals @
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