Watford stake promotion claim while Championship rivals stumble

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Gianfranco Zola’s Watford proved that they are genuine contenders for automatic promotion to the Premier League by beating Derby County on a day when all their main rivals slipped up.

The Hornets have now won three games in a row and have suffered just one defeat in their last nine league matches, with their late charge now valued at 5/6 to see them promoted.

Watford took occupancy of the Championship’s crucial second place after a 2-1 home victory over the Rams, while all four of the other clubs in the play-off spots before the weekend dropped points.

Steve Bruce’s Hull City were the side forced to make way as the Hertfordshire outfit moved into an automatic promotion place on goal difference, as the Tigers fell to a heavy 4-1 defeat at Bolton.

The West Yorkshire club had just triumphed in three league games on the bounce, and are sure to come again as the promotion race heats up given their odds of evens to go up.

One side will of course be promoted through the play-offs, but it almost looks like a straight fight between Watford and Hull now for second given Cardiff’s unrelenting leadership of the division and the inconsistency of the teams situated below second and third.

Cardiff were cut to huge odds-on at 1/28 to be playing Premier League football next season after beating Wolves, and will hope to lift the Championship title at the end of this season after their Welsh rivals Swansea celebrated silverware of their own at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final.

Crystal Palace are currently fourth, but Ian Holloway’s team have been less than convincing since the former Blackpool boss took over from Dougie Freedman in November.

Two league victories in ten over December and January proved a tough start for Holloway, and although they have just won three in a four-game unbeaten streak, an away loss at lowly Sheffield Wednesday will not endear punters to their 9/4 promotions odds.

Leicester have also suffered from inconsistency this season, and despite looking brilliant at times are now on a three-match run without winning.

The Foxes price of 6/5 is quite short given they are eight points behind Watford and Hull, but with two games in hand Nigel Pearson’s side have the opportunity come good when it matters.

Middlesbrough appear in serious danger of another promotion choke, with their latest 2-1 loss at home to Millwall their seventh league defeat in nine. Boro won’t have many takers at 12/1 to go up now.

Brighton snuck into the last remaining play-off place by beating Burnley, and having just toppled league leaders Cardiff on the Welsh side’s turf, Gus Poyet and his Seagulls are worth a mention at 9/2 to go up.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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