In a week where Derby County’s rollercoaster season saw more drama and the League One promotion race took another twist – with one manager losing his job – we look at some of the biggest Market Movers.
Say what you will about Wayne Rooney’s Derby, but they’re nothing if not resilient. Despite all the off-field issues, Rooney has remained stoic, guiding the Rams to 13 points from a possible 15 to lift them off the bottom of the table before the bump against Nottingham Forest.
The bubble looked to have been burst – a poor showing against Birmingham had them 2-0 down in the closing stages – the Blues were 1/100 to see out the game, and Derby were 25/1 to rescue a point.
And they did just that. Luke Plange’s goal giving them a way back into the match, before Krystian Bielik sparked jubilation in the stands – and the dugout – in the 96th minute.
Of course, there was no heartache for those who had backed Birmingham pre-match – in both singles and multiples – having being paid out inside the hour as part of bet365’s Early Payout Offer.
Sunderland fans experienced a tumultuous year under Lee Johnson with them looking good for automatic promotion more than once.
After taking over in December 2020 the Black Cats were sitting outside of the play-off spots, but Johnson guided them to the brink of the automatics – they were two points behind second-placed Peterborough with a game in hand – when the wheels came off. They won one of their final nine league games to settle for fourth, losing to Lincoln in the play-off semi-finals.
They looked to bounce back this season, bringing in a host of younger players, as well as the likes of Alex Pritchard and Corry Evans, and started the season well.
They shortened from their pre-season price of 7/1 into 9/2 for the title after beating both Wigan and MK Dons at the start of the season. I was at Burton to witness their first defeat of the campaign in a game where they had 19 shots with seven on target and were unlucky to lose 1-0. They got back on track quickly with five wins and a draw as the 15/8 title favourites headed to Portsmouth.
Unfortunately for the travelling Mackems, this was going to be one of a number of away day hammerings. The 4-0 at Portsmouth – a 650-mile round trip – was just the first.
5-1 at Rotherham followed, and most recently 6-0 at Bolton brought down the curtain on Lee Johnson’s tenure at the Stadium of Light.
However all is not lost for Sunderland, who are even money to go up. They brought in Jermain Defoe to ease the burden on Ross Stewart, whose 18 goals have kept them firmly in the promotion hunt.
At 40/1, the 25-year-old wasn’t anywhere near the top of the League One Top Goalscorer betting but four goals in August saw a price shift to 16/1 and the brace against Cheltenham at the end of September was enough to see him quoted at single figures.
A quiet November saw him drift out to 12/1 at Christmas before seven goals in four games, including a hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday, had him into 6/5 favouritism and he’s still top of the betting despite a blank over the last three games.
They’re also even money for promotion, and while they’re likely to be looking up at Wigan and Rotherham for much – if not all – of the remainder of the season, they should be favourites for promotion should they finish in the play-offs again, which may be their most likely route of going up.
The Millers were 14/1 for the title before a ball was kicked with Warne aiming for his third promotion from League One.
Three wins and three defeats in the opening six games had Rotherham priced at 10/1 in the outright before an unbeaten run of 21 games in all competitions had the South Yorkshire side at 5/6 at Christmas.
A Boxing Day defeat at Accrington saw an easing to 6/5 before drifting further to 13/8 after Fleetwood completed the double in mid-January. But two wins and two clean sheets since, coupled with Wigan dropping points at Cheltenham sees the 11/10 Millers at the top of League One, ahead of the Latics by a point having played two more games.
And should they make it back, few could begrudge Warne, who continues to enhance his reputation in football circles, nor owner Tony Stewart, who’s stuck by his man despite three relegations, and they’re 3/10 for promotion.
Dropping down a division and Leyton Orient, one of the pre-season favourites for promotion, now have a job on just making the play-offs.
There was a sense of optimism around East London that Kenny Jackett could turn Leyton Orient into a play-off challenging side at the very least this season and the early signs were promising with the O’s finishing September as 13/2 shots for the title having been 11/1 in August.
Having backed Orient, I was keen to see how they looked when they visited Vale Park in early October and I was a little disappointed in a side that were 4/5 for a top-seven finish. To be perfectly honest, I left the game with the visitors leading at 2-1, so imagine my surprise when I got to my car and the Vale had won 3-2 with Jamie Proctor and Dennis Politic completing a remarkable turnaround.
Jackett’s outfit put that shock ending behind them by going on an unbeaten run of 8 games but with more draws than wins the O’s were 18/1 to win League Two, then out further to 28/1 after losing to a solitary Sam Hoskins goal against Northampton at Sixfields.
Wins have been scarce since, with just a 4-1 hammering of Swindon to show for a side that have drifted to 200/1 for an unlikely title challenge and 4/1 for the top seven.
By Steve Freeth