Cambridge v Wycombe
Wanderers might be six places higher up the table but the U’s are much-improved since Derry replaced Richard Money back in November, albeit not yet fully justifying the standards demanded by their summer outlay. Haven taken just 20 points from the first 16 matches, they’ve picked up 27 from the next 16. And shot ratio is up from 48 per cent to 43 per cent over the same samples.
Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth was a prime example of where Derry comes up short, though. His desire to turn up at Fratton Park and take the game to their hosts was ill-advised, especially when so many teams have so much success sitting deep and playing on the counter.
But that’s probably a natural consequence of managing a team that is capable of beating the likes of Northampton and Plymouth at various points in the campaign and that deep-rooted conviction might be just what’s needed to succeed where so many others fail and prise open the Chairboys.
The first goal is nearly always crucial in Wanderers' games. Ainsworth’s men have only featured in one goalless draw this season. In the other 30 games, the points have gone the way of the team who have broken the deadlock 24 times. At the Abbey Stadium, Cambridge have enough quality to force that breakthrough.
Carlisle v Leyton Orient
The Cumbrians have fallen off the play-off pace in recent weeks, winning just three out of nine matches since the turn of the year but there are several mitigating factors behind that recent slump, not least the logistical issues created by the floods and the sheer number of miles clocked up this term.
It was bound to take its toll eventually but trips to Accrington and Morecambe in the past fortnight could be classed as respite and it’s worth pointing out for the sake of perspective that the hosts will go above the O’s if they win this game. All seven of Orient’s games under Nolan have been won by the team who scored the first goal.