ANDY HOLDSWORTH is backing Carlisle to beat Swansea in the battle of League I’s leading pair tonight.
The table-topping Welsh side would take a huge step towards promotion – and the divisional title – if they can win in the border city.
And even dodging defeat would be a plus for Roberto Martinez’s men as they bid to bounce back from Saturday’s shock 2-1 home defeat to struggling Bournemouth.
A draw at Brunton Park would maintain a six-point advantage over the Cumbrians, who beat Yeovil 2-1 there on Saturday.
Holdsworth helped Town do both a favour by holding third-placed Doncaster to a 2-2 draw, and unless the the picture changes because Leeds win back some or all of the 15 points they were deducted before the season got under way, the Town man believes Swansea and Carlisle will be the clubs who clinch automatic promotion.
“Swansea are a decent side, and even though they’ve had a blip lately, they have points in the bank,” said Holdsworth.
“That leaves Carlisle and Doncaster fighting it out, and having played each side twice, I’d say Carlisle are the stronger.”
This season Town have twice been beaten by Carlisle, whose assistant manager Greg Abbott has been linked with the Galpharm vacancy.
Abbott, who played for Bradford, Halifax and Hull and started his coaching career in the Leeds academy set-up, was in caretaker charge when Holdsworth and Co were toppled 2-0 at the Galpharm in August.
Experienced John Ward took over in October, and led his charges to a 2-1 home win over Town in February.
“Carlisle are strong and well organised and they have pace all over the pitch. I was really impressed by them,” added Holdsworth.
While frustrated by Town’s inability to keep hold of the 2-1 lead he provided, Holdsworth, who netted direct from a free-kick in the 60th minute, admitted to a sneaking admiration for Paul Green’s 84th-minute equaliser for Doncaster, who will be desperate for a Swansea victory tonight.
“It was a great strike, and while I was disappointed not to win, I was a little bit pleased for Greeny, because he’s from the same area as me,” explained the 24-year-old, who lives at Hemsworth, near Pontefract.
“It was a great strike, and Greeny is a good player – a proper box-to-box midfielder.
“With Robbie Williams getting our opening goal, there were three Ponty lads on the scoresheet, and that’s not a very common occurrence!”
While the spotlight will be on Carlisle’s clash, there is also League I action at play-off chasing Nottingham Forest and Southend tonight.
Fourth-placed Forest will aim to move within a point of Doncaster by beating Bristol Rovers.
And fifth-placed Southend will aim to create a nine-point cushion between themselves and the cut-off point by winning against Brighton.
Forest came from behind to beat Cheltenham 3-1 on Saturday and boss Colin Calderwood said: “It’s all about gaining momentum.
“We’ve won two in a row and we’ll try and make it three out of three for the first time this season tonight.”
Southend won 3-1 at Crewe, and boss Steve Tilson said: “We have gone on a fantastic run and now we have got to stay there. It will be tough and there is a lot of hard work still to be done.
“We have not got the easiest run-in but on our current form I’m confident we can stay there. We have given ourselves every chance of being in the top six.”