Pulis to have the last laugh

Tony Pulis

It would put the cap on an incredible Championship campaign if Tony Pulis managed to lead Middlesbrough back to the Premier League via the play-offs.

Pulis started the campaign with West Brom before being replaced by Alan Pardew. That certainly went well.

Despite a late rally under Darren Moore, the Baggies will be playing in the Championship next term, as will Stoke City who Pulis managed until 2013.

One old-school British manager, Neil Warnock, has already defied the odds and guided unfancied Cardiff City back to the top-flight, so why shouldn’t Pulis do the same with Middlesbrough?

After a humdrum campaign, Boro have hit form recently, winning four of their last six matches, and are good value at 3/1 to be promoted just 12 months after losing their Premier League status.

It will be tight against Aston Villa – Steve Bruce’s side beat Boro 1-0 at Villa Park while the game on Teesside finished goalless – so a 1-0 win for Pulis’ outfit in the first leg should be taken up at 11/2.

It will be difficult for Fulham to bounce back following their failure to clinch an automatic promotion place on Sunday. Cardiff’s goalless draw with Reading handed them the chance to finish second, but they bottled it, contriving to lose 3-1 at Birmingham City.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s side had recorded 18 wins and five draws in their previous 23 matches and won 2-1 at Derby County in March after being held to a 1-1 draw by the Rams at Craven Cottage.

However, getting over Sunday’s disappointment will be tough and they may have hit the buffers at the wrong time with the Rams eyeing a top-flight return.

This season is looking worryingly similar to Fulham’s 2016/17 campaign when they were expected to be promoted via the play-offs only to be surprisingly beaten by Reading.

It could be a similar scenario this time with Gary Rowett’s team 13/1 to win the first leg 2-0 and 17/10 to reach Wembley.

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