THE Football League returns tonight with fixtures in all three divisions. We asked Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) to pick out his two best bets.
Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham | Tuesday 19:45
The Birmingham revival in the last couple of months has been truly heartening. When Lee Clark was given his orders towards the end of October the Blues were down in 21st in the table and four days later suffered a stunning 8-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.
The club now sit in the top half of the table. What did Birmingham do to turn things round? They employed a good manager silly! Ex Burton boss Gary Rowett has performed heroics since he took over on October 13th. Rowett’s record stands at P14 W8 D3 L3 and the improvement in his team is palpable.
On Tuesday night they travel to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday, and a win will see them overtake Stuart Gray’s side. I’m not sure what to make of Wednesday to be honest. They just look very average and uninspiring.
The club have scored just 21 goals in the league this season, that’s four fewer than Millwall, but of more concern is their home record. The Owls sit 9th in the overall table but are down in the 20th in the Home Table. Wednesday have won just three of their 13 home league fixtures and those wins came against Blackpool, Wigan and pre-Steve Clarke Reading.
In fact overall since late-September, the only sides Stuart Gray’s side have beaten in the league are Blackpool, Wigan, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn. It’s massively uninspiring.
Birmingham, with seven wins in their last 11 matches overall and four wins from their last six away games can be backed at a huge 14/5 with Bet365. That’s enough for me to get involved with. No point playing on the handicaps here, I’ll be a man and back them outright.
Scunthorpe v MK Dons | Tuesday 19:45
If we’re talking about new managers making a difference then it’s time to talk about Mark Robins as well. The former Huddersfield boss took over at Scunthorpe on October 13rd (exactly two weeks before Rowett at Birmingham) and has had a positive effect on the club.
The Iron were in the relegation zone when he arrived but are now up in 19th. Big deal, you say? Well Scunthorpe have only played 23 games which is less than any other side in the division and have up to four games in hand on other teams. Amazingly they’re just eight points off the play-offs.
Third place MK Dons are the formidable opponents on Tuesday night and Karl Robinson’s side are odds on across the board. There’s no doubt they’re the better team, but I’m happy to try and find a way to get with Scunthorpe.
The Dons have won less than half of their away games in the league this season and have a tendency to slip up against sides further down the league. For example at the end of last month they lost to Walsall at home when priced up at odds on and just two and a half weeks ago they failed to beat woeful Crawley.
So how can I get with Scunthorpe? With one defeat in 13, I have to find a way! Mark Robins’ side are 7/2 to win this home fixture and that requires a leap of faith. My bet is another ambitious one though and I’m going to back them to score two or more goals at 9/4 with Coral.
They’ve actually achieved that in three of their last five matches and in nine of their last 15. There’s no doubt that picking away at the MK defence will be a real challenge though, but they have leaked more than one in two of their five away games. It’s a big ask for Scunthorpe but this side look to be going places and I’ll take the chance.