WE’RE getting to the nitty gritty stages of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) previews the first leg of the Northern Area Final.
Preston v Walsall | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
Betting on the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy really is as hard as it gets, but you’d like to think once we get to the Area Finals the teams involved will be going for it.
That looked the case on Tuesday night with League One big boys Bristol City cruising past Gillingham 4-2 at Priestfied in the Southern first leg. Yeah, when you get to this stage the cream usually rises to the top.
This Preston v Walsall encounter looks a toughie though. Although Preston have accrued 15 more points than the Sadlers, there’s a real feeling that Walsall have the capabilities to bring the big sides down.
Let’s start with Preston though, they’re currently on an astonishing run of 17 wins in 22 all-competition matches. Just three of the other five were defeats. They’re unbeaten in the JPT this season with three wins and a penalty shoot-out win over their four matches.
The club haven’t had loads to shout about in recent years (a string of play-off defeats spring to mind) so now seems a good opportunity to make a serious assault on this trophy along with League One promotion.
Walsall have had a far stronger second quarter of the campaign than the first. Just two league wins in their opening 14 fixtures saw Dean Smith’s side down in 23rd position. But they’ve turned the corner since then with just two defeats in the following 10 games.
What I like about Walsall is this propensity to square up to the big boys and spit in their face. They’ve already beaten Preston this year, and that was in the middle of that awful run. They bulldozed past MK Dons 3-0 in between Christmas and New Year in what was the biggest shock of 2014 in League One according to bookmakers odds. They’re a side that seem to thrive taking on the big sides.
In fact, every one of Walsall’s seven league wins this season have come against either a current top half side or a team relegated from the Championship last season. That’s hugely impressive. With that in mind I have to take them seriously here.
The match betting looks spot on with Preston going off a shade of odds on and Walsall 4/1 with Bet365. With North End notching in their last 12 matches you’d be a fool not to forsee more goalmouth action from Simon Grayson’s side. But on top of that, one must pay dues to Walsall’s big match performances this year and keep them in plans.
BetVictor are going Evens on both teams to score and that will be my play here.
Preston v Walsall – Both Teams To Score (1/1 BetVictor)