MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) examines the only Football League fixture on Wednesday evening’s coupon with goals on the agenda.
Nottingham Forest v Bournemouth | Wednesday 19.45
All seven of the Championship’s top-eight clubs in action on Tuesday night collected three points as the promotion race starts to hot up in the second tier. Both Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth harbour aspirations of Premier League football and Tuesday’s results will have cranked up the pressure as the two teams battle it out for a precious victory.
Forest’s season nosedived under the stewardship of Stuart Pearce and although Dougie Freedman’s appointment raised eyebrows, the Scot has energised the former European champions and put them back into outside contention for a top-six finish. Should the Tricky Trees increase their points return to 13 from 15 under Freedman on Wednesday evening, the hosts could move to within 12 points of Watford with 13 fixtures to play. It’s improbable but not unthinkable.
The new boss at the City Ground has claimed he’s looking to take his team back to basics. He’ll be sticking round pegs in round holes, asking defenders to defend and his attackers to attack. It’s a simple philosophy that’s been adhered to reasonably well by his new Forest players. However, I can’t help but feel Freedman has enjoyed a helping hand along the way.
In his debut match in charge, the Tricky Trees pinched the points at Brighton despite facing 24 shots to their own eight at the Amex, and only boasting 35% of the ball. Next up they took apart a struggling Wigan side 3-0 at the City Ground but Malky Mackay’s visitors put in one of their worst displays of the season. A trip to Blackpool ended in a ridiculous 4-4 draw with a dire display in the art of defending by both sides before their weekend 4-1 victory against Bolton.
On the face of it, the thrashing handed out to the Trotters looks mighty impressive. But Neil Lennon’s side were forced to play Emile Heskey as an emergency centre-half following injuries to Tim Ream and a sending off of Matt Mills. Goalkeeper Andy Lonergan was also stretchered off in a nightmare afternoon for Bolton.
What am I getting at? Well Forest have proved they’re capable of grabbing a goal or two and they’ve also given us a strong indication that they’re far from the finished article when it comes to keeping the goals out. So I’m going to chase goals in Robin Hood Country come Wednesday night. William Hill’s 19/20 on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score looks the best option available.
The home side will be skippered by the ever-impressive Henri Lansbury in midfield with Chris Cohen still on the sidelines and they’ll also be without key creative midfielder Andy Reid and chief goal-getter Britt Assombalonga. But Chris Burke and Michael Antonio have both stepped up to the plate in their absences and provide plenty of menace in forward areas.
Bournemouth make the journey north boasting the league’s most potent attack (averaging 2.06 goals-per-game) as well as defending the Championship’s best away record (W9-D3-L4). Wing wizard Matt Ritchie is a doubt but the likes of Callum Wilson, Yann Kermorgant and Marc Pugh have enough quality and knowhow to get amongst the goals, especially with defensive lynchpin Jack Hobbs missing in the home ranks.
The Cherries have certainly wobbled since reaching the second tier summit but Eddie Howe will be well aware a win would take his charges back to within a point of the top-two. Having netted in 30/32 league outings this season, it would be a huge surprise if Forest could stop the visitors scoring. On the flip side, two clean sheets in nine away days at top-half clubs and four shutouts in 15 league matches have slowed progress.
All-in-all, Bournemouth have registered 10/15 Both Teams To Score winners since mid-November in Championship action with 9/15 also banking for Over 2.5 Goals backers. Meanwhile, 8/10 Forest fixtures have featured three goals or more with 15/22 dating back to the beginning of October rewarding BTTS punters. There’s enough encouragement to get behind William Hill’s 19/20 for a goal-filled game.
Nottingham Forest v Bournemouth – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (19/20 William Hill)
What do you make of Mark’s assessment? Reckon you’ve found a better bet in this match?
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