THERE’S two Friday night tussles from the Championship to enjoy. So we asked Football League expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his view on both fixtures.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Bournemouth | Friday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
It might not be the meanest of south-coast rivalries but Friday night’s duel between Brighton and Bournemouth promises to be keenly contested as the Seagulls look to put a pin in the Cherries’ automatic promotion hopes. Eddie Howe’s visitors head to the AMEX knowing a victory would put Boscombe four points clear of the pile with just four games to play.
Bournemouth have been chalked up as 10/11 pokes by Coral and although that’s a fair price, it’s just not enough to tempt me in. Firstly, backing Football League teams on the road at odds-on quotes is the quickest way to the poor house and secondly, there’s enough scope to believe Brighton are a wee bit better than the odds suggest, certainly under Chris Hughton.
The former Norwich boss has picked up the scraps from Sami Hyypia and built an Albion side that’s difficult to breakdown, difficult to beat and relatively solid on home soil. Norwich squeezed past the Seagulls 1-0 in their last AMEX outing whilst Wolves were held to a 1-1 draw and Derby defeated convincingly in their three previous fixtures in front of their home fans.
The hosts are struggling for goals (they’ve failed to net in their last two games and an own goal is the only strike to their name in four matches) but the way in which Bournemouth play will always give the opposition chances. Centre-half Lewis Dunk is the Seagulls’ second top scorer this season with five but in Joao Teixeira on-loan from Liverpool, Brighton have a player capable of hurting a Cherries defence that’s leaked in 14/20 away fixtures this term.
Howe’s travellers have won once in six on the road, netted two goals or more just once in their last five away from Dean Court but do boast the second best away record in the division. The Cherries have plundered 44 goals in those 20 road trips – eight more than Watford – and have also scored more than twice as many goals as their south-coast neighbours. It’s serious firepower.
So what you getting at? Well, I feel this game could be a little tighter than odds suggest and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brighton grab a goal. With Both Teams To Score banking in Bournemouth’s last six on their travels, as well as 12/20 (60%) overall, and the same figure proving successful in Albion’s home Championship duels, William Hill’s 10/11 on BTTS looks the safest play.
Knowing that 11 of Brighton’s 14 fixtures since Hughton took charge have featured Under 2.5 Goals plus 11/17 at the Amex failing to break the two-goal mark, could open up the Correct Score markets but instead, I’ll have a wee wager on the Cherries grabbing their first league win at the home of the Seagulls since 1988 with both teams scoring; half of their 10 away wins have included BTTS and at 7/2 (Ladbrokes) it still gives me the chance to cheer on the visitors.
Fulham v Wigan Athletic | Friday 19.45
I’m not going to waste my time, nor your time, going over old ground. I’ve slagged Kit Symons and Fulham off enough in the past few months and so it should be no surprise to hear there’s absolutely no way I could entertain the Cottagers from a betting perspective on Friday night.
The Whites, normally assured at Craven Cottage, have lost their way of late. Four defeats in five on home soil, including at least three goals leaked in their last three outings in front of their home supporters, is a worrying trend as we enter the final furlong. However, the point picked up at Charlton in midweek has at least eased their relegation fears, for now.
This six-pointer against Wigan, followed by a clash against Rotherham, will give us a fantastic indication into Fulham’s current state and whether successive relegations could be on the cards. But as already mentioned, their dismal season that’s included 21 defeats from 41 matches is simply unforgiveable and makes backing the Cottagers a sin you must not commit.
Wigan axed Malky Mackay in a final roll of the dice. The Latics have lost more games in 2015 than any other second tier side (10) and the subsequent appointment of club favourite Gary Caldwell to hopefully inspire another Great Escape has seen the club throw on free coaches for fans to travel to London to support the side.
And whilst Athletic haven’t won a home fixture since August, on their travels Wigan have won four of their last five. Despite sitting eight points adrift of safety, the visitors will fancy their chances here in what’s essentially a make-or-break game in their campaign.
The angle for me here is goals. Fulham have kept just five clean sheets as hosts this season, the second worst tally in the division. Netting in 14/20 themselves, the Londoners home games are averaging just over three goals-per-game. Although Both Teams To Score has copped in only nine of those 20 fixtures, I fancy the chances of a repeat at 16/19 with 888 Sport.
Wigan have netted in nine of their previous 12 away games and posted just five shutouts from 20 on the road all season. Exactly half of those matches have rewarded BTTS punters and knowing the Latics must go on the offensive on Friday night should hopefully lead to an open, attacking duel with goals at both ends.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Bournemouth – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
Brighton & Hove Albion v Bournemouth – Bournemouth win and Both Teams To Score (7/2 Ladbrokes)
Fulham v Wigan Athletic – Both Teams To Score (16/19 888 Sport)
What’s your best bet from Friday night’s Championship card? Are you backing the away double?
We’d love to hear your views on the games so let us know in the comments box below.