THE new season kicks-off on Friday night with Brighton’s clash against Nottingham Forest in front of the television cameras. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his betting views on the Championship duel with odds provided by our brand new Football League sponsors Favourit.
Brighton v Nottingham Forest | Friday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Finally, it’s here. It seems like an age ago since Norwich walked over Middlesbrough in the Championship play-off final at Wembley to bring the curtain down on another fabulous Football League season. Brighton and Nottingham Forest will cut the ribbon on the 2015/16 renewal with plenty of intrigue surrounding both camps heading into Friday’s opener.
With regards to the Seagulls, I made my feelings pretty clear in our Championship season previews. I’m hopeful, I’m expectant and I’m eager to see what Chris Hughton’s managed to achieve having had a full pre-season to work with his players. Albion endured a torrid campaign last time out and although home fans are pessimistic regarding a promotion push, I’m enthused.
An end of season run (W1-D4-L6) in which Brighton failed to score on seven occasions certainly doesn’t scream potential but they’ve managed to keep hold of their impressive centre-half partnership of Lewis Dunk and Gordon Greer over the summer to keep a solid base in tact. And with only Sheffield Wednesday scoring fewer goals than the Seagulls in 2014/15 (excluding relegated clubs), the seasiders will be delighted to have Sam Baldock fresh back from injury whilst adding a gem in Tomer Hemed to fill the goals void.
Hughton’s an excellent coach and it shouldn’t be forgotten what was achieved at Newcastle and Norwich before things turned sour at Carrow Road. I’m confident he’ll have the hosts organised and ready for the new campaign and he’ll be desperate to improve upon a record of W4-D2-L5 at the Amex under his watch – it is worth pointing out that Albion did improve their points-per-game ratio on the south coast during Hughton’s reign having collected W2-D6-L4 previously.
As for Forest, the Tricky Trees are traditional fast starters. In the past three campaigns they’ve come flying out of the blocks only to fade out in mid-table mediocrity towards the season finale and their finishing position has regressed each year under Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s reign (8th-11th-14th). The club have been operating under a transfer embargo this summer too, making Dougie Freedman’s job doubly difficult.
Arguably their best three players are also missing. Britt Assombalonga scored 15 in 29 after signing but is injured until the New Year whilst club captain Chris Cohen and playmaker Andy Reid aren’t quite ready to return. Michail Antonio, so impressive last season, will hope new boy Jamie Ward can ease the attacking burden with Dexter Blackstock the only fit striker available to Freedman.
Interestingly, the Scot commented this week, “We are only going to get stronger. We are at our weakest right now. But we are only going to get stronger as the season goes on” and that suggests to me, Forest are unlikely to come out firing for 2015/16. Sure, they held Aston Villa and Swansea to pre-season draws at the City Ground but they managed just one win from seven during their preparations and a tally of six road wins last term is nothing to write home about.
Brighton edged out Europa League winners Sevilla in their final friendly outing and although I’m positive about their prospects of a top-six push, I’m not overly keen to get involved with the hosts at Favourit’s 2.18 quotes. There is still match-winning quality in the Forest ranks but they’re likely to adopt a compact approach with five across the middle and Jack Hobbs and Matt Mills marshalling the defence.
With Brighton’s last seven at the Amex and eight of their 11 at home under Hughton seeing Under 2.5 Goals bank, it’s no surprise to see a restrictive goals line on offer. So instead I’m going to have a small play on the 0-0 half-time correct score at 2.63 (Favourit) – it landed in five of Albion’s previous six in front of their home fans and it may take time to shake-off the early season cobwebs.
Brighton v Nottingham Forest – 0-0 half-time correct score (2.63 Favourit)
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