TWO winning Football League trebles in the past week for Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire). Can he pocket the hat-trick on Saturday?
Reading v MK Dons | Saturday 15.00
I didn’t expect to be singing the praises of Steve Clarke and Reading so early in the season. I actually had the Royals down for mid-table mediocrity at best and although the early season results hint that prediction might be about right, performances have hinted at a marked improvement over their 2014/15 form.
On Wednesday night the Berkshire boys were in complete control of a 1-0 lead at Sheffield Wednesday only for goalkeeper Jonathan Bond to drop a clanger in stoppage-time and gift the Owls an undeserved point. Reading were also the better side in their opener at Birmingham despite going down 2-1 with a dour 0-0 against Leeds sandwiched between the two.
Sure, it doesn’t sound like anything to write home about but Clarke’s had time to drill his troops in the art of defending, made a few canny additions to the group over the summer and the fruits of his labour are beginning to show. The Royals have faced just six efforts on target this season with Paul McShane and Anton Ferdinand imperious and impressive from centre-half.
Orlando Sa has started to find his feet up front and his hold up play has made Clarke’s men a more rounded team if perhaps not so easy on the eye. Only Nottingham Forest have fired in more shots than Reading’s 49 after three outings and I’m keen to get with the Royals this weekend at 2.06 (Favourit) against MK Dons.
Dons manager Karl Robinson continues to plead poverty whilst filling the airwaves with nonsense about how his poor club are in ‘transition’ and rated rank outsiders by the bookmakers going into their first Championship campaign. As per, ‘Robbo’s generally talking out of his arse and is best left ignored.
MK were handed a relatively soft start to their season and the 4-1 opening day win over Rotherham grabbed plenty of headlines. But closer inspection shows that Dons were far from convincing – the Bucks club were gifted all four goals (their only efforts on target).
Next up, Preston came away with 1-0 victory at Stadium:MK – reducing Robinson’s charges to just two shots-on-target – whilst MK were lacklustre for a good hour of their 1-0 victory over a ramshackle Bolton in midweek. All in all, the visitors have netted five times from just nine goalbound attempts, a remarkable statistic which is unlikely to continue as the season progresses.
The Dons short trip to the Thames Valley is likely to be their toughest test yet and I’m happy to oppose the newly-promoted club with Reading overdue three points thanks to a number of encouraging displays. The same can’t really be said of MK.
Burton v Peterborough | Saturday 15.00
Burton made hard work of their midweek win at Blackpool but the Brewers showed plenty of character and quality to turn the game around having fallen behind to a first-half goal. Two excellent goals from Nasser El Khayati gave Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men their second league victory of the campaign and I want to keep Albion onside again this Saturday.
No side has managed to land more shots-on-target in League One than Burton whilst only Colchester have faced fewer. They are two pointed stats that reflect the work Hasselbaink’s been doing in glowing terms. The Brewers were poor for the first 45 minutes against Blackpool but there’s an identity, a doggedness and determination built in to the team and they’re a tough cookie to crack.
Hasselbaink’s impact just can’t be understated, either. Since arriving in Staffordshire, Burton have W21-D8-L4 of their 33 league outings under his watch. Even more impressive is their return at the Pirelli – W12-D3-L1 as well nine clean sheets from 16 matches. Momentum is often heralded in football and the League Two champions have it in droves.
Burton are 2.16 (Favourit) to make it three wins from four with Peterborough visiting the Pirelli on Saturday and I make the Brewers a bet. Not just because of their accomplished start to life in the third tier but also, I just don’t rate Posh at all these days. Dave Robertson was not universally applauded when being given the gig after Darren Ferguson’s departure and the club seems to be stuck in no man’s land.
Peterborough have already been beaten twice in League One by Sheffield United and Rochdale and there were plenty of groans of derision as they struggled to beat Colchester in front of their home fans. Defensive injury concerns have eased with on-loan centre-half Alex Davey and young right-back Tobi Adebayo-Rowling being passed fit but they seem to be lacking leadership and direction.
In their 3-1 midweek loss to the Blades striker Souleymane Coulibaly took the Man of the Match award after a goalscoring cameo from the bench and surely that only highlights the bereft quality in the ranks at London Road. It’s been quite some time since Posh put in a decent showing on the road and having lost 12 of their last 21 away games, I’m happy enough taking Burton at 2.16.
Carlisle v AFC Wimbledon | Saturday 15.00
You’d think a former international defender would be able to organise a defence at League Two level but Keith Curle’s Carlisle appear no nearer to solving their woeful backline problems. The Cumbrians were humped 4-1 at Plymouth on Tuesday night having already leaked four in a seesaw 4-4 draw with Cambridge last weekend.
Curle went public with his ambition to make Carlisle a tighter and more progressive unit but since he was handed the reigns, clean sheets have been few and far between. Taking the 20 league games at Brunton Park under Curle’s watch, Carlisle have kept just six shutouts but also netted themselves in all bar two outings. That’s given the hosts a solid 12/20 (60%) success rate when backing Both Teams To Score and I’m keen to get involved with the bet this weekend.
The BTTS selection has banked in all three of United’s League Two matches this term as well as two of Wimbledon’s three. Neil Ardley’s visitors are generally poor travellers (W5-D8-L11 since the start of last season) but 11 of those 24 games would have seen Both Teams To Score backers collect. Favourit are offering the bet at 1.75 for Saturday’s showdown.
Wimbledon created stacks of opportunities against highly-fancied Cambridge on Tuesday night but only Tom Elliott managed to get on the scoresheet with two defensive lapses leaving the Dons pointless. Ardley admitted the dressing room was ‘as flat as a pancake’ post-match but the Dons boss is adamant he’s got the tools to get AFC motoring.
Right now it’s difficult to trust either side keeping their slate clean and it’s worth pointing out these two played out a stunning 4-4 draw when meeting at Brunton Park last season. I’m not expecting the goals to flow quite as freely as that but I do think Both Teams To Score is well worth a poke at 1.75.
Reading v MK Dons – Reading to win (2.06 Favourit)
Burton v Peterborough – Burton to win (2.16 Favourit)
Carlisle v AFC Wimbledon – Both Teams To Score (1.75 Favourit)
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