HAVING picked a huge eight winners from his past 11 Football League selections, Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) aiming to continue his fine form on Saturday.
Bristol City v Burnley | Saturday 15.00
Football in 2015 is a short-term game. Having conquered League One in stunning style last season, Bristol City were being written off after just two games. The Robins were edged out 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday in a tough opening day introduction to the second tier before a 4-2 defeat at home to Brentford raised alarm bells.
Sandwiched between those two Championship losses was a Capital One Cup exit at the hands of League Two Luton. So when the Reds went 2-0 down to Leeds at Ashton Gate last Tuesday, the sirens were loud and clear – Bristol City are going to be relegated, Bristol City are going to struggle, Bristol City aren’t good enough to compete at this level.
Of course, it was absolute nonsense but that’s what football is like nowadays. If you don’t win every other week or your new signing doesn’t score a hat-trick on his debut, he’s crap and you’re team are s***. Naturally, I was delighted to see City grab two late goals to eventually collect a point against Leeds and over the moon for Steve Cotterill after they clinched a superb 1-0 win at 11/2 at Middlesbrough last time out.
But dig a little deeper in the Robins’ earlier results and we can see the situation never needed panic, alarms or sirens. Whilst they dominated possession against Wednesday, the more clinical team deserved the points on the day. However, Cotterill’s troops were in command before Luke Freeman’s red card against Brentford and also made all the running against Leeds before falling behind to a penalty.
And don’t for a second think their Riverside success was a fluke. City were organised, determined, good on the ball and could have easily been two or three goals to the good before half-time. Boro pressed hard in the second period but goalkeeper Ben Hamer produced a sterling display to cap a richly deserved first win of the season.
So after that great build-up, I won’t be backing Bristol City on Saturday. Instead, I’m more interested in taking the 1.79 on Both Teams To Score from Favourit. I’m certain Jonathan Kodjia will find his shooting boots sooner rather than later following his £2m move from French football and encouragingly for the hosts, they’re created plenty of opportunities in the attacking third.
Burnley are understandably finding the introducing back to second tier football a little tricky (W1-D2-L1) and that rock solid defence that contributed an impressive nine clean sheets in the Premier League just hasn’t functioned quite so well. Skipper Jason Shackell’s move to Derby has had a big bearing on their lack of cohesion at the back with the Clarets keeping just one shutout across their first four outings.
Goals shouldn’t be an issue at the opposite end, mind. Andre Gray’s inline to make his debut after a £6m move from the Bees against the club he rejected. It should add a bit of spice to proceedings at Ashton Gate and with the home side only failing to net in five fixtures on home soil in a year, I’m confident we’ll be in for a goal-heavy game in the West Country.
Bury v Oldham | Saturday 15.00
As already mentioned, results don’t always tell the full story, especially in the Football League. I’m not quite sure how Bury find themselves down in 16th whilst Saturday’s opposition are as high as 12th, even at this early stage.
David Flitcroft’s hosts have W0-D3-L1 but have failed to finish a catalogue of chances in all four fixtures – they could easily be sat top-of-the-table with a 100% record. The Shakers have hit the target with more efforts (29) than any other side in League One this season but have managed to concede goals from 10 of the 16 they’ve faced.
Still, it’s important that Bury remain confident and assured. Summer investment has handed Flitcroft one of the best attacking partnerships in the division with Leon Clarke and Tom Pope spearheading the offence and the Shakers must rediscover the glue that saw his side finish their 2014/15 promotion campaign with 12 clean sheets from 17.
Flitcroft has promised to find that magic formula but fighting broke out amongst a minority of travelling fans when the Bury boss opted to reassure supporters after the ding-dong 3-3 draw at Crewe. Tensions were unreasonably high last weekend and although a 4-1 defeat to Leicester at Gigg Lane in midweek will have raised further questions, the Shakers dug in deep and battled admirably.
I’m willing to invest my faith and cash that Saturday is the day their first win arrives because quite frankly, I don’t rate Oldham at all and I believe they’re in a false position. Whilst Bury have hit a league-high number of shots-on-target, the Latics have accumulated just eight – an average of two-per-game – and they’re conceding, on average, five-per-game.
Darren Kelly will have been delighted with Oldham’s W1-D3-L0 return (including two shutouts) but his promise of an attacking and expansive game couldn’t be further from the truth. Against Shrewsbury, Oldham’s goal in the 1-1 draw came from skipper Liam Kelly’s penalty (now out injured); Colchester hit the woodwork in their 0-0 stalemate; the 1-0 victory over Fleetwood was attritional and ugly whilst they did compete admirably in the opening 1-1 with Walsall.
Since December 2014 Oldham have W8-D9-L14 in the league and W4-D3-L8 on the road. Bury clocked up 14/23 (61%) wins in the fourth tier last season and I firmly believe they’ll be motoring up the league ladder, starting on Saturday. The hosts are 1.87 (Favourit) to win.
Plymouth v Newport | Saturday 15.00
I have to admit, I didn’t expect Plymouth and Derek Adams to hit things off quite so quickly. The Scot, who made such a huge impact at Ross County north of the border, favours an exciting, expansive, attacking approach and is almost a polar opposite to the dour, defensive, safety-first ideals of predecessor John Sheridan.
Argyle endured a gruelling pre-season schedule under Adams but the early signs are promising with the squad looking fitter, sharper and stronger and the Pilgrims have played some delightful stuff on their way to a strong W3-D0-L1 start. Two new signings, Graham Carey and Jake Jervis, were on target in last weekend’s excellent 2-0 success at Northampton and I’m keen to keep Plymouth onside this weekend.
I’ve had to rethink my pre-season prediction on the Home Park club and a top-seven finish is certainly within sight and although the hosts are too short to support in the Match Odds market against lowly Newport on Saturday, we can get involved at 2.45 (Favourit) with Plymouth to be leading at half-time and full-time in the Double Result market.
All three of the Pilgrims’ victories have seen Adams’ charges leading at the interval and the Devon outfit are also defending a strong record in front of their home supporters. Portsmouth left Home Park with maximum points this term but under Sheridan’s watch, the hosts managed a solid W13-D6-L4 with Argyle ahead at the break in 13/23 (56%).
I expected Newport to struggle and tipped the Welsh club for relegation in our pre-season previews and Terry Butcher’s men have recorded just one point from their first 12 on offer. Chairman and Euromillions Lottery winner Les Scadding ended his association with County in the summer leaving Newport with a huge deficit in their budget putting Butcher in a tricky situation.
Injuries have also mounted at Rodney Parade and Butcher continues to plead for patience and confidence in his team’s ability to turn the corner. The boss has bemoaned naïve defending for their current plight and although Newport have had a week to get things right on the training paddock, I’ll need convincing they’re going in the right direction.
County have conceded at least twice in three of their four League Two encounters this term and trailed at half-time in two of those fixtures. I expect a confident Plymouth side to put the lowly visitors to the sword.
Bristol City v Burnley – Both Teams To Score (1.79 Favourit)
Bury v Oldham – Bury to win (1.87 Favourit)
Plymouth v Newport – Plymouth HT/FT (2.45 Favourit)
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