ANOTHER 2/3 haul for Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) Football League best bets last weekend. Can he nail the treble on Saturday?
Brentford v Sheffield Wednesday | Saturday 15.00
Brentford have become renowned for their attractive football since arriving back in the second tier of English football and the Bees have made significant progress on and off the pitch over the past few years. A 20,000 stadium is in the pipeline and the Londoners aim is to be playing Premier League football in their new surroundings.
Under new leadership with Marinus Dijkhuizen taking over the reigns in the summer, Brentford’s approach to play out from the back and entertain hasn’t been diminished but the squad still appears to be adjusting to the new head coach’s tactical philosophy. Fluidity and positioning is key and with so many new arrivals plus the spine of last season’s XI moving on, it’s not too surprising to see a few teething problems at Griffin Park.
However, the goals continue to flow and now 17 of their last 19 on home soil have broken the Over 2.5 Goals barrier with eight of their most recent 11 at Griffin Park even featuring four or more goals. The Bees have leaked at least twice in seven of their last nine at their West London home and are yet to keep a Championship clean sheet under Dijkhuizen.
Last weekend I suggested a play on Both Teams To Score as Sheffield Wednesday hosted Fulham and the two teams served up a 3-2 thriller at Hillsborough. That result, alongside a midweek Capital One Cup success against Newcastle despite making 10 changes, has alleviated some of the early and unfair pressure on new head coach Carlos Carvalhal.
As part of his appointment, the Portuguese boss was asked to open up Wednesday. Too often last season they played with the handbrake on and Carvalhal has certainly added much more speed, fluidity and urgency to their attacking play. The Owls have only failed to score once since early April but it’s come at a cost.
Wednesday have already conceded 12 goals – leaking at least twice in four of their first eight – that’s already a quarter of the number they conceded in the whole of last season. Throw that lack of defensive discipline in alongside their more cavalier approach of 2015/16 and I’d like to think goals will once again be on the agenda at Griffin Park.
Over 2.5 Goals is 1.83 (Favourit) and that looks too big to ignore having won in 20/26 (77%) Brentford home fixtures since the start of last season.
Swindon v Colchester | Saturday 15.00
More love for Colchester here. The U’s have recorded back-to-back wins against promotion favourites Sheffield United and early pacesetters Gillingham to really put the cat amongst the pigeons. We highlighted their excellent record for goals but I certainly didn’t expect the Essex club to come out on top.
The Marvin Sordell signing has made ColU a devastatingly dangerous attacking proposition. Alongside Gavin Massey and Callum Harriott, the U’s have pace to burn and fired in a huge 24 shots across both fixtures. Tony Humes’ charges have now scored at least twice in five of their eight League One matches and only Walsall have found the target more often with their efforts on goal.
However, Colchester’s defence still appears to be faltering. On-loan goalkeeper Jamie Jones has been forced into two match-winning penalty saves in his first three outings and Humes’ men boast the league’s unwanted worst defensive record having leaked two or more goals in six of their eight games. A mix of injuries and inconsistencies can be blamed but we won’t whinge as their goal-heavy ways opens up another Over 2.5 Goals bet on Saturday at 1.80 (Favourit) against Swindon.
Perhaps harshly, I put the Robins up for relegation pre-season. Truth be told, I’ve never really warmed to Mark Cooper and the Wiltshire boys saw their best players leave the County Ground over the summer. Nathan Byrne was the latest to be shipped out and after a promising W2-D2-L0, Swindon appear to be falling back to where I expected them to be – mid-table.
Three defeats in four have raised alarm bells, though. Cooper’s charges were beaten ‘to nil’ by Sheffield United and Burton at the County Ground whilst Barnsley slaughtered the Robins 4-1 at Oakwell. Cooper demanded his players take more ownership of their performance following those losses and changes are expected.
Skipper Nathan Thompson is definitely out, aiding Colchester’s attack. But Wes Thomas troubled the Burton backline and Nicky Ajose will only improve having lacked match fitness. You’d back Swindon to score – they’ve done so in 42/50 (74%) of County Ground league outings under Cooper and play their part in a potential shoot-out. I’m getting with the goals.
Oxford v Morecambe | Saturday 15.00
So I got Morecambe wrong last week. I thought the Shrimps looked excellent value to continue their five-match unbeaten streak and make it four wins on the spin. In the end they were trounced 4-2 by Northampton with boss Jim Bentley admitting, “on another day they could have scored seven or eight. We’ve got what we’ve deserved and that’s nothing.”
Rarely do two diabolical displays follow one another so after a full week on the training paddock, I’d expect Morecambe to be at the races this weekend. It’s a tough task heading to Oxford but they shouldn’t, and are unlikely to, fear the prospect. Last season Bentley’s boys W11-D3-L4 against top-nine clubs and that includes an incredibly impressive W6-D3-L1 road record against the league’s leading lights.
I’m not going to go in on Morecambe again but I will back them to score. Both Teams To Score is trading at 1.85 (Favourit) for this Oxford contest and that’s attractive enough considering the Shrimps have netted three or more goals in three of their last five, two or more goals in their previous six and the fact only five clubs firing in more shots-on-target this term.
The loss of Jack Redshaw’s barely been an issue as both Shaun Miller and Tom Barkhuizen conjure up a cracking partnership but issues at the back are yet to be ironed out. As well as last weekend’s defensive horror show, the Shrimps were indebted to goalkeeper Barry Roche for a Man of the Match display at rock bottom Newport the week previous and no side has faced more shots-on-target than the visitors (on average almost six-and-a-half per game).
For all the plaudits heading Michael Appleton’s way at Oxford, his side haven’t quite mastered the defensive solidity this season we’ve come to expect. Sure, they’ve only conceded three goals in five games but a tally of two clean sheets so far this campaign should allow the visitors enough wriggle-room to contribute to the scoresheet.
Oxford have top scorer Kemar Roofe back in business and troubled promotion favourites Portsmouth at home last weekend in a match Appleton said his side “should have been out of sight by half-time” with “four or five glorious chances” going begging. With Danny Hylton also in tow there’s pace, guile and quality to ensure the U’s record of only failing to net once in 2015/16 extends by another weekend.
Looking at both clubs’ comparative home/away figures from the start of last season, Oxford have enjoyed 14/27 (52%) of Both Teams To Score winners at the Kassam with 16/27 (59%) following suit for the Shrimps. I’ll back a repeat at 1.85 with Favourit.
Brentford v Sheffield Wednesday – Over 2.5 Goals (1.83 Favourit)
Swindon v Colchester – Over 2.5 Goals (1.80 Favourit)
Oxford v Morecambe – Both Teams To Score (1.85 Favourit)
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