THERE’S a Football League double-header in front of live Sky Sports cameras on Sunday. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) talks us through the best bets.
Bristol Rovers v Oxford | Sunday 12.15 | Sky Sports 1
The pre-season buzz surrounding Oxford appears to have solid foundations. Michael Appleton’s men have made an unbeaten start to the new season (W3-D2-L0) and have now avoided defeat in their past 13 league matches, spanning the end of the last term and the beginning of 2015/16.
However, a case could easily be made against The U’s, who’ve faced four sides currently in the bottom-seven already. That would be nit-picking, mind. The Yellows have continued their positive 2015 form; building neat possession-based football with a solid firm defensive footing to boot.
Oxford (2/1 Bet365) already returned eight clean sheets in 15 road trips this calendar year and only leaked 25 goals on the road throughout their 2014/15 campaign. It’s an impressive feat and one that makes the visitors dangerous opposition on Sunday lunchtime.
As well as boasting one of League Two’s meanest backlines, Appleton’s troops have added a cutting edge in the final third. Keemar Roofe’s return of 10 goals in his past 13 appearances suggests the balance between shutouts and goalscoring is about right and The U’s will fancy their chances of piercing the top-three of the fourth tier.
But hey, lets not write off Bristol Rovers. Darrell Clarke’s men have made a superb start to life back in the Football League following their one-year hiatus in the Conference. Their nine-point haul (W3-D0-L2) has also featured four fixtures against the current bottom-nine but The Gas’ backline displays have already caught the eye.
The Pirates are averaging just three shots-on-target against with two clean sheets already recorded in their five outings. Goalscoring has been the problem for the hosts, though. Rovers are averaging just one goal-per-game having drawn blanks against Leyton Orient and Northampton and I’m just not sure there’s enough firepower in the ranks to support the home side at 13/8 (Betfred) quotes or a goal-heavy game at the Memorial Stadium.
Both sides are missing a few faces with injury and international duty so I’m happiest going against the goals with two defensively sound sides on show. Ticking ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score column has proven profitable in four of Rovers’ six matches in all competitions this season and rewarded backers in 10/23 (43%) of Oxford away games during 2014/15. It’s 10/11 with William Hill.
Burton v Coventry | Sunday 14.30 | Sky Sports 1
This intriguing East Midlands derby promises plenty. Burton have made a superb transition from League Two title winners to comfortable top-half League One side over the first five fixtures (W4-D0-L1) and were even the better side during their sole defeat during 2015/16.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s moulded a real team ethic at the Pirelli whilst installing a professional approach on and off the park. There’s a ‘no excuse’ ethos around the club and every squad member is aware of their role and duties. They’re a hard-working bunch with a glistening of match winners making the hosts resolute and stubborn operators.
Burton’s Pirelli form was outstanding last season (W16-D4-L3) and a six-point return from their home games this season suggests it’ll again me one of their main strengths. More recently they’ve managed 11 wins from 15 starts in front of their home fans (with only one loss in 19) and although they’ll have to make-do without summer signing Aurelien Joachim on Sunday, they’re settled and focussed on the job in hand.
I had high hopes for Coventry this season but I didn’t expect quite such a fast start from the Sky Blues. However, their opening three victories gave way to just a one-point haul from games at Walsall and at home to Southend and boss Tony Mowbray has been begging the FA to call this clash off.
League One’s top goalscorer and loan sensation Adam Armstrong is on international duty, as is midfielder Bryn Morris and back-up striker George Thomas while creative fulcrum James Maddison and defender Jordan Willis remain sidelined with long-term injuries. It’ll certainly dampen the ambitions of the visitors who’ll arrive with a sold out away allocation.
Coventry are reasonably robust on the road, mind. The Sky Blues have suffered just one loss (W5-D2-L1) in eight away trips going back to the end of last season with five shutouts kept in those eight outings. Mowbray’s men have only leaked more than once goal in five of their previous 17, cementing the idea the current crop are a resilient bunch.
I slightly favour Burton for this but I’m not totally drawn in by the 13/10 so instead Skybet’s 4/6 offering on the Brewers in the Draw No Bet market gives us a bit of insurance. I’m also going to have a punt on Under 2.5 Goals at 5/6 with Marathon – it’s been a winner in 11 of those aforementioned 17 Coventry road trips.
Bristol Rovers v Oxford – Both Teams To Score ‘No’ (10/11 William Hill)
Burton v Coventry – Burton draw no bet (4/6 Skybet)
Burton v Coventry – Under 2.5 Goals (5/6 Marathon)