MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles Monday night’s live Championship contest from Ewood Park.
Blackburn v Nottingham Forest | Monday 19.45 | Sky Sports 2
Not since 2008/09 has Championship football been averaging fewer than 2.50 goals-per-game and this season’s dreary 2.36 goals-per-game figure is threatening to even beat the 2005/06 return of just 2.43 goals-per-game.
The second tier is tight, combustible, well-matched and ultra competitive. Draws are up to 34% – the first time that figure has peaked above 30% since 2007/08 – with 29 of the 81 stalemates ending goalless.
Monday night’s fixture between Blackburn and Nottingham Forest looks another even contest with the two clubs separated by just three points and four places after 20 games. There really isn’t much to choose between the two clubs.
Both teams entered the season under transfer embargos and endured bumpy rides. Blackburn ditched Gary Bowyer last month after picking up just three wins to sit in 16th. But the subsequent appointment of Paul Lambert has seen the side take 10 points from a possible 12.
Rovers have moved into the top-half and a win at Ewood Park to start the week would actually take them to within a point of the play-off places. The Lancashire outfit have been fond of a draw – nine in total, including five on home soil – and have enjoyed a degree of fortune in Lambert’s first four games.
Against Preston, the ball rebounded off the back of opposition goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and into the net to help them on their way and in Friday night’s unconvincing 1-0 success over Rotherham, Craig Conway’s wicked cross was headed into his own goal by Luke Hyam. For large periods of that encounter, Blackburn were on the back foot.
Corry Evans’ goal against Sheffield Wednesday took a big deflection and the side were also awarded penalties against Preston and Bristol City. Lady luck has been shining on Monday’s hosts; they’ve now won as many matches – three – in their new manager’s first four games in charge as they did in their previous 17.
Still, Lambert has said there’s been a shift in mentality at the club and his players are still getting grips with the high tempo style of football he wants to adopt. In his first four games in charge of the club he has made only two changes to his starting line-ups – one enforced – so a bit of freshening up might be required here.
The Rovers players, who have all spoken about how the intensity of training has risen since the managerial change, appeared to tire toward the end of the hard-fought success over the Millers. That was only their third victory in front of their own fans – two of which have come against lowly Charlton and Rotherham – so I’m not overly keen in investing at 6/5 (BetVictor) quotes.
If you require any further pointers to steer clear of the hosts, arguably the Championship’s best goalscorer, Jordan Rhodes, has netted just once from open play in his last nine matches. The Scottish international has nine of Blackburn’s 22 goals in the league but is suffering from an unusual dry spell.
I’ve put the boot into Nottingham Forest on many occasions this term but to be fair, Dougie Freedman’s men have dug deep over the past four weeks. Their 1-0 derby success over Derby was rumoured to have saved Freedman his job and bar a frustrating a 2-1 loss at Brentford, the Tricky Trees have shown endeavour, new-found belief, resolve and attitude.
Friday night’s 1-1 at Wolves ended a four-match losing streak on the road – a late equaliser from substitute Dexter Blackstock sharing the spoils in a fairly poor encounter – and so Forest have now leaked more than one goal just once in their most recent nine.
A players meeting post-Brentford seems to have done the trick and with the strength-in-depth on Freedman’s bench on Friday night, the Tricky Trees should be aiming for much more than a comfortable mid-table position.
Still, I’m finding it hard to split these sides. Having highlighted the low-scoring and draw trends of the 2015/16 Championship campaign, it’s difficult to deviate from that plan. After all, Rovers are the lowest scoring side in the top-half and only five other sides have netted more often than Forest.
On their travels, Forest have seen just one of their previous seven produce three or more goals and five of Blackburn’s last six at Ewood Park have delivered similarly low-scoring ties.
Under 2.5 Goals is short enough at 8/11 so I’ll ignore that and have a small play on the Draw at 12/5 (BetVictor) as well as a wee poke on the 1-1 correct score at 6/1 (BetVictor). It’s a scoreline that’s proven profitable in 9/40 (22.5%) of the two teams’ fixtures this term with 15/40 (37.5%) of their respective games ending all square.
Blackburn v Nottingham Forest – Draw (12/5 BetVictor)
Blackburn v Nottingham Forest – 1-1 correct score (6/1 BetVictor)
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