SEVEN winners in seven for Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) Football League best bets this past week. Can he continue his red-hot streak on Bank Holiday Monday?
Charlton v Wolves | Monday 15.00
It’s six games without a win (W0-D3-L3) for Charlton following their Boxing Day draw at Bristol City but interim head coach Karel Fraeye believes Harry Lennon’s last-gasp leveller can be the turning point in their season.
The Addicks began 2015/16 in barnstorming fashion under Bob Peeters (W2-D2-L0) but things soon turned sour under the Belgian’s ineffective long-ball tutelage. The Londoners have won just two Championship games since August and sit two points from safety.
At Ashton Gate, Charlton were dominated for the entirety of the game but managed to escape with a point thanks to Lennon’s 93rd minute equaliser. However, the club return to The Valley for Bank Holiday Monday’s crunch clash with Wolves with an even deeper injury crisis.
German centre-half Patrick Bauer remains a major doubt and Alou Diarra was forced off in Bristol leaving Lennon and Naby Sarr to form a backline partnership. Jordan Cousins was still struggling with illness and came off at half-time and captain Johnnie Jackson admitted, the squad are dropping like flies.
Still, three of Charlton’s four Championship triumphs have come at their capital home and I’m not quite ready to write them off here, especially as attacking starlet Ademola Lookman and livewire Ricardo Vaz Te were able to return last time out. What’s more, talented Icelandic playmaker Johann Berg Gudmundsson may also be back in business.
So whilst the Addicks have a horrendous defensive record – four clean sheets in 23, conceding at least twice in 12/19 – they do boast enough industry and potential to trouble teams, especially at The Valley. That opens up the possibility for a play on the Both Teams To Score market.
888 Sport are offering almost even-money (39/40) on both Charlton and Wolves notching and that holds plenty of appeal. Since the start of last season, 21/34 (62%) of the Addicks’ home league fixtures have featured goals for both sides with the Black Country visitors following suit in 19/34 (56%) of their road trips in the same sample.
If we took the two figures together and found the average, we’d be looking at a 59% hit-rate in the two clubs’ corresponding home/away games. Turn that 59% strike-rate into equivalent betting odds and we’ve a 7/10 shot, making the 39/40 play another big value BTTS angle.
For the record, Wolves returned to winning ways against Reading last time out but Kenny Jackett’s troops were far from convincing. Wanderers were hammered for long spells and out-shot 6-24 overall.
The Royals hit the post while goalkeeper Carl Ikeme let a shot through his fingers along the way. There were last-ditch clearances, blocks and interceptions but Wolves clung on to a precious three points to ease the pressure on Jackett.
It was a backs-to-the wall job but you could really sense the nervousness in the home side’s defence. The Black Country boys had leaked just three goals in five with loan centre-half Mike Williamson marshalling the backline; they’d leaked nine in the four since he’d returned to Newcastle prior to that Reading contest.
With Kourtney Hause out injured, inexperienced Ethan Ebanks-Landell starts alongside Danny Batth in the heart of defence and so it’s no great surprise to see the visitors so shaky. However, in Benik Afobe, they boast one of the division’s most feared forwards and they should make their offensive threat pay.
Gillingham v Colchester | Monday 15.00
I’ve gushed enough praise over Justin Edinburgh in my Football League columns over the past year to to probably make you vomit but apologies guys, there’s more to come.
Edinburgh’s Gillingham charges beat in-form Swindon 3-1 on Boxing Day to record just a fifth road win this season to move within a point of joint-leaders Walsall and Burton. In midweek the Gills boss revealed he felt his side have massively overachieved but a return of W20-D11-L9 – a 1.77 points-per-game average – since arriving at the Priestfield suggests otherwise.
The Kent club have been a revelation under the former Newport County boss but the majority of their best work has been done on home soil. In such a northern dominated division, it’s probably unsurprising to hear the most southern club possess the best home record (W8-D2-L1). So they’ll enjoy a return to the Priestfield on Bank Holiday Monday.
They’re not the most aesthetically pleasing but the Gills play to their strengths – they’re big, physical and ultra organised. They’re not afraid to hit the flanks, employ a tough pressing game and have plenty of muscle and goalscoring ability across the park. They’ve notched 45 goals already this term – at least twice in 23/40 (57%) under Edinburgh – with Bradley Dack hogging most the headlines.
So it’s rather surprising to see the Monday’s hosts as big as 5/6 to record maximum points against Colchester. This is the same ColU that have now lost eight on the spin following their 2-0 derby reverse at home to Southend and are without a clean sheet in September.
This is the same ColU that have conceded 57 goals (average of 2.48 per-game), have leaked at least twice in each of their last nine and sit rock bottom of League One. Yes, it’s the same ColU that have been beaten in eight of their 11 away, including their last six.
New boss Kevin Keen faces a major task to stem the bleeding at Colchester and although the New Manager Syndrome remains a threat at the Priestfield (there were definite signs of improvement despite defeat against the Shrimpers), I just can’t ignore the odds in this contest and have to bite the bullet.
There’s plenty of attacking talent in the visiting squad and Keen’s a highly-rated coach but it’s difficult to make a real case for the travellers here. The former West Ham coach has watched from the stands for three fixtures prior to the Southend encounter but spent little more than a week on the training paddock with his squad making major impact limited.
I have to have Gillingham winning here; I’ve waxed lyrical about them enough over the past 12 months but I’m going to boost the price to 21/20 with Stan James by backing the Gills and Over 1.5 Goals.
I’ve already covered the high goalscoring trends for the hosts, as well as ColU’s woeful defensive records, but it’s also worth pointing out – just four of their collective 46 games have featured fewer than two goals.
Cambridge v Barnet | Monday 15.00
The feel-good factor around Cambridge shows no sign of abating after an excellent 3-0 success at struggling Dagenham on Boxing Day. The U’s battled hard and were on the back foot early in the second-half before taking a 51st minute lead through substitute Robbie Simpson.
Shaun Derry’s men didn’t look back with Simpson doubling his tally and big summer signing Barry Corr also notching as Cambridge moved into the top-half and just four points off the top-seven. Just last week I recommended taking the U’s at 11/8 to finish in the top-half and 10/1 for a top-seven finish in my Half-Term Report for League Two so it was a nice timely three points for anyone who got on board.
In pre-season the club were expected to go very close after big investment at The Abbey but long-serving boss Richard Money failed to bring home the bacon and was let go. Since Derry was appointed on the 12 November, Cambridge have moved up from 18th with a return of W4-D1-L1, scoring at least twice in five of those fixtures.
Derry’s a real student of the game and worked wonders at Notts County before off-field nonsense and a dramatic collapse in form saw him relieved of his duties in his first managerial experience. I’m certain he’s learnt plenty and he should flourish at a more stable club with the financial muscle to make a difference in January.
The QPR favourite has tweaked training to mirror his philosophy for playing high-tempo attacking football and the results have certainly paid dividends. Derry’s talked about getting more bodies forward more often whilst increasing the energy levels around the club and I like the idea of the U’s netting at least twice at even-money with BetVictor when Barnet arrive.
The Bees collected a 2-0 victory at home to Newport on Boxing Day to move 15 points away from the drop zone but Martin Allen’s men were aided by a 53rd minute penalty and sending off that changed the game. The Londoners were second-best for large swathes, even with the numerical advantage.
Barnet have taken 23 of their 28-point haul at their Hive home but it’s a different story on the road. ‘Mad Dog’ Allen’s visitors have W1-D2-L8 on their travels, are yet to keep a shutout and hold the league’s worst defensive record – leaking on average 2.36 goals-per-game.
In fact, in 10 of Barnet’s 11 away days they’ve conceded at least twice and backing Cambridge to score Over 1.5 Goals at evens makes plenty of appeal, as does the 23/30 (BetVictor) on a home win.
However, I’m sticking to my guns and the Team Goals approach. Why? Well, Barnet’s up and at ‘em approach has caused a few teams problems and in four of those away matches they’ve scored at least twice themselves. So rather than possibly requiring Cambridge to score three goals for a win, I’ll play it a wee bit safer and go with the better value goals option instead.
Charlton v Wolves – Both Teams To Score (39/40 888 Sport)
Gillingham v Colchester – Gillingham to win and Over 1.5 Goals (21/20 Stan James)
Cambridge v Barnet – Cambridge to score Over 1.5 Goals (1/1 BetVictor)
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