MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles the midweek Football League coupon in the search of big value bets.
Huddersfield v Charlton | Tuesday 19.45
Charlton are in a right old mess. We correctly identified Colchester as the next side to give the Addicks a bump in last weekend’s FA Cup column and I expect more misery for the Londoners this midweek.
It was a deserved defeat in Essex for Charlton with interim head coach Karel Fraeye admitting just as much post-match. So the case to oppose the visitors again this midweek continues to grow.
Since mid-August the Addicks have managed just W2-D6-L13 in league action. On the road they’ve lost eight of their 12 trips and failed to score in 11 of 25 outings this term, leaking at least twice in 13 of those contests. Yeah, it’s bad.
Enough on the guests then and a wee peek at Huddersfield. I suggested last month that Jurgen Klopp’s best pal David Wagner was already making inroads with the Terriers and although results haven’t been absolutely fabulous (W4-D1-L5), performances are certainly improving.
At the weekend, Wagner switched his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to go three at the back, pushing captain and centre-back Mark Hudson up front alongside Ishmael Miller and Nahki Wells as he gambled for an equaliser against Reading. By full-time Huddersfield had earned an FA Cup replay and were in the hat for the fourth road.
Wells is relishing his role under the German’s tutelage and following three successive defeats at the John Smith’s but back-to-back beatings of Rotherham and Preston have raised spirits. And so it would be rude not to get involved as Huddersfield hunt a hat-trick of home triumphs.
The Terriers are too short to consider in the Match Odds and just as off-putting in the Team Goals markets to score at least twice. But we can combine the two and back a Huddersfield win and Over 1.5 Goals at a tasty 11/10 with Paddy Power.
All bar two of the hosts’ 25 league outings have featured at least two goals whilst 20 of Charlton’s 25 have produced Over 1.5 Goals. It makes the combining the two angles an enticing prospect.
Sheffield Wednesday v Bolton | Tuesday 19.45
There’s no doubt Premier League promotion is the number one priority around Hillsborough but Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvahal recognises the value in a decent cup run.
The Portuguese chief noted that knocking Newcastle and Arsenal out of League Cup contention only aided the Owls’ league form as his side churned out an impressive 11-game unbeaten streak, turning around their slow and sluggish start.
So on Saturday, Carvahal only made three changes – two enforced – as Wednesday progressed with a scratch 2-1 win over Fulham. The Owls were fairly mediocre for late parts, bar a Barry Bannan masterclass from midfield, but the victory marked an 11th success from 16 in all competitions on home soil.
Wednesday have recorded three home wins on the spin, thrashing Wolves and Birmingham by three-goal margins prior to their weekend triumph. It’s now 11 without a loss and as well as beating Premier League table-toppers Arsenal, they’ve also avoided defeat to Championship big guns Brighton, Derby and Hull.
The Owls are within touching distance of the top-six and with Fernando Forestieri and Gary Hooper both expected to brush off heavy knocks to play, I’m confident the hosts can swipe struggling Bolton aside at Hillsborough.
Almost 10 years ago to the day Bolton were holding Aston Villa to a 1-1 draw that cemented their seventh-place position in the Premier League. Jay-Jay Okocha and Hidetoshi Nakata didn’t even make the starting XI and that season saw only Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United beat the Trotters on home soil. How times change, eh?
Unless a buyer arrives in the next 24-36 hours, Wanderers are heading to administration. Staff have been informed and unless one of four interested parties provide concrete evidence they have the £14million being asked to cover debts, plus provide proof they can continue to operate the club, Bolton’s future looks bleak at best.
The club are touting prized assets such as Zach Clough and Mark Davies in the hope of raising funds, Wigan have expressed an interest in buying their Euxton training base whilst offices at the Macron Stadium have already been sold. It’s a real mess.
On the pitch, Wanderers’ season has followed a similar pattern. Captain Darren Pratley bundled in a late equaliser to avoid an FA Cup embarrassment at non-league Eastleigh on Saturday with Clough and Davies left at home – both were hugely missed.
The Trotters have posted the worst shot-conversion rate in the second tier this term (7.7%), have managed a solitary success in 20 outings, taken just three points on the road (W0-D3-L9) in league football and failed to score in 13/25 (52%) of Championship matches.
Neil Lennon’s beleaguered boys were stuffed 4-0 at fellow strugglers Rotherham in their most recent away league trip, have fired blanks in five of their previous seven outside of the Macron and been beaten in 10 of their last 11 at top-half teams. Gulp.
Since Lennon arrived in Lancashire, he’s overseen W4-D7-L19 in away games with only six clean sheets and 9/30 (30%) ending in defeats by at least a two-goal margin – five of which have occurred in their 12 fixtures in 2015/16.
So with Bolton losing 63% of their away outings and Wednesday turning Hillsborough into something of a fortress, it’s understandable to see the Owls chalked up as heavy favourites. However, ignore the main Match Odds and instead invest in the Asian Handicap market with 4/5 (Bet365) on offer with a -0.75 Asian Handicap start.
Taking this selection means, should the Owls win by at least two goals you’ll be in clover. However, a one-goal home victory would also net you half of that potential full profit with half of your stake also returned. The only way in which we’ll end up out of pocket is if Bolton avoid defeat.
Wednesday have won 7/12 (58%) of their Hillsborough league games and 5/12 (42%) of those matches have ended in a triumph by at least two goals.
Port Vale v Swindon | Tuesday 19.45
I outlined a bet on this fixture ahead of their clash on 2 January but bad weather forced the postponement so they’ll try again on Tuesday night. My feelings and thoughts have remained the same since so I’ll be going over a lot of old ground here so forgive the repetition…
Port Vale aren’t often in the headlines but it’s time to blow a bit of smoke up the arses of Potteries club as Robert Page continues to upset the odds and pre-season predictions with his hard-working side.
The Valiants have W24-D13-L26 – 1.35 points-per-game – since the Welshman took charge and following their 1-0 Bank Holiday victory over Bury and their weekend victory against Blackpool by the same scoreline, have climbed into 10th-place, only four points adrift of the top-six.
Vale were dumped out of the FA Cup and took just a solitary point from nine before visiting Coventry on Boxing Day and although they left the Ricoh empty-handed, Page rated the 1-0 defeat as arguably the best performance in his 15 months in charge.
So they were delighted to end a frustrating spell with three points against the Shakers with Sam Kelly’s contender for goal of the season earning victory. The result means only Millwall have left Vale Park with a win in 2015/16 (W7-D4-L1) and it’s that fantastic home form that makes them a great betting proposition here.
Port Vale are 23/20 (William Hill) to defeat Swindon and I have to get involved. The 4-5-1 formation deployed by Page at Coventry and against Bury won’t win prizes for aesthetics but they’re a mighty tough team to out-battle and will now welcome midfield hard man Anthony Grant from suspension.
Since Page arrived, the Valiants have returned W15-D8-L8 figures on home soil – that’s a 1.71 points-per-game average. The hosts have conceded just four goals before the interval at Vale Park this term and with only one 2016 match played thus far, should be well rested and ready to go.
The Robins saw manager Martin Ling sadly resign from his post at the end of December because of health reasons. The 49-year-old had been in charge for 56 days and guided a previously struggling team to five wins from nine matches. My thoughts are with Martin and his family at what’s undoubtedly a tough time.
The Wiltshire raiders had suffered back-to-back losses to promotion-chasing Burton and Gillingham before falling behind to Southend on Saturday. The side rallied impressively to secure a 4-2 win but there were still enough question marks over their all-round performance to warrant opposing them here.
Caretaker Luke Williams was naturally chuffed post-match but with Adam El-Abd, Ben Gladwin and Louis Thompson all leaving in the past week after their loans expired, nobody can pretend Swindon are a stronger side than the one Ling left.
The Robins are leaking 1.64 goals-per-game on average, have already been beaten in exactly half of their away days and failed to net in four of those 12 road trips too.
Neither Vale nor Swindon fare particularly well in the performance data (shots, shots-on-target, shot ratios etc.) but it’s true too that the home side are ahead of the Robins in the majority of these tables and so I’m happy to give the hosts the benefit of the doubt.
Huddersfield v Charlton – Huddersfield to win and Over 1.5 Goals (11/10 Paddy Power)
Sheffield Wednesday v Bolton – Sheffield Wednesday -0.75 Asian Handicap (4/5 Bet365)
Port Vale v Swindon – Port Vale to win (23/20 William Hill)
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