MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over the best Football League bets this weekend from a depleted coupon.
Rotherham v Charlton | Saturday 15.00
It’s a relegation six-pointer from the New York Stadium on Saturday that stands out with Rotherham well worth an interest at 5/6 (Matchbook) to ease their danger zone demons.
Neil Redfearn took over from Steve Evans on 1 November with the Millers rock bottom having picked up just nine points from their first 14 fixtures. And back-to-back defeats to high-flying Middlesbrough and Ipswich in the space of four days left the Yorkshire outfit even more in the mire.
Redfearn claimed he’d keep Rotherham in the Championship with plenty to spare but it was never going to be a quick fix. Evans’ direct and chaotic approach was to be ripped up for a more patient possession-based style and in recent weeks, results and performance-levels have greatly improved.
The following 12 matches have brought about W5-D1-L6 to move the club outside of the bottom-three. And now Redfearn’s 1.33 points-per-game average matches the same 1.33 points-per-game he managed in 42 fixtures in four spells in charge of Leeds (W16-D8-L18) under difficult circumstances.
If the Millers continue on the same path, they’ll conclude the campaign on 49 points – that tally would have been enough for survival in all bar one of the previous seven seasons. So there’s still work to do and areas to be addressed.
Assistant manager Eric Black has moved to Aston Villa this week but Redfearn was delighted to clinch the signings of Andrew Shinnie, Chris Burke and Luciano Becchio and the trio of attackers can certainly bolster their final third output.
The hosts have scored more goals than 10 other sides and they’ve notched 17 times across the aforementioned 12 matches having fired in 155 shots (12.92 per-game). In six home games against QPR, Brighton, Bolton, Hull, Wolves and Bristol City, the Millers attempted 90 efforts, netting 12 goals, a decent conversion rate of 13%.
Rotherham have returned an impressive 58.82% shot ratio in those six outings and that figure creeps up to an even more imposing 66% when viewing their share of the total shots-on-target. QPR somehow burgled a 3-0 victory despite being out-shot 21-8 and so I expect normal service to be resumed.
Bristol City (3-0) and Bolton (4-0) were brushed aside and beleaguered Charlton could easily go the same way. The Addicks managed a point at home to bang out-of-form Blackburn at The Valley last weekend but a W1-D1-L10 return from their past 12 away days in league competition suggests they’re far from competitive travellers.
The visitors have faced an eye-watering 282 shots in their 14 road trips – 60 more than their next worst – conceding 32 goals. The Londoners have failed to score on eight occasions, have notched a league-low seven goals on their travels and have posted a shocking -25 goal difference as guests.
What’s more, defensive midfielder Alou Diarra is missing and the 16 matches he’s not been involved in since joining last winter have seen the Addicks concede exactly two goals-per-game. Their points-per-game has also fallen from 1.12 with him to just 0.81 in his absence.
Since the start of last season, Charlton have lost 19/37 (51%) away and although the 5/6 might look a little skinny, these two sides appear to be going in different directions and so it’s a price I’m happy to take.
Swindon v Barnsley | Saturday 15.00
Credit to Lee Johnson. I felt his Barnsley side were capable of a promotion push this season but having churned out eight consecutive league losses for the first time since 1958/59, his tenure looked all but over.
A 2-1 victory over his old club Oldham on 21 November gave the 34-year-old a stay of execution and although a point from their following two fixtures sent the Tykes to the bottom of the table, Barnsley have turned the corner since.
The Reds have taken 18 points from a possible 21 and are now just a point off the top-half and seven away from the play-off positions. Unable to buy a win away, Johnson’s men have now W4-D0-L1 on their travels, scoring 12 goals.
In midweek Barnsley beat Bradford 1-0 at Valley Parade but centre-half Alfie Mawson limped off as the visitors kept only their second clean sheet on their travels this term. Next on the agenda is a trip to Wiltshire for a date with Swindon.
The Robins have taken up seven points from a possible nine since Martin Ling’s resignation as Luke Williams has picked up the slack in temporary charge. At the County Ground, Swindon have beaten both Southend (4-2) and Crewe (4-3) but neither of which were anywhere close to comfortable.
Sure, they deserved to take a point at Sheffield United (1-1) last time out but sloppy defending could have easily cost them in all three matches as Swindon’s attacking prowess bailed them out.
The hosts remain vulnerable at the back – they’ve kept their sheets clean in only three fixtures and only four sides have conceded more goals than their tally of 45. But with Nicky Ajose and Jonathan Obika looking like a potent partnership in attack, the Robins are capable of coming out on top in shootouts.
The County Ground is the highest scoring venue in League One, featuring 51 goals across 14 games (3.64 goals-per-game) with 12 banking for Over 2.5 Goals backers and the same figure for Both Teams To Score investors. So with Barnsley proving similarly profitable in the goals markets (46 goals seen across 13 away games), it’s an angle I’m keen to pursue.
Bet365 are offering 20/21 on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score this Saturday and that seems more than fair. It’s a bet that’s banked in 12/14 (86%) Swindon home fixtures and 7/13 (61%) of Barnsley’s away days.
If we put the two teams’ home/away records together, it’s a selection that’s won on 74% of occasions. If we turned that percentage into odds, you’re looking at a 4/11 shot so the 20/21 represents mega value.
York v Stevenage | Saturday 15.00
Talking of goals, York’s crucial clash with Stevenage on Saturday looks another contest likely to provide plenty of goalmouth action.
The Minsterman are marooned at the bottom of the League Two table and now three points adrift of survival despite a well-earned 1-1 draw at Carlisle last weekend. However, Jackie McNamara’s switch to a diamond midfield didn’t work and York’s slow starts are becoming costly.
On second-half performances alone, City would have taken six points from a possible 12 during their last four fixtures and be sitting outside the relegation zone. Instead, due to goals conceded before the break, only two points have been collected.
McNamara’s been working overtime to fix the dreaded defensive problems and although they’ve not shutout any opposition side since early September, they have leaked just five goals across their most recent five matches.
Nevertheless, York’s encounters are rarely low on entertainment, especially at Bootham Crescent. The Minsterman’s 26 games have averaged 2.92 goals with home outings featuring 3.25 goals-per-game – 10/12 have broken the Over 2.5 Goals barrier with the same figure also collecting in the Both Teams To Score column.
Stevenage held Barnet to a 0-0 draw in last weekend’s derby in a match shorn of outstanding opportunities. And manager Teddy Sheringham will have been disappointed not to have made more of an impression with the Bees missing four strikers including top scorer John Akinde.
The Boro boss is having to bed in a host of new faces and youngsters with defenders Mark Hughes and Jamie McCombe the latest to leave. Three debutants appeared last weekend whilst striker Aaron O’Connor and midfielder Keith Keane were making just their second showings for the club.
But like their hosts, Stevenage tend to be involved in goal-heavy games, especially away. The Hertfordshire club have seen an average of 3.11 goals-per-game in their 28 matches and 3.36 across their 14 road trips – all bar one of those encounters produced at least two goals.
Boro have delivered 11/14 winners in the Over 2.5 Goals market when playing away with 12 ticked off for Both Teams To Score backers. So again I’m looking towards the Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score option with Bet365’s 11/10 offer looking too good to turn down.
It’s a bet that’s proven profitable in 10/12 (83%) of York’s home outings and 10/14 (71%) of Stevenage’s away days. If we put the two teams’ home/away records together, it’s a selection that’s won on 77% of occasions. And if we turned that percentage into odds, you’re looking at a 2/7 shot – so the 11/10 is yet another mega value selection.
If you needed further confirmation, this meeting pits together the two busiest League Two defences – York face 5.27 shots-on-target per-game with Stevenage’s 5.39 SOT conceded a league-high. Bring on the goals!
Rotherham v Charlton – Rotherham to win (5/6 Matchbook)
Swindon v Barnsley – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (20/21 Bet365)
York v Stevenage – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (11/10 Bet365)
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