MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on Tuesday night’s Football League coupon.
Fleetwood v Gillingham | Tuesday 19.45
Is Gillingham’s promotion charge set to be undone by a series of costly injuries and sloppy performances? Quite possibly.
Having highlighted the Gills as a Football League fancy for Saturday’s clash with Chesterfield, I earmarked the potential danger of having both captain Doug Loft and talented centre-half John Egan missing.
An expected loan move for Cardiff defender Deji Oshilaja never materialised but Justin Edinburgh did manage to pick up experienced Adam El-Abd just in time for the weekend.
However, the Kent club lost 15-goal star man Bradley Dack to a first-half hamstring injury and after following behind nine minutes before the break, were facing a mountainous struggle when leaking a thunderous strike from range, right on the half-time whistle.
Edinburgh’s troops fought valiantly in the final 45 minutes – Emmanuel Osadebe pulled one back before Rory Donnelly missed an opportunity to salvage a point. So despite winning the shot count 17-5 and enjoying 58% possession, Gillingham slipped to back-to-back defeats.
Now the Gills haven’t lost three on the spin since January 2015 but with W2-D2-L4 across their past eight fixtures, including a solitary clean sheet, and key absentees for the trek to Fleetwood on Tuesday, you have to say they’re vulnerable visitors.
At their Kent base, Edinburgh’s team are the league’s hottest outfit. But when Gillingham travel, they rank 16th (W5-D4-L7) with just two triumphs since October on the road (W2-D2-L5). And at bottom-half dwellers, that away record reads just W2-D3-L3.
One theory for their vastly different home and away returns resides in the distances they and opposition sides are encountering . Nestled in the south-east, Gillingham face a league-high 8,747 miles worth of travel in a northern-dominated division – in contrast Sheffield United only face 3,966 miles.
So I’m keen to oppose the Gills this midweek in Lancashire. Since promotion to League One, Fleetwood have W14-D14-L10 when hosting – that’s a loss rate of just 26% – with 12 clean sheets to their name from those 38 fixtures. It’s decent enough.
Steven Pressley was appointed in early October and his 1.29 points-per-game average hasn’t yet alleviated any relegation fears (W7-D6-L8). The Cod Army have W5-D2-L3 at Highbury Stadium, silencing four of their 10 visitors, and there have been encouraging sides despite their slow progress.
The Scottish boss claims to have the best team in the division between both penalty boxes and although that statement was made more in jest than substantial evidence, his suggestion is backed up by bits and bobs in the performance data.
For example, under Pressley, Fleetwood have only seen their opposition enjoy more shots-on-target in seven of their 21 matches, just eight third tier teams are enjoying a better shots-on-target ratio figure and seven sides are averaging more on-target efforts.
On Saturday, the Cod Army overcame the throes of a defensive injury crisis to overturn Coventry at the Ricoh Arena and convincingly too. The Fylde coast club won the shots-on-target count 7-3 despite having no right-back or central defensive cover for the contest.
David Ball and Wes Burns were given attacking starts and Pressley was naturally delighted with his side’s display against his former club, saying, “I’m very proud of my players. The only disappointment that I have is that it was only 2-1 in the end, because it should have been much, much more than that.”
If Fleet can improve upon their poor conversion rate- they’ve scored just 25.50% of their on-target efforts – they should begin to march away from the drop zone. And I believe this midweek offers the hosts a great chance to continue Saturday’s ground work with odds of 7/9 – that’s 1.79 in decimals – from BetVictor available on the Cod Army off a 0 start on the Asian Handicap line.
This selection works in exactly the same format as a bet in the Draw No Bet market, meaning we’ll get our stake back should the game end all-square.
Gillingham are missing key personnel, have only won 8/25 (32%) of their away days under the impressive Edinburgh and are coming up against a Town side that’s shipped just once in four at Highbury whilst losing 10/38 (26%) as hosts. It’s a nice value price.
Swindon v Doncaster | Tuesday 19.45
Swindon have only failed to score in three of their 17 outings at the County Ground this season and if we include their 2014/15 campaign, the rampant Robins have hit the back of the net in 32/39 (82%) League One matches.
Luke Williams has steadied the ship after Martin Ling’s untimely departure and the Wiltshire raiders have climbed into the top-half of the table for the first time since September, thanks to three wins on the spin.
Nicky Ajose’s been Swindon’s headline act with 10 goals in his past eight matches, notching 20 for the campaign. And I reckon the former England youth international can contribute to a goals-based bet on the Robins this midweek.
Williams’ troops have struck at least twice in seven of their most recent nine on home soil and Ladbrokes offer odds of 11/10 for Tuesday’s hosts to repeat the feat against Doncaster.
Since the start of this season it’s a feat Swindon have achieved in 9/16 (56%) of their league fixtures and if we include last season’s results, the home side have scored two or more goals in 21/39 (54%) games at the County Ground – two solid percentage figures above the 50% mark.
Doncaster’s expected top-six push after their initial resurgence under Darren Ferguson has failed to materialise and now Rovers find themselves parked just three points above the drop zone. The visitors are winless in eight (W0-D3-L5) and only Blackpool and Crewe are facing more on-target efforts on the road.
When playing away to teams above them in the table, Donny have W1-D3-L7, leaking two or more goals on seven occasions.
The guests’ offensive output has dramatically decreased during their lean spell so Ferguson may try and encourage a more attacking performance out of his charges here, which should also aid our selection.
Exeter v Portsmouth | Tuesday 19.45
Portsmouth have suffered just three defeats in 15 away from Fratton Park (W6-D6-L3) in League Two football under Paul Cook but did you know, Pompey have managed just two clean sheets in their past 23 league outings on their travels?
Crawley were held to a goalless draw in the midst of August and Newport – rock-bottom when they clashed in October – were beaten 1-0. Bar those two fixtures, the south-coast club have leaked in all 13 matches on the road this term.
Since that success over Newport, Cook’s troops have W6-D8-L5 to accumulate 26 points from 19 games – that would rank Portsmouth 14th in the standings – and their two-point haul from four travelling trips since seeing off Northampton has contributed to their promotion slump.
Naturally, I’ve no inclination to get Pompey onside as they head west to face Exeter but I will jump on the overwhelming trends pointing in the direction of Both Teams To Score. William Hill have made BTTS a 10/11 shot and that’s a big value price.
Exeter left it late to take maximum points from Stevenage on Saturday, their first victory since January (W1-D1-L3), and a result that leaves the Grecians eight-points adrift of the play-off positions. Jayden Stockley scored twice and the club are becoming accustomed to life after Tom Nichols.
Paul Tisdale’s troops don’t possess a fearsome record at St James’ Park – five wins in 16 this season and 13/39 (33%) since the start of 2014/15 – but they have a superb habit for producing goal-heavy games.
Exeter have delivered Both Teams To Score winners in 27/39 (69%) since the beginning of last season and 10/16 (63%) this term as hosts. And with Portsmouth’s poor defensive record on the road, Cook’s visitors have followed suit in 12/15 (80%) of their 2015/16 games as guests seeing BTTS, as well as 22/38 (58%) going back to 2014/15.
Whichever way you look at it, the stats are suggesting at least a 63% chance of success on Tuesday night and that implies odds of around 4/7. However, the 10/11 odds on offer from William Hill imply just a 52% chance of Both Teams To Score banking – it’s big value.
Fleetwood v Gillingham – Fleetwood 0 Asian Handicap (7/9 BetVictor)
Swindon v Doncaster – Swindon to score Over 1.5 Goals (11/10 Ladbrokes)
Exeter v Portsmouth – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
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