THERE’S live League Two football on Easter Monday as Portsmouth travel to Wimbledon. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) analyses the odds.
AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth | Easter Monday 12.45 | Sky Sports 1
Portsmouth put two disappointing results behind them to steam back into top form on Good Friday with a 4-0 thrashing of Notts County at Fratton Park.
Boss Paul Cook had come under pressure after a disastrous 3-0 reverse when hosting Newport left Pompey trailing in the battle for a top-three finish. But safely nestled five points adrift of third-placed Bristol Rovers with eight games to play, the League Two giants fancy their chances of sealing an automatic promotion place.
There’s no doubt Portsmouth are underachieving; 22 points behind runaway table-toppers Northampton, the south-coast club have the division’s biggest budget by a stretch and are just a smidgen off Oxford in the shot ratio standings (60.39% compared to Oxford’s 60.41%). However, Cook’s charges are thrived against the league’s leading lights.
Pompey have struggled against sides that drop deep, keep their shape and defensive discipline and hand the initiative over. Playing one up front, they’ve been unable to pick the locks and it’s led to 15 of their 38 games ending all square, as they’ve failed to score on 10 occasions.
But Portsmouth relish their role as guests, playing on the counter-attack and at their most effective when playing with pace and tempo, ala Saturday’s tonking of Notts County. Away from Fratton Park, Pompey have W8-D8-L3 and that includes W6-D3-L1 at top-half teams.
So whilst Cook’s charges have returned only W4-D3-L2 from their past nine and sit 10th in the 2016 table (W6-D4-L4), they’ve also handed out Northampton’s only defeat in their stunning 25-match streak and managed W8-D6-L3 against those top-half teams.
Cook has an array of options to choose from too. Skipper Michael Doyle and Danny Hollands patrol the midfield with a trio of Gary Roberts, Adam McGurk and Kyle Bennett supporting the lone striker, possibly Michael Smith with ammunition and goalscoring threats from behind.
Hosts Wimbledon suffered a damaging 1-0 defeat at Hartlepool on Good Friday and Neil Ardley’s troops are in danger of blowing an excellent chance of a play-off position.
The Wombles kicked-off the calendar year with a splendid spell of seven successes in eight but a total of just five points from a possible 21 since has seen Wimbledon drop four points outside of the top-seven picture.
Ardley now believes five triumphs are required from their final eight matches but Wimbledon’s return against the division’s elite certainly raises concerns.
The Dons have W1-D7-L4 against top-third teams and although they’ve only suffered two defeats when welcoming clubs above them in the standings to Kingsmeadow, they’re yet to actually win (W0-D4-L2).
AFC’s sole victory in seven came with a last-gasp winner against a desperate York side and the hosts are having serious problems converting their dominance; only Oxford, Accrington and Plymouth are averaging more on-target efforts but at Kingsmeadow only six sides have lower shots-on-target conversion rate.
With the likes of Tom Elliott, Lyle Taylor, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Ade Azeez and loan man Rhys Murphy in tow, finishing shouldn’t be an issue but’s the reason why Wimbledon aren’t pushing for automatic promotion. Nevertheless, I do fancy them to score here against a Portsmouth side that’s shutout only three of their last 19 hosts.
The Wombles could be without veteran centre-half Paul Robinson again here though and ultimately, I just can’t see them recording the result they require to put their play-off push back on track.
Marathon are offering 1.76 (13/17) on Portsmouth in the Draw No Bet market but I’ll also have a nibble on the 10/11 from William Hill for Both Teams To Score; more ambitious punters may prefer the 4/1 from Bet365 on an away win alongside BTTS.
AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth – Portsmouth draw no bet (13/17 Marathon)
AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
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