MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) highlights the EFL Cup value from Tuesday night’s second round games.
Blackburn v Crewe | Tuesday 19.45
Crewe haven’t won a second round League Cup for eight years but the circumstances could be right the Railwaymen to end that sorry record when they travel to Blackburn on Tuesday night.
Steve Davis’ men have responded to League One relegation by going five matches unbeaten in 2016/17 and were disappointed not to have taken three points at Newport on Saturday.
The Alex could make changes here but even so they look a little underrated against a club that could be playing in the same division as them next season.
Blackburn have been eliminated from five of their last six League Cup ties against lower-ranked opposition, the exception being their first round 2-1 triumph at Mansfield.
Owen Coyle’s men were slightly fortunate to collect a point at home to Burton at the weekend – their first of the Championship season – and the hosts are vulnerable favourites.
Shane Duffy and Elliott Ward are both fit and available again for Rovers and a victory is essential to avoid mounting doom and gloom levels but I’d prefer to oppose Blackburn at the prices.
Exeter v Hull | Tuesday 19.45
Hull may have only 13 senior professionals on their books but the Tigers became only the second-ever newly-promoted side to record back-to-back Premier League wins at the start of a season when seeing off Swansea on Saturday.
Mike Phelan now looks odds-on to land the vacant manager’s position on a full-time basis but the former Manchester United assistant won’t have fancied a long trip to Exeter this midweek for his teeny-tiny squad.
On Saturday Hull host Manchester United and although youngsters Greg Olley, Josh Clackstone, Jarrod Bowen and Greg Luer are in contention, Phelan said he won’t be mixing his threadbare squad up too much. Either way, the Tigers are unlikely to be close to full tilt and I’ll get the Grecians onside.
We called Exeter right in our Football League column on Saturday as a 2-1 success at Accrington gave under-fire Paul Tisdale room to breathe.
Despite a tough encounter with Portsmouth on the agenda this coming weekend, plus an improving injury crisis of their own, the Devon outfit are worth backing to avoid a 90-minute exit.
Exeter have never beaten a Premier League opponent in the League Cup (W0-D0-L2) and whilst nine of their last outings in this competition have been at home, a W2-D0-L7 return is far from profitable, I’ve seen enough to suggest the Grecians can lift themselves here.
Again, I’ll take an Asian Handicap approach with the +0.50 at 19/20 with Bet365 standing out, and I’ll also have an interest in the 10/3 on a home win with the same firm.
Northampton v West Brom | Tuesday 19.45
West Brom boss Tony Pulis said, “I won’t be making a lot of changes at Northampton because we haven’t got a lot of changes to make” during his pre-match press conference for this match but talk is the Baggies will give James Morrison a first start since January and may include 16-year-old Kane Wilson, new signing Brendan Galloway, as well as Jonathan Leko, Boaz Myhill and Rickie Lambert.
We certainly shouldn’t expect a full first XI from the visitors, and even if we were to see Albion at full-strength, I’d still be happy to find a way to oppose the visitors here. WBA have been outplayed in both Premier League games this term, relying on set-piece situations for goals.
The Baggies don’t have a particularly rich recent history in this competition, either. Last year, West Brom needed penalties to beat Port Vale at home before a limp effort in defeat at Norwich, while in 2014 they squeezed through on penalties against League Two opponents before eventually succumbing to Bournemouth.
Pulis has shown a willingness to make multiple changes in cup competitions and under his tenure Crystal Palace were beaten by lower-league opposition in the FA Cup.
At Stoke, a Pulis-led team lost to Swindon and Rochdale at this stage of the League Cup, required extra-time against Leyton Orient and edged past Cheltenham.
Northampton haven’t lost a home fixture since December 2015 and whilst Jak McCourt, Raheem Hanley, Brendan Moloney, Lawson D’Ath and Rod McDonald are short of match fitness and included in Rob Page’s squad, the Cobblers are an awkward beast under the former centre-half’s charge.
Town have drawn all four of their League One matches since promotion and again look worth support in the Asian Handicap market with 9/10 available on the +0.50 start. And of course, I’ll have an interest in the 29/10 (Bet365) for the hosts to progress with a win in 90 minutes.
QPR v Rochdale | Tuesday 19.45
Rochdale currently sit joint-bottom of League One with a solitary point from their four-match troubles but Keith Hill’s troops shouldn’t be discounted to provide a cupset at Loftus Road on Tuesday night.
You know, it’s standard QPR procedure to exit cup competitions early and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men only survived their first round tie in London against Swindon thanks to a first-ever penalty shoot-out win on home soil.
The Dutch boss rotated his small squad against the Robins and has confirmed he’ll follow suit for the visit of Dale.
Rangers have only progressed to the third hurdle of cup competition four times in 19 years (thanks @Ratings_Mike) and were dumped out by Rochdale here in 2011. In fact, the R’s have fallen at this stage in each of the last three seasons, each time against opposition from a lower tier.
The visitors are looking to reach the third round for just the third time in their history and were unfortunate to lose at home to MK Dons at the weekend. A stoppage-time winner denied Dale a point but you’d assume the underdogs will be bang up for a response in the capital and deserve our faith.
The former worked in our favour with Swindon at QPR in the first round and sees us profit should Dale avoid defeat and only losing half of our stake if the Hoops win by exactly one goal.
Blackburn v Crewe – Crewe +1 Asian Handicap (21/20 Bet365)
Blackburn v Crewe – Crewe to win (6/1 BetVictor)
Exeter v Hull – Exeter +0.50 Asian Handicap (19/20 Bet365)
Exeter v Hull – Exeter to win (10/3 Bet365)
Northampton v West Brom – Northampton +0.50 Asian Handicap (9/10 Bet365)
Northampton v West Brom – Northampton to win (29/10 Bet365)
QPR v Rochdale – Rochdale +0.75 Asian Handicap (9/10)
QPR v Rochdale – Rochdale to win (17/4 Bet365)