MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) highlights the best betting opportunities from Saturday’s Football League action.
Nottingham Forest v Leeds | Saturday 15.00
We might be barely a month into the new Football League season but already I’m finding the Nottingham Forest narrative a fascinating one.
The Tricky Trees have garnered six points from four games (W2-D0-L2) but as we know, results don’t always tell the full story. Forest were fortunate to see off near-neighbours Burton 4-3 on opening day and a little unfortunate to lose 3-0 at Brighton the following Friday.
Against the Seagulls, Philippe Montanier’s man had decent opportunities to notch and it was a similar tale when going down 1-0 at Brentford. Forest impressed for large swathes of their trip to Griffin Park but left empty-handed.
However, the two-time European champions turned on the style, particularly in the second-half, of last week’s 4-3 triumph against Wigan at the City Ground. Again, it was a game in which the Tricky Trees could and should have scored more.
Montanier’s already started 21 players this season as the Frenchman tinkers with his youthful group. But on the whole, Forest have coped reasonably well and you can understand the cautious optimism that’s creeping around the city. Even more so when you consider the swashbuckling style with which the side are approaching their work.
Only four Championship clubs have fired in more shots than Forest this season but equally, just four sides have faced more attempts; it means the Tricky Trees’ average of 29 total shots-per-game is comfortably a league-high.
And the opportunities being created are of a solid enough standard to give Forest an impressive expected goals-per-game mark of 1.60. However, the flip-side sees Saturday’s hosts hitting a 1.80 expected goals-against figure.
Put the two trends together and Forest’s four matches thus far have been expected to average 3.40 goals-per-game – a very, very healthy figure. Obviously the actual total goals figure (18) works out at 4.50 goals-per-game but even so, we’re well within our rights to believe another glut of goals is on the way.
So I have to admit, I’m delighted by the 10/11 (188BET) available on Both Teams To Score this weekend, it just seems a steal.
Forest have approach to create more than enough trouble to concern a Leeds outfit that appear to have found their feet under Garry Monk.
The ex-Swansea boss was ludicrously rumoured to be close to the sack following a one point return from games against QPR, Birmingham and Fulham but last weekend’s impressive 2-0 triumph at Sheffield Wednesday, coupled with EFL Cup progression, has bought Monk time.
The Whites were terrible at Loftus Road but were unlucky not to earn a share of the spoils against Birmingham and produced a sterling second-half effort at home to the Cottagers to deservedly pick up a point. And nobody could argue Leeds didn’t deserve their derby-day win at Wednesday.
Leeds have now scored in three of their four league fixtures, keeping a solitary shutout. Under Monk, United’s expected goals rate is at the 1.20 mark with an expected goals against rate a worryingly high 1.70 – marry the two figures together and the Whites’ opening four matches should have produced 2.90 goals-per-game – another very healthy figure.
Why’s that expected goals against figure a little concerning? Well, Birmingham are the only second-tier team to face more shots than Leeds with United’s matches averaging 27 efforts in total – just two more stats to suggest Saturday’s game could be as open and attacking as we’d hoped.
And despite being under former management, it’s encouraging to see that 15/25 (60%) of Forest’s home games since the start of last season, plus 14/25 (56%) of Leeds’ away encounters during the same sample have featured winning BTTS bets.
Those two percentages give us a 58% average, which in betting terms implies a 7/10 shot. With that in mind, I’m divining in deep on the 10/11 from 188BET.
Chesterfield v Millwall | Saturday 15.00
Few folk would have had Chesterfield amongst League One’s leading contenders this season but Danny Wilson’s steadied the Spireites ship since taking charge midway through last season and has clearly solidified the foundations.
The Derbyshire outfit have started their campaign brightly with seven points from four relatively comfortable fixtures. But Chesterfield have looked strong across all four games, including their opening day draw at Oxford.
Back-to-back home wins followed against Swindon and Walsall before a really unjust loss at Shrewsbury last weekend. The Spireites fired in 17 efforts on-goal (eight on-target) and deservedly led before conceding two goals from corners.
It was a bitter pill for Wilson to swallow but on the whole the likeable boss has been pleased with his team’s progress that’s included an immediate impact from Ched Evans. However, it wouldn’t be fair to heap all the praise on the striker that’s scored four goals in as many games.
Only Scunthorpe have had more shots in League One than Chesterfield and no third-tier side has landed more efforts on-target than the Spireites, who’ve also netted in all four of their fixtures.
The quality of chances created has been high and I’d expect them to grab a goal in another lively examination against Millwall.
Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 4/5 (188BET) here but again there’s evidence to suggest it should be shorter.
Chesterfield have only failed to net in three of their 14 matches at the Proact Stadium since Wilson arrived. But during the same sample, the hosts have only kept their sheets clean on three occasions – it’s a return that’s led to 9/14 (64%) BTTS winners.
Millwall head north looking to build on a deserved 2-1 triumph over beleaguered Sheffield United last weekend. Despite a late penalty settling the scores, the Lions were much the better team and glad to get their 5-1 thumping at Peterborough out of the system from the proceeding Tuesday.
Neil Harris’ troops are currently middle of the road in the shot and shots-on-target standings but in Steve Morison and Lee Gregory, the Londoners boast the division’s most formidable strikeforce. With midfielder Calum Butcher arrived on-loan from Burton this week, the capital club have the offensive threat to hurt any League One side.
But both sides scoring is what we’re after and Under Harris’ charge at this level, Millwall have seen 18/25 (72%) of their road trips feature profitable BTTS selections, as well as Over 2.5 Goals winners. The visitors have notched in all bar three of those games and recorded just six shutouts along the way.
That 72% figure implies betting odds of 2/5. Chuck in Chesterfield’s strong stats and the 4/5 begins to look really enticing.
Exeter v Portsmouth | Saturday 15.00
Last week we focussed on Exeter’s pointless return from their opening three outings in League Two. Paul Tisdale had come under serious fire from supporters but profligate finishing, bad luck and injuries had all conspired against the Grecians.
That injury crisis has subdued slightly – captain Jordan Moore-Taylor remains doubtful here – but lady luck was smiling on the Devon outfit at Accrington, where Exeter landed a 2-1 triumph last weekend to give us a winning 13/2 selection.
Truth be told, Accrington were well on top for the first hour before Exeter scored and still should have taken a point judging by the chances that were created.
City were back in action on Tuesday night in the EFL Cup. Tisdale’s charges put in a brave performance and even led Premier League Hull before succumbing to a 3-1 home loss. The Grecians put in a real shift and enjoyed just 37% of possession.
But it was another disappointing result at St James’ Park, a familiar feeling for Exeter fans. We touched on it last weekend but the hosts have now claimed just four victories in the past year on home soil and since 2012/13, the Grecians have won just W27/94 (29%) League Two games at St James’ Park – it’s an awful record for a club that’s not finished below 16th in those four campaigns.
In 2016/17, sloppy finishing has contributed to a measly 11 shots-on-target thus far – only Newport and Cambridge have returned worse figures – and on Saturday they welcome a Portsmouth side that’s faced just eight efforts on-target across four very dominant displays.
Pompey’s five-point haul (W1-D2-L1) just doesn’t reflect their season so far. When held 1-1 by Carlisle on the opening day, Paul Cook’s charges won the shot count 23-2 with the Cumbrians managing a single effort on-target.
The 0-0 draw at Crewe that followed was probably a fair result but again Portsmouth reduced their opposition’s attack to a solitary strike on-target.
Next came Morecambe and a 2-0 loss. Well, Pompey again won the shot count (25-7) and dominated all the performance data – shots-on-target, corners, possession – but failed to get past Shrimps stopper Barry Roche, who performed heroics in a Man of the Match display.
Finally, Pompey picked up their first triumph last weekend against Colchester but Cook’s men had to wait until 10 minutes from time to break the deadlock despite once more enjoying the lion’s share of all the key metrics.
So far this season, no Football League team has an expected goal rate – a figure based on the strength of chances created – as high as Portsmouth’s 2.25 goals-per-game. Only Norwich and Wolves have an expected goals against rate that’s lower than Pompey’s 0.70 goals-per-game.
Under Cook’s watch, the visitors have W11-D9-L5 – a 44% win rate that would make the visitors a 5/4 play here. Portsmouth might be an 11/10 (Marathon) chance on Saturday but you could easily argue the above statistics make the guests an odds-on shot.
Pompey W7-D3-L1 at top-half teams last term and with the majority of League Two teams sitting back to defend deep, offering a physical approach to unsettle the league favourites, Cook’s charges have often struggled to breakdown teams.
Exeter won’t offer such a task. Tisdale’s men will come to play football and give as good as they’ve got – the Grecians won’t offer that physical threat and so Portsmouth should have the time and confidence to play their way to victory having come off a free midweek with no cup distractions.