MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has delivered six profitable weekends from eight in the Football League this season. Can he continue his hot-streak on Saturday?
Brentford v Wigan | Saturday 15.00
Brentford have accumulated 17 points (W5-D2-L2) since their opening day defeat at league-leaders Huddersfield to move the Bees into a lofty fifth-placed position ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Wigan.
Fans are speaking about a possible promotion push and, unlike other managers who try and downplay those expectations, boss Dean Smith is happy for Brentford supporters to do so as the capital club continue to excite and enthral.
At Griffin Park the Bees have picked up 13 points from a possible 15 and although lopsided 4-1 and 5-1 triumphs over Reading and Preston in their past two outings as hosts are a little flattering, the Londoners are full of confidence and look a decent prospect at 11/10 (Betfred) to win here.
Midfield mystros Ryan Woods missed the midweek victory over the Royals but Alan McCormack came in for his first league appearance of the season and produced a typical all-action display alongside Nico Yennaris. It was one of five changes from the team beaten 3-1 at Wolves last weekend.
Yennaris, Lasse Vibe, Josh Clarke and Andreas Bjelland all performed admirably as Clarke and Maxime Colin scored their first goals for Brentford on Tuesday. The Bees had to ride their luck at times but countered superbly with Romaine Sawyers, Scott Hogan, Vibe and Clarke all impressing in the final third.
There are most definitely goals in this team but Smith spoke about his delight at Brentford’s defensive discipline against Reading and with players coming back from injury, more is to be expected from Saturday’s hosts in the future.
The Bees aren’t particularly prolific or exceptional in the performance data parameters but they do tend to be strong operators in front of their home fans. Under Smith, Brentford have W10-D4-L5 at Griffin Park and since promotion to the Championship the home side boast an excellent W26-D11-L14 return as hosts.
Both the above stats suggest the Londoners should be chalked up at odds-on quotes and with Wigan pointless from five away days since returning to the second-tier and shipping at least two goals on four occasions, it’s easy to oppose Gary Caldwell’s travellers.
The Latics did record just their second success of the season on Tuesday night as Caldwell made a brave call to drop leading scorer Will Grigg against Wolves. The move paid off as Grigg’s replacement Adam Le Fondre grabbed the opening goal of the game for Athletic.
However, Wigan are struggling to turn their strong possession statistics into goalscoring opportunities. Only Reading, Fulham and Derby have enjoyed more time on the ball but only eight clubs have landed fewer on-target attempts, whilst only 60 (45%) of their 133 shots have been taken from inside the penalty box.
Athletic will look to attack Brentford and that should play into the Bees’ counter-attacking hands. Despite hosing up in League One last term, the visitors managed just six clean sheets on the road and so I’m happy to go against Caldwell’s charges here.
AFC Wimbledon v Gillingham | Saturday 15.00
Late goals were a feature of these two clubs’ midweek matches as Coventry snatched a point in a 2-2 draw against Wimbledon four minutes into stoppage-time whilst Gillingham earned a share of the spoils at Chesterfield thanks to Scott Wagstaff’s 96th-minute leveller (3-3).
The point lifted the Dons outside of the bottom-four but Neil Ardley was understandably frustrated that his side couldn’t enhance their recent W2-D5-L1 run with a third three-pointer in seven. The Wombles supremo blamed the officials for the late equaliser but also blasted his troops for a sloppy first-half display.
AFC return to Kingsmeadow on Saturday for a contest against Gillingham eager for points. The hosts have already welcomed and lost to three of the league’s promotion favourites (Sheffield United, Bolton and Scunthorpe) but will believe the Kent club are beatable and an enjoyable encounter should be in store.
Four of Wimbledon’s first five on home soil this season have delivered at least three goals from an average of 3.20 goals-per-game. The Both Teams To Score selection has proven profitable in all five home fixtures and overall seven of the Dons’ 10 League One clashes have broken the 2.5 goals barrier with nine featuring both sides scoring.
Visitors Gillingham delivered the goals goods for us on Tuesday night and I see no reason why Justin Edinburgh’s men can’t repeat the feat this weekend.
The Gills are yet to keep their sheets clean in 2016/17 and have now managed just seven (19%) shutouts in 37 road trips under Edinburgh, leaking 13 in games as guests already this season – that’s an average of 2.60 goals per-game.
A huge 26/37 (70%) of Gillingham’s away days under Edinburgh have featured Over 2.5 Goals winners with the same figure proving profitable for Both Teams To Score backers, as the visitors have notched in all bar seven (19%) matches and netting twice or more in 17 (46%).
Collectively, Over 2.5 Goals has won in 15/20 (75%) League One games this season and Both Teams To Score has paid out in 18/20 (90%).
The average goals per-game scored across the pair’s 20 outings stands at a handsome 3.25 so I’ll happily snap-up the 23/20 from Coral on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score.
This selection has paid out in 14/20 (70%) combined matches in 2016/17 – that percentage implies betting odds of around 4/9. That’s big value.
Notts County v Morecambe | Saturday 15.00
It’s been an eventful week at Morecambe.
Last Friday Diego Lemos’ majority shareholding and takeover was approved by the EFL with the Brazilian saying the Shrimps “can dream” about the future. And on Tuesday manager Jim Bentley denied speculation linking him with the vacancy at Tranmere.
In football matters, Morecambe collected a point from their two matches – a 3-2 home loss to Crawley and a 2-2 draw with Barnet in midweek. Those results mean the Shrimps’ last six League Two games have seen 26 goals in total as Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score landed in all six encounters.
For the majority of Morecambe matches this term, Bentley’s boys have been under the cosh despite their (W5-D1-L4) return. The Shrimps’ 34.5% shot ratio figure is comfortably the league’s lowest and no fourth-tier team has shipped more goals (18).
Nevertheless, Morecambe as good as they got at a Barnet side admittedly missing defensive rock Bira Dembele. The visitors hit the woodwork on three occasions and played some fine free-flowing football during a breathless encounter.
So although only seven sides have fired in fewer shots across the opening 10 games, I’d still fancy the Shrimps to get on the scoresheet here.
Since 2011/12 the away side have notched in an impressive 87/120 (72%) road trips with Over 2.5 Goals collecting in 17/28 (61%) since the start of last season and Both Teams To Score banking in 18/28 (64%).
Morecambe haven’t failed to score the opening day of the season and so it’s the goals angle I’m keen to explore at Meadow Lane on Saturday with Over 2.5 Goals offered at 4/5 (SkyBet).
Notts County moved into fifth place in the table following a routine 2-0 away win at Exeter in midweek. Last year’s Player of the Season John Stead gabbed another to goals to take the 33-year-old to the top of League Two’s goalscoring charts and there’s a feeling that we’ve not yet seen the best of the Magpies.
County have played well in patches in most matches under John Sheridan but bar a 2-1 defeat against Plymouth, the side haven’t controlled or dominated for 90 minutes. With so many new players having been integrated into the side, partnerships have been slow in blossoming.
However, Sheridan, known for his dour and defensive-first football, has opened Notts up with the hosts playing an exciting brand of attacking football. Stead and Jonathan Forte have flourished in offence whilst the three-man midfield of Michael O’Connor, Robert Milsom and Alex Rodman have impressed of late.
Still, Tuesday’s triumph represented the Magpies first shutout of the season with 14 goals already shipped in their 10 league games. Indeed, we’ve seen at least two goals in each of County’s 10 games with six of their most recent eight creping over the 2.5 goals line and seven overall seeing both sides score.
Last season’s meetings produced a total of nine goals and collectively this term the pair have been involved in a total of 65 goals across their 20 games – an average of 3.25 goals per-game. I’m happy to side with goals here.