FRESH from a full house of winners last weekend, MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) returns to the Football League scene with three more to follow on Saturday.
Norwich v Rotherham | Saturday 15.00
Norwich boss Alex Neill said he never wants to step foot inside St James’ Park ever again after the Canaries conceded two goals beyond the 95th minute at Newcastle towards the end of September.
Talented Swiss centre-back and ever-present Timm Klose missed that match but returned days later as the Carrow Road club recovered their composure to take maximum points away at Wolves, pushing the recently relegated outfit back to within two points of the Championship summit (W7-D2-L2).
That Black Country success was Norwich’s fifth in six league fixtures with Canaries racking up 15 goals in that same sample. However, Neil’s troops haven’t completely convinced in defence – Barnsley (16) are the only top-half side to ship more goals than Saturday’s hosts (15) with City failing to keep their sheets clean in their past eight outings.
Nevertheless, I’m inclined to believe Norwich’s supreme power in the final third will bear fruit when Rotherham arrive in Norfolk. The hosts have W22-D6-L5 in 33 Championship games under Neil’s watch and I fancy the Canaries to continue that impressive streak with this match sewn up by half-time.
Norwich have led at the interval in four of their five Carrow Road encounters (W4-D1-L0) this term with 11/16 (69%) following suit across all second-tier matches since Neil took charge. Include away games and the Canaries have seen the Half-Time/Full-Time result bank in 15/33 (45%) league fixtures.
Visitors Rotherham haven’t won in Norfolk since 1966 and including the back-end of 2015/16 have returned just W1-D6-L9 in 16 league contests. The Millers currently prop up the Championship table and have suffered four consecutive losses.
Alan Stubbs’ side have faced more shots on-target than any other Championship side (66) and their shot ratio return (33.75%) is woefully short of the next worst in the division.
Rotherham have allowed opponents 125 shot from inside their penalty area and so it’s no great surprise they’ve leaked at least twice on nine occasions already.
The Millers have W3-D5-L16 on their travels to top-half teams over the past two campaigns and 12 (50%) of those encounters saw them lose having trailed at the interval. And in four of their five (W0-D1-L4) away days this term, the guests have also been behind when the half-time oranges have been dished out.
At 11/10 (Coral) there’s most definitely mileage in backing Norwich in the Half-Time/Full-Time market.
Bristol Rovers v Gillingham | Saturday 15.00
As the saying goes, all good things have to come to an end. But I’m backing two of the Football League’s most reliable 2016/17 trend-setters to continue their penchant for goals when Bristol Rovers welcome Gillingham on Saturday.
Any followers of WeLoveBetting or my own Twitter feed will have seen a stack of stats shared this midweek with the majority of League One’s goals-based stats featuring these two teams, especially the Both Teams To Score trends.
Since promotion, Bristol Rovers have delivered 10/11 (91%) winning BTTS bets – no English outfit can better that return. Meanwhile, Gillingham continue to be a goals-backers dream with 10/12 (83%) of their own matches producing profitable Both Teams To Score selections.
A repeat this week is rated a 10/13 (188BET) chance, a price that’s a little too big to ignore. Counting purely these two sides’ records this season, BTTS has banked in 20/23 (87%) of their collective encounters – putting that in perspective, an 87% probability implies odds of just 1/7.
Bristol Rovers are averaging the sixth most attempts on goal in League One and in Matty Taylor have one of the hottest striking properties in the lower leagues. But at the back the Gas are yet to keep their sheets clean are Darrell Clarke’s are also particularly slow starters (W1-D6-L4 at half-time).
Only five third-tier sides are averaging fewer shots per-game than Gillingham but Justin Edinburgh’s visitors don’t often disappoint in the entertainment stakes, especially on their travels.
A huge 26/38 (68%) of their away days under Edinburgh have delivered Over 2.5 Goals with the same figure proving profitable for Both Teams To Score backers. The visitors have notched in all bar seven (18%) of those road trips and netting twice or more in 17 (45%).
However, the Gills are yet to keep their sheets clean in 2016/17 and have now managed just seven (18%) shutouts in 38 road trips under Edinburgh, leaking 15 in games as guests already this season – that’s an average of 2.50 goals per-game.
The Kent club were beaten at home to bottom-of-the-table Oldham at the Priestfield Stadium last weekend but new signing Frank Nouble made his debut in attack and whilst Jay-Emmanuel Thomas looks unlikely to feature, Cody McDonald, Bradley Dack and Scott Wagstaff have all returned.
Mansfield v Wycombe | Saturday 15.00
We successfully opposed goals in Wycombe’s trip to Yeovil last weekend so I see no reason to leave a similar approach alone on Saturday when the Chairboys travel to Mansfield.
Wanderers were beaten 1-0 at Yeovil in their most recent outing but it was yet another example of Gareth Ainsworth’s side regrouping defensively and offering precious little to their hosts in the attacking third.
Wycombe uncharacteristically conceded 10 goals in three defeats on the spin against Colchester, Luton and Portsmouth around about a month ago but Ainsworth has since gone back to basics and Wanderers have leaked just three times in the following 450 minutes.
‘Wild Thing’ is now in his fourth full season as Chairboys boss and the overriding trends pinpoint low-scoring duels. Indeed, 95/150 (63%) of Wycombe’s league matches since 2013/14 have delivered fewer than three goals with 53 (35%) failing to feature more than a solitary strike.
Those stats are also perfectly mirrored in performances outside of their Adams Park base too – 49/75 (65%) have won for Under 2.5 Goals backers and 28/75 (37%) were also profitable for Under 1.5 Goals hunters.
However, narrowing that sample further to just include results on the road since the beginning of 2015/16, we can highlight even more commanding trends – 22/29 (76%) of Wanderers’ away days produced two goals or fewer with 13/29 (45%) featuring zero or one total goal scored.
Exclude those aforementioned hammerings at Luton and Portsmouth and Wycombe have seen their other four fixtures on their travels feature only three goals. With all the hatches being battened down by Ainsworth, I’d be counting on another low-scoring contest this weekend.
Forward quality is a little thin on the ground in Buckinghamshire but the Chairboys do excel in organisation, physicality and work-rate and I’d fancy the visitors to give Mansfield a stern examination in Nottinghamshire.
Only Pride Park (1.20) and the Ricoh Arena (1.20) have seen fewer goals per-game than Field Mill (1.50) this season and goalmouth entertainment is significantly missing when viewing Mansfield’s performance data.
The Stags have seen an average of just 18.82 shots per-game in total with home matches falling to just 17.17 shots per-game. Already this term Adam Murray’s men have seen just one of their six Field Mill matches break the Over 2.5 Goals barrier with four of those fixtures featuring no more than a solitary strike.
Overall in 2016/17, Under 2.5 Goals has proven profitable in 9/12 (75%) Mansfield outings and 8/12 (67%) Wycombe games in 2016/17 – that’s a win rate of 17/24 (71%). The odds on offer may be only 4/6 (Paddy Power) but that 71% probability implies betting odds of 2/5, confirming we’ve a real value bet here.
Norwich v Rotherham – Norwich/Norwich Half-Time/Full-Time (21/20 Coral)
Bristol Rovers v Gillingham – Both Teams To Score (10/13 188BET)
Mansfield v Wycombe – Under 2.5 Goals (4/6 Paddy Power)