EIGHT winners from his past nine weekend Football League fancies for Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire). He’s back with three more to follow on Saturday.
Derby v Sheffield Wednesday | Saturday 15:00
Betting’s a game that can make us all look like fools and Derby’s dreadful start to 2016/17 has left me wearing the dunces cap having backed and recommended the Rams for promotion in pre-season.
Nigel Pearson’s short stint at Pride Park was anything but pleasant and although results have improved moderately since Chris Powell and subsequently Steve McClaren have taken over leadership, County are still a long way from recovery.
After being re-handed the reigns at Derby, McClaren spoke confidently about his ambition to transform the Rams into a well-oiled attacking machine once more but the early signs suggest the ex-England boss has yet to find the magic formula.
In three games under McClaren, Derby have attempted just 17 efforts from inside the penalty box and landed only six on-target in games against Huddersfield, Brentford and Leeds. The attempts resulted in an average expected goals figure of just 0.62 per-game.
Before McClaren returned to Pride Park, the Rams produced an average expected goals return of just 1.03 per-game with only 3.72 shots on-target. Just 6.37 attempts were taken from inside the opposition penalty box, suggesting County have barely changed over the past four-and-a-half hours of Championship football.
This weekend’s contest with Sheffield Wednesday should prove a useful barometer for the hosts but a game pitting two of the division’s biggest clubs together might not be the free-flowing and entertaining encounter some may have expected.
I was keen to find an angle to oppose goals here and I reckon I’ve found it with 188BET offering Under 2.25 Goals at attractive odds of 9/11.
This selection sees us pick up a full-stakes profit should the match end with zero or one goal. But should the game feature exactly two goals, we’ll see half our stake returned as a push with the second half deemed a winner – the only way we’ll lose our stake is if three or more goals are scored on Saturday.
Despite their attacking troubles that’s seen Derby fail to score on eight occasions this season and more than once in a solitary fixture, the Rams have remained defensively dogged, keeping six clean sheets. Unsurprisingly, just one of their 14 outings have featured more than two goals thus far.
County have only been involved in four successful Both Teams To Score matches this season – three of which banked thanks to stoppage-time goals – and since the start of last season, a huge 21/30 (70%) of Pride Park games produced Under 2.5 Goals.
Visitors Sheffield Wednesday endured a wee play-off hangover in August (W1-D2-L2) but the September international break allowed Carlos Carvalhal time to reenergize his group and the Owls squad have responded well (W6-D1-L2).
Wednesday eked out three points from a pretty lifeless clash with QPR last weekend – the fourth occasion in five that the Owls have seen Under 2.5 Goals collect. And with a more conservative approach on the road, five of their seven away days this term have produced fewer than three goals.
Collectively, 37/60 (62%) of the duos respective home/away games since the start of last season featured two goals or fewer, 23/60 (38%) rewarding Under 1.5 Goals backers and a healthy 10/60 (17%) concluded goalless.
The stats available and the styles of play on show are evidence enough to take a low-scoring approach to Saturday’s meeting.
Bolton v Port Vale | Saturday 15:00
Bolton’s 2-0 triumph at near neighbours Bury on Monday night wasn’t especially pretty but once again the Trotters were effective enough to collect maximum points.
Phil Parkinson’s side saw Zach Clough net twice from the penalty spot to clinch victory – the youngster has now netted four of Wanderers’ past six League One goals – and the win moved Bolton into the automatic promotion places.
It’s now four league victories on the spin for the Trotters with a clean sheet recorded in each success – not since 1912 have they managed five wins ‘to nil’ on the bounce – but Saturday’s hosts have now matched Sam Allardyce’s class of 2005 having earned five consecutive shutouts across all competitions.
That defensive resilience has become part and parcel of Parkinson sides and the proof is most certainly in the pudding. Since Parkinson won promotion to the third-tier with Bradford, the 48 year-old has overseen just 57/153 (37%) of successful Over 2.5 Goals selections, including only 3/15 (20%) following his arrival at Bolton over the summer.
During Bolton’s past 11 matches, the hosts have faced just an average of 8.36 shots per-game with only 2.72 managing to hit the target. No League One side has shipped fewer goals than the Trotters (10) with immense central-defence pairing Mark Beevers and David Wheater earning rave reviews.
With left-back Dean Moxey back to full training and Jay Spearing suffering no major after-effects from the hip injury he picked up late in the game at Gigg Lane, Wanderers look well-equipped to continue their hot streak on Saturday.
However, Bolton are a little skinny in the Match Odds market so I’m adding the Under 3.5 Goals angle into the equation for a juicy 7/5 offering from BetStars.
I’ve already outlined the wonderful Under 2.5 Goals trends in our favour but it makes sense to add Under 3.5 Goals alongside the win selection to cover correct scores of 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1.
Parkinson said in midweek that preparing to play Port Vale would be a challenge considering the changes the Valiants have undergone in the past six months but few managers place as much emphasis on homework and we should expect the meticulous planner to have worked out a game-plan to suit his charges.
Vale have never enjoyed a league win at Bolton (W0-D2-L13) and arrive at the Macron Stadium having W1-D2-L5 in their last eight away days. The visitors also boast a horrendous return when travelling to top-half teams, losing a huge 29/34 (85%) since returning to the third-tier.
Bruno Ribeiro’s men have surprised plenty to be sitting as high as seventh at this stage of the season having brought in no fewer than 18 new players since the start of the summer. But it would be wrong to say Vale haven’t ridden their luck along the way…
The guests are only averaging 7.60 shots per-game – far and away the fewest in League One – and their 37.01% shot ratio is comfortably the worst figure. Alarmingly, it dips to just 33.13% when viewing Vale’s seven away games this season.
The Valiants have won just once since October but in fairness, Ribeiro showed his tactical ability by switching systems at half-time last weekend with Vale 2-0 down to Oxford. The change to two up front from 4-2-3-1 with Jerome Thomas joining Rigino Cicilia paid dividends as the Staffordshire side picked up a point.
Ribeiro – a close friend of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho – brought in full-back Ryan Taylor last week and the new signed admitted some stern half-time words from boss inspired their comeback following a poor first-half performance.
Nevertheless, I’m not expecting Bolton to be quite so accommodating here. Vale will be without number 10 Sam Foley and a knee injury is expected to keep out eight-goal top scorer Alex Jones leaving the toothless guests pointless.
Plymouth v Colchester | Saturday 15:00
Plymouth Argyle are sitting four points clear at the top of the League Two table following a fabulous (W10-D2-L0) 12-match unbeaten streak that dates back to mid-August.
The Pilgrims have smashed in 24 goals during that 12-game sample, making amends for a slow start to the season that saw Derek Adams’ men lose their first two fixtures of 2016/17 following another failed play-off campaign.
Argyle’s only defeat at Home Park came on the opening weekend of the season and eight of their last 11 bottom-half visitors have departed pointless. In fact, take a look at Plymouth’s results against teams outside of the top-seven this season and we can see Saturday’s hosts have W9-D1-L0.
Yet the Pilgrims are as big as 11/10 (Bet365) to claim maximum points this weekend – a marvelous price when you consider the current standings in League Two and the above evidence in their favour.
So why are the Adams family so big in the betting? Quite simply, their performance data suggests they’re a mid-table side.
Plymouth have actually faced more shots than they’ve attempted and they just don’t tend to dominate or control matches in the way the likes of Portsmouth do at this level. However, the quality of chances and shots taken tends to be high and that’s why I’m keen to keep them onboard.
Plymouth have hit the target with almost half of their efforts on-goal, have Graham Carey again producing match-winning displays and their clinical nature and resolute backline is a perfect match for success.
Sure, Argyle rode their luck in a 2-2 draw with Portsmouth here a fortnight ago and they were given the rub of the green last week against Newport – two penalties and a red card went their way – but it’s rare we’re given the opportunity to support the out-and-out league leaders, on such a stunning run of form, at odds-against quotes.
Visiting Colchester should have ended a six-match winless streak (W0-D3-L3) by beating Morecambe last weekend but the U’s were only able to pick up a point despite dominating the shot count in their 2-2 stalemate.
Prior to that meeting with League Two’s worst defence, Colchester had failed to score in three consecutive fixtures whilst also losing in each of their four games against top-seven teams – away at Carlisle, Doncaster and Portsmouth and at home to Accrington.
In three of those four losses, ColU fired blanks and with no clean sheet kept since August, I’m expecting Plymouth to pile on another three points on Saturday.
Derby v Sheffield Wednesday – Under 2.25 Goals (9/11 188BET)
Bolton v Port Vale – Bolton to win and Under 3.5 Goals (7/5 BetStars)
Plymouth v Colchester – Plymouth to win (11/10 Bet365)