FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) analyses Monday night’s live League One contest.
Bolton v Gillingham | Monday 19:45 | Sky Sports
Bolton began 2016 on the verge of going bust but the Trotters can see out 2016 with a smile as takeover talks nearing completion and victory on Monday evening putting Phil Parkinson’s men just a point off the League One summit.
Ken Anderson’s attempts to become sole owner of Wanderers have hit a snag but the formalities should be arranged in the coming weeks and Parkinson has admitted he can’t wait for the off-field wrangles to be put to bed once and for all.
The ex-Bradford boss has worked wonders at the Macron Stadium, transforming the mind-sets of players and fans in a matter of months, making the Lancashire club a more positive, confident and organised beast on and off the park.
Nowhere is such progress more obvious than in defence. Brighton (11) are the only Football League side to concede fewer goals this season (12) and the Trotters pitch up on the back seven League One clean sheets in their last nine outings.
Summer signing Mark Beevers was up for November’s Player of the Month gong and has been a consistently reliable customer at centre-half, forging a formidable partnership with David Wheater. The duo have been part of a defence that’s conceded two goals or more just once in League One action.
Last weekend’s 3-2 triumph over Sheffield United in the FA Cup should and could have been more comfortable too. Gary Madine’s goal was the least Bolton deserved from an excellent first-half, and two brilliantly-taken efforts from Sammy Ameobi and Josh Vela were worthy of winning the final itself.
Bolton to do the business
Wanders have now won nine home games this season and are bidding for four successive league victories at the Macron for the first time since November 2014. The club have made all tickets available for £5 in the hope of garnering a bumper crowd and understandably, I fancy the hosts to do the business.
But there are better ways to support the Trotters than the straight Match Odds market. For instance, the fast start in the FA Cup clash with Sheffield United wasn’t an anomaly – Bolton have won eight of their last nine League One games and led at the interval in seven of their most recent eight league matches.
The betting angles
We can back Wanderers to lead at half-time and full-time at 15/8 (Coral), which makes much more appeal than the 3/4 odds on offer in the Match Odds. The home side have scored 14 (58%) of their goals in the first 45 minutes, conceding only five in the same period.
At the same 15/8 (BetVictor) price, we can also support Bolton to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1. Eleven of the hosts’ 12 league triumphs have banked by one of those three scorelines whilst only one of their 20 matches this term have produced more than three goals.
We’ve already touched on the marvellous defensive record but it’s worth noting the wonderful consistency at which Parkinson (and Bolton) deliver in the Under 2.5 Goals market – a huge 15 of their last 16 have provided profit in the market whilst Parky’s record since promotion to the third-tier with Bradford has seen Overs pay-out in only 58/158 (37%) league contests.
For those looking for something a bit more substantial, by all means cut out the 2-1 from the available correct scores. However, Gillingham have a canny knack for nicking a goal and being involved in high-scoring encounters under Justin Edinburgh.
Gills’ high-scoring tendencies
The Kent club have kept only one clean sheet this season but 14 of their 20 have featured three goals or more and eight of those matches resulted in the 2-1 scoreline. Under Edinburgh, 29/42 (69%) away trips have beaten the two-goal line so forgive the conservatism with this selection.
Gillingham’s boss faced a fan backlash after seeing his side exit the FA Cup to non-league Brackley at the beginning of November but Edinburgh’s since led Gills to three wins from their last four games in League 1 and within touching distance of the top-six once more.
The visitors’ only defeat in the league came at Oxford, losing 1-0, in a game where the Kent raiders had plenty of chances and several penalty claims turned down. But even so, nine losses in 12 trips to top-six teams suggests the guests crumble when up against the league’s leading lights.
Clough makes cracking goalscorer value
Finally, I’m going to have a small interest in Zach Clough to score first at a bulbous 4/1 (Bet365). The live-wire forward is joint fifth in League One’s scoring list on seven goals despite only making 11 starts this season due to injury.
Clough’s been the subject of much transfer speculation and the 21 year-old is on course to be the first Wanderers player to reach 20 goals in a season since Michael Ricketts in 2001. He’s seven goals have come in 993 minutes – that’s a goal every 142 minutes – for a player that’s also on penalty duty.
The youngster broke through into the senior ranks last year as a number 10, playing in behind a bigger striker. But he has spoken recently about feeling more freedom in a left-sided role, which allows him to cut infield and run at his opponents.
A happy player is always a bonus and Clough’s already broken the deadlock in six of his 11 starts this season, making 4/1 quotes good enough for our support.