FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite fancies from Tuesday’s card.
Bury v Coventry | Tuesday 19:45
“Every game’s a cup final.”
Those were the words of Bury midfielder Andrew Tutte before Saturday’s trip to Charlton. The Shakers progressed to the next round of their survival mission having rode their luck in a 1-0 triumph at The Valley.
On-loan goalkeeper Joe Murphy made a string of fine saves and Charlton twice rattled the woodwork but the capital club were unable to stop Bury marching back to Lancashire with a victory, earned by club legend Ryan Lowe’s strike.
It means new boss Lee Clark has overseen back-to-back wins since taking charge, with Bury now accruing 10 points from a possible 12 – as many as they picked up in their previous 21 League One fixtures (W2-D4-L15). It’s one defeat in eight (W4-D3-L1) and confidence is flowing through the ranks.
I won’t lie – I can’t stand Clark. But credit to the miserable Geordie, I’m told he did a solid job with Kilmarnock by galvanising the Scottish club and staving off a very real threat of relegation when taking charge 12 months ago.
Clark’s added Alan Thompson as his assistant manager and already snapped up former Birmingham player Paul Caddis to strengthen the ranks as Bury bid to avoid relegation. The recent upturn in fortunes has brought the Shakers three points clear of the drop zone and further improvement should follow here.
Despite Charlton’s obvious opportunities on Saturday, Bury remain a real threat going forward and the 3-5-2 formation that Clark’s persisted with since arriving on the scene allows the team width, control and the ability to counter-attack when possession has turned over. It suits the hosts.
The Shakers have scored in 10 of their last 11 matches and only three third-tier clubs have notched more often this term so goals shouldn’t be an issue. With their club record losing streak of 12 now well behind them, I think odds of 13/10 (William Hill) on Bury pocketing the points is too good to turn down.
Coventry manager Russell Slade claimed you “wouldn’t think it was possible” when asked whether he felt the Sky Blues could survive their own relegation battle following a 3-1 reverse at home to Swindon on Saturday.
Slade said his side failed to deal with the pace and power of the Robins attack just days after they ended the club’s 16-match winless streak with an encouraging triumph over Gillingham. City are now 11 points adrift of safety and rooted to the foot of the table.
Captain Jordan Willis will return to the defence here but Yakubu’s been ruled out as Cov look to end an 11-game run without success on their travels (W0-D3-L8). Considering the guests have already lost six of seven games at bottom-11 clubs, I’m more than happy to invest in a repeat.
Shrewsbury v Charlton | Tuesday 19:45
I’ve proclaimed my admiration for Paul Hurst in numerous columns in 2017 but the layers still aren’t convinced that Shrewsbury are a reformed unit under the ex-Grimsby manager.
Instead of questioning the bulbous quotes on Salop ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Charlton, just get stuck in on the hosts. I’ll be backing Shrewsbury with a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap at (11/13 BetVictor) ensuring money is made should Town avoid defeat.
Hurst arrived in the hot-seat with Shrews rock-bottom– today they’re sitting four points above the relegation zone thanks to a 28-point haul from 19 games (W8-D4-L7). That sample includes a wonderful W6-D1-L1 return from eight games at their Greenhous Meadow base, including four wins on the spin as hosts.
Those home fixtures have included a shot ratio return of 51.97% and 54.54% shots on-target ratio output. Salop’s only reverse in that sample came against in-form Fleetwood and Hurt’s troops competed valiantly for large swathes of that encounter.
Hurst admitted his side were below-par in their weekend defeat at MK Dons said he’ll need to use his squad followed a laboured display. But the new boss’ continual preaching of togetherness, character and belief should ensure a reaction this midweek even if hot-shot Tyler Roberts misses out.
As mentioned above, Charlton were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Bury on Saturday having twice hit the woodwork and forced the Shakers’ goalkeeper into numerous saves. However, it’s now no triumph in six for the Addicks (W0-D3-L3).
Athletic have picked up only four league victories on their travels since relegation so I’m not sure why they’ve been chalked up as favourites here. It doesn’t help having a twerp like Karl Robinson in the dugout and his side have lacked fluency, tempo and aggression since he replaced Russell Slade.
Robinson’s overseen only three wins in 14 (W3-D6-L5) with Charlton failing to find the back of the net on six occasions – in only three games have they managed more than a solitary strike. His team’s shot ratio return in away games is below the 46% mark and Athletic appear to be meandering towards mid-table obscurity.
Accrington v Wycombe | Tuesday 19:45
Accrington’s game with Wycombe faces a 10.30am pitch inspection on Tuesday morning but should the match be given the green light, invest your faith in resurgent Stanley picking up another positive result.
John Coleman’s troopers claimed a well-earned 2-2 draw at league leaders Doncaster on Saturday and head into this midweek with only two defeats in nine since Boxing Day (W3-D4-L2).
For the majority of the campaign Accy have failed to capitalise on their dominance in league matches but improvements in the final third should aid their prospects here with 3/4 (Bet365) quotes on the hosts with a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line too big to ignore.
The Reds have notched eight goals in their last three, scoring at least twice in three of their past four at the Crown Ground. A repeat can be snapped up at a very healthy 29/20 (Coral) – an attractive offering considering Wycombe have leaked twice or more in four of their last five away and in five of six overall.
Wanderers took the lead against Crawley on Saturday but manager Gareth Ainsworth was left perplexed after seeing his side turned over. The 2-1 reverse means Blues are on their worst run of losses (5) since September 2011 and only one away from their worst ever losing run in the Football League.
Adebayo Akinfenwa continues to carry the goalscoring burden with Paul Hayes ruled out and hot-shot Scott Kashket still rated highly doubtful for this encounter. However, it’s Aaron Pierre’s absence at the back that’s had a bigger bearing on Wycombe’s fortunes.
Ainsworth explained that he felt his team were giving away extremely soft goals following Saturday’s loss but I wouldn’t be backing the Chairboys to turn the corner on Tuesday with a W4-D4-L9 road record this term and only 12/40 (30%) triumphs on their travels since the start of last season.
Accrington are without the banned Sean McConville and Omar Beckles but Janoi Donacien returns from suspension for the Lancashire minnows who’ve only failed to score in two home league games all season.
What’s more, Stanley have suffered only 14/57 (25%) defeats under Coleman since September 2014 and rank comfortably in mid-table via the expected goals metric, whilst in both the shots and shots on-target ratio rankings Accrington feature in the top-eight of League Two.
The league table often lies and Accy are in a false position. I fancy them to take advantage of Wycombe’s poor form with key personnel missing but with the added insurance of the draw onside.
Bury v Coventry – Bury to win (13/10 William Hill)
Shrewsbury v Charlton – Shrewsbury +0.25 Asian Handicap (11/13 BetVictor)
Accrington v Wycombe – Accrington 0 Asian Handicap (3/4 Bet365)