FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns to share his favourite fancies from Saturday’s coupon.
Leeds v Ipswich | Saturday 23rd September 2017, 15:00
Early pacesetters Leeds produced the single worst performance of the season in the Championship last weekend when going down to Millwall but I’m backing the league leaders to bounce back with a victory at Elland Road on Saturday.
Thomas Christiansen’s troops managed a solitary attempt at goal at The Den in a display the Dane admitted wasn’t good enough. He promised a reaction and was understandably delighted to see a much-changed team impress when ousting Burnley from the League Cup on penalties on Tuesday evening.
Further good news has followed with the Whites supremo confirming that defenders Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper and Matthew Pennington are all in contention for this weekend’s encounter. And with Ipswich offering a similar approach to Millwall, Leeds shouldn’t be caught cold by a more direct style this time around…
The cash has come for the hosts – Leeds have been backed in from 5/6 to 4/7 in the past 48 hours – but I’m confident they can justify the money. However, I’ll be adding Over 1.5 Goals to the home win to boost the odds to a very respectable even-money at Paddy Power.
Since the start of last season, the Whites have won 16/27 (59%) of their Elland Road outings. And my early season ratings have the Yorkshire giants comfortably in the top-six across all the major performance data metrics too.
In terms of ticking the Over 1.5 Goals box, it’s worth noting United have scored at least twice in all five of their Championship wins this term whilst visitors Ipswich have seen only one of their matches feature fewer than two goals, shipping six goals across their opening three road trips (W1-D0-L2).
Ipswich may have overcome Bolton last weekend but they were fortunate to do so based on the quality of opportunities created in the contest. Town’s opener arrived via a deflected effort from distance and Mick McCarthy’s men then sat back to play on the counter-attack thereafter.
The Tractor Boys appear to be flying high but they’re most definitely overachieving and occupying a false position. Ipswich’s Expected Goals difference is -1.06 per-game (the second worst in the division) and they’re returning negative marks in all the main shot metrics too.
Leeds fan McCarthy has said his Town outfit haven’t been performing wonderfully well but appreciates they do the “horrible things” needed to grind out results. But if the hosts approach this with the right mind-set, they should be well capable of finding the chinks in the Ipswich armoury.
The Suffolk side have a 50% loss rate on their travels since the start of last season, have managed only four clean sheets in that 26-game sample with Over 1.5 Goals banking on 20 (77%) occasions.
Fleetwood v Southend | Saturday 23rd September 2017, 15:00
Southend boss Phil Brown is determined to rid his side of the defensive “fragility” which has seen them go nine games without a win. The Shrimpers were forced to come from two goals down to earn a point against Northampton last time out and their under-fire manager is demanding an improvement.
The Essex raiders travel to Fleetwood on Saturday with defender John White available again but I’m not convinced their backline woes will be solved in seven days, especially their obvious flaws when defending set-pieces.
However, Southend’s current league position is probably a touch harsh based on the opening skirmishes of 2017/18 and I’d fancy the visitors to at least make a game of things at Highbury. So much so, I’m seduced by the Both Teams To Score quote of 10/11 (William Hill).
Anthony Wordsworth made his return from a hamstring injury to score in last weekend’s draw and once he and Ryan Leonard gained control of midfield, Southend were the stronger side. Arguably most important is having Nile Ranger available following the removal of his ankle tag.
The bad-boy striker has said he’s nearing full fitness and with his jail sentence served and curfew lifted, he insists he’s been given a fresh lease of life. Southend need a fit and firing Ranger to prosper and the positive noises should aid what’s already proven a series of impressive attacking displays.
Only Wigan and Rotherham boast better Expected Goals for records and the Shrimpers also figure within the top-six for the major shot metrics. That should stand them in good stead against a Fleetwood side that’s struggling to find last season’s defensive solidity.
The hosts have the youngest squad in the division and it could be a lack of experience that’s costing the Cod Army thus far. With Kyle Dempsey suspended, manager Uwe Rosler must shuffle his midfield pack but star striker Conor McAleny is close to a return from injury to bolster the forwardline.
But Town have conceded 11 goals in their last four league games, including four from Highbury fixtures against early strugglers Oldham and Bury. The guests aren’t allowing opposition teams a catalogue of chances but individual errors have proven costly, giving a forward-thinking Southend hope here.
It’s not all doom and gloom, mind. Fleetwood are yet to fire a blank this season and with Rosler in the dugout, the home side have only failed to score in five of 27 fixtures in front of their own supporters.
Newport v Grimsby | Saturday 23rd September 2017, 15:00
Newport boss Michael Flynn pulled no punches when describing his team’s performance in last week’s 2-1 loss at Morecambe as “spineless” and “gutless” and said any players dropped for Saturday’s clash with Grimsby should have no complaints.
It was the first occasion in Flynn’s short managerial career that he’s been highly critical of his charges in public. But the Exiles number one admitted he’s been pleased with the response he’s got from the players in training this week and is confident that they can bounce back at Rodney Parade.
Captain Joss Labadie and defender Mark O’Brien should both be available, meaning experienced striker Marlon Jackson and Reece Cole are the only men to miss out for a County side that’s W3-D3-L2 from their opening eight encounters, failing to score only twice.
Still, Flynn hasn’t been entirely pleased with his side’s attacking play. More is expected of leading pair Frank Nouble and Padraig Amond so with Shawn McCoulsky and Lamar Reynolds back to full fitness, there could be changes to Newport’s forwardline this weekend.
A little more consistency in the final-third and the Exiles can continue to compete in the upper echelons of League Two. Only Exeter have returned a better Expected Goals figure going forward and no fourth-tier team has landed more shots on-target or fired in more efforts than Newport this term.
Even so, County have been a little too kind at the back. Facing over five on-target attempts per-game is far from ideal and their Expected Goals against record isn’t anywhere near as attractive as going forward. They’re stats, trends and data that suggest another punt on Both Teams To Score could prove profitable at 17/20 (Sportingbet).
Grimsby have made a hit-and-miss start to the season (W4-D0-L4). It’s a similar split when viewing only away games (W2-D0-L2) but red cards have played a key role against the Mariners with Russell Slade’s men already receiving four red cards.
Such situations can often cloud the numbers and it’s perhaps no surprise to see Town in amongst the bottom-six when viewing the main data metrics. However, Grimsby games have been full of goals this season – all bar two have produced winning BTTS returns – and I’m happy to pull the trigger here.
The visitors triumphed at Accrington on their travels last time out and although the long journey to South Wales can be conceived as a negative, the guests pack enough punch to at least trouble the home team’s questionable defence.
Leeds v Ipswich – Leeds to win and Over 1.5 Goals (1/1 Paddy Power)
Fleetwood v Southend – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
Newport v Grimsby – Both Teams To Score (17/20 Sportingbet)