Football League – Battling Bees can conquer Cumbrians

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FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has nailed 18 winners from 25 EFL selections in 2018. Here he shares his favourite fancies from Tuesday’s coupon.

Fleetwood v Portsmouth | Tuesday 20th February 2018, 19:45

On Friday morning Fleetwood manager Uwe Rosler told the local press that it was “imperative” to leave Doncaster with something on Saturday. The Cod Army were heading to South Yorkshire on the back of a six-game losing spree and requiring a result to keep their heads above the relegation zone.

Having guided Town to an unlikely top-six finish last term, Rosler had been struggling to hit the same heights this season. The German even decided to switch pre-match preparation from the training paddock in able to help clear his players heads and focus minds.

So when Fleetwood were comprehensively swept aside 3-0 at Doncaster, there was a sense of inevitability to the Saturday night news of Rosler’s sacking. Sixteen losses in 32 fixtures this campaign had left the Cod Army above the bottom-four courtesy of their superior goal difference.

Development coach Barry Nicholson and goalkeeping coach David Lucas have been handed the reigns for Tuesday night’s tussle with Portsmouth as Town chase a first league success since 13th January. With Cian Bolger returning at the weekend and striker Paddy Madden back available, they stand a fighting chance.

On Saturday, Fleetwood offered very little in attack – substitute Jordy Hiwula’s effort the best of a bad bunch – but the departure of Rosler could well release a little tension in the home ranks and an aggressive approach shouldn’t be ruled out.

Prior to the weekend, the hosts had scored in every League One match since before Christmas and with goals notched in all bar three of their 16 outings at Highbury, Fleetwood should have enough in the locker to hurt a Portsmouth outfit suffering their own struggles of late.

Pompey gifted a resurgent Southend side an early lead on Saturday as they slumped to a 3-1 reverse in Essex. Manager Kenny Jackett rounded on his team’s defensive display as the Blues fell two goals behind inside 12 minutes at Roots Hall.

Portsmouth failed to recover from that deficit as their awful 2018 continues (W1-D2-L5). The south-coast club saw Nathan Thompson sent off while Gareth Evans and Brett Pitman were both substituted with suspected hamstring problems to deepen the gloom. All three will now miss this midweek trip.

Nevertheless, Pompey have found the back of the net in all but three contests since before November’s international break and if we exclude the top-six, the visitors have only fired a solitary blank on their travels this term despite a dodgy road record.

However, defensively, it’s hard to have faith in Jackett’s charges following their recent displays and so a play on Fleetwood in the double chance and Over 1.5 Goals market at 6/5 with 188BET looks well worth an interest, especially so considering Over 2.5 Goals has landed in seven of Portsmouth’s previous 10 encounters, including each of their last four.

Indeed, eight of Pompey’s 10 trips to teams below them in the league stands have paid out for Over 2.5 Goals backers and the same can be said of nine of Fleetwood’s previous 11 League One matches. With 10 of Town’s 16 games at Highbury crossing the Over 2.5 Goals barrier also, a goal-heavy game appeals.

Barnet v Carlisle | Tuesday 20th February 2018, 19:45

Rock-bottom Barnet extended their unbeaten streak to three at The Hive under Graham Westley on Saturday when holding Accrington to a well-earned 1-1 draw. Billy Kee’s second-half penalty cancelled out Alex Nicholls’ 18th minute opener as the Bees put on another determined display.

Ricardo Santos, Richard Brindley and John Akinde all came close to adding a second goal for Barnet as they pressed for a much-needed victory but the spoils were shared. Trailing survival by six points, Westley will know his team need to start turning draws into wins under his tutelage (W1-D3-L1).

Nevertheless, home performances have impressed of late and Barnet appear capable of clinching at least a point from Tuesday night’s contest with Carlisle. Accrington, Lincoln and Notts County have all failed to depart North London with maximum points since Westley arrived.

The Bees have won the shot count 43-34 in those three fixtures and limiting their opposition to just 1.21 Expected Goals per-game on average. Right-back Brindley is rated doubtful for this encounter but Dan Sweeney’s return at centre-back on Saturday bolstered the defence and should keep the hosts in decent shape.

Carlisle overcame struggling Chesterfield at the weekend 2-0 thanks to Kelvin Etuhu and John O’Sullivan’s goals. Etuhu looks set to miss out through injury here but winger O’Sullivan is pressing for a recall having come off the bench to secure the success on Saturday.

The Cumbrians were decent value for their victory in a rotten spectacle at Brunton Park against the Spireites; now Keith Curle is chasing back-to-back victories for the first time since Boxing Day. With six away clean sheets to their name, the Blues are certainly built from a solid base.

Indeed, exclude the top-seven and Carlisle have W6-D3-L1 on the road with only eight goals conceded across those 10 outings. Skipper Danny Grainger remains doubtful but Mark Ellis won the Man of the Match award on his return to action at the weekend and so the visitors shouldn’t be easy meat here.

Collectively the pair have seen only six of their combined 18 matches feature Over 2.5 Goals since Boxing Day, and only two topping the Over 3.5 Goals line. With the duo performing admirably at the back, plus Barnet scrapping for their lives, I’m happy to side with a low-scoring game and keeping the Bees onside.

Therefore, the Barnet double chance and Under 3.5 Goals angle catches my eye at 20/21 with 188BET.

Best Bets

Fleetwood v Portsmouth – Fleetwood double chance and Over 1.5 Goals (6/5 188BET)

Barnet v Carlisle – Barnet double chance and Under 3.5 Goals (20/21 188BET)

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After starting his career in newspaper journalism, Mark soon found his way into the online betting world, forging a career in content, social media and marketing production. With a huge passion for stats, the Football League and European football, Mark’s other interests include playing rugby, following his beloved QPR and travel.

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