FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his best bets from Saturday’s EFL card.
Forest Green v Chesterfield | Saturday 21st April 2018, 15:00
Christian Doidge’s 17th goal of the season gave Forest Green’s survival hopes a major boost as they secured an unsual 1-0 win away at neighbours Cheltenham in what was dubbed, ‘El-Glousico’.
The victory pushed the Green Devils six points clear of the drop-zone and it was nothing less than Rovers deserved after a solid display. On-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Bradley Collins was rarely troubled and boss Mark Cooper was understandably enthused by the graft on show from his struggling outfit.
Expected to feature towards the upper echelons of League Two in their debut Football League campaign, Forest Green have rarely been out of relegation equation but they should be well capable of mathematically confirming their fourth-tier status with a second successive success here on Saturday.
Ambitious chairman Dale Vince is already targeting a play-off challenge next season and a raft of new arrivals in January has certainly aided Cooper’s cause. But the Devils have built their campaign upon an impressive record at their New Lawn base, boasting a W9-D2-L4 return when excluding the top-six.
The hosts have bagged six wins in their past eight outings here and at 23/20 (Ladbrokes), a repeat should be well within their realms of capability when rock-bottom Chesterfield pith up.
Chesterfield aren’t yet down but the Spireites are staring back-to-back relegations in the face following their midweek defeat at Exeter. In a bid to inspire his squad, manager Jack Lester claimed his team “weren’t playing Real Madrid” and so were good enough to pick up vital points.
Lester set his team out to attack in a 3-4-1-2 system but admitted post-match that they had failed to do enough to warrant all three points. Trying to remain upbeat, the Chesterfield boss insisted relegation wasn’t inevitable and said the great escape is possible if his players give absolute commitment.
With the Spireites’ team spirit, work ethic and commitment questioned throughout the campaign, it’s difficult to see how such statements will invoke a major reaction. The visitors are marooned at the bottom of League Two, seven points from safety and defeat here could prove to be the end of the road.
Chesterfield have picked up one point from five games and been beaten in 12 of their past 17 away days. It’s easy to oppose them once more at odds-against quotes.
Exeter v Crawley | Saturday 21st April 2018, 15:00
Exeter kept the pressure on Wycombe in the race for automatic promotion from League Two with a deserved 2-1 win over Chesterfield at St James’ Park on Tuesday night. Jayden Stockley’s 22nd goal of the season gave the Grecians the lead before an own goal 15 minutes from time more-or-less confirmed victory.
It means Paul Tisdale’s men have now won each of their past three home fixtures and made it five triumphs from their last seven contests. The Devon outfit W13-D2-L2 when hosting clubs outside of sixth spot and boast an outstanding W9-D1-L1 record here against bottom-half dwellers.
Despite their excellent efforts, Exeter are still available to support at (5/6 Marathon) here and the hosts certainly hold plenty of appeal. However, a much seductive play is the 11/8 (188BET) on the Grecians in the Double Chance and Over 2.5 Goals market.
Tisdale is still without centre-backs Jordan Moore-Taylor and Troy Brown and the fourth-placed team have managed just three clean sheets in 15 and five shutouts in 23 when looking further back their league form. This selection has proven profitable in six of their nine wins against the bottom-half.
Crawley have exceeded pre-season expectations where the Red Devils were second-favourites for the drop and Harry Kewell deserves credit for employing an aesthetically-pleasing style of play. Nevertheless, his ball-playing centre-halves can often put them under pressure with a careless pass or two.
In mid-table safety, Town have been able to perform in a more carefree manner of late and goals have followed them consistently in 2018. Indeed, each of their past 18 outings have featured at least two goals with the visitors notching in all bar one match since Boxing Day,
There is a threat out wide from Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Enzio Boldewijn, while Jimmy Smith provides a threat from midfield. Robust forward Thomas Verheydt is back from injury to offer a different dimension to the attack but Crawley have kept only four clean sheets since October so it’s easy to see where their problems lie.
One win in nine suggest they won’t have the man power to topple Exeter here but they can certainly play their part in what should be an entertaining encounter.
Wycombe v Accrington | Saturday 21st April 2018, 15:00
The biggest question coming into this clash is, how many beers did Accrington’s players sink on Tuesday night? Judging by some of their social media accounts, I’d be taking the overs…
Obviously it’s been a wonderful achievement for Stanley, a story that all neutrals can buy into. Manager John Coleman has insisted his squad are hell-bent on now achieving a historic title and with the promotion pressure now off, they could conceivably raise their levels further.
I do doubt it, mind. The Reds have seen their Match Odds balloon since Tuesday night and I can understand why. A Tuesday-Saturday turnaround is reasonably normal for the visitors but nursing hangovers and then dealing with an unseasonable hot afternoon in Buckinghamshire, to me, screams ’oppose’.
Last season Doncaster went off the rails when celebrating promotion early and it would hardly be a huge shock should Accy’s high standards drop ever so slightly on Saturday, eh? After all, Coleman’s used just 12 outfield players over the past eight games and the need to freshen things up could play against the guests.
Stanley have posted away wins at promotion-chasing trio Coventry, Luton and Mansfield since February so obviously command plenty of respect. And whilst Wycombe have tabled a solitary success in five League Two games at their Adams Park home, an even-money (Bet365) offering is too good to turndown.
The odds suggest the Chairboys stand just a 50% chance of landing three points here – I fully expected the Blues to be chalked up at odds-on shots well before Friday.
Wycombe were hit by a sickness bug in midweek – Luke O’Nien, Dominic Gape, Scott Kashket and Adebayo Akinfenwa were all unavailable or feeling the effects of illness but Gareth Ainsworth’s group ground out a credible 0-0 draw.
Akinfenwa was forced off through injury in the first half, further depleting their options, but Wanderers rose to their challenge. Ainsworth set his side up defensively and was understandably delighted with his team’s efforts, singling out on-loan centre-half Nathan McGinley for particular praise.
With the squad refreshed and recovered, a home clash with the potential champions is sure to raise the Chairboys here and with plentiful options in attacking areas, I’m counting on Wycombe continuing their fine W11-D5-L2 form in 2018.