MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with three more Football League bets for the weekend. Plus, there’s another chance to win one of two £10 free bets courtesy of our new Football League video sponsors, 888 Sport!
Bournemouth v Blackburn Rovers | Saturday 15.00
Bournemouth missed the chance to climb back to within touching distance of the Championship’s top two on Wednesday night, going down 2-1 at Nottingham Forest despite boasting over 70% possession. Eddie Howe’s men began brightly, as they nearly always do, scoring a beauty from Andrew Surman within three minutes but their recent problems again came to haunt.
The Cherries boss was rightly frustrated with his team after the final whistle but it looks like we can categories Bournemouth’s recent failings into three areas. Firstly, the south-coast club have been unable to finish their chances and turn their dominate possession into enough goalscoring opportunities; Wednesday’s loss was a fine example.
Secondly, the Cherries defence. Just four clean sheets in 16 isn’t good enough for a team looking for automatic promotion. The Bournemouth defence has been charitable of late, suffering from series lapses in concentration and particularly vulnerable from set-plays. Forest took advantage of that weakness in midweek and Brentford ran them ragged on the counter last weekend.
Finally, the thin squad might be starting to feel the heat and pressure that goes with a promotion push. Seven of Howe’s trusted lieutenants have made 27 starts already this season – that works out at just over a game-a-week since August and the lack of freshness might be counting against them.
So Bournemouth head into Saturday’s game with Blackburn as 8/13 favourites. It’s understandable and I’m not going to argue with the prices. The hosts have won exactly half of their fixtures at Dean Court and Rovers’ away record isn’t anything to write home about. But (it’s a big but), as well as the above flaws, I think I’ve found an angle to side the visitors.
Rovers can be taken at 6/5 in the Double Chance market at 888 Sport and that appeals, because I’m confident Gary Bowyer’s side can get a goal. Bournemouth have kept six clean sheets in 16 matches as hosts in the Championship and won the lot. In the remaining 10 fixtures in which Howe’s charges have conceded a goal, they’ve returned figures of W2-D5-L3.
Huddersfield proved the theory right in the Solent side’s last outing at Dean Court and with only three victories in front of their home supporters since the 1st November, it’s beginning to get a little concerning for the Cherries.
True, Blackburn have only won four fixtures since that same 1st November date but it’s their firepower that I’m interested in here. Rovers have scored in 27/33 Championship matches this campaign and should have claimed maximum points from recent trips to Cardiff and Blackburn, carving out numerous opportunities.
Despite holding just the 18th best away record in the second tier, Bowyer’s boys have avoided defeat in nine of their 16 road trips, including visits to Middlesbrough and Ipswich. They’ve a wealth of attacking options to choose from and I’m happy to go against the grain by putting my faith in the visitors to avoid defeat.
Crawley Town v Sheffield United | Saturday 15.00
Crawley were the Football League’s biggest coupon busters last weekend, turning Swindon over on their own patch. The Red Devils were rated 9/1 pokes pre-match but produced an excellent 90-minute display of resilience to pinch the points late on despite missing 10 players.
The victory followed a 5-1 thumping of Barnsley on home soil and the back-to-back wins have lifted the Sussex club back into contention in the battle for League One survival. I’d never claim to be a Dean Saunders fan; in some interviews the Welsh legend comes across as an old bumbling PE teacher, but it’s hard to knock Town’s home record at Broadfield Stadium.
Crawley have W3-D5-L2 in their last 10 home matches and have actually netted in all bar three of the 16 games they’ve played as hosts. Saunders’ squad have plenty of pace and attacking quality in forward areas, Mathias Pogba, Izale McLeod and Gwion Edwards are perfectly suited to the Red Devils’ counter-attacking game and I’d fancy them to get one on Saturday.
888 Sport have chalked up the Both Teams To Score price as a 49/50 shot and I reckon that’s a touch big. It’s landed in 9/16 Crawley home fixtures with only five clean sheets collected in their last 30 league outings. And as I say, I fancy them to get a goal.
Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough has claimed for weeks that an automatic promotion place is still within reach of the Blades. Thirteen points from their last 15 has kept the Yorkshire club in touch and they’ll know they can ill afford any slipups this weekend if they’ve serious intentions of catching Bristol City and MK Dons.
But it’s quite surprising to see how few clean sheets Sheffield United are picking up. The Blades have shutout one side (Swindon) in their previous 15 (11 of which saw Both Teams To Score land) and stopped the opposition scoring in only three of their 16 road trips – that’s led to nine BTTS winners in Blades’ away games.
Clough praised his team’s mental toughness, togetherness and attitude after securing a third successive victory on the road at Rochdale in midweek but they’re needing to score at least twice to secure wins of late. A trip to Crawley is a banana-skin they’re capable of stepping over but I’ll be backing goals at a decent price.
Burton Albion v Newport County | Saturday 15.00
I put my faith in a decent, high-scoring game between Newport and Morecambe last weekend but the Shrimps came away from south Wales with a richly deserved three-point haul and a clean sheet. Newport put in a limp performance and although Jimmy Dack has taken on the manager’s role on a fulltime basis until the end of the season, there’s still plenty of uncertainty around the Exiles.
Dack refused to commit his future to County beyond May and admitted he may yet join up with former boss Justin Edinburgh at Gillingham. That came out after Newport had put in their worst display at Rodney Parade this season with little to no room for excuses. A trip now to Burton will really test the character of this County squad who supposedly begged the Exiles board to give Dack the role.
Burton were surprisingly beaten (and shutout) at Accrington in midweek but remain top of the tree in League One. Since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took the reigns, the Brewers have motored through the gears with the Dutchman banishing concerns that he might not be fit for the job, with a W10-D5-L2 return. That’s league winning form over the course of a 46-game season.
But it’s Albion’s outstanding home record at the Pirelli that really opens your eyes when viewing the home team’s season. Twelve wins from 16 including a W7-D1-L0 record under JFH demands maximum respect but I think the 888 Sport have been a little kind in their 4/5 offer for a Burton win on Saturday.
Their Pirelli form isn’t just a flash in the pan. Since the start of last season, the Brewers can boast W23-D8-L8 figures from 39 games. That’s 59% win ratio and if translated into odds, would make the hosts 7/10 for this fixture. Albion have earned 20 clean sheets in those 39 outings too, including seven from eight under the former Chelsea striker.
Their midweek defeat was Burton’s first this year and their first reverse since late November and Hasselbaink remained calm and philosophical about the result. The table-toppers did enough to earn a point at the Crown Ground and I’m confident they’ll be prepared and ready to go again on Saturday.
However, the uncertainty at Newport can’t really be called a positive. The visitors have been beaten in four of their seven trips to top-six sides and have now lost five of their last seven, failing to even score in those five defeats. Longer term away form reads 16/39 (41%) losses and blanks in 19 of those matches. I’m happy siding with the hosts at 4/5 in this one.
Bournemouth v Blackburn Rovers – Blackburn Rovers double chance (6/5 888 Sport)
Crawley Town v Sheffield United – Both Teams To Score (49/50 888 Sport)
Burton Albion v Newport County – Burton Albion to win (4/5 888 Sport)
Win A £10 Free Bet With 888 Sport
We’ve got two £10 free bets to give away thanks to our brand new Football League video sponsors 888 Sports. All you need to do is tell us is, which Football League team you think will LOSE this weekend.
To enter, just post your selection in the comments section below. You must also quote the 888 Sport odds of your pick otherwise your entry will not count. So a sample entry would look something like this;
- Wolves to lose 4/7 (888 Sport)
The two shortest-priced losing selections will win the free bets and the winners will be notified by email. WeLoveBetting’s decision will be final.
Ste Alderson and Will Hynds were last week's winners – both selected Swindon to lose at odds of 3/10.
Any questions? Just ask us on @WeLoveBettingUK or we'll get back to you in the comments box below. Good Luck!