MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the best bets on offer in Tuesday night’s Johnstone Paint Trophy second round fixtures.
Port Vale v Blackpool | Tuesday 19.45
Like the majority of managers in the third and fourth tier, the Johnstone Paint Trophy is a bit of a chore from a punting perspective. It’s not a competition I have the remotest slice of fondness for until we reach the latter stages and teams begin to eye up a potential date at Wembley.
Trying to pick a winner or two can be incredibly difficult as you try and second guess XIs, formations and mentalities at the second round stage so I’d encourage you all to tread carefully. Saying that, I’d like to think I’ve found two angles worth pursuing having poured over all the pre-match evidence.
For starters, Port Vale boss Rob Page has vowed to play a strong side as the Valiants host Blackpool. Page says he will only leave players out if they are injury concerns and is determined to build on Saturday's 2-1 win at home to Sheffield United which lifted Vale up to eighth in League One.
“When you get that winning feeling and mentality, why change it? We had a fantastic performance and result against Sheffield United team on Saturday, so we want to keep that momentum going.
“The only thing that will influence my decision on the team selection is if there is somebody struggling with knocks. Why jeopardise it because we have another tough game again on Saturday?”
That’s encouraging to hear from the hosts’ manager. Port Vale have taken seven points from nine with a 2-1 win at Fleetwood, the 1-1 draw at home to Oldham and the Sheffield United win after back-to-back defeats against Millwall and Bury.
Goalkeeper Jak Alnwick is being lauded for his performances between the sticks whilst the team’s display against the Blades on Saturday has been described as ‘brilliant’ with Page calling it his team’s ‘best all-round performance of the season’. Vale can be backed at 10/11 (Betfred) to see off what’s likely to be a much-changed Blackpool.
Despite the unexpected postponement to their Saturday league fixture with Bradford, the Seasiders will give run-outs to fringe players with boss Neil McDonald keen to freshen up the side. The visitors go into the game in their best form for two years after wins against Chesterfield and Swindon.
Even so, Charles Dunne, Jose Cubero, Martin Paterson and Kwame Thomas are all set to be drafted in whilst Lloyd Jones and David Norris are definitely out of contention. McDonald said, “I’ll make changes but in the right areas. I want the players who haven’t played to play on Tuesday. There will be changes.”
Since taking over at Vale Park, Page has W11-D6-L8 on home soil in League One fixtures, scoring at least twice in 14/25 (56%). In comparison, Blackpool have W1-D1-L4 on their travels this term, leaking two goals or more in five of those six matches and facing a league-high 69 shots-on-target. With a new-look Seasiders XI on show, I’ll back Port Vale to score Over 1.5 Goals at 10/11 with Boylesports.
Bury v Morecambe | Tuesday 19.45
I’ve revealed my soft spot for backing Morecambe probably a little too often in recent weeks and paid the price for it. The Shrimps have let me down on both occasions but I’m determined to stick with Jim Bentley’s troops, especially when they’ve been chalked up at 5/1 for a trip to Bury with Bet365 in the JPT.
Morecambe may have lost three on the spin at the Globe Arena, conceding 11 goals in the process, but Bentley’s boys won the Team of the Round award for their 2-0 first round triumph over last year’s finalists Walsall. The Shrimps also did the double over Bury in League Two last season with the Shakers going on to win League Two promotion.
Upsetting the odds is nothing new for this Morecambe side. Last season the visitors W11-D3-L4 against top-nine clubs and that includes an incredibly impressive W6-D3-L1 road record against the league’s leading lights. The Shrimps have already plundered 20 goals in their 11 games – currently joint-second in the League Two scoring charts – and are capable of springing an upset.
Goalkeeper Barry Roche has been a little too busy for Morecambe’s liking of late but the club have already earned points at Portsmouth and Oxford as well as that JPT success away to Walsall. Changes will be kept to a minimum and that should certainly aid their cause against a Bury side that’s down to the bare bones.
The Shakers were dumped out on home soil by eventually relegated Tranmere in this competition last season, so they have previous. And manager David Flitcroft confirmed the Gigg Lane club will be forced into rotation despite a fabulous run of seven straight wins that’s seen the Shakers soar to third in League One.
After Morecambe, Bury will entertain Wigan and Rochdale in crucial derby showdowns with the three fixtures all taking place in the space of 12 days. Injuries meant Flitcroft could only field six subs in their 1-0 win at Colchester on Saturday, a game in which captain Nathan Cameron admitted they rode their luck.
“I’ve only got two centre-halves then a 17-year-old (Matty Foulds), so that’s something I’ve got to be mindful of, and do I want Tom Soares getting injured in this game?” Flitcroft saw Jacob Mellis fail to shrug off a thigh strain whilst reserve keeper Jack Ruddy has now jetted off for international duty since.
“There will be a body count when we get back to Carrington because that is some shift the boys have put in,” he said after the weekend win, which followed a seven-hour journey down to Essex.
The suggestion is Foulds will eplace either captain Cameron or Peter Clarke in defence with another youth prospect, midfielder Khalid Mohammed, also pushing for a starting role, possibly in place of Soares, while reserve forwards Hallam Hope and Danny Rose could get some game time. Midfielders Kelvin Etuhu and Andrew Tutte remain sidelined.
Should Bury take their foot off the accelerator, I’d expect Morecambe to take advantage – 5/1 (Bet365) looks an enticing prospect on a tough coupon to call.
Port Vale v Blackpool – Port Vale to score Over 1.5 Goals (10/11 Boylesports)
Bury v Morecambe – Morecambe to win (5/1 Bet365)
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