MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) smashed seven winners from seven in his most recent Saturday and Tuesday columns from the Football League. Can he repeat the feat?
Gillingham v Chesterfield | Saturday 15.00
Hi Gillingham, how you doing? It’s been a few weeks but I’m back to rekindle the love affair we’ve been having in the public spotlight ever since Justin Edinburgh pitched up at your Priestfield home. Fancy a drink?
With Saturday’s Championship card looking as grotesque as John Terry in a Chelsea shirt, League One has plenty of punting delights this weekend with the Gills clash against Chesterfield taking top billing.
The hosts have been chalked up as even-money shots (BetVictor) to take maximum points here and I’m sorry, but that’s just too good to ignore. This is a side that’s returned W16-D5-L3 when welcoming League One opposition under Edinburgh and more recently delivered W15-D3-L1 at their Kent base.
Of course, it’s never that cut-and-dried, especially in the Football League. Punters should be aware that captain Doug Loft and talented centre-half John Egan are out for Gillingham and at the time of writing, they still hadn’t completed an expected loan move for Cardiff defender Deji Oshilaja.
The previous paragraph is an obvious concern but I’m buoyed by the Gills’ unheralded home stats. Edinburgh’s charges have faced an average of 3.25 shots-on-target per-game at the Priestfield – only four clubs can boast a better figure – whilst only three third tier sides have shipped fewer goals as hosts.
The Kent club are at their best going forward and Dominic Samuel, Rory Donnelly and in-demand Bradley Dack have contributed 29 goals between them with Gillingham’s tally of 58 goals in 32 fixtures a league-high. On home soil, the Gills have struck 2.06 goals-per-game.
Edinburgh was understandably annoyed at this side’s failure to pick up a point at Oldham last weekend having taken a first-half lead with his troops appearing in command at Boundary Park. So I expect a fiery response when Chesterfield make the journey south.
The Spireites have taken four points from games against fellow strugglers Colchester and Crewe across the last 10 days and there’s plenty of positivity emanating from Danny Wilson’s camp.
Loan additions Declan John and Tom Anderson have seamless fit into the back-four whilst young midfielder Connor Dimaio scooped the Man of the Match champagne for his debut showing against The Alex last weekend. However, Chesterfield still look a little brittle, to me.
The visitors have lost six of their previous nine trips to top-six teams in this division and their performance data on their travels makes Terry-Chelsea shirt reading.
No side is averaging fewer on-target attempts than the Spireites’ 2.63 when playing away and their shocking 33.07% shots-on-target ratio figure – Chesterfield’s share of the total shots-on-target in their away fixtures – is only better than Blackpool.
Despite two key absences in the home side, Gillingham have shown they’re capable of shutting down opposition sides and Chesterfield are still to prove they possess the tools to unlock defences.
The travellers have fired blanks in seven of their 16 away days, losing on nine occasions. And despite fielding experienced Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Lee Novak in attack, they seem unable to pick the tightest locks.
Finally, it’s also worth reiterating what a tough campaign the Spireites have had. Last season’s manager Paul Cook departed for Portsmouth in the summer and the spine of the side was also ripped apart with Sam Clucas, Tendayi Darikwa, Sam Morsy, Jimmy Ryan and Gary Roberts all departing whilst skipper Ian Evatt and Gary Liddle are unavailable here.
Colchester v Shrewsbury | Saturday 15.00
I can’t get enough of Colchester these days.
I felt so dirty – almost guilty – for opposing the U’s last weekend. So seeing Kevin Keen’s side stroll into a 2-0 lead at Bury almost pushed me over the edge.
The Colchester boss has spoken about the mental fragility and mind-set of his players in recent weeks, suggesting they’re struggling to cope with the pressures of holding onto leads. However, in this instance, two first-half yellow cards for defender Tom Eastman proved the catalyst for a dramatic collapse. They lost 5-2.
But I’m unwilling to write the Essex raiders off just yet. Sure, they’re 10 points from safety and winless in 18 league fixtures (W0-D3-L15) – a club record that equals their most barren run of results in 1988-89 – but they’ve been very competitive in the majority of their matches, especially under Keen and at their Community Stadium home (W3-D6-L7).
Only Peterborough, Coventry and Walsall have fired in more efforts on-target and their 51.60% shots-on-target ratio figure – their share of the total shots-on-target in Colchester games – ranks them 14 in League One. Even last weekend, ColU drew the shot count 11-11 with Bury despite playing with 10 men for almost an hour.
But Keen’s men are rock-bottom because they can’t keep the goals out. Colchester have shipped an eye-watering 78 in their 32 league outings – that’s the worst return from the top four tiers at this stage of a season since 1997/98 – and a huge 51.66% of the shots-on-target they’re facing are resulting in goals. Gulp.
The bookmakers are well aware of the U’s more than reasonable performance data so you’ll net be offered more than 6/4 on a home success this weekend and even I can’t completely justify backing the Essex boys at those odds. So instead, it’s goals.
Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score is backable at 10/11 with William Hill and looks a bit of a steal when peeking at the most important stats and trends.
Colchester have seen 10/16 (63%) of their Community Stadium league outings in 2015/16 deliver Over 2.5 Goals winners with 12/16 (75%) proving profitable for Both Teams To Score backers. The hosts haven’t kept their sheets clean in 22 fixtures, including each of their last 11 as hosts.
Shrewsbury have fared well on their travels (W6-D3-L6). Micky Mellon’s men were outclassed by Manchester United in Shropshire on Monday – midfielder Abu Ogogo claiming it felt like the Red Devils had 20 players on the pitch – but will fancy their chance of bouncing back on Saturday.
Salop have only been silenced in four of their 16 away trips since promotion with 11/16 (69%) of those matches featuring both teams scoring. Nine of their road trips have produced at least three goals but eight of those goal-heavy games came in their most recent 12 and the visitors have failed to record a clean sheet since 24th October.
Shrewsbury were 4-2 winners when the two teams locked horns in October and I reckon this weekend’s meeting could again produce the goods in the goals department.
Accrington v Barnet | Saturday 15.00
One of the Football League stories of the season has to be Accrington. The penniless northerners began the campaign as 150/1 no-hopers and although they won’t clinch League Two outright glory, the Reds have turned their pre-season quotes upside down.
John Coleman’s side overcame Notts County 3-2 in midweek to make it four games unbeaten (W3-D1-L0) but the Accy boss was fuming with his team’s performance as they cemented their place in the promotion places.
In typical no-nonsense style, Coleman said, “We were absolutely terrific for the first 25 minutes and cut through Notts County like a knife through better, but then we just stopped playing.
“We were like Real Madrid for those 25 minutes and then Reality Madrid in the seventh division of the Hackney Marshes League after that.
“On any other day County would have got a draw or a win. We didn’t show enough effort or work rate and we dodged a bullet.
“After 25 minutes we were carrying around five or six players. We got sloppy and didn’t do our job, and a few individual errors meant we gifted them goals.”
Stanley are the league’s joint-second highest scorers and a stunning 63.44% shots-on-target ratio has been maintained throughout the campaign. Accrington haven’t tended to be lucky – they’re in the top-three on merit with no fourth-tier side firing in more on-target efforts per-game and only three clubs facing fewer.
At the Crown Ground, Accy tend to come to the fore. Exclude results against the top-five and they’ve returned W8-D3-L0 – only Wimbledon and Oxford have departed with maximum points – and nine of their 16 home encounters have featured three or more goals with a whopping 12/14 (86%) featuring goals for both sides.
So if the Reds players heed Coleman’s criticism and return to their rampant ways, I’m more than confident they’ll be able to brush aside Barnet in what could be billed as a ‘beauty against the beast’ contest.
Martin Allen’s travellers head north having lost 10 of their 15 away days since promotion back into the Football League and their rough, ready and direct tactics haven’t paid dividends. The Bees have only enjoyed a 38.69& share of the total shots-on-target when outside their Hive home with only Crawley facing more efforts on-target as guests.
Six of the nine points Barnet have picked up on their travels have come against bottom-six dwellers, reducing their road record to W1-D0-L10 when taking on sides in 16th and above. And it would be a big surprise if they managed to arrest that rotten return here.
But rather than back the standard home win, I’m adding Over 2.5 Goals into the mix to boost the odds to 8/5 (Paddy Power) on a home triumph.
I’ve already touched on Accrington’s solid goal stats as hosts and it’s worth pointing out eight of their most recent 11 at the Crown Ground have featured at least four goals.
Barnet have seen Both Teams To Score land in 9/15 (60%) games as guests with the same figure breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and six overcoming the Over 3.5 Goals hurdle. The adventurous amongst you may prefer the home win and BTTS at a chunky (13/5 BetVictor) but I’ll cover the possible 3-0 whitewash instead.
Gillingham v Chesterfield – Gillingham to win (1/1 BetVictor)
Colchester v Shrewsbury – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
Accrington v Barnet – Accrington to win and Over 2.5 Goals (8/5 Paddy Power)
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