MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles the Tuesday night Football League card for us.
MK Dons v Middlesbrough | Tuesday 19.45
A heroic display by MK Dons goalkeeper David Martin helped Karl Robinson’s men to a 0-0 draw at Cardiff on Saturday afternoon but the Buckinghamshire outfit dropped to just a place above the relegation zone.
It’s W1-D2-L3 in the Dons’ last six league outings and although they’ve bagged victories in three of their last four at Stadium:MK and W4-D1-L2 on home soil since November in Championship action, I’m not prepared to lend them my support.
A chunky 14 of MK’s 27 points total (52%) has been claimed against the bottom-seven – compare that with their W1-D0-L9 return from games against the top-eight and the hosts look well worth opposing.
The even-money on Middlesbrough has all been snapped up but there are alternative ways to get with the Teesiders at attractive prices. The Boro win and Under 2.5 Goals looks just the ticket at 13/5 with Betway.
Sure, Aitor Karanka’s men have taken just a point from their past three fixtures to surrender top spot in the second tier but they remain a force on their travels. Middlesbrough have won seven away games – as many as any team in the division – and have prevailed ‘to nil’ in four of their last five despite only visiting one of the bottom-seven.
Karanka’s promised changes after their laboured 1-1 draw with Blackburn on Saturday and a first start for £9m signing Jordan Rhodes looks likely.
I’d want the guests onside but they’re unlikely to cut loose – seven of their previous nine at promoted clubs have featured fewer than three goals and it’s proven similarly low-scoring in eight of MK Dons’ most recent 14 at home.
Oxford v Mansfield | Tuesday 19.45
Oxford enjoyed a weekend off as their match at Exeter on Saturday was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Michael Appleton’s troops have had a busy schedule of late with FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy ties chucked in on top of the League Two campaign.
Nevertheless, The U’s have fared superbly this season and sit comfortably in the automatic promotion spots despite holding two games in hand. No side in the fourth tier are averaging more shots-on-target whilst only Portsmouth are facing fewer – Oxford are there on merit.
But bare with me – I want to oppose Appleton’s charges here. Why? Well… they’ve only actually won six of their 13 matches at the Kassam Stadium this term (W6-D5-L2) with only three of those triumphs arriving by a margin of two goals or more.
The best odds available on Oxford are 3/5 (Bet365) and that implies a 62.5% chance of succeeding – with a 66.94% shots-on-target ratio, there’s arguably a smidgen of value in backing the hosts here.
But I’m happier opposing those sort of odds in the Football League, especially against a Mansfield side that’s only been beaten by more than the odd goal on once occasion away from home.
The Stags required two penalty saves from goalkeeper Scott Shearer to help pocket maximum points at home to Morecambe on Saturday and their previous 13 league games have returned W5-D3-L3. And on their travels they’ve managed W6-D2-L2 from their last 10.
Adam Murray’s men are unfashionable but awkward, functional rather than flashy and capable of grinding out a result. Their terrible record against top-third teams (W0-D4-L4) and top-half clubs (W0-D7-L6) is an obvious concern but as you’ll have seen, in at least 50% of those matches they’ve avoided defeat.
So I’ll have a wee wager on Mansfield with a +1 Asian Handicap start at 9/10 with BetVictor. Taking the Asian Handicap market, we’ll get our stake back should Oxford win by exactly one goal and only lose out if the home side come out on top by two or more goals.
Since Appleton arrived at the Kassam, The U’s have only won 7/36 (19%) of their home league fixtures by two or more goals. And just as a reminder, the Stags have lost just 1/14 (7%) of their away days this term by the same margin.
MK Dons v Middlesbrough – Middlesbrough to win and Under 2.5 Goals (13/5 Betway)
Oxford v Mansfield – Mansfield +1 Asian Handicap (9/10 BetVictor)
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