MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) returns for more Football League frolics with a look at Tuesday night’s card.
Wolves v Bristol City | Tuesday 19.45
You have to go back to 1931 for the last time Bristol City bagged a league victory away to Wolves but circumstances might be right for the Robins to end that rotten record on Tuesday night.
City have returned W0-D6-L12 in their 18 trips to Molineux since and hovering just five points above the Championship relegation zone, you could be forgiven for writing the Robins off in midweek.
But the Cider Men have won four of their six fixtures since Lee Johnson took charge at Ashton Gate last month, including three successive triumphs on their travels – you have to go back to March 1906 for the last occasion Bristol City pocketed maximum points from four away games in the top two tiers of English football.
So despite losing the ‘derby’ to Cardiff on Saturday on home soil, the mood remains buoyant under Johnson and I’m keen to cash in on the rejuvenated Robins this midweek with Bet365 offering 21/20 on the visitors with a 0 start on the Asian Handicap line.
This selection works in exactly the same format as a punt on the Draw No Bet market, we’re just getting an odds-against price compared to even-money or shorter in the more traditional Draw No Bet.
Korey Smith’s likely absence is of slight concern but Joe Bryan did a decent job deputising in the centre of midfield at the weekend alongside Marlon Pack and with Adam Matthews signed on-loan to fill in at full-back, City’s backline should be handed a timely boost.
In attack, Jonathan Kodjia delights and frustrates in equal measure but the £2m French striker has notched 13 goals in 37 games, including three of his last four, and should be presented with a few opportunities. Only Fulham and Brentford have faced more on-target efforts as hosts than Wolves’ 5.24 average per-game.
City have enjoyed more success away from Ashton Gate since romping to the League One title and 13 of their 19 points on the road have been secured at bottom-half clubs (W4-D1-L2) and they certainly shouldn’t fear an injury-hit Wolves side that’s managed only five wins on home soil (W5-D6-L6).
There’s a bleak mood around Molineux. Owner Steve Morgan is looking to sell the club, boss Kenny Jackett has lost the backing of supporters and team appears to be trading water in the middle reaches of the Championship.
Since February, only Charlton, Nottingham Forest and Brentford have accrued fewer league points and the side were booed off after each of three consecutive losses during the middle of the month. Having lost 42 of their 72 (60%) goals from last season (Bakary Sako, Nouha Dicko and Benik Afobe), Jackett's side have struggled in front of goal lately, scoring just four in their last six.
But problems are also occurring defensively. A fortunate clean sheet at Reading on the 6th February is the Black Country boys’ only shutout since New Year’s Day and their issues have been compounded by a casualty list of seven for Tuesday night’s tussle.
Central defenders Mike Williamson and Ethan Ebanks-Lamdell are joined by David Edwards, James Henry, Razak Boukari, Jordan Graham and Dicko on the sidelines and Jackett’s young squad don’t look primed to cope. Michal Zyro’s return and Joe Mason’s possible inclusion should at least bolster the offensive ranks.
The hosts have been beaten in four of their last five, recorded a solitary success in nine and failed to see off 12 of their 17 guests at Molineux. I’ll happily oppose them here.
Nottingham Forest v Preston | Tuesday 19.45
Dougie Freedman’s averaging just 1.29 points-per-game across his 52 league fixtures (W17-D16-L19) as Nottingham Forest manager and following four successive Championship defeats, the Scot is back under pressure from an expectant Tricky Trees support.
Not since January 2004 have Forest lost five on the bounce but they appear vulnerable home favourites on Tuesday. Like Wolves and Jackett, constant injury issues have hit Freedman’s squad and neither Jamie Ward nor Oliver Burke will return in time for this City Ground encounter.
Ryan Mendes is unlikely to be in a condition to play two matches on the bounce within three days and a similar concern over Dexter Blackstock in attack should see the limited Chris O’Grady or Tyler Walker pulled back into the XI. Elsewhere, skipper Henri Lansbury, Jack Hobbs, Britt Assombalonga, Daniel Pinillos, Matty Fryatt and Andy Reid remain crocked.
Freedman’s admitted he’s down to the bare bones and it’s fair he’s operating in a difficult climate, as the combined impact injuries and the FFP embargo combine to limit their attacking options in particular. But there’s still a demand for entertaining and results-driven football as crowds continue to dwindle at the City Ground.
At Ipswich on Saturday, Forest delivered the entertaining, flowing football during a first half they dominated at Portman Road. But once again, failure to seize on their opportunities came back to haunt as Town edged to victory with another industrious display.
The Tricky Trees can expect a similar showing from Preston in midweek. The two sides possess almost identical record (Preston scored 33, conceded 32) to Forest (scored 32, conceded 31, from a game less) when it comes to goals but North End are seeking to hang on to the coat-tails of the pack of clubs chasing the play-offs.
Former Forest striker Joe Garner makes his return to the City Ground, hoping to fire the Lilywhites closer to the top-six positions for a settled, compact and organised Preston outfit. Visiting boss Simon Grayson is expected to stick with the outfield players who have started the last five games with first-choice keeper Anders Lindegaard back from a stomach bug to guard the sticks.
Grayson’s group have really grown into life back in the second-tier and since the international break in early October, the Lilywhites have returned W11-D9-L5. Burnley and Hull were both beaten in December, while Sheffield Wednesday were turned over just over a fortnight ago.
In 10 games against the top-six this term, Preston have recorded seven clean sheets, including Saturday’s goalless draw against title-chasing Brighton. The visitors have taken 13 points from a possible 18 and kept their sheets clean in seven of their 17 on the road, losing just six.
So I like the idea of getting North End on side here. We can back the visitors with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start at 17/20 (Bet365) in a selection that would see us provide profit should Preston avoid defeat – we’d manage a half-stakes win should the game end all square but pocket a full-stakes win should Grayson’s men pick up maximum points.
Forest have managed just one home win in seven, including home reverses to Bristol City and Huddersfield lately. And although their 13-match unbeaten streak caught the attention between November and February, they’ve still failed to secure victories in 24/34 (71%) of their league games.
Accrington v Portsmouth | Tuesday 19.45
I’m surprised to see Both Teams To Score trading at 6/7 with 888 here. Those odds suggest there’s just under a 54% chance of this selection winning on Tuesday but almost everything points towards goals.
Accrington have failed to score in their last two fixtures – a 1-0 loss at Yeovil and a 0-0 draw at Wimbledon – but Stanley won the shot count in both fixtures, as they have done consistently in 2015/16. At Wimbledon on Saturday, the visitors had a bizarre goal ruled out too – it’s worth a YouTube.
No League Two side are averaging more shots-on-target than John Coleman’s charges’ 5.85 per-game and back at their Crown Ground home, Accy have notched in each of their last 18 – you have to go back 12 months for the last time the hosts failed to find the net in front of their home supporters.
Since the start of last season, Accrington have scored in 35/38 (92%) of their home fixtures but only kept six clean sheets; unsurprisingly, that’s led to 29/38 (76%) of BTTS winners, including 13/15 (87%) this season.
Portsmouth kept a rare clean sheet at struggling Stevenage on Saturday but haven’t pierced the automatic promotion places since November and the pressure remains on Paul Cook’s expensive troops to deliver the goods.
Although Pompey haven’t shipped more than a single goal in any of their last 11 League Two matches, they’ve shutout just three of those 11 opponents. And in 40 fixtures on the road since the beginning of 2014/15, the south-coast club have kept their sheets clean on just eight occasions.
During Cook’s tenure, Portsmouth have silenced just three of their 17 hosts and further back that record reads just three clean sheets in 25 away league games. A chunky 13/17 (76%) of Pompey’s road trips this term, including all eight at top-half teams have delivered winning Both Teams To Score bets, as well as 23/40 (58%) when going back to last season.
If we took the pure BTTS stats from both teams’ respective home and away games this season, we’d be looking at an 81.5% chance of a repeat here – that implies betting odds of just 2/9. Go back to last season and the percentage figure drops to 67% – that implies betting odds of 1/2.
In both instances, the implied odds and percentage probability is streets ahead of the advertised odds of 6/7 (54%) from 888 and makes this a value goals bet.
*Since going live, Both Teams To Score has drifted to odds as big as 21/20 with BetVictor*
Wolves v Bristol City – Bristol City 0 Asian Handicap (21/20 Bet365)
Nottingham Forest v Preston – Preston +0.25 Asian Handicap (17/20 Bet365)
Accrington v Portsmouth – Both Teams To Score (6/7 888)
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