MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) analyses the best betting angle for the first part of Good Friday’s live Football League double-header.
Swindon v Wigan | Good Friday 17.15 | Sky Sports 1
Whisper it quietly and Swindon Town still believe they’re in the running for a top-six finish in League One.
The Robins are eight points adrift of the play-off positions but could reduce that margin to five should they see off Oldham in their game in-hand on 13 clubs above them in the standings.
It’s a solid achievement for the Wiltshire raiders who lost eight of their starting XI from last year’s play-off final during the summer and have also gone through three managers in a chaotic campaign.
However, the club appears to have found a gem in 35-year old Luke Williams. The former Brighton Under-21 and Swindon first-team coach has made such an impression on chairman Lee Power that he’s sealed a five-year deal in charge of the County Ground club with Power saying, “He is a fantastic coach, the best I've come across in 25 years of football.” High praise, eh?
Last season Swindon were famed for their aesthetically-pleasing approach under Mark Cooper but it was Williams’ training sessions that the Robins players often raved about. And the new number one has already shown a real willingness to adapt his tactics and philosophy before and during matches,
Williams has continued the upward momentum and built on former head coach Martin Ling’s foundations with an enterprising 3-5-2 system and 12-games into his reign, the Robins have W6-D4-L2.
Forwards Nicky Ajose and Jonathan Obika have contributed 16 of the 33 goals Swindon have scored in that spell and their shot ratings deserve serious respect.
Bang in-form Barnsley are the only side to dominate proceedings with Good Friday’s hosts enjoying a 167-113 shot supremacy under Williams and 76-49 in on-target efforts.
Meanwhile, in four of the last seven seasons a side relegated from the Championship has bounced back as League One champions and Wigan’s big-spending summer had many Football League pundits believing the Latics would follow suit.
Athletic were chalked up as 7/1 second favourites – odds equating to a 12.5% chance of topping the standings – and were touted as title material in the Racing Post’s big pre-season pull-out.
Young chairman David Sharpe suggested Wigan’s playing budget would be around seven times greater than the division’s next biggest, before unhelpfully suggesting he expected rookie boss Gary Caldwell to rack up 100 points on the way to the title.
After their relegation trauma and a busy summer of comings and goings, it wasn’t too surprising to see Athletic starting slowly. A W4-D5-L3 return from their first 12 games had the side perched in 10th as we entered the depths of September but gradually Caldwell began to build a picture of his squad and slow progress followed.
Since mid-September, Wigan have W15-D13-L2. That run of results includes a current unbeaten streak of 16 (W9-D7-L0) – their best slice of form since 2004. The stats suggest the visitors are the best team in the league – no side is bettering their 60.86% shots-on-target ratio figure – and in budgetary terms, the Latics should streets clear of the pack.
But they’re not. Why? Well that habit of picking up draws. Only Oldham (16) have been held to more one-pointers than Wigan’s 14/17 (38%) and so there’s no way I could be getting involved with an away win at best price 11/10.
Instead, I’m getting Swindon onside in the Asian Handicap market with the 9/10 from BetVictor standing out for the Robins with a +0.50 start – we’ll be paid out should Williams’ troops avoid defeat.
And seeing as it’s Easter, I’ll also have a wee nibble on the 13/2 (Bet365) for Swindon to win and Both Teams To Score. The Wiltshire raiders have only failed to net on three occasions at the County Ground this season, keeping a solitary clean sheet.
The BTTS bet has landed in 14/18 (78%) of Swindon’s home fixtures with Over 2.5 Goals also copping on 14 occasions; four or more goals have been scored in eight of those matches. Meanwhile, Wigan have seen both sides strike in 11/18 (61%) away although only seven of those encounters crept above the 2.5 line.
Swindon v Wigan – Swindon +0.50 Asian Handicap (9/10 BetVictor)
Swindon v Wigan – Swindon to win and Both Teams To Score (13/2 Bet365)
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