FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) highlights the best betting opportunities from Tuesday's Championship card.
Burton v Huddersfield | Tuesday 19:45
Now in deepest December, newly-promoted Burton are still chasing a maiden Championship away victory and despite the Brewers putting together one of their worst performances of the season on Saturday, Nigel Clough’s charges look a little too big in the pre-match markets to be ignored here.
Scott Hogan’s brace gave Brentford a 2-1 triumph against Albion at the weekend and Clough had no complaints about the full-time result. Burton were uncharacteristically sluggish, short on creativity, attacking nous and defensive resolve.
The Brewers opted for a four-man defence, as they did in the recent 1-1 draw with Preston, with Damien McCrory coming back in at left-back, sacrificing a man in midfield for one at the back. But the aim for staying solid and allowing Jamie Ward opportunity to roam behind lone striker Chris O'Grady failed to function.
O'Grady was isolated too often and on the flanks neither Lloyd Dyer nor Lucas Akins were able to deliver a telling ball into the box. Highly-rated Jackson Irvine was unusually quiet and Brentford took advantage.
Beer, Branston and Burton
But don’t expect a repeat on Tuesday night. The Brewers have collected 17 (77%) of their 22-point tally on home turf and head into their midweek match with Huddersfield unbeaten at the Pirelli Stadium since September (W3-D2-L0).
Albion have suffered a sole defeat as hosts in eight (W5-D2-L1) and shipped only two goals over the past seven-and-a-half hours in Staffordshire. The town – known for beer, Bovril, Branston pickle and the Football Association’s lavish St George’s Park complex – are relishing second-tier football.
Centre-half Ben Turner serves the first of a two-match suspension on Tuesday but fellow centre-back Kyle McFadzean returns from his own ban to start at the back. McFadzean could now partner John Mousinho and John Brayford, should Clough revert to his preferred 3-5-2 formation.
Burton shouldn't be outsiders
Stuart Beavon is the only other major absentee and so I’m surprised to see the Brewers chalked up as outsiders here. I’ll be keeping the draw onside by backing Burton with a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap line at 3/4 (BetVictor).
This selection would see us pick up profit should Burton avoid defeat – a half-stakes win if the game ends in a draw and a full-stakes pay-out if Albion secure all three points.
Looking at the Brewers’ nine home performances, promotion-chasing Brighton are the only side to dominate the newcomers at the Pirelli this term and in five of their encounters, Clough’s men have restricted their opposition to three shots on-target or fewer.
Arguably what’s most impressive is Burton’s supremacy when viewing the shots attempted from inside the penalty box at the Pirelli. Albion have fired in 84 (9.33 per-game) whilst facing only 61 (6.77 per-game) – with an average of almost 85% of goals arriving from inside the penalty area, their solid stats.
Visitors Huddersfield earned their first victory since October by beating Bristol City on Saturday, a result that was given a helping hand by an atrocious performance from Frank Fielding in the Robins goal.
The Terriers have been beaten in five of their last 10 outings and taken only a point from a possible 12 in four road trips. David Wagner’s men shipped 12 goals in those four away days – as many as they did in their previous 10 games as guests.
All 10 of the Championship triumphs bagged by Town this term have arrived by exactly one-goal and Huddersfield haven’t scored three goals or more in a match since March.
Despite sitting fourth in the standings, the Terriers boast a -2 goal difference, have conceded only two goals fewer than Burton and have managed only four shutouts in 2016/17, as well only six clean sheets in 25 away from the John Smith’s Stadium under Wagner.
Poor performance data
The performance data metrics don’t make entirely pretty reading, either. Of the 113 shots Huddersfield have attempted on their travels, 29 (26%) came in their last away game at Blackburn.
Similarly, 21 (38%) of their 55 efforts from inside the penalty box on their travels came at Ewood Park. In contrast, Town have faced 83 attempts from inside the box when playing away, resulting in a 39.85% shots in the box ratio on the road.
Huddersfield shouldn’t be favourites here and in 17/25 (68%) of their away days under Wagner, this bet would have made us money.
Fulham v Rotherham | Tuesday 19:45
A snarling Slavisa Jokanovic was understandably frustrated by his Fulham’s inability to kill off Wolves during their thrilling 4-4 draw at Molineux.
The Cottagers had powered into a 3-1 half-time lead after goals from Stefan Johansen, Floyd Ayite and Tom Cairney had cancelled out Kortney Hause's opener. But Fulham found themselves trailing in stoppage-time before Ayite salvaged a point with the last kick of the game.
The point saw the Londoners miss out on a top-six position heading into midweek but the Whites could have washed away their sombre mood with a drink or two in the first dedicated football club ‘gin hub’ launched by the club last week. Yeah, cringe…
Back to football matters and it’s probably not escaped your attention but Fulham are beginning to motor. The Cottagers have fired in more shots than any side in the Championship this season and have scored 16 goals in their past six Championship outings.
Huddersfield and Reading were both routed 5-0 at Craven Cottage in the past six weeks and although those two triumphs are part of only three home victories this season (W3-D4-L3) we should expect Jokanovic’s men to put Rotherham to the sword on Tuesday night.
Fulham tend to flood the midfield and dominate possession, enjoying great success against sides that wish to play their own brand of open, attacking football. The Millers – 10 points adrift of safety – must attempt to go toe-to-toe to have any chance of safety but such an approach could prove suicidal for the rock-bottom side.
Millers to be mauled
The South Yorkshire outfit overcame an early barrage of pressure against QPR on Saturday to secure only their second league win of the season but an appalling road record is likely to catch up with Rotherham here.
The Millers have collected a solitary point from a possible 30 (W0-D1-L9) away, conceding at least twice in all 10. With goalkeeper Lee Camp carrying an injury, Kelvin Wilson, Kirk Broadfoot, Scott Allan and Greg Halford all still sidelined and Peter Odemwingie suspended, I’m not holding out much hope.
Paul Warne’s the man in charge at the moment but Rotherham’s awful shot ratio (36.85%) is dwarfed by their hosts’ 54.88% (third-best in the division) whilst their expected goals return when playing away is just 7.60 compared to 18.72 in the expected goals against column.
In only three of their 10 games as guests have Rotherham landed more than two shots on-target and in all 10 fixtures the Millers have allowed their opponents at least eight shots from inside their own penalty box – horrendous figures that will ultimately lead to relegation.
It's slightly on the short side but Fulham to win and Over 1.5 Goals still feels like a steal at 4/6 (BetStars) – we'll profit should the Cottagers win by any scoreline other than 1-0.
Burton v Huddersfield – Burton +0.25 Asian Handicap (3/4 BetVictor)
Fulham v Rotherham – Fulham to win and Over 1.5 Goals (4/6 BetStars)