FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) highlights the best betting opportunities this Saturday.
Port Vale v Northampton | Saturday 15:00
Robert Page returns to Vale Park on Saturday with his Northampton outfit hoping to put an end to a four-match losing streak that’s seen the Cobblers fail to score a goal in each of their last three fixtures.
Town produced an improved performance when losing 1-0 at home to high-flying Bolton last time out but a failure but an inability to create any noteworthy opportunities despite a the bulk of possession and territory in the second-half has been an all too familiar theme of late.
This weekend Northampton make the journey to Burslem without key right-back Brendan Moloney, midfield talisman John-Joe O’Toole and rock-solid centre-half Zander Diamond yet the Cobblers have been chalked up as favourites to win here? I’m just not having it.
Since their club-record 31-match unbeaten league run came to a close in mid-September, Town have W4-D1-L7. In seven of those encounters, Page’s posse have shipped at least two goals, conceding three or more goals on four occasions.
No away side has faced more shots on their travels than Northampton and the Cobblers have W2-D4-L4 in 10 road trips, leaking 15 goals and keeping a solitary clean sheet.
Page has been accused of being too negative on Northampton’s travels, the problem being a way of finding enough support for striker Alex Revell in attack without exposing the midfield and leaving Town vulnerable to the counter. It’s led to a passive and timid approach that’s gotten fans a fluster.
Town are rooted in the bottom-seven of the shot ratio standings – their share of the total shots attempted across all their league games this season – and although Port Vale are bottom of that particular table, the Valiants tend to excel in front of their home supporters.
Vale thrashed Hartlepool 4-0 in the FA Cup on home soil last weekend – 6ft 5in striker Rigino Cicilia getting amongst the goals and his aerial threat is bound to test Northampton’s dodgy defence. The visitors have conceded a cluster of headed and set-piece goals this campaign.
Elsewhere, on-loan Birmingham winger Alex Jones added to his nine-goal tally as Vale overcame the absence of seven of their preferred starting XI to book a place in the third round. The hosts won’t have a full squad available here but even so, I’ve not even started quoting their Vale Park record.
This season Bruno Ribeiro has led the Potteries outfit to W6-D3-L1 on home soil, Vale notching 18 goals in those 10 tussles. And since the start of last season, the Valiants have scored in 27/33 (82%) Vale Park fixtures, keeping 10 (30%) clean sheets and suffering just 5/33 (15%) defeats.
Like Northampton, Port Vale supporters have made their displeasure clear at a lack of consistency on the pitch this term. Ribeiro’s penchant for switching formation and tactics plus a ponderous approach in possession has led to falling attendances and growing discontent in Burslem.
But should we really ignore the 15/16 (BetVictor) available on Port Vale with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start here?
It’s a selection that makes us money should the home side avoid defeat, a selection that’s proven profitable in 28 of the Valiants last 33 home outings and in eight of Northampton’s 10 away trips since promotion.
Yes, I do rate Port Vale as amongst the worst teams in League One this season but there’s little reason to believe Northampton should be solid favourites here and for that reason, the Cobblers must be opposed at the prices.
Southend v Coventry | Saturday 15:00
Southend will be hoping their remarkable unbeaten November run that dates back to 2009 will continue into December as the Shrimpers move to within a point of the play-off places ahead of the hectic Christmas schedule.
The Essex raiders have now avoided defeat in each of their last 28 games in the month of November, collecting an impressive 64 points from the 84 on offer. United’s eight-point return from four fixtures (W2-D2-L0) last month also saw manager Phil Brown named on a four man shortlist for Manager of the Month.
Southend’s unbeaten streak in League One now scales eight games (W4-D4-L0) and Brown was frustrated his troops dropped two points when being held to a goalless game against Walsall in their most recent league encounter.
The Shrimpers created their better opportunities in front of goal and had one strong penalty claim turned down. Nile Ranger – back from the football scrapheap – was a real handful and has excelled leading United’s line and recently signed a contract extension to 2020.
Southend haven’t lost with Ranger in the side (W5-D3-L0) and Brown is hoping his mercurial star can shine on Saturday as the Shrimpers go in search of a fifth Roots Hall triumph in eight (W4-D3-L0).
Brown suggested the showdown with Coventry is Southend’s biggest of the season so far and is desperate to return to winning ways after seeing his side exit the EFL Trophy in midweek on penalties against Oxford.
Midfielder Will Atkinson should be fit to play for the hosts and although left-back Ben Coker remains absent, Michael Timlin has done well since moving from from his usual midfield role to fill in. However, John White and Harry Kyprianou are now both back fit and could provide an alternative option.
Only Walsall, Chesterfield and Shrewsbury have faced more shots than Coventry in League One and the former FA Cup winners arrive at Roots Hall on the back of an awful four-match losing streak in League One that’s planted the Sky Blues firmly in the bottom-four.
Caretaker manager Mark Venus came in for plenty of deserved criticism following an embarrassing 4-0 reverse at Cambridge in the FA Cup last weekend where a poor tactical set-up saw City exposed on the flanks, overran in midfield and outmuscled throughout the fixture.
Coventry bounced back with a 1-0 EFL Trophy triumph against struggling Crawley in front of the Ricoh Arena’s lowest ever attendance but it must be said, goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook was one of Cov’s leading performers in a dour contest.
Forgotten man Marvin Sordell scored the only goal of the game in midweek and goals have been a real problem for the Sky Blues this season. City have already fired blanks on eight occasions in league football and managed a paltry tally of 15 goals in 19 outings.
Lewis Page and Chris McCann should return to the fold here but Coventry’s road record offers little hope for travelling fans. The visitors have W1-D2-L7 in their last 10 away days and suffered 17/33 (52%) defeats in games as guests since the start of last season.
There are major problems on and off the pitch at Coventry right now and I’d be happy backing a motivated and determined Southend side to pile more misery on the Sky Blues here. The Shrimpers are 13/10 (BetVictor) to succeed.
Yeovil v Barnet | Saturday 15:00
Only Carlisle, Doncaster, Wycombe and Plymouth have bagged a better points per-game record than Yeovil since mid-September (W6-D3-L2) and the Glovers head into the weekend protecting an unbeaten 13-match record across all competitions (W7-D5-L0).
A 5-0 shellacking of Crawley in midweek brought about a hat-trick of home wins for Town and their W11-D7-L5 record at Huish Park under Darren Way’s tutorship deserves real praise.
The Yeovil great has cultivated a squad that’s full of experience with a smattering of talented youngsters. Experienced heads such as Alex Lawless and starlets such as Otis Khan are performing well above par on a weekly basis now and the Glovers’ fine form has seen them enter the play-off picture.
Captain Darren Ward and Matty Dolan both remain sidelined and Liam Shephard will serve a one-match suspension on Saturday but Way has no fresh injury concerns. With that in mind, Yeovil look a steal at 14/19 (BetVictor) off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line.
In decimals that selection is 1.74 and the mechanic of the bet works in the exact same format as the Draw No Bet market – we’ll see our stake returned should the game end all-square, only losing out of Barnet pick up an away victory.
The Bees are still reeling from the sudden departure of manager Martin Allen for non-league Eastleigh. Chairman Tony Kleanthous attempted to soften the blow by suggesting the former boss would be “in demand” after winning promotion back to the Football League and consolidating the club but nobody expected this.
In midweek, star striker John Akinde said the news came as a shock to all the players in the Barnet dressing room and admitted it will have an affect on the squad. The 15-goal forward also failed to play down speculation linking him with a move away from The Hive in January.
Yeovil’s ability to collect three points may hinge on how successful centre-halves Alex Lacey and Nathan Smith handle Akinde on Saturday but without Allen barking orders in the away dugout for the first time in three years surely can’t be seen as a positive.
Interim joint coaches Rossi Eames and Henry Newman have stepped up from the development and academy structure to lead the Bees to Somerset; both men have been mainstays in the backroom staff since Barnet’s non-league days and the jury remains out on their ability to navigate first-team fixtures.
The visitors have won 7/32 (22%) away League Two games since promotion whilst and with Yeovil suffering just five losses (22%) in 22 Huish Park outings under Way, we simply must get the in-form hosts onside.
Port Vale v Northampton – Port Vale +0.25 Asian Handicap (15/16 BetVictor)
Southend v Coventry- Southend to win (13/10 William Hill)
Yeovil v Barnet – Yeovil 0 Asian Handicap (14/19 BetVictor)