MARK O'HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) made us more money on the Football League on Saturday. Here's his three to follow for Tuesday night.
Reading v Fulham | Tuesday 20:00
Having been abandoned at half-time due to fog which had enveloped the Madejski Stadium back in late December, ball-hoggers Reading and Fulham attempt to go toe-to-toe again on Tuesday night.
No Championship sides come close to these two in the possession stakes – 58.7% to 58.4% in Reading’s favour on-average – but it’s the Cottagers whom are the more ruthless in the final third and that mean attacking streak could stand Slavisa Jokanovic’s side in good stead here.
The Fulham boss was frustrated his team were unable to turn possession and territory into three points during Saturday’s derby at QPR and will be hoping his visitors impose their fluent passing game here from the off here.
There’s no doubt the capital club are one of the form teams in the second-tier right now and whilst results on the field haven’t always done Fulham justice, their overriding performance data figures have attracted many shrewd punters to invest in the Cottagers for top-six finishes and promotion.
However, I’m just not sold on the odds available here. For starters, QPR enjoyed more touches in the Fulham penalty box than their opponents despite enjoying just 26% of the ball. For all the dominance displayed by Jokanovic’s men, they rarely threatened when required.
The Cottagers’ road record at top-six sides is also less than flattering. Fulham’s most recent 10 trips to the Championship’s elite have seen the Londoners lose on nine occasions with five of their last eight resulting in defeats by at least a two-goal margin.
Still, Fulham pitch up with only two defeats in 12 to their name – both against Brighton, the team top of my ratings – and only the Seagulls and Newcastle boast better away returns than the Cottagers. So instead of investing in the visitors, I’m going to take a goals approach.
Fulham have failed to net on only four occasions and have plundered 34 goals over their past 16 fixtures. The Cottagers are averaging 1.59 expected goals per-game and no Championship side has fired in more attempts from inside the penalty area.
With each of the past seven Reading-Fulham encounters featuring Over 2.5 Goals winners, I’m keen to scoop up the even-money offering from Coral on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score here.
Reading fell to their second successive league defeat at Derby on Saturday but the Royals played some excellent football only to be undone by second-half defensive lapses. Those errors have become a little too commonplace of late.
The Berkshire boys are without a clean sheet in nine and have shutout only four of their past 17 league opponents. And since November, a healthy nine of Reading’s last 11 games have produced at least three goals.
Jaap Stam has admitted his side are a work in progress and their current league position isn't matched by the performance data. Hopes for a promotion charge have falsely been raised and the Dutchman suggested a striker is required to continue the Royals’ assault on the top-six.
With talks surrounding the potential takeover by Chinese pair Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li appearing no closer to completion, the uncertainty is limiting any activity in the transfer market and Fulham could well take advantage here.
But instead, goals are the avenue to take. Reading have only been silenced twice at the MadStad this season, fired blanks in only five of their 26 outings dating back to August and their 1.33 expected goals return should at least get them on the scoresheet.
Collectively, these two clubs are averaging 2.92 expected total goals in their relative home/away matches and scoring in 21 (84%) of that 25-game sample.
Sheffield United v Fleetwood | Tuesday 19:45
Oh to be a fly on the wall at Bramall Lane on Saturday…
Table-topping Sheffield United were held to a 2-2 home draw with Gillingham – a result and performance that didn’t go down well with manager Chris Wilder. The Blades boss was seething after seeing his side failed to open a decisive advantage over third-placed Bolton.
United blew a catalogue of opportunities in front of goal and gift-wrapped Gillingham two goals along the way. Wilder accused his side of being “big time” during a sloppy second-half and apportioned most of the blame for United’s inability to translate possession and chances into maximum points on his centre-forwards.
The ex-Northampton boss is looking to address that situation this week. Caolan Lavery and Leon Clarke missed the game through injury and Matt Done has been deputising at wing-back. Billy Sharp’s taken his tally to 18 goals this season but James Hanson is heading to Bramall Lane and Jay O’Shea looks like following on-loan as the Blades bid to sharpen their attack.
Samir Carruthers has already joined from MK Dons whilst Joe Riley was also added on-loan with Wilder working tirelessly to reinforce his squad and get the perennial ante-post favourites over the line this time around.
The Blades have W17-D5-L2 since mid-August and recorded 10 triumphs from 12 home outings but their inability to see off the division’s leading lights is starting to frustrate. United are averaging 2.87 points per-game against the bottom 10 (W12-D1-L0) but only 1.33ppg against the top-14 (W5-D5-L5).
That troubled defence continues to cause strife too. Wilder’s charges have leaked in 13 of those 15 fixtures against the league’s strongest sides and kept only four clean sheets in their last 15 League One matches dating back to mid-October. The hosts have shipped eight goals in their most recent three encounters.
That defence should give form team Fleetwood plenty of encouragement when they pitch up in South Yorkshire on Tuesday night. The Cod Army are unbeaten in 10 (W7-D3-L0) and notched in 26 of their 27 league dates under head coach Uwe Rosler.
The German was delighted to see his team bolster their top-six credentials by signing Wes Burns and midfielder Markus Schwabl in the past week and Saturday’s stoppage-time success at Coventry pushed Town up to a season-high fourth in the standings.
Cian Bolger, Ashley Eastham and Ben Davies were rock-solid in Fleetwood’s preferred 3-5-2 whilst wingback Amari’i Bell is beginning to be linked with bigger clubs following his impressive performances from the flanks.
You have to fancy Fleetwood to grab a goal here and should they strike at Bramall Lane, their chances of keeping this scoreline respectable increase dramatically.
In 13 previous away trips, the Cod Army are yet to be beaten by two or more goals and Town have suffered a defeat by two goals or more in only 2/36 (6%) road trips when getting on the scoresheet since the start of last season.
Sheffield United might be the best team in League One but their dreadful defensive run has made convincing victories few and far between. The Blades have bagged only 3/14 (21%) home wins by more than one-goal under Wilder.
With that in mind, I make the 5/6 (BetVictor) available on Fleetwood +1.25 on the Asian Handicap a cracking value selection. We’ll make money should the Cod Army win, draw or lose by exactly one goal – we’ll only lose our stake should United run out winners by two or more goals.
Oldham v Peterborough | Tuesday 19:45
John Sheridan returned to Oldham midway through last season and inspired the Latics to survival with two games to spare. The former Irish international built a unit that was functional, hard to breakdown, far from flashy but mightily effective.
Athletic were beaten in only three of their final 18 games before Sheridan moved down a division in attempt to revive Notts County’s fortunes. It didn’t work out with County and almost a year to the day since his first rescue mission, the foul-mouthed Lancastrian was reappointed as Oldham’s manager.
The Latics have been the worst Football League team to follow in 2016/17, failing to even score in 17 (65%) league fixtures and managing a pathetic tally of 13 goals from 27 encounters. It’s no surprise then to see them struggling with only four victories to their name.
Sheridan saw his first five games in charge last season feature Under 1.5 Goals winners and his two opening games since returning to Boundary Park have concluded in a 1-0 win and a 1-0 loss. I see no reason why we shouldn’t’ support another low-scoring skirmish on Tuesday night.
Saturday’s 1-0 away defeat to Shrewsbury was low on quality. Oldham huffed and puffed but produced another insipid attacking display, provoking Sheridan to say, “There was lots of endeavour, but sometimes you have to use your head rather than your feet, instead of running around and getting 15 miles under your belt.”
The team featured three new signings – Anthony Gerrard, Michael Ngoo and Aaron Amadi-Holloway – and a surfeit of right-backs – Brian Wilson, Josh Law, Cameron Dummigan and Ryan McLaughlin – all played in various roles. There was a lack of left-footed players, no dominant force in midfield and rare threat in the attacking third.
Sheridan reckons his task of avoiding relegation is harder this time around but I’d expect him to stick to his organisational principles by keeping the Latics difficult to beat and that should lead us towards another Under 2.5 Goals winner at 41/50 (Marathon).
It’s proven profitable in 22/26 (85%) of Oldham’s games this season with matches averaging just 1.58 goals per-game. Visitors Peterborough have seen 16/26 (62%) reward Under 2.5 Goals punters with 9/13 (69%) featuring fewer than three goals when playing away.
The Posh responded to their shock 5-1 thumping at Bury with a determined 1-0 triumph at Swindon on Saturday. It was a largely uneventful affair as two midfield diamonds effectively cancelled each other out.
It was only United’s sixth clean sheet of the campaign with goalkeeper Luke McGee not called in to making a single save. Having Michael Bostwick re-deployed in midfield certainly helped Posh’s defensive system but also took away fluency to their forward play.
Peterborough rarely threatened to score more than once and they’ve now notched exactly one goal in each of their last six matches. Gone are the days Posh blast their opposition into submission; Grant McCann’s asked for more control in matches and in doing so, goals are becoming a more rare occurrence.
The club is chasing promotion this season and enjoyed decent success on their travels (W6-D3-L4) but rather than enter a trappy encounter from a Match Odds or Asian Handicap perspective, I’d rather oppose goals
. The pair have rewarded Under 2.5 Goals backers in 11 of the past 12 head-to-heads as well as collectively in 20/25 (80%) of their home/away outings this term. That 80% success-rate implies betting odds of just 1/4 – we’re being offered 41/50 at Marathon.