FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns to share his favourite fancies from Tuesday's coupon.
Sunderland v Nottingham Forest | Tuesday 12th September 2017, 19:45
Sunderland boss Simon Grayson insists the Black Cats are “not a club in crisis”, calling for his players to focus on delivering a much-needed home victory in front of the Stadium of Light crowd when Nottingham Forest arrive on Tuesday night.
Supporters vented their frustration during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United on Wearside with boos, while a large section even chanted ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’. Meanwhile, local press described the performance as “distressingly directionless”.
The fans’ anger is understandable given Sunderland have not won a game in front of their own crowd since December (W0-D5-L8), and Grayson is the manager appointed during the summer tasked with changing fortunes on a smaller budget.
Grayson admits this is the toughest job of his career and he fielded three different formations against the Blades but to no avail as the Black Cats managed a sole effort on-target. Scoring goals has been a problem; since hitting three at Norwich last month, Sunderland have scored just twice in the four league games.
Having signed Jonny Williams and Callum McMananam – who both made first appearances against Sheffield United despite a lack of first team football– the ex-Preston boss is certain things will improve in the final third. And the hosts should get plenty of opportunities against a patchy Nottingham Forest defence.
As for team news, Lamine Kone was described as ‘touch and go’ but Bryan Oviedo is available again. Captain Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady will undergo late fitness tests, along with Kone, which could potentially leave the Wearsiders a little short in defensive areas.
Forest are likely to shuffle their pack again for the trip to the north-east. Mark Warburton made five changes ahead of their 3-1 reverse at Sheffield Wednesday with poor defending – particularly at set-pieces, again – proving the Tricky Trees’ undoing.
The Reds again looked lost defending zonally from dead-ball situations and goalkeeper Jordan Smith was also at fault with poor distribution leading to the opener goal. Although far from out-classed, Forest were punished for their errors and now only Ipswich and Burton have faced more attempts this term.
Despite the obvious frustrations, the Tricky Trees still provide plenty of punch going forward. Leeds silenced Warburton’s troops at the City Ground but Forest have notched nine goals in their five other Championship fixtures so this showdown looks ripe for Both Teams To Score plucking.
It’s an angle that’s already proven profitable in 8/12 (67%) collective outings whilst the pair have managed a sole shutout between them (and that was hugely fortunate for Forest on the opening evening of the season).
Rotherham v Walsall | Tuesday 12th September 2017, 19:45
After seeing his side clinch a thrilling 3-2 triumph against Bury on Saturday, Rotherham boss Paul Warne said, “I’ve just said to the lads, when they drive home tonight they should be pleased with the result but also know they’re on the precipice of being great. I don’t think they realise how good they can be.”
It was a psychological message used to motivate his troops having just achieved their first back-to-back league wins since the 2016 days of the Neil Warnock Championship survival miracle. The mood amongst Millers fans is buoyant and Warne is desperate to squeeze every ounce of positivity out.
United still wear the scars of a cataclysmic relegation campaign; although dominating most of the match, they twice allowed Bury in for soft equalisers against the run of play. Nevertheless, the tide does appear to be turning in South Yorkshire and performances, as well as character, have encouraged.
New 6ft 5in forward Kieffer Moore has now scored six League One goals at a rate of one every 74 minutes and having notched eight goals in their home outings already this season, Rotherham should be expected to at least get on the scoresheet again here.
The Millers are without right-back Shaun Cummings here and replacement Josh Emmanuel is also being monitored though and I’m not entirely convinced they’ve solved their problems at the back., even though early season data suggests Rotherham are nestled in mid-table from a defensive aspect.
Walsall certainly shouldn’t be intimidated by a trip to the New York. The Saddlers have failed to record three points on their travels this calendar year (W0-D7-L7) but produced an impressive display of their own despite falling to a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers on the weekend.
Manager Jon Whitney says it’s “only a mater of time” before the visitors end their away-day hoodoo and their high pressing game could cause problems for Rotherham. Walsall’s 3-4-1-2 is designed to give the miniscule Erhun Oztumer playmaking autonomy and his influence always gives the Saddlers a chance.
Four of Walsall’s six encounters this term have produced at least three goals whilst five have featured in the Both Teams To Score column. Rotherham haven’t been quite as prolific for BTTS backers but it’s a bet I can believe in here at a very fair 4/5 (10BET).
Mansfield v Wycombe | Tuesday 12th September 2017, 19:45
Hot pre-season favourites Mansfield managed their first win in four attempts on Saturday, easing to a 4-1 thumping of Grimsby at Field Mill. A brace from skipper Krystian Pearce and two Lee Angol penalties helped the Stags wrap up an impressive victory having bossed the match throughout.
Boss Steve Evans admitted he gave his group a rocket at half-time but the Scot was pleased with his team’s response after the interval as they made their dominance count. It means Town have now returned W2-D3-L1 thus far, scoring at least twice in four of their six outings.
Evans has been under the weather with a virus but looks to have kept it away from his players and has a fully-fit squad to select from on Tuesday night. Changes are expected but widespread rotation looks unlikely with the Stags eager to build on their weekend victory.
Meanwhile, Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth was happy with his side’s display at Newport despite spurning excellent opportunities to pinch mximim points. County enjoyed the best of the first period but Josh Umerah, Craig Mackail-Smith and Anthony Stewart all had superb chances to score thereafter.
On-loan QPR striker Ebere Eze made a very good impression and although the Chairboys were delighted to record their first clean sheet of the campaign, the focus remained on their attacking display with Adebayo Akinfenwa, Sam Saunders, Nathan Tyson and Scott Kashket all unavailable.
Only Accrington (14) have out-scored Wanderers (13) this term and with Akinfenwa likely to be fit, the visitors should have enough in forward areas to cause Mansfield a few headaches. So much so, I’ll again be backing Both Teams To Score at a generous 10/11 (10BET).
The BTTS approach has paid dividends in 10/12 (83%) of the duos collective League Two games, managing only two shutouts in the same sample.