FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's EFL action.
Charlton v Barnsley | Saturday 20th October 2018, 15:00
Barnsley showcased their strength in depth when turning over Luton 3-2 in front of the Sky Sports cameras last Saturday. The Tykes, missing injured top scorer Kieffer Moore, plus Wales goalkeeper Adam Davies and Australia midfielder Kenny Dougall, move into third as they outplayed and overwhelmed the Hatters.
Luton boss Nathan Jones admitted a draw would have been grossly unfair on Barnsley, who won the shot count 15-6 with 12 attempts fired in from inside the penalty box. Although the Yorkshire outfit are five points off the pace (with a game in-hand), the Tykes are now 6/4 favourites to clinch League One glory.
It’s difficult to argue with the odds-makers there. Daniel Stendel’s squad are dominating the performance data, boasting an exceptional 79.7% Expected Goals from open play ratio, as well as registering the most shots, on-target efforts, and strikes from inside the penalty area despite playing a game less than their rivals.
On the ball, Barnsley are slick, enterprising and incisive. George Moncur and Brad Potts are regular headline-makers from midfield, whilst the return to full fitness of Moore gives the attack the clinical edge required to gobble up their numerous clear-cut opportunities. Defensively, the Tykes press you into submission.
However, I want to focus on their offensive strengths here with Barnsley to score Over 1.5 Goals too good to turn down at 11/10 (Betfair) quotes. The visitors’ assistant Andreas Winkler has confirmed they’ll continue to play two up top – most likely in a 4-4-2 system – as they look to dictate the contest.
This encounter should also play into their strengths with Charlton unlikely to sit back, cede possession and put numbers behind the ball. Barnsley have shown in a statement 4-0 success at Peterborough how effective they can be when facing the division’s leading lights, whilst they’ve also scored twice or more at Fleetwood, Scunthorpe, Rochdale and Bradford on their travels.
Indeed, this selection has provided profit in seven of their 11 outings under Stendel’s watch, and although the Addicks have conceded just seven goals in six matches at The Valley, only Fleetwood have been silenced in South London as Wycombe, Shrewsbury, Plymouth, Coventry and Posh have all notched here.
Lee Bowyer’s boys have stalled recently, picking up a solitary point from a possible nine. But most alarmingly, Charlton have shipped nine goals in those three matches with the boss labelling the defending as ‘school-boy' and ‘kid's stuff' following their defeat to Coventry.
The hosts continue to suffer from defensive injuries, mind. Patrick Bauer and Lewis Page remain sidelined, and their absences, coupled with Krystian Bielik unavailability is forcing Bowyer into fielding a makeshift backline. The latter is available again, although the Pole hasn’t played since mid-September.
I’ve no such concerns about Charlton in midfield, nor in the final-third, and should the Athletic step up a gear, they’ll fancy their chances of giving Barnsley a test. However, the home side are giving up 7.50 shots from inside the box per-game and such charity may prove their downfall on Saturday afternoon.
Forest Green v Cheltenham | Saturday 20th October 2018, 15:00
Forest Green have been a regular feature in my Football League columns this season and the Green Devils are back on the menu for Saturday’s crunch Gloucestershire derby against near neighbours Cheltenham, a showdown comically labelled as ‘El-Glosico'.
Mark Cooper’s men fell to their first League Two loss of the campaign last time out, conceding a sickening 97th minute goal to Northampton. Reuben Reid had given Rovers a first-half lead before the Cobblers turned the tables after the interval, scoring twice to secure maximum points at a blustery Sixfields.
Forest Green could and should have been out of sight before breaking the deadlock. Reid, Dayle Grubb, Liam Shepherd and Lloyd James all came close without success and the Green Devils’ profligacy eventually proved their downfall as they failed to see out Northampton’s aerial bombardment.
Cooper was surprisingly philosophical about the gut-wrenching defeat but promised to right the wrongs for this weekend’s meeting with the Robins. Without the wind impacting on Rovers’ preferred possession-based style of play, an improvement and immediate reaction is expected from the hosts.
Stalemates have been the Nailsworth club’s Achilles heel this term. Forest Green have been held in eight of their 13 league outings, with the early season departure of long-term top scorer Christian Doidge taking a slice off their clinical edge and finishing ability. Nevertheless, I’m confident results will start to flow.
The Green Devils have been dominating the bulk of their league contests, returning a 63% xG from open play ratio. Only Cambridge have attempted more efforts at goal, while only four sides have fired in more attempts from inside the penalty box. Cooper’s charges have only once failed to score this season.
FGR are also performing excellently at the back. Of the 12 goals conceded, four (33%) came via penalties and one from a shot from outside the penalty area. The hosts certainly appear to have solved their defensive concerns from last season by limiting their opponents to a measly 0.54 xG from open play per-game.
So there’s plenty to be positive about and a return to their New Lawn home should stand the Green Devils in good stead. Over Rovers’ past 16 games, they’ve claimed W8-D5-L3 as hosts on League Two duty, making the 10/11 (Betway) on a home success an appealing play.
Cheltenham were given a week off following the postponement of their clash with Yeovil, giving boss Michael Duff time on the training paddock as they bid to end a 20-year winless streak against their local rivals. The Robins come into this contest on the back of seven defeats from their first 12 matches, picking up two points from their most recent five (W0-D2-L3).
Town were easily brushed aside by MK Dons (0-3) in their last encounter and have lost all seven meetings with the current top-half, scoring only twice. No fourth-tier team has scored as few goals as Cheltenham (9), or landed as few on-target efforts, with the visitors badly missing Mo Eisa in the final-third.
Considering the Robins are averaging just a 40% xG from open play figure, and have lost 19/27 (70%) trips to top-half teams since the start of 2016/17, I’m happy to get against them here at the odds on offer.
Yeovil v Tranmere | Saturday 20th October 2018, 15:00
On-loan Sheffield United youngster Harvey Gilmour grabbed the only goal of the game as Tranmere celebrated a return to Friday night football at Prenton Park with their third consecutive League Two success, seeing off rock-bottom Macclesfield 1-0.
Gilmour’s third strike in two games was enough to push Rovers into the play-off pack with Micky Mellon’s men now suffering only two defeats in their 13 outings – both by one-goal margins – since promotion back into the Football League. So I’m keen to have Tranmere onside for Saturday’s trip to a depleted Yeovil side.
The Glovers should have Gary Warren back to start at centre-half, although centre-back partner Omar Sowunmi remains sidelined for another 10 weeks. Target man Francois Zoko and skipper James Bailey are also crocked, whilst Sessi D'Almeida is suspended. Wes McDonald and Alefe Santos are doubtful.
What’s more, Shaun Donnellan, Enes Mahmutovic and Rhys Browne have been away on international duty and all three weren’t expected back to full training until the latter stages of the week. Hardly ideal preparation for Darren Way, who’s seen his side slide into a five-match winless run (W0-D2-L3) since their freak 6-0 success against Newport.
The Somerset side shipped two or more goals in four of those five fixtures and the Town boss admitted to the press that his squad hadn’t dealt with the pressures, intensity and pace of playing seven fixtures in three-and-a-half weeks since the last international weekend, suggesting the extra time was welcome.
Even so, Huish Park has been anything but a fortress for the hosts. Yeovil have W1-D4-L1 here in 2018/19, and returned W9-D9-L11 on home soil since the start of last season – a win percentage of only 31%. With that in mind, plus their injury concerns, I’m happy to oppose Town here.
Tranmere can be backed at 13/14 (188BET) off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line. We’ll see our stake returned should the Super White Army record a stalemate with Yeovil, with an away win returning profit. The only way in which our bet loses is if the Glovers record an unexpected victory.
Rovers had scored twice or more in four of their six road trips since promotion and the arsenal available to Mellon in the offensive third – top League Two goalscorer James Norwood, Connor Jennings and Gilmour – should prove decisive on Saturday afternoon.