THE FA Cup 1st Round kicks-off this weekend and Paul Maddison (@LouthBigDog) is in the hot-seat to provide his favourite fancies from the coupon.
Grimsby v MK Dons | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
As a Grimsby fan, I'm getting this one out of the way first. The rest of the games I will have to write up while wiping the tears from my eyes as I realise just how bad we are without the rose-tinted glasses.
Actually, it's not all bad. After the Mariners lost 2-1 to Mansfield, a game where we went into the break with a 1-0 lead, I decided to check the stats for the first-half of games.
If the referee blew time at 45 minutes to signal the end of the game, Grimsby wouldn't be 21st on 15 points, we would actually be in the heady heights of fourth on 31 points, just two points off top having conceded fewer goals than any other.
Football really is a game of two halves though and for some reason Grimsby tend to send out 11 different players after the half-time oranges – they look like the players that played the first 45 minutes, except they're not that good at football.
Town have conceded just three goals in 17 first-halves but have managed to leak 20 times after the break – that's an incredible 87% of goals conceded in the second-half, whilst we've replied with just three goals of our own in the second 45 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, Grimsby aren't in the best of form. We’ve lost seven of their last 11 league games and are really struggling in front of goal. The Mariners have scored fewer than any other team and notched just 11 times in 17 league games, including only two in the last last, although one was an own goal.
MK Dons have started the season very well. They sit just two points off the top of the table having lost just once and that was to league leaders Lincoln. Paul Tisdale has got the fake Dons playing some really good football and they have won six of their last seven League Two encounters, keeping five clean sheets.
MK’s front three of Chuks Aneke, Rhys Healey and Kieran Agard are on fire at the moment and are scoring for fun. Between them they have scored more goals in their last seven league appearances than Grimsby have scored all season.
When these two met in Milton Keynes earlier this season, the game finished 1-1 – obviously the Mariners were 1-0 up at half-time. The Dons had a few very good chances to win the game with James McKeown making some great saves and the ball being cleared of the line about five times during a goalmouth scramble.
It was quite a struggle to narrow it down to just one bet for this game. I have found one I quite like (as much as you can like betting against your own team). You can back MK Dons -1 in the second-half handicap at 9/2 with Paddy Power. Basically if the Dons win the second half by two or more the bet wins at a nice price.
With the Mariners second-half defensive frailties (six of our 10 league defeats have seen us concede two or more goals in the second-half) and our lack of second-half goal scoring prowess, I really feel that Dons front three could cause us massive problems after the interval. The visitors enjoyed a free midweek and that extra energy could prove pivotal against a Grimsby side were involved in league action on Tuesday.
Scunthorpe v Burton | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
Next up is one of my least favourite teams, Scunthorpe (along with Hull).
The Iron are without a win in seven in all competitions. Since Stuart McCall took charge the main difference is their ability to find the net with a lot more frequency. Despite that, Scunny’s defence is still struggling as they have conceded 19 times in their last eight, including being breached 13 times in their last five at Glanford Park.
Burton seem to be going through a similar problem at the moment, scoring plenty but also leaking a few at the back. In their last four league games, Albion have seen at total of 16 goals with both teams scoring in each.
Of Scunthorpe's nine home League One matches, six have seen three or more goals at an average of 4.30 goals per-game – higher than any divisional rival. All but two of the Iron’s 12 tussles to feature Over 2.5 Goals also produced Both Teams To Score.
Away from home, Burton have seen six of eight feature break the two-goal barrier at an average of 3.40 goals per-game. All six of their away days have also gone Over, and seen both sides score.
You can get 11/10 (Coral) on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score.
Walsall v Coventry | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
Walsall made an excellent start to the season after many had predicted them to be in the thick of a relegation battle. It looks like the Saddlers’ honeymoon period is over as they seem to be regressing to the mean.
Dean Keates’ charges have lost four of their last five, but more worrying is the amount of goals they are shipping. Walsall have conceded 12 times in those five fixtures, the first time they have conceded two or more goals in five consecutive league games since 2011.
Keates seems to be struggling to settle on a formation/system that will see the Saddlers re-find their early season form. One big problem seems to be lack of service to Morgan Ferrier and Andy Cook – Walsall's two main strikers – and when you're not creating chances, those strikers are going to struggle to score.
There seems to be a little unrest creeping in at the Bescott too with a minority of fans booing the team off at the end of the game against Charlton; things like that are not going to help the players and could knock the low confidence even further.
On top of this there's not a huge amount of experience in the team at this level – five of their front six were playing in the lower leagues last season (three in League One and both strikers coming from the National League).
I had a very informative conversation with a massive Walsall fan on Thursday morning, Matt Vale, so the more in-depth Walsall knowledge came from him. He is @MattDVale on Twitter, talks a lot of sense about lower league football and Walsall in particular.
Coventry, on the other hand, are bang in form, winning five of their last six League One outings and are climbing the table steadily. They sit second in the Expected Goals ratio table compared to Walsall's 21st-place. The Sky Blues are spreading the goals out around the squad too, so they're not over reliant on one player to net the goals.
Obviously I'm keen on getting with Coventry here and I will be back the visitors in the Draw No Bet market (10/11 Paddy Power). Odds-against was available a couple of days ago but the current price is still well worth supporting, especially with the away side enjoying a free midweek and Walsall involved in league action.
Grimsby v MK Dons – MK Dons -1 second-half handicap (9/2 Paddy Power)
Scunthorpe v Burton – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (11/10 Coral)
Walsall v Coventry – Coventry draw no bet (10/11 Paddy Power)