FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Tuesday night's EFL action.
Birmingham v Bolton | Tuesday 12th February 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Garry Monk was adamant his Birmingham side deserved maximum points in a thrilling showdown at QPR on Saturday despite being a stoppage-time penalty save away from losing a four-goal lead at Loftus Road.
Blues took charge of proceedings in the opening exchanges thanks to a bizarrely passive effort from Rangers, particularly at the back. City hot-shot Che Adams continued his fine recent form with a hat-trick of goals before the interval, and Birmingham were in complete command on the cusp of the break.
However, Monk’s men lost their way amidst the second-half QPR onslaught, coming under fierce pressure as a famous fightback looked to be on the cards. Nevertheless, the Second City club held out a fifth road victory of the campaign and move to within four points of the play-off positions ahead of a very winnable home contest with Bolton on Tuesday night.
Since early October, Birmingham have bagged W10-D5-L5 and the hosts have W10-D10-L2 when taking on teams below them in the Championship standings this season. Blues should be well capable of enhancing both records against a turgid Bolton outfit that appears set for demotion following another weekend defeat.
Wanderers have picked up only eight points since September (W1-D5-L15) and scored only 10 goals in that 21-game streak – that’s an average of a goal every 189 minutes. Phil Parkinson’s troops have kept a solitary clean sheet in that aforementioned sequence, and if we exclude the bottom-six, the Trotters have been beaten in nine of 11 away days.
The visitors are generating less than 0.50 Expected Goals (xG) per-game, with only Ipswich firing in fewer attempts from inside the penalty area in 2018/19. All major performance data metrics point to Bolton being the second-worst team in this division, and unsurprisingly I find them very easy to oppose here.
Birmingham are too short to support in the Match Odds so add Over 1.5 Goals to the equation for a 19/20 (Ladbrokes) proposition. Only three of Birmingham’s past 23 Championship games have featured fewer than two goals with Blues scoring at least twice in 15 of those fixtures. Meanwhile, Bolton have shipped at least two goals in eight of 11 games as guests when excluding the bottom-six.
Bristol City v QPR | Tuesday 12th February 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Bristol City are of course flying in the Championship right now. The Robins are unbeaten in 14 fixtures across all competitions – scoring in each – and have claimed eight wins on the spin following their late success at Blackburn on Saturday.
Lee Johnson’s charges have cemented their place in the top-six and can extend that magnificent recent run here against a potentially distracted QPR. As already mentioned, the R’s fell short of a memorable comeback against Birmingham on the weekend, but may have their heads turned to FA Cup football ahead of this showdown.
Indeed, Rangers are appearing in the 5th Round of the FA Cup for the first time in 22 years on Friday night against Watford. With promotion and relegation looking unlikely, Hoops supporters are urging Steve McClaren to chuck all available energy and assets at the televised tie against the Hornets that takes place just 72 hours later.
The QPR squad is small enough to deny McClaren the opportunity to make widespread alterations, but the market certainly doesn’t appear to have taken into account the potential for Rangers having their eyes on an alternative prize this week. And therefore, the 10/11 (Betfred) knocking about on Bristol City winning here has to be snapped up.
The hosts have built their play-off aspirations on a rock-solid defence and Johnson was full of praise for centre-halves Adam Webster and Tomas Kalas for another towering performance at Ewood Park. The duo helped to reduce Rovers to only two on-target attempts in Lancashire, and City have now silenced six of their last eight opponents.
Only Middlesbrough (13) have kept more clean sheets than Bristol City (12) and the Teessiders are also the only divisional rival with a better goals per-game against return. But City are matching their steely defensive resolve with plenty of attacking potential and that potent mix should be good enough to make it five league losses on the spin for QPR.
Doncaster v Southend | Tuesday 12th February 2019, 19:45
Doncaster have been a joy to follow in League One this season and Rovers are well worth supporting in the Team Goals market on Tuesday when Southend head to South Yorkshire. Grant McCann’s men are 4/5 (Royal Panda) to notch Over 1.5 Goals and all the evidence suggests the hosts are capable of grabbing at least a brace here.
Donny fought back from a goal down to overcome 10-man Peterborough 3-1 at the Keepmoat on Saturday, the victory moved the hosts above their opponents and into the top-six. Now looking at the league standings, Rovers have scored two or more goals in 10 of 12 home matches against teams below them, averaging 2.25 goals per-game.
McCann has a wealth of outstanding offensive options to call upon; Mallik Wilks and John Marquis are the headline stars, although Ben Whiteman, evergreen James Coppinger, and young Liverpool loanee Herbie Kane have all lent a hand to make Doncaster one of the most exciting, efficient and effective front-foot team in the Football League this term.
Donny are averaging 1.67 xG per-game – that rises to 1.81 at the Keepmoat – and only Barnsley average more shots inside the box than Rovers. This bet has won in 10 of Doncaster’s most recent 13 League One outings and should be aided by Southend’s arduous weekend encounter with Charlton.
The Shrimpers battled to a 1-1 draw at The Valley, having to play with 10 men following highly-rated Dru Yearwood’s sending off before the half hour mark. On-loan left-back Sam Hart is a doubt for United who take to the road having returned W0-D1-L8 against the top-seven sides this season, conceding twice or more in seven of those nine duels.