FOOTBALL LEAGUE fanatic Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) picks out six EFL players who could prove excellent outside bets to get among the goals in the First Goalscorer markets this season.
Jake Cooper (Millwall)
When Millwall narrowly missed out on the play-offs in 2017-18, Jake Cooper was often the reference point from set pieces – he scored four goals that season.
The following year, when the Lions were not quite as impactful from open play, Cooper’s aerial prowess from free-kicks and corners was even more valuable to the Londoners, who narrowly beat the drop – he bagged six goals then.
This season, Millwall’s Expected Goals For (xGF) per-game from set pieces stands at 0.44 as of now, which is 33% of their total xGF tally of 1.33, which shows they get a lot out of the deliveries from Shaun Williams.
Cooper averages 0.60 headed efforts at goal per-game; he starts every week yet is still to find the net. Surely it is only a matter of time before that changes?
Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford)
Eleven of the 14 shots Henrik Dalsgaard has taken so far this season have come inside the penalty-box; that is more efforts from that vicinity than any other full-back in the Championship.
This shows us that the diligent Dane, although happy to combine selflessly with teammates outside the 18-yard area, can also have the ruthlessness to take a shot on when he gets into the danger zone.
While there are full-backs in the EFL who may take more shots than Dalsgaard, few take them from such high-quality scenarios.
Half Dalsgaard’s shots this term have been blocked so with a bit more luck, the 30-year-old can not only record his first club goal since November 2018 but, potentially, find a decent run of goalscoring form.
He is playing in a team that will create a lot of chances, too; Brentford have beaten Luton 7-0 this season and look strong candidates for a top six finish.
Josh Ruffels (Oxford)
Josh Ruffels came through Oxford’s academy as a midfielder but was perhaps unlucky to find himself behind a series of very good midfielders in the pecking order.
Over the last two seasons, Ruffels has begun to establish himself as a left-back and, in doing so, won the Supporters’ Player of the Year last term.
The 26-year-old, though, is not an orthodox left-back – he is not someone who will charge up and down the flanks. He retains aspects of the positional behaviour he displayed as a midfielder, often coming inside to have a shot.
Ruffels has taken seven shots from inside the penalty area this season, the second-most in League One and likes a header, too.
Christian Burgess (Portsmouth)
Portsmouth found good form in the run up to December. In fact, the League One table between 1st October and 26th November would have put Kenny Jackett’s side second and behind the leaders only on goal difference, so one must give great credit to the group for overcoming the early pressure.
Christian Burgess, who has recently partnered target man turned centre-back Oli Hawkins, has his critics occasionally and can be prone to the occasional miscalculation at the back.
He does though, pose a threat in the opposition box, averaging 0.7 headed efforts per game at the time of writing. Keep that up and his first goal of the season will come.
Tom Dallison (Crawley)
Quite how Tom Dallison has not scored this season is anyone’s guess. The centre-back, who joined Crawley from Falkirk back in January, has started almost every week and is clearly well thought of by boss Gabriele Cioffi.
He averages 1.20 shots per-game at this point and 0.90 shots per-game in the penalty area, which is the kind of numbers one might expect from a far more advanced player.
The Red Devils face table-proppers Stevenage plus out-of-form strugglers Oldham and Grimsby in the run-up to New Year, so there could be opportunities for Dallison to open his account.
Ryan Haynes (Newport)
One of the fears surrounding Newport County in the summer was the left-back position.
Dan Butler had been so influential over the previous two campaigns, with consistently accurate deliveries from set pieces and open play – and the question was how they would cope without the Peterborough-bound man.
Ryan Haynes, though, has proved an excellent replacement. The 24-year-old is arguably a more direct runner than Butler and he poses a huge goal threat; Haynes has taken 18 shots by 1st December, with only two defenders mustering more efforts at goal.
If the former Coventry man can begin to find a touch more accuracy, he will surely add to his solitary strike and could prove a value poke.
This article was published on Monday 2nd December.