FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's Championship action with a focus on the City Ground.
Nottingham Forest v Ipswich | Saturday 1st December 2018, 15:00
Aitor Karanka preferred to focus on the positives after seeing his side play out a dramatic 5-5 draw with Aston Villa in midweek. The Tricky Trees took the lead three times on the night, and saw Tobias Figueiredo sent off with 20 minutes to play, before Lewis Grabban rescued a point in the 82nd minute.
The Spaniard was impressed with the character shown by his side amid a whirlwind contest against fellow promotion contenders. The visitors scored with all five of their on-target attempts and lost the shot count 26-8 at Villa Park (3.89-1.45 on xG), but flooded forward whenever possession was turned over.
The Reds have now scored in all bar two of their 19 Championship encounters, and I’m happy to back Saturday’s hosts to notch at least twice against rock-bottom Ipswich at 19/20 (BetStars). Forest haven’t often cut loose at the City Ground in 2018/19 but they’ll have ample opportunity here.
Dreadful defensive errors and goalkeeping clangers contributed to Ipswich’s 3-2 home reverse to Bristol City in midweek, a result that came hot on the heels of their 2-1 defeat to West Brom at Portman Road. The Tractor Boys have now shipped twice or more in eight of their last nine Championship outings.
Paul Lambert’s guests have leaked at least twice in eight of nine road trips – only Rotherham failed to cover the line when welcoming Town – and only three divisional rivals are giving up more than the 0.87 Expected Goals from open play average than Ipswich this term.
Forest can field in-form £6m summer signing Grabban in attack and he’s ably supported by the wonderful Joe Lolley from the right, with Joao Carvalho and Matty Cash also impressing in the attacking midfield roles of Karanka’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system. The quartet have contributed 24 of the Reds’ 30-goal tally.
The Reds have won four of five unbeaten outings against bottom-six teams this term and, as the pre-match odds suggest, are expected to enhance that return here. Town have lost five of their last seven winless matches, including all three with top-half opposition, and managed W1-L2-L6 in games as guests despite seven of those nine arriving against bottom-half dwellers.
Karanka – renowned for his defensive solidity and organisation – is aware of the match-winning ability his side possess in the final-third and should see Forest prosper against an Ipswich outfit with only four shutouts in 32 away days since the start of last season, giving up an average of 1.59 goals per-game.
Grabban to excel again
Grabban has now scored 12 goals for the Reds at a rate of one every 116 minutes since arriving at the City Ground. Not since 2002/03 have Forest boasted a 20-goal striker but the former Bournemouth ace is is well on course to end that wait.
The 30-year-old has now scored in nine of his last 12 league appearances, averaging 0.67 xG per-game due to his penalty-taking status, attempting 2.08 shots per-90 minutes, of which 57% are finding their target.
Tricky Trees to be cautioned
With FA Cup second round action, plus three televised Championship games across the weekend, and a series of well-matched dust-ups from across the 3pm kick-offs, it’s a trappy card to choose from. So I’m staying at the City Ground for a third and final selection…
James Linington has been handed the whistle and in his 10 league matches this term, he’s flashed 37 yellow cards and given four penalties. That’s not far off his 2017/18 average when he dished out yellows at a rate of 3.49 per-game in league football, sending four players off and giving seven spot-kicks.
Forest actually top the Championship card standings at this stage, averaging 2.63 per-game. The Tricky Trees are second from top in average fouls committed (13.78 per-game) and with Linington booking the home side at least twice in eight of his 10 EFL encounters this term, I’m happy to follow the trends.
We can back the Reds to receive 20+ Bookings Points at 4/5 with SkyBet. If you’re new to Bookings Points, a yellow card is awarded 10 Bookings Points, with a red receiving 25 Bookings Points. Should a player pick up two bookings and a subsequent red, 35 Bookings Points are given.