CHAMPIONSHIP fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Saturday afternoon's action, picking out his best bets.
Hull v Luton | Saturday 18th July 2020, 15:00
There’s a big game at the bottom of the Championship with what looks to be a winner takes all clash at the KCOM Stadium between Hull and Luton.
It’s going to be a big ask for this Hull side that look short of quality, confidence and spirit. If they had any of the last two, it’ll be in short supply after their 8-0 mauling at Wigan.
It was nothing short of embarrassing for Grant McCann and his side, and while they’ve got two games to rectify their position, it looks highly unlikely with them having lost 14 of their last 18.
Throw in the fact that they’ve picked up the fewest points (9) and conceded the most goal (49) of any team in the league in 2020. It’s been a rotten year for Hull with relegation looking highly likely.
At the start of February, Luton were bottom of the table and seven points from safety. Now they’re just two points away from getting out of the relegation zone, and they couldn’t ask for a better game.
In their last 13 games, the Hatters have only lost twice – a run that includes a home win over Brentford, a draw at Leeds, plus picking up points against teams around them like Barnsley and Huddersfield.
It’s one defeat in six on the road, while they are unbeaten in their last four away league games (W2, D2). They’ve not gone five without defeat on the road since August 2006.
Nathan Jones is getting something out of his players on his return to the Kenilworth Road club. And the fact they’ve kept three shutouts in their last four away games speaks volumes of the work being done on the training ground.
While Luton have been keeping clean sheets on the road, Hull have been failing to score at home. The 1-0 defeat to Millwall last Saturday was the fourth time in five games where they’ve failed to net at the KCOM.
Most bookies have this down as a pick’em at 17/10 for either side to win, but on all the evidence, you’d have to be siding with Luton given they’re picking up points and putting in performances, unlike Hull. However, I thought there was a spot of value in the shots on target market that has been priced up on Betfair.
Luton’s James Collins scored from the spot in midweek against QPR taking his tally to 13 for the season. He’s the Hatters top scorer this season and you can get 5/6 on him to hit the target.
He’s a forward that comes to life in the penalty area, and he’s a threat in the air, so this porous Hull defence will have their hands full dealing with him. With the hosts allowing regular shots on their goal, then Collins is one to profit.
There are a few you could look at in the visiting side. Elliot Lee is 7/5 and he’s had a shot on target in his last two, but I’m going to have a punt on full-back Dan Potts.
The way Nathan Jones plays helps to see wide players get forward. Potts is one who will get into the Hull area, especially when the ball is down their right side, so he could pop up at the back post.
The 26-year-old had had four shots in his last four games, with two of them testing the opposition keeper. While in the reverse fixture, he managed to miss the target from six yards out.
It’s 4/1 for him to have 1+ shot on target and with the area he’s been finding himself in, plus this Hull defence is abysmal, then that looks a tempting price.
Middlesbrough v Cardiff | Saturday 18th July 2020, 15:00
It’s a Neil Warnock derby – current club v his former employers. Not only that, but both have something significant to play for.
Middlesbrough still need a point to be mathematically sure of safety, while Cardiff occupy that final play-off berth, so need points to strengthen their grip on that spot.
Here at the Riverside, Boro have toiled. Only three sides have worse home records than them with just six wins in 22, while only Sheffield Wednesday have scored fewer home goals.
That should give Cardiff a boost on their arrival in Teesside. Despite the Bluebirds having Warnock and now Neil Harris in charge, their away games have seen 66 goals in total – three goals per game, which is one of the highest on the road in the league.
They did pick up an important win against Derby in midweek after they had lost to Fulham and Blackburn. Although the Cardiff away goals average is high, Harris will hope this plays out in a similar pattern to their win in the Severnside derby against Bristol City – keep it tight for as long as possible then nick a late winner.
So, with the magnitude of this game and the potential for this to flair up with the Warnock connection, then 40+ booking points at 11/10 looks more than fair.
This bet will be helped by the whistler – Jeremy Simpson. Of the regular Championship referees, he ranks highly for cards. It’s 84 yellows and seven reds across his 24 games, which his cards average at 3.88 per game.
He awards around 25 fouls per game, and that fits in with both Middlesbrough’s home and Cardiff’s away fouls records.
In terms of cards for each side, Boro have had 73 yellows and four reds compared to Cardiff’s 68 and two reds. And with some of the players on the pitch, who like to get stuck in, cards looks a logical play.
It’ll be Simpson’s third game involving Middlesbrough this season. There were 50 booking points in their defeat at Birmingham, where Boro saw three yellows.
While he also took charge of their 2-2 draw with Hull, which saw Marvin Johnson sent off in a game that had 55 booking points – 45 of which went to Boro.
Five of Simpson’s last six have seen at least 40 booking points with four of those coming in these behind closed doors matches. So, with plenty on the line for both clubs, take the 11/10 on offer for cards.
Swansea v Bristol City | Saturday 18th July 2020, 15:00
In the race for the play-offs, both of these sides have ground to make up, so there’s no margin for error. Swansea are three points behind their Welsh rivals Cardiff, while Bristol City are five.
The Swans have failed to put teams to bed this season, especially on the road where they’ve drawn 11 times. But a run at home from September to November that saw just four points picked up out of a possible 21 is what could prove costly.
Steve Cooper’s side do get the ball down and play. Here at the Liberty Stadium, they average 53% possession, while Bristol City averages 47% away from home, so that’s the pattern I’m expecting from this one.
Given the situation of both sides, a draw is probably no good to neither, so this should be quite an open game with chances at both ends.
I watched Bristol City in midweek in their 1-1 draw with Stoke, where they were arguably lucky to get a point with Danny Batth forcing Dan Bentley into a good save not long after scoring, while Nick Powell struck the base of the post for the Potters.
Although the Robins are unbeaten under Dean Holden, it’s going to take something of a miracle to reach the play-offs, so they can play with freedom and show how they like to play. It’s a good chance for Holden to stake his claim for the job on a permanent basis.
Part of the problem for Bristol City has been the lack of clean sheets – they haven’t kept one in their last 14 games. That’s a big concern, and when you break it down further, they’ve only kept four shutouts in 22 away games.
One man who could take advantage of some lax defending is Rhian Brewster. The Liverpool loanee is a big part of why Swansea are in the race for a top-six spot with him scoring nine times in 18 appearances for the Welsh club.
He’s seemed to strike up a good partnership with Andre Ayew, and he’s intelligent with some of the positions he takes up in and around the area. Since he made his debut for the Swans, only Saïd Benrahma (12) has scored more goals than him.
In that time, Brewster has had 43 shots, 19 of which have been on target, so roughly one per game. He’s not shy to shoot and with the areas he takes up looks worth backing to find the Bristol City net.