Championship: Hatters can hurt relegation rivals


CHAMPIONSHIP fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Tuesday night's action from the second-tier, picking out his best bets.

Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough | Tuesday 10th December 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Nottingham Forest left the capital with a point on Friday night, but it was nearly so much more, but Aidan O’Brien pounced on the spill by Brice Samba meaning the points were shared.

Sabri Lamouchi will have been concerned by the manner of both Millwall goals. The first was a free-header from a corner and the second a strike from distance compounding by a goalkeeping error. 

They face a Boro side that have ground out a couple of wins – either side of a thumping against Leeds. It should really be three wins in four after throwing away a 2-0 half-time lead, albeit with 10 men, against Hull.

Saturday’s win came with a goal inside the first minute but it could have been more. They came out on top of Expected Goals (xG) 2.71 to 0.22. Despite winning that shows they defended well and restricted Charlton chances, but were also wasteful in the final third.

Boro recorded 23 shots – the joint-most across the Football League, so that will have been a pleasing factor of their performance. They’re creating opportunities but need to be more ruthless to put games to bed.

Jonathan Woodgate’s side will have to be as sharp at the back here if they want to take anything from the City Ground and continue their climb away from the danger zones.

However, it’s the man in the middle that stands out once again. In the last midweek Championship games, I mentioned Peter Bankes. He’s the arbiter for this one. He’s shown 49 yellows and a red in 11 games in all competitions. That’s an average of 4.5 cautions per game.

Interestingly, Bankes has taken charge of both of these sides this season. Both of them came when they faced Fulham.  Forest won that game at Craven Cottage with six yellows in the match, four going to players in red.

Boro played out a goalless draw at home to Fulham even though he dismissed Cottagers keeper Marek Rodak in the 17th-minute. That game had 75 booking points with three yellows (30bp) to Boro players.

Eight of nine Boro away games have seen them collect 20+ booking points, with five of them also seeing 30+. Forest have received 20+ booking points in four of their last six home games and picked up two cards in their draw at Millwall.

With this referee’s tendencies to produce cards and this likely to be a midfield battle, then the 2/1 on Over 1 Card Each Team with William Hill looks the way in. 

Stoke v Luton | Tuesday 10th December 2019, 20:00 | Sky Sports

It’s a game that looks like a ‘must not lose’ in Staffordshire, as two of the Championship’s bottom five go head-to-head.

Michael O’Neill should already realise the task at hand with Stoke a club in crisis. Saturday’s defeat at Hull was another kick in the teeth for the travelling supporters. On the pitch, the Potters were outfought and outperformed by a Hull side that had the desire to win every second ball. Plus, they could string more than four passes together.

A midfield trio of Ryan Woods, Joe Allen and Sam Clucas hasn’t worked, while Badou N’Diaye has only been seen off the bench, and Peter Etebo watches from the stands.

Stoke at odds-on, even at home, is a big no-no right now. It was once a fortress with many Premier League teams fearing their visits. That’s not the case anymore. In this calendar year of 2019, Stoke’s league home record reads: W4-D7-L10-F22-A31. That’s a frightening and grim view given the club’s current predicament. In fact, their haul of seven points is their lowest ever after 10 home games in their league history.

Two late goals earned Luton an important win against fellow strugglers Wigan at the weekend making it two wins in three – both at home. However, their away will be of concern. They’ve lost their last five with 17 conceded and just three scored – the goals against column taking a battering in the 7-0 loss at Brentford.

One thing with the Hatters is there’s no middle ground. They’ve picked up two draws all season, but they’ve conceded a number of late goals that have condemned them to defeats.

Late goals are things that happen in games for both sides. 15 of 68 (22%) of goals in Luton games have been in the last 15 minutes, while it’s 12 of 56 (21%) for Stoke.

The Potters won the game late against Wigan with a 93rd-minute goal and their home defeat against Blackburn saw two goals in the last ten minutes, so the 5/6 on a goal after 75:56 with Bet365 looks a sound angle with two porous defences.

While Luton’s away form doesn’t make for pleasant reading, I don’t see this Stoke side blowing teams away. The Potters scrambled past Wigan, didn’t really test Christian Walton in the Blackburn goal and Hull shot stopper George Long won’t have many quieter games after conceding.

Four of Luton’s six wins have been against sides 17th or below based on the current table. They know how to get the better of games like this. Plus, they pushed Leeds all the way at home the other week and were narrowly beaten at Fulham.

The Hatters will give a good account of themselves and if they show desire, especially in the middle of the park, they can take something from this game. Luton with a goal start (+1 on the handicap) is worth a look with Stoke not showing any quality and struggling to keep clean sheets. 

Best Bets 

Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough – Over 1 Card Each Team (2/1 William Hill)

Stoke City v Luton – Luton +1 handicap (13/10 Coral)

Stoke City v Luton – A goal scored after 75:59 (5/6 Bet365)

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