FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his best bets from Tuesday night's Championship card.
Sunderland v Bolton | Tuesday 31st October 2017, 19:45
When Simon Grayson was appointed Sunderland manager in the summer, I felt the Black Cats made the right call. The ex-Preston boss is an astute leader and looked well equipped to bring the Wearsiders out of their relegation malaise.
The club fell out of the Premier League in embarrassing fashion but Grayson’s so far been unable to halt the slide. And failure to record maximum points at home to fellow strugglers Bolton on Tuesday night could easily see him sacked.
Sunderland’s troubles at the Stadium of Light are well-documented and under Grayson’s watch they’ve managed to pick up only two points from a possible 21. Encouraging starts are pilfering out as soon as the Black Cats concede a goal and anxious fans are growing restless with his penchant for long balls.
It was telling that Grayson shifted blame for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat when hosting Bristol City to the players but whether the shock treatment will work amongst a squad that’s become so engrained in a losing mentality remains to be seen. My hunch is, it probably won’t.
The Wearsiders are without victory since August – a run stretching 12 games and haven’t tasted success at the Stadium of Light since December (W0-D7-L11). Should Sunderland fail to pocket maximum points here they’ll equal an English league club record for the most matches without a home win.
No side have shipped more than their 27 goals against and the hosts have yet to silence their opposition in any Championship match since relegation. So who on earth would want to back the Black Cats at odds-on quotes here? Want a clue? It’s not me.
Basement boys Bolton are improving and were seconds away from sealing a memorable triumph at Fulham on Saturday. It was no fluke, either, as the Trotters won the shot count 13-10 to extend their unbeaten streak to three.
Half of Wanderers’ eight-goal tally has arrived in those three fixtures and Phil Parkinson’s charges will hold no fear when they travel to the north-east. So I’ll give them the nod and back Bolton to avoid defeat on Tuesday night.
However, I’m bolstering the odds to a bulbous 11/5 (188BET) by supporting the Trotters in the Double Chance market alongside Both Teams To Score. It’s landed in each of Bolton’s last three outings whilst BTTS has banked in 11/14 (79%) of Sunderland’s encounters under Grayson.
Burton v Barnsley | Tuesday 31st October 2017, 19:45
Burton boss Nigel Clough bemoaned bad luck after watching his team suffer a late sucker-punch at home to Ipswich on Saturday. Having dominated proceedings for the first hour, the Brewers saw their one-goal lead overturned by Bersant Celina's late free-kick.
Albion’s players appeared crestfallen as they trudged off the Pirelli Stadium turf following the weekend defeat, their fourth from five games, with the Staffordshire side now without a success since mid-September. During Burton’s barren run they’ve managed just one goal in nine hours of action.
Clough might try and cod the media into believing his plucky Brewers have been unfortunate thus far but the performance data couldn’t be any more damming. No side’s attempted fewer shots and no Championship club has faced more efforts than Burton – and it’s a similar story when viewing on-target strikes.
However, arguably most alarming is Burton’s dreadful open play data. Albion are averaging just over 0.50 xG from open play – comfortably the worst in the division – and also facing a league high 1.80 xG from open play. Abysmal figures.
Barnsley might not be boasting earth-shattering data of their own but the Tykes are slowly starting to put together a series of positive performances, even if results haven’t always told the full story.
On Saturday, Paul Heckingbottom’s crew collected a well-earned point at local rivals Sheffield Wednesday with Barnsley displaying outstanding adaptability to switch between a 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 system to counteract the Owls. Harvey Barnes bagged the leveller to enhance his burgeoning reputation at Oakwell.
Adam Jackson damaged his cruciate knee ligament in the encounter and will be replaced by Angus MacDonald at the back but Zeki Fryers is back to full fitness and Lloyd Isgrove has also returned to the fold to give Heckingbottom options in his small but capable squad.
It’s only three losses in nine now for the visitors and the Tykes have avoided defeat at Wednesday, Preston and Millwall in their last four road trips whilst falling to a stoppage-time defeat at Wolves. Only once on the road have Barnsley failed to score and a solitary strike should at least earn the guests a point here.
I’ll be backing Barnsley with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start (7/9 BetVictor) – Burton have failed to take maximum points in 19/30 (63%) home outings since promotion – but more ambitious punters may fancy supporting the Tykes in the Half-Time/Full-Time market at 4/1 (William Hill).
Burton have conceded the opening goal in 15 of their last 20 home matches. Combine that with Barnsley’s record at bottom-six clubs – four wins in five, three of which saw the victors lead at the interval – and you might have the crux to something a little meatier this midweek.
QPR v Sheffield United | Tuesday 31st October 2017, 19:45
Another side to feature prominently in the Both Teams To Score market are my own, QPR. The Super Hoops produced a high-octane display to thwart previous table-toppers Wolves at Loftus Road on Saturday and Ian Holloway will be hoping for a repeat as current league leaders Sheffield United arrive.
Rangers have been surprisingly high across all the major performance data metrics but the lack of a clinical forward in the side has hampered progress. Only Brentford have fired in more shots and on-target efforts in the second-tier but only Fulham (9) have hit the woodwork more often than the R’s (8) this term.
Nevertheless, I’d always back QPR to score on home soil. Only three of Holloway’s 22 matches in charge at Loftus Road have seen the hosts fire a blank but a defence that’s missing lynchpin Grant Hall, plus captain Nedum Onuoha and James Perch continues to toil. To make matters worse, Joel Lynch is suspended for Tuesday night leaving Rangers short of backline bodies.
That’s hardly conducive to clean sheet material and the R’s are hardly familiar with the feeling of shutting opposition sides out. Indeed, QPR have kept a pathetic 5/44 (11%) clean sheets under Holloway’s watch and five in 47 if you go back a little further.
So there’s plenty of strong evidence in favour of supporting Both Teams To Score at 4/5 (Betfair). It’s been ticked off 11/14 (79%) of QPR’s outings this term, in 29/44 (69%) under Holloway and 17/22 (77%) at Loftus Road under the current stewardship.
For what it’s worth, Sheffield United were absolutely outstanding on Friday night against Leeds and have now notched in all bar one of their last 11 Championship matches. However, the Blades have only silenced Bolton on their travels.