FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on Wednesday night’s televised EFL Cup action between Cheltenham and West Ham.
Cheltenham v West Ham | Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 19.45 | Sky Sports
League Two hosts Cheltenham will be hoping to silence the statisticians on Wednesday night when they welcome West Ham to Whaddon Road.
Data obtained from Mike Holden’s wonderful Foxpunter service shows that the second round of the League Cup has proved a graveyard for underdogs since 2015/16 with only three (6%) lower-division teams out of 49 progressing inside 90 minutes against clubs from a higher league, at this stage.
A huge 31/49 (63%) of the higher-ranked divisional sides proved victorious in normal time and so it’s difficult to find angles worth opposing West Ham on.
The Premier League club might well be pointless thus far, having conceded seven goals against Manchester United and Southampton, but they should still prove too good for the Robins.
Cheltenham have suffered defeat in two of their opening three league fixtures – the latest a 3-0 thumping against Carlisle – and Gary Johnson’s group were also beaten 2-1 at home to Swansea U21s in the Football League Trophy last midweek.
The hosts have never gone beyond the second round of the League Cup and although the visit of top-flight opposition might perk home players, there’s been a worrying lack of leadership in defensive areas so far this season, as well as pace in wide areas.
Town couldn't name a full seven substitutions at the weekend and have started the campaign without a natural right-back or out and out wingers. There’s been confusion over systems and formations and the Robins look ripe for plucking here.
The betting angle
Cheltenham have shipped just eight first-half goals in 24 home games since the start of last season, of which they’ve trailed at the interval on only five occasions (W7-D12-L5).
According to Football Form Labs, three of four Premier League clubs to travel to League Two opposition at this stage of the competition last year were also held at half-time, so it seems worthy of a wee wager.
Slaven Bilic will rest and rotate his squad but even a second string Hammers outfit should be capable of progression but lets back Cheltenham to keep the contest competitive until at least the interval.
Cheltenham v West Ham – Draw-West Ham (37/10 Marathon)