Reading vs QPR | Saturday 11th September 2021, 15:00
I like QPR this season. Mark Warburton is a manager that is well experienced at this level, and he has created an excellent spin to his team with some real quality at the top of the pitch.
Seny Dieng looks assured in nets and Rob Dickie has excelled since his summer move. Stefan Johansen ticks the team over in midfield and now there are options up top with Charlie Austin, Lydon Dykes and recent signing Andre Gray which leaves players like Albert Adomah and Andre Dozzell on the bench.
Rangers have scored two or more goals in five of their six games so far with a record of W3-D2-L0 whilst not playing that well. On xPTS I have them down in the bottom half but given the goals they have scored its hard to believe that this is a side winning and scoring whilst not playing well.
Looking at the blend of experience and quality within the squad I believe they will get better. Rangers should win the game here as Reading look in a mess despite some recent additions.
The Royals are W1-D0-L4 with the only win coming at Preston, who are another side I expect to struggle this season and even here Preston won the xG 1.9 vs 1.6. Looking at the underlying metrics Reading are really poor. 2nd bottom on xPTS, 3rd bottom on xG ratio with just 0.79 xG and 1.69 xGA and 2nd bottom on shots on target from in the box ratio. This last ratio is something I have started to place more emphasis on as it gives a clear indication of a side’s ability in both boxes.
No side has conceded more shots in the box on target than the Royals and if they give opportunities to the likes of Austin and Gray, they will take them. The signings of Danny Drinkwater and Scott Dann I don’t think will help them and I would rather Dann plays.
There must be questions over his fitness and lack of games played with either no or very limited pre-season. Drinkwater has seen his career nosedive since his big money move to Chelsea and I am not sure he is someone that will add to the starting 11.
I think Rangers will win, but I am not sure they will keep Reading out so goals is a good angle for me here and I am going to back the away side to score two or more goals, and this can be backed at 11/10 with Bet365.
Ipswich vs Bolton | Saturday 11th September 2021, 15:00
Another goals angle for the Tractor Boys who have now conceded two goals in every single league so far this term and even in their pre-season friendlies they conceded three at Colchester, three to Millwall and one at Palace. The only clean sheet they have kept in any type of game this season was at Dartford in their opening pre-season game.
Ipswich are a new team with 19 new signings through the doors with the last three arriving over the last few days of the transfer window, yet they have only signed one defensive minded midfielder in Sam Morsy from Middlesbrough, and he is suspended for this game which means that Ipswich will line up again with Lee Evans and Rakeem Harper in the middle and neither like to sit and defend.
Paul Cook likes to push his full backs on and with no sitting midfielder this exposes the two centre backs and coupled with the fact this is a new side trying to settle its not hard to see why no side has conceded more goals this season than the Tractor Boys.
Going forward they scored in every game and with the players that the club have brought in with Macauley Bonne, Joe Piggott, Kyle Edwards, Wes Burns, Tom Carroll, Louie Barry, Scott Fraser and Conor Chaplin they have the ability to pick a pass, create opportunities and score goals.
Bolton have started the season well and currently with W2-D3-L1 and so far, have a xG of 1.33 per game. Despite not scoring in the last two games, they have generated 1.65 and 1.0 xG.
I tipped them up in the WLB ante-post guide to finish in the top six this season and so far, I can see no reason why they won’t go well. Their squad is impressive, they can score goals and Ian Evatt they have a manager who knows what he wants and what he needs from the individuals to achieve results.
Often when a team is promoted, they continue the following season with momentum, and I think Bolton have done that with some impressive displays. In my view they have enough about them to get in the score sheet at Portman Road. Bolton have scored nine and conceded eight across their six games with Ipswich scoring eight and conceding 10. There has to be goals here.
The pressure is on Ipswich to finally get a win and they will look to take the game to the visitors which will allow Bolton opportunities and with players such as Eoin Doyle, Oladapo Afolayan, Antoni Sarcevic and Elias Kachunga they should have that little be quality needed to cause Ipswich problems.
I am happy to take Over 2.5 Goals at 22/25 with Marathon.
Hartlepool vs Bristol Rovers | Saturday 11th September 2021, 15:00
My last bet is in League Two where Bristol Rovers make the long trip to Hartlepool, and I want to get behind the hosts.
Hartlepool have surprised me so far. They last some key players in the summer, and I expected them to struggle but it’s been a decent start. Losing Tyler Burey to a long-term injury won’t help them, but manager Dave Challinor has them playing well and they look confident.
Pools have started the season with W3-D0-L2 but at home its 100% win rate having beaten Carlisle, Walsall, and Crawley without conceding a goal. In my research for the game, I was surprised to learn that they now have the best home form of any team in the top five divisions having now won 17 of their last 19 games. That’s very impressive.
Overall, I have them sat in 8th place on xPTS and top of all the metrics – xG, shots on target, shots in the box and shots on target in the box ratios. My view is that you don’t sit top of all of these unless you are doing something right.
Bristol Rovers are in awful form and since their relegation have gone W2-D1-L3 and on the road its W0-D1-L2 conceding seven goals. Their away record is impressive for all the wrong reasons. W3-D7-L16 conceding an average of 1.76. Their last away victory was back in December 2020 where they beat Wimbledon 3-1 and since then its W0-D4-L14.
I mentioned earlier about Bolton and being promoted leads to momentum, and I believe it’s the same for relegated sides. You get used to losing and the downward momentum is then hard to shift.
My rankings have Rovers second-bottom on xPTS, third-bottom xG ratio 7th bottom for shots on target form in the box. Manager Joey Barton split’s opinion but I think he is the last manager they needed given their decline and desire to return to League One. Generally, wherever he goes there is trouble and conflict and this is a club that needed some love, experience and know how.