FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's EFL action.
Luton v Burton | Saturday 22nd December 2018, 15:00
No Football League team can match Luton’s stunning W9-D2-L0 home record this season and the Hatters look a good thing to enhance that return on Saturday when welcoming a jubilant Burton outfit to Kenilworth Road.
The Brewers made history by reaching the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday night, although Nigel Clough’s men may find backing up that performance difficult in Bedfordshire against a well-rested and bang in-form Town team.
The hosts have W10-D1-L1 in League One action since October, scoring at least twice in 11 of those encounters and Nathan Jones’ men have notched two goals or more in nine of their 11 outings in front of their home supporters. Town boast a remarkable +20 goal difference here and average 1.95 Expected Goals at Kenilworth Road.
Only Sunderland and Charlton have left Luton with something to show and Burton’s inconsistencies could come to the fore this weekend. Albion have W2-D2-L6 on their travels since relegation, conceding 1.90 goals per-game and giving up 1.36 xG on average during their 10 road trips.
The Brewers have been beaten in six of their 10 tussles with top-half teams and head south with a number of players rated doubtful through injury and illness. Clough said that Scott Fraser and Stephen Quinn were affected by sickness ahead of the win at Boro, but both came through the full 90 minutes.
Elsewhere, Will Miller, who dropped to the bench after starting the 1-0 loss at Fleetwood last Saturday, was also struggling with the illness, while Burton were without the injured Liam Boyce, David Templeton, Marvin Sordell and Kyle McFadzean at the Riverside.
Luton are appealing at the odds on offer but I’m going to boost the price on the home side here by backing the Hatters to triumph in a match featuring Over 1.5 Goals at evens with Ladbrokes. Their collective home/away matches this season have produced an average of 3.28 goals per-game with all bar three of 21 featuring at least two goals.
Lincoln v Newport | Saturday 22nd December 2018, 15:00
Arguably the game of the weekend in League Two takes place at Sincil Bank as table-topping Lincoln entertain high-flying Newport and I’m keen to support Both Teams To Score at 20/23 (Betfair).
Despite being renowned for their defensive strength and organisation, Lincoln have leaked in 16 of their 21 league outings this season, including 10 of their 11 as hosts. Peculiarly, no fourth-tier rival have kept fewer home clean sheets than the Imps with Danny Cowley’s troops seeing 9/11 (82%) games here seeing both sides score.
Sincil Bank is seeing 2.91 goals per-game on average in 2018/19 and having forward-thinking Newport pitch up should encourage another entertaining encounter. The Exiles have fired a solitary blank since the opening weekend of the campaign, notching in 10 of their 11 ties outside of Wales.
However, Mike Flynn’s men have kept their sheets clean once since September and that’s led to 11 BTTS winners in 12 League Two games, as well as 8/11 (73%) on their travels. That 12-match sample includes a 2.73 goals per-game average with County only twice denying their hosts a goal on the road despite yet visiting a top-three club.
Collectively, Lincoln and Newport have scored in 37/42 (88%) contests, recording 10 (24%) shutouts and seeing Both Teams To Score pay-out on 27 (64%) occasions. The pair average north of 0.80 xG from open play per-game and fire in around eight attempts from inside the penalty box, suggesting there’ll be plenty of goalmouth action.
Yeovil v Northampton | Saturday 22nd December 2018, 15:00
Yeovil played out a dour 0-0 draw at Cambridge last weekend, a result that ended a four-match losing streak but extended their poor recent form. The Glovers have won once since mid-September (W1-D5-L7) and have scored more than a solitary strike just once in that 13-game spell to leave them only three points above the drop zone.
Key injuries have played a part in the recent downturn but poor performances have only accentuated the growing tension from the Somerset side’s supporters towards both the management team led by Darren Way, and the club’s hierarchy. Losses against fellow strugglers Morecambe and Macclesfield highlighted their recent woe and their easily opposed this weekend against resurgent Northampton.
The Cobblers have bagged W5-D5-L2 under Keith Curle with the visitors’ only defeats in that sequence coming at promotion-chasing MK Dons and Newport. Northampton are posting a 57% xG open play ratio, whilst only Bury and MK Dons are firing in more attempts from inside the penalty area this term.
John-Joe O’Toole is likely to be the only player unavailable for the guests on Saturday and the Cobblers look well worth supporting off a scratch zero start on the Asian Handicap line at 5/6 (BetVictor). Working in the same way as a Draw No Bet selection, we’ll see our stake returned should the game end all-square, with profit made should Northampton win.
The visitors have scored in 10 of their 12 games under Curle, posting 1.41 xG on average in their most recent eight. Should the Cobblers produce a similarly strong display, we should be looking at a push at their very least considering Yeovil were recently undone by non-league Stockport and have tabled a sole success at Huish Park this season.