FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) made us good money on Saturday. He's back with three more from the EFL on Tuesday.
Huddersfield v Reading | Tuesday 19:45
Only three Championship teams have collected more points since David Wagner took charge of Huddersfield (97) in November 2015 – Brighton (123), Sheffield Wednesday (108) and Leeds (98) – and I expect the Terriers to add to their tally with a Tuesday night triumph against Reading.
The John Smith’s Stadium meeting is the standout fixture from the midweek coupon with the two teams separated by one place and one point as the battle for promotion to the Premier League begins to hot up.
On the fact of it, this encounter could go either way. However, as we’ve mentioned on numerous occasions – the league table often lies and with football being such a low-scoring sport, anomalies do occur. There’s a fine example of such behaviour here with Reading somehow cementing themselves in the top-six.
The Royals have W13-D2-L4 since mid-October and have W4-D2-L0 since back-to-back defeats to QPR and Derby. But both 16-game and 24-game expected goals data suggests the Berkshire boys should be firmly rooted in mid-table.
Jaap Stam’s side fire in fewer attempts at goal than only eight Championship clubs whilst only Rotherham and Blackburn face more. Reading’s 45.64% shots on-target ratio is the fourth-worst in the division with their shot ratio even worse at 45.52%, only ranking ahead of the Millers and Rovers again.
A huge 10 Reading goals have arrived from the penalty spot – scored or the rebound has been converted – with a further 14 goals added from set-piece situations. That’s 51% of the Royals’ overall goal-tally this term – statistics that will revert to the norm sooner than later.
Away form also has to be of some concern. Stam’s charges have W2-D0-L4 at top-half teams, shipping 15 goals in those six games. Recent road results W3-D1-L3 appear reasonable but the Royals have also leaked at least twice in six of those seven outings.
Captain Paul McShane and Joey van den Berg’s return will at least bolster the backline but I’ve been waiting for the right time to oppose Reading for sometime and this encounter fits the bill.
Huddersfield have W12-D3-L1 across all competitions since the start of December and claimed W10-D1-L1 in Championship contests during the same sample. Brighton and Leeds have both been dispatched superbly here in February so adding Reading to that list shouldn’t be too tricky.
Wagner made seven changes for Saturday’s 0-0 FA Cup tie against Manchester City so the bulk of Town’s squad will be fit, fresh and raring to go. Jonathan Hogg, Sean Scannell and Kasey Palmer are all missing but Aaron Mooy will be back in the XI for the hosts.
Only Newcastle have faced fewer shots on goal than Huddersfield and only the table-toppers can better the Terriers’ fabulous 59.07% shots on-target ratio return this term. With a W11-D2-L2 home record, it’s quite easy to nail my colours to the Town mast here.
I couldn’t put any of you off backing Huddersfield to win in the Match Odds but I’m going to have a gamble on the Terriers winning by exactly one goal at 11/4 with SkyBet – 17 of their 19 triumphs this season have arrived by the narrowest of margins.
Sheffield Wednesday v Brentford | Tuesday 19:45
Sheffield Wednesday might not be winning prizes for aesthetics but Carlos Carvalhal’s troops are slowly ascending the Championship table and look a little too big to ignore for Tuesday night’s tussle with Brentford.
The Owls have accumulated 33 points from their past 15 matches (W10-D3-L2) to open up a seven-point buffer ahead of seventh-placed Norwich but it’s their Hillsborough record that continues to impress.
Wednesday have claimed 10 victories from 13 Championship games as hosts and kept clean sheets in five of their past six in Sheffield. Since Carvalhal arrived in the country, the Owls have won 24/38 (63%) of their home league encounters, scoring at least twice on 20 (53%) occasions.
Adding the firepower of Jordan Rhodes and Sam Winnall to an already top-notch squad in January should keep Wednesday on track and with 16 games still to play, I wouldn’t be ruling out an automatic promotion berth just yet.
Whilst Wednesday haven’t always impressed on the park, they’ve a handy knack for collecting positive results. The 2-1 triumph at Nottingham Forest on Saturday epitomised the preview statement and even though Tom Lees and Morgan Fox are out of action, I still expect a home victory here.
The hosts have won four on the spin and returned W4-D3-L0 in their last seven against Brentford, recording W2-D1-L0 and three consecutive shutouts against the Bees. The Match Odds price is again good enough to support but I’ll bolster the odds by including Over 1.5 Goals for 7/5 (Paddy Power).
Brentford enjoyed a weekend off and have shown in recent weeks they’re more than a one-man team following Scott Hogan’s sale, scoring 10 goals in four fixtures. But the capital club have leaked 10 times in their last three outings and tend to suffer when challenging the division’s elite.
The Bees have been beaten in each of their past three away days, as well as in 10 of 16 this term. And Dean Smith’s side have W1-D0-L6 at top-10 teams this season – drill deeper and the capital club have lost nine of 10 trips to top-six sides with five of their most recent eight ending in losses by two goals or more.
Peterborough v Southend | Tuesday 19:45
A crazy 15-minute spell towards the end of Saturday’s clash with Walsall has put Peterborough on the back foot ahead of Tuesday night’s showdown with play-off chasing rivals Southend at London Road.
Posh boss Grant McCann raged at his side, claiming they, “100% deserved to lose” for their lack of discipline in the closing stages and described the game as possibly “the worst day of my managerial career“.
Drawing 0-0, Posh keeper Luke McGee miss-handled Erhun Oztumer’s corner into his own net, captain Chris Forrester was then sent off for abusing an assistant referee and the Saddlers snaked a late second to compound the misery.
To make matters worse, McGee and defender Dominic Ball were also involved in a shoving match whilst Anthony Grant had earlier collected his 11th caution of the campaign to invoke a two-game ban. And in the dying embers Gwion Edwards had been taken off with a serious-looking late injury.
McCann’s men are now looking decidedly weak in midfield ahead of the Southend meeting with broken-jaw victim Michael Bostwick expected to be rushed back into action. Having W3-D3-L5, Peterborough are five points shy of sixth-placed Southend and are in need of a result here.
On Saturday Posh appeared toothless in attack despite throwing together an 11th different strike pairing of the season in Craig Mackail-Smith and Junior Morias. The 4-4-2 system didn’t suit and a switch to 3-4-3 later in the game failed to reap any rewards in terms of creativity or pressure.
It means the hosts have now scored more than once in a game on only two occasions in 11 outings and kept only seven clean sheets throughout the League One campaign. Therefore, Posh look ripe for opposing again this midweek.
Southend manager Phil Brown was chuffed with his team’s performance in their pulsating 2-2 draw at home to Northampton on Saturday. The Shrimpers won the shot count 19-12 and were disappointed not to take maximum points but it keeps the Essex raiders on track for a top-six finish.
The visitors were in the relegation zone as recently as mid-October but only two losses in 20 league encounters has seen Southend shoot up the standings and I’m happy to support the Shrimpers at 9/11 (BetVictor) with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start– a selection that would make us money if Brown’s boys avoid defeat.
Huddersfield v Reading – Huddersfield to win by exactly one goal (11/4 SkyBet)
Sheffield Wednesday v Brentford – Sheffield Wednesday to win and Over 1.5 Goals (7/5 Paddy Power)
Peterborough v Southend – Southend +0.25 Asian Handicap (9/11 BetVictor)