Football League Betting Preview & Tips: Cards appeal at the MadStad


FOOTBALL LEAGUE fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95oversees Tuesday night's EFL action, picking out his favourite fancy. 

Reading v Blackburn | Tuesday 2nd March 2021, 20:00 | Sky Sports  

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the MO with the punt lined up at the Madjeski Stadium.

Reading got back to winning ways with a battling 1-0 win at Reading after Michael Morrison scored the decisive goal. Veljko Paunović spoke about playing against the “peculiar style” of the Millers, while there was a buzz around the dressing room after such a big win.

Although they outshot Rotherham, the hosts created better chances – again something the Royals took. And to keep their promotion push alive, they have to win their home games.

They come up against a Blackburn side who haven’t won in their last six (D1, L5). In fact, I’d say Rovers are one of the harder sides to predict in this unpredictable league.

Tony Mowbray’s side are out of form, but they’ve got dangerous players, especially in forward areas, so the Royals will be weary. But on the road, they’ve only won five times – just one of those sides is currently in the top ten – Middlesbrough, so this might be a bridge too far once more for Rovers.

I’m sticking to the tried and tested winning formula for this one. Reading’s opponents have picked up 20+ booking points in 27 of 33 games this season (82%).

While at the Mad Stad, the visitors have picked up that amount of booking points in 12/16 games – three of the four sides that didn’t are in the top six, so the majority of sides battling in the mid-table and below do commit plenty of fouls.

Rotherham’s 30 booking points on Saturday took opposing sides facing Reading to 76 yellows and 10 reds. And now their players have been fouled 513 – more than any other side.

Blackburn aren’t the dirtiest side by any means, but we’ve got a referee, who I think struggles to control games – he’s easily swayed, shall we say?

Gavin Ward is in the middle. He’s shown 62 yellows and three reds in 21 outings. And he’s had three Blackburn away games, showing their players seven cautions, 70 booking points – an average of 23.3 per game.

The Surrey-based official has also had two Reading home games. He had their win over Watford, which saw both sides collect 30 booking points, while Nottingham Forest picked up 35 after Ryan Yates’ early red card.

It’s 4/5 for 20+ Blackburn booking points, so that’s worth taking. The stats are there, and we’ve got a good referee for cards.

I did do some digging to find what positions are generally carded v Reading. There were plenty of centre-halves (in back threes), central midfielders and left-backs. That threw up two names for me to target. Barry Douglas and Joe Rothwell – both have got five yellows this season.

This official has already taken their names on occasions this season. He booked Douglas (4/1 Betfair) at Birmingham, while Rothwell (11/2 Betfair) suffered the same fate at Luton.

Both are on my radar here against a lively Reading attack, who’ll look to dominate in the final third. So, with the Royals’ players fouled around 15.2 per game, take central midfielder Rothwell to fall foul in this one at a tasty price. 

Morecambe v Crawley | Tuesday 2nd March 2021, 18:30

I know a few of the WeLoveBetting community will have a longer-term interest in Morecambe following the excellent advice of Tom Love after he put them up as promotion hopefuls. They’re in fifth, four points off an automatic promotion spot after slipping to a narrow defeat at Mansfield on Saturday.

A return to their home surroundings should boost the Shrimpers. They’ve won 50% of their home games this season, only falling to defeat three times. And those three teams were Cambridge (1st), Forest Green (2nd) and one of the current in-form sides, Tranmere. 

So, if you’re having a looking in the outrights, the odds-against price on the hosts doesn’t look a bad quote, especially with Crawley having lost to bottom of the table, Grimsby, in their last league away game.

Since the visitors lost Max Watters in January, the goals have been shared. In 2021, they’ve played eight league games but have scored 2+ goals in just one of them – that was the weekend win over Exeter.

On that front, there might be too much of a reliance on Tom Nichols leading the line – he got his eighth league goal at the weekend. However, there’s an attractive looking 5/6 shot that can’t be ignored.

It’s in the booking points market once more. This time it’ll feature the hosts. Morecambe have picked up 20+ BP in 21/31 league games (68%). But when you break it down further into games at the Globe, then it’s won in 12/14 (86%). When you see numbers like that, they’re hard to ignore.

When you look at the Crawley numbers, their opponents have picked up 20+ booking points in their last eight games, seven of those seeing the higher line of 30+ collected.

Adams’ side have collected 59 yellows (joint second-most) and two reds, so with Select Group 2 referee Oliver Langford visiting, it’s a good-looking angle.

Langford has a knack of looking disinterested in the middle, but dishes out the cards, sometimes too freely – not that I’d complain if he did that here. He stepped in to take charge of Morecambe’s visit to Bolton last month – they rescued a late point against 10-men. Overall, he’s dished out 94 yellows in 24 games – an average of 3.8 per game.

So, with a card-happy official, I’m happy to take a bet that’s got an 86% strike-rate in Morecambe home games, where the odds imply a 55% chance of landing.

Other cards games from my notes were Oxford v Peterborough with Alan Young and Accrington Stanley v Ipswich with Bobby Madley.

Barrow v Harrogate | Tuesday 2nd March 2021, 19:00

Harrogate make the trip to Barrow with a whiff of the play-off place. The league newcomers have won five of their last seven and it’s seen them climb to 12th – just five points off the final play-off position.

Simon Weaver’s men have been grinding out results, and at this stage of the season, that’s all you have to do – it’s points over performances.

Going into the weekend’s game against Grimsby – which they won 1-0 – they ranked top of the expected points over the last eight games at 14.38xP. Over the same period, tonight’s hosts Barrow were 14th at 10.27xP.

And in those eight games, Harrogate averaged 1.44xG compared to Barrow’s 0.87xG, so the visiting side could be the ones to cut out clearer opportunities in the final third. 

If it wasn’t for a slump from the end of October to mid-December, then Harrogate could have found themselves in a much stronger position. But this is a welcome change of fortune and one they could build on over the closing weeks of the season.

Barrow have lost five of their last six following Saturday’s narrow 1-0 defeat at Bolton. It looked like they’d hold on for a point, but Shaun Miller’s strike in the third minute of stoppage-time condemned them to defeat.

They frustrated Wanderers for long periods but were outshot 14-2, with it being 5-1 to Bolton for shots on target. That sort of pressure generally catches up with sides over a season, let alone 90 minutes.

Confidence must be low in this Barrow camp as they look to avoid an instant return to the National League, while the visiting dressing room should be bouncing given their recent form.

Harrogate rank sixth for shots this season (386) and joint-sixth for shots on target (129), so they could well put this brittle Barrow backline under pressure. And the hosts have only managed five clean sheets in 29 games so far.

Weaver’s men have won seven times on the road, with five of those coming against sides in the bottom half of the League Two table.

So, with the metrics and recent form all pointing in Harrogate’s direction, take them to pick up the three points. They opened up outsiders of the two, but there is some money around for the Yorkshire side. Taking them with Bet365 gives us the two goals ahead early payout, as well. 

Best Bets

Reading vs Blackburn – 20+ Blackburn booking points (4/5 Sky Bet)

Reading vs Blackburn – Joe Rothwell to be carded (11/2 Betfair)

Morecambe vs Crawley – 20+ Morecambe booking points (5/6 Sky Bet)

Barrow vs Harrogate – Harrogate to win (17/10 Bet365)

About Author

Matt is a graduate in sports journalism and is currently plying his trade as a content editor for a major betting company. He was bitten by the betting bug when backing horses and continues to do so. His main sporting interests are football, horse racing and darts. Matt is a Stoke season ticket holder and enjoys going to gigs.

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