Accrington vs Gillingham | Saturday 16th January 2021, 15:00
With the wintery weather afflicting the north of the country, plus the ongoing COVID-related suspensions that seem to be hampering this column on a weekly basis, I’ll be keeping this segment relatively short and sweet.
But I’m happy to play the 21/20 (Betway) on Accrington to win and Under 4.5 Goals when Gillingham arrive at the Crown Ground on Saturday afternoon. Remarkably, the Reds rank second in the League One standings for points per-game this term having posted W10-D3-L4 across their 17 fixtures thus far.
Hull in second place are only points better off than Stanley having played three more matches and John Coleman’s have returned W9-D3-L2 since the beginning of October. Accy are proving to be quite the side in both boxes, scoring in 14 of their overall 17 League One encounters, and keeping nine of opponents quiet – that’s a clean sheet rate of 53%.
Fixture congestion could derail Accrington’s lofty ambitions further down the line but the hosts should be well capable of following up December’s convincing 2-0 triumph against Gillingham in Kent in this weekend’s reverse match-up. The Gills managed a solitary effort on-target that day and have been on a downward spiral since.
Steve Evans is feeling the heat with five Gillingham defeats in six, with just two goals scored in that sequence. The visitors have been beaten in seven of nine games against top-11 sides and have also returned four losses from five road trips when excluding the bottom-eight.
Gills have lost a handful of loan players in recent days but Southampton duo Callum Slattery and Tyreke Johnson have bolstered their ranks. It should ensure they have an 18-man squad for the long journey north, but the mood remains bleak and Accrington look a smart play at odds-against quotes coming into this contest.
Just four of the duos combined League One dates this term have produced five or more goals so I'll bolster the price on the home success by including Under 4.5 Goals for a more appetising 21/20 poke with Betway.
Swindon vs Doncaster | Saturday 16th January 2021, 15:00
Swindon recorded a long overdue success in their opening League One outing for 2021, turning Ipswich over 3-2 at Portman Road last weekend. Two goals from Diallang Jaiyesimi, and a goal-of-the-season contender from Scott Twine, helped the struggling Robins to a vital victory with boss John Sheridan believing the Wiltshire outfit played the better football.
Town now take on Doncaster at the County Ground and are eager to seal back-to-back triumphs for the first time since promotion back to League One level. Mired in the relegation mix-up, Swindon have struggled for positive results with a record of one clean sheet in 21 tussles clearly proving problematic.
Indeed, only rock-bottom Burton have shipped more league goals than the Robins in 2020/21 although recent displays suggest Sheridan’s group could be capable of meeting fire with fire. Since beating silenced by league leaders Lincoln, Town have notched in six of eight encounters, bagging multiple goals in half of those matches.
So I’m anticipating an interesting clash against a forward-thinking Doncaster side that might be feeling sorry for itself following the sale of skipper Ben Whiteman this midweek. Darren Moore’s men have offered plenty in the final-third – only twice failing to score – but their own vulnerabilities at the back have seen Rovers record just three shutouts themselves.
With that in-mind, the 5/6 (Red Zone) on Both Teams To Score might be the best course of action considering it’s previously paid out in 13/18 (72%) of Donny’s games, as well as 13/21 (62%) of Swindon’s showdowns this season.
Northampton vs Oxford | Saturday 16th January 2021, 15:00
Bringing in players with more pace and quality at the top end of the pitch has been the main priority for Northampton this month and Keith Curle’s charges completed the double loan capture of Ryan Edmondson and Mickel Miller this week in their quest for League One survival.
The Cobblers have been blanked in four of their past six games, and failed to score in more matches than any of their divisional rivals this term (11/21) so firepower was clearly required at Sixfields. However, craft and chance creation has also been an issue for Town with no side generating a worse Expected Goals (xG) output than Northampton.
Whether the new faces will provide an immediate impact remains to be seen but Saturday’s fixture with Oxford promises to be a tough introduction. The U’s are one of the EFL’s form sides having racked up four cushy wins on the spin and suffering a solitary loss in 10 League One tussles since mid-November following their customary slow start.
Veteran striker Matty Taylor has found his shooting boots and Karl Robinson’s squad as a collective have been playing with more precision and purpose of late. The visitors have been ruthless operators against the league’s lesser lights – winning seven of eight against the bottom-10 – and it’s easy to see with the Yellows on Saturday afternoon once more.
Northampton escaped League Two via the play-offs last term but few could argue the Cobblers were amongst the best teams the fourth-tier had to offer in 2019/20. And Town have found the going tough when taking on elite opposition at this level, returning W1-D1-L9 when faced against top-half sides, with Curle’s troops failing to even score in nine.
In eight Sixfields contests against top-half teams (that’s 12 hours of football), Northampton have managed one goal and six losses, five of which arrived via a margin of two goals or more, and so I’m happy to oppose the hosts again here.
However, with only one of their overall outings featuring five or more goals, I’ll bolster the odds on offer by chucking Under 4.5 Goals into the equation for a 6/5 shot with Betway.