Luton vs Cardiff | Tuesday 16th February 2021, 20:15 | Sky Sports
Cardiff have climbed up to seventh in the Championship table and now have a chance of a play-off spot – they sit six points behind Bournemouth.
Mick McCarthy has had an instant impact since his arrival after a short stint in Cyprus. He’s taken charge of five games, drawing his first two and winning the last three. They’ve scored ten goals and conceded five, so at the back, there’s something for him to work on, but he’s got them scoring. In four of those five, the Bluebirds have scored two or more times.
You could say Luton are in perfect isolation in 14th place. The Hatters are nine points off the play-offs and the same amount of points above the drop. They dug deep to pick up the three points against Birmingham on Saturday and defended well to restrict the Bleus just to one attempt on their goal, but this will be a different test.
Despite only losing three of their 13 home league games, they’ve only managed to keep three shutouts – Preston, Wycombe and Bournemouth, so that defensive line is something Nathan Jones will have to sort out. And it’s an area the visitors could well exploit with the goals they’ve scored since McCarthy took over. It’s only a small sample, but their expected goals for (xGF) has been 1.39xGF.
The subtle tweak to the Bluebirds system has helped to benefit Kieffer Moore. It’s given him a willing partner in Josh Murphy or Sheyi Ojo, while loanee Harry Wilson in that number 10 position in behind the two up-front is working a treat.
It’s the Welsh striker that’s hard to ignore given his recent purple patch. He has five in five under McCarthy taking his tally to 13. I’m more than happy to take the 21/10 with Unibet for him to continue that run. He’s an aerial threat, which helps from Wilson’s dead-ball deliveries, and is one of the better strikers at this level on his day with his all-round ability.
The 28-year-old has had 73 efforts with 28 of those on target this term. He’s had 2+ shots on target in 10 games, including four of his last five under McCarthy, so he’s the focal point of this side.
In the reverse fixture in November, Cardiff ran out comfortable 4-0 winners. Moore had five shots and two on target, including bagging the third. That took his tally to two in three vs Luton after finding the net in Wigan’s 2-1 defeat at Kenilworth Road last season.
Recent visitors have created good chances against this Luton defence – Huddersfield 1.31xG, QPR 1.84xG and Bristol City 1.44xG, so this is a game where Cardiff should cut out good chances.
I was tempted to look at Cardiff in the goals market with over 1.5 priced at 17/10 with 888Sport, but I’m more than happy to back Moore to score.
Preston vs Watford | Tuesday 16th February 2021, 19:00
Preston picked up an important win in a Lancashire derby against Blackburn on Friday night to record just their second win in 2021. Alex Neil’s side was good value for the three points and it lifted the Lilywhites to 11th in the table giving them an outside chance at a play-off tilt during the run-in.
Daniel Iversen made a couple of good saves, while Ryan Ledson was busy in the role vacated by Ben Pearson. Neil was able to bring players in last month with Ben Whiteman arriving from Doncaster, plus Liam Lindsay arrived from Stoke – both good acquisitions.
It’s been a steady start to life at Vicarage Road for Xisco. His nine league games have yielded five wins, two draws and two defeats – solid but nothing spectacular.
Given some of the reasoning behind the dismissal of Vladimir Ivić then Saturday’s 6-0 win over Bristol City will help his cause because two goalless draws along with two 1-0 wins might not be what the owners had in mind.
One thing Xisco will have to change is their record at Preston. The Hornets are winless in their last 13 matches at Deepdale (L8, D5) since December 1979.
Despite that woeful record, I’ve got a double worth playing focusing on some of the Hornets’ stats. It’s Watford over 1.5 cards and over 4.5 corners at 9/5 on the Bet Victor Bet Builder feature.
I’ll start with Watford corners. They’ve taken 5+ in 19/29 (66%) and that breaks down to 11/14 (79%) in away games. I did look to the visiting side winning the corner count, but that’s too short for me. The numbers for that are 21/29 overall (72%) and 11/14 (79%) in away games.
So, they do win their fair share of flag kicks with an average of 5.97 in general, which rises to 6.07 in away games.
The fact is the Hornets can mix up how they play. If Troy Deeney starts, they can go direct trying to get runners off the target man, but at the weekend, they went with a front three of Ken Sema, João Pedro and Ismaïla Sarr. With that front three, they have plenty of pace to run at the opposition defence, and with the width they provide, win corners.
The Hornets rank third for crosses this season at 613, so they will launch the ball into the box trying to getting Preston defenders facing their own goal. So, having over 4.5 in this double looks a fairly strong starting point, while backing Watford cards usually speaks for itself.
They can be quite a spiky side, not shy to put their foot in. They’ve had over 1 card in 16/29 games (55%), with that being 8/14 away games (57%). But, more recently, it has landed in nine of the last 11, especially since Xisco took the reigns, so a slight change in mentality and approach sees them commit a few more fouls.
The fact that they still picked up two cards in a 6-0 win shows they know how to overstep to the mark. And they do rank fifth for fouls at 394. Only Stoke have picked up more cautions than the Hornets, so there’s plenty of sting in their challenges, but despite that, they’ve yet to see a red card.
Nathaniel Chalobah has collected nine cautions this term, more than any other player in the league, while he and Sarr both rank highly for fouls committed.
Despite Tony Harrington – a low cards issuer – having the cards, there’s a strong enough chance Watford’s discipline with spillover if Preston manage to frustrate them.
The Hornets last travelled to Deepdale in August 2015 in the League Cup. That day they lost 1-0 and had Miguel Britos sent-off, so a repeat of that would go down a treat.
Newport vs Exeter | Tuesday 16th February 2021, 19:00
Newport have slipped off the pace in League Two with just one win in 10 and that came at the start of this month against bottom of the table Grimsby. That run has seen them pick up four draws and five defeats – they had only lost twice as the calendar turned to December as well.
And this could be a clash of styles with Matt Taylor’s Exeter arriving at Rodney Parade.
Although conditions might not be particularly suited to Exeter’s passing style, they’ll be buoyed by wins against Stevenage and Bradford. The Grecians haven’t played for 10 days giving them plenty of recovery time after a hectic Christmas and New Year period. But it’ll mean a backlog in the coming months.
A win here for the visitors would see them overtake their hosts, and they could climb up to second if results go their way, that’s how close it is. They are the league’s top scorers and rank second for shots on target, so this Newport defence will have to be on guard. Matty Jay and Ryan Bowman both bagged in the 3-2 win over Bradford taking their tallies to 11 for the season.
However, with the mentality and ‘in your face’ approach taken by Newport, I’m proposing a couple of plays in the cards markets. In this 10 game spell that’s seen a downturn in the Exiles form, there has been an array of disciplinary issues. They have picked up four red cards, while their opponents have had one in those games, so half have seen a dismissal.
So look towards booking points for the hosts. They’ve had at least 20 in six of those 10, including in three of the four games against sides in the top 10. But the red mist has also fallen in games against sides lower down the table, like Grimsby, Harrogate and Oldham in the last few weeks.
The referee is Tom Nield and he’s been card-happy in recent weeks. This term, he’s shown 71 yellows at an average of 3.73 per game. But Neild’s last five league games have seen his booking points totals increase. They’ve been 50, 70, 60, 60 & 70, so he’s been throwing them about.
Earlier in the season, he took charge of Newport at Leyton Orient showing five cautions to the Exiles, while last season his only Newport game saw 60 booking points – 30 for both.
It’s 10/11 for 20+ Newport booking points, and it looks worth taking given the increase in aggression in recent weeks. Plus we’ve got a referee not afraid of reaching into his pocket. And given five red cards have been shown in Newport’s last 10 games, I’ll have half a point on the 11/2 quotes with William Hill for another one.
Luton vs Cardiff – Kieffer Moore to score at anytime (21/10 Unibet)
Preston vs Watford – Watford Over 4.5 corners and Watford Over 1.5 Cards (9/5 BetVictor)
Newport vs Exeter – 20+ Newport Booking Points (10/11 Sky Bet)
Newport vs Exeter – A red card in the match (11/2 William Hill)