Football League Betting Preview & Tips: League Two leaders can thrive


FOOTBALL LEAGUE fan James Potter (@thebettingdeskoversees Saturday's EFL action, picking out his favourite fancies. 

Grimsby vs Forest Green | Saturday 6th March 2021, 15:00

I'm a little surprised to see these odds on Forest Green to beat Grimsby.

Paul Hurst has been a disaster everywhere he has been since leaving Shrewsbury to manage Ipswich. He lasted just 15 games at the then Championship club, winning just once. He then ended up at Scunthorpe winning just 31% of games and his record at Grimsby is W1 D1 L7 – they have failed in score in 6 of these 9 games with the only 1 clean sheet against fellow strugglers Southend.

In my rankings I have Grimsby as the worst home side in the division. Expected points has them 23rd and points per-game at home also 23rd. The only major ratio that I do not have them 21st or below in touches in the box at 19th!

No side scores fewer home goals, has fewer shots or shots on target and only Southend have fewer shots in the box. Defensively it is a little brighter – 24th for xGA, 22nd for goals conceded, an average of 1.5 per game, 14th for shots, 17th for shots on target and 13th for shots in the box. However, that is clearly not stopping them giving away big chances throughout the game with the worst xGA at home in the league.

Manager Hurst said that the defeat and performance midweek was “not anywhere close to what I expect” and has urged his side to develop a nasty streak. The home fans are already restless and questioning his decisions around tactics and substitutions. It's not a great position after 9 games.

Forest Green have lost 2 of their last 3 games. Two wonder strikers at home to Southend cost them and then they were very poor at Stevenage midweek. However, they have a strong away record W8 D4 L4 – 2 of the 4 defeats have come at leaders Cheltenham and 4th place Tranmere with the loss to Colchester coming back in October.

I have them 2nd in my League Two away rankings, 3rd on expected points and 2nd on away points per-game. They have only failed to score on 3 of their away trips this season, keeping 6 clean sheets.

FGR manager Mark Cooper bemoaned their performance midweek saying they gave away silly goals and failed to take numerous chances and were made to pay for those. Playing Grimsby next is almost the best game that Cooper could have to get his side back to winning ways.

FGR are a good outfit on the road. They;re 7th for goals scored and 4th for fewest goals conceded with their underlying process also impressive – 4th for shots, 9th for SOT and 6th for shots in the box and defensively 4th for shots, 6th for SOT and the fewest shots in the box conceded.

I think FGR will be too strong here for a very poor Grimsby side and a manager who again looks to be out of his depth. Forest Green to win is 9/10 with Novibet.

Cambridge vs Walsall | Saturday 6th March 2021, 15:00

Cambridge were a little unfortunate to lose midweek to Scunthorpe. They won the xG 0.9 vs 0.32, the shot count 16 vs 2 and SOT count 5 vs 1 yet lost the game 0-1. Opposition manager Neil Cox said after the game the hosts were by far and away the best side his team have faced this season and they got absolutely battered, and admitted his side were lucky.

The reason that this bet appeals is that Wes Hoolahan is set to play. Cambridge are a much better team with him in the side. When playing, the Us are W12, D5 L6 and at home its W7 D3 L2 with one of the defeats coming when he only played 30 mins. Without him playing their win rate moves from 52% down to 28% and at home it drops from 58% down to just 14%

The hosts are W8 D5 L4. I don’t think this will be a high scoring game with the Us defensively sound. Only 2 sides have conceded fewer home goals with just 1 side conceding more SOT.

At the other end they do struggle to score goals with just 1.17 at home scored this season and they sit in the bottom half for shots, SOT and SiB. However, they have scored in 11 of 17 home games and in 8 of the 12 home games Hoolahan has started.

Walsall have drawn 9 of their 14 away games this season, winning just 3. However, I have them in 16th place in my away rankings. Expected points 19th and they have over performing as they sit 12th on PPG. Defensively they struggle – 21st for shots conceded, 19th SOT and no side concedes more shots in the box. They have kept just 1 CS on the road so I am expecting Cambridge with Hoolahan to score at least once.

Walsall have scored in 11 of 14 games, but have seen shut outs as Cheltenham, Salford and Exeter. However, over the last few games Walsall have been struggling to create chances with just 4 SOT in their last 4 games and just 2 shots and none on target in their last game.

The form tables show that over the last 4, 8 and 12 games that Walsall have been no higher than 19th in L2 whereas Cambridge have been 8th, 8th and 7th.

Cambridge are on course for a top 2 finish whereas Walsall have not much to play for given they have almost no chance of the play offs and with so many sides between them and the bottom 2 making relegation unlikely.

Cambridge win at 21/20 with Betfred

Cheltenham vs Port Vale | Saturday 6th March 2021, 15:00

Cheltenham should be too strong for a Port Vale side that is struggling for form. The league leaders should brush aside a side that have picked up just 2 wins in their last 16 games or 12 points from a possible 48.

The hosts have been underperforming at home and despite sitting top of my rankings and the Expected Points home table they are 10th on home PPG. Their underlying process is strong 4th for xG, 3rd for shots, 5th for SOT and 1st for shots in the box. At the other end 1st for xGA, 2nd for shots, 1st for SOT and 7th for shots in the box. There is no reason why they have been a little inconsistent at home this term.

They have faced the majority of the top 10 at home with 6 sides 11th and below still to welcome. Recently at home they have performed well except for the Bradford game. They restricted Southend to 0 SOT, Newport to 1 SOT and Stevenage to 1 SOT

Vale have an away record of W4 D3 L9 – away wins have been to Southend, Oldham and Bolton. The Bolton victory was back in Dec and the last time they won on the road. Over the last 10 away games they have won once, collecting just 2 draws and losing 7.

It is no surprise to see that only 2 sides concede more away goals given that they sit 21st for SOT and 23rd for xGA. At the other end they have been scoring goals with an average of 1.25 but striker Pope is still not ready to return from injury, but the loss of Worrall has been key.

With him they win 40% of games and without him just 20%. Of the last 10 games he has missed they have failed to score in 7. He will be missing on Saturday.

The visitors sit 20th for away PPG and 22nd for away xPTS. Not sure a trip to Cheltenham is what they need.

Cheltenham win at 4/5 with BetVictor.

Best Bets

Grimsby vs Forest Green – Forest Green (9/10 Novibet)

Cambridge vs Walsall – Cambridge to win (21/20 Betfred)

Cheltenham vs Port Vale – Cheltenham to win (4/5 BetVictor)

About Author

I started betting on football more seriously whilst at university where I thought I knew everything about football. However, I quickly realised that the use of data gave you an edge. All my bets are based on statistical model output and research. When I haven't got my head in data I am life long Ipswich fan.

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