Newport vs Cheltenham | Saturday 1st May 2020, 15:00
Newport have a huge game down on the south coast of Wales as they entertain Cheltenham, who despite having clinched promotion now have their slights firmly set on the title.
Any celebrations were almost put on hold they have been training properly and manager Michael Duff has said that they will be trying to win the game and play with total freedom, noting that his sides last few games have been below par due to the anxiety of trying to get over the line and win promotion.
Speaking after their midweek game, Duff said “We have done the most important part and it's nice to look at the league table and see there is a ‘P' next to our name, Obviously you want the champions tag now. The players will want that as well.”
This is probably not what Newport wanted to hear as they desperately need the points to remain in the play off places. They currently sit 6th, and they are two points ahead of eighth-placed Forest Green Rovers while Exeter, who have a superior goal difference, are another point back.
If County lose then it's going to a nervy last day regardless of other results. Wins for Salford, Forest Green and Exeter would make it the stuff of nightmares. If County avoid defeat, then they will go to Southend with their fate in their own hands even if Forest Green and Exeter win.
This should be a good game as Newport have the best home record in the division with no side picking up more points per game than them, whilst Cheltenham have the 2nd best away record, although they have struggled on the road of late with defeats against Crawley and Morecambe and a draw with the now relegated Grimsby.
County defeated Bolton, Morecambe and Tranmere at home this season and have recently beaten Scunthorpe and Crawley without conceding, so should come into this game full of confidence, but with the pressure fully on County and Cheltenham allowed to play without any real pressure I can see this being a tough game for the hosts.
Manager Michael Flynn said after their win midweek: “We were outstanding in the first half, it was near enough perfect, but one of two things got on my nerves in the second half, we were a little bit sloppy at times and, no disrespect to Scunthorpe, if we think we can do that against Cheltenham then they will punish us.”
The pressure is on the hosts and I have noticed that as the pressure has started to mount coming into the last few games of the season, they have collected two or more cards in six of their last nine games and at least one card in their last nine home games.
The hosts had a poor run of form over January and February with a return of W1-D1-L4 and leading up to this point they were averaging 8.7 fouls per game. After their 2-0 defeat at home to Forest Green they have seen an average of 11.11 foul per game and the card count move from 1.09 per game to 1.66.
The referee isn’t the best pick for this game. Scott Oldham averages 2.4 cards per game this season. In League Two that does move a little bit to 2.5, but he has taken change of two Newport games this season giving them three cards.
If things don’t go to plan, then I can see Newport collecting at least two card and we can back 20 or more booking points at 11/10 with Skybet.
Walsall vs Morecambe | Saturday 1st May 2020, 15:00
Staying in League Two I am going to take on Walsall at home to Morecambe. The Saddlers head coach Brain Dutton seemed destined to leave the club this week after calling for clarity over his future and hinting Saturday’s win over Scunthorpe could be his last in charge.
However, it was then confirmed he was set to stay on as boss for the final two games of the season, but nothing has been said about his future after these two games.
Alongside the uncertainty of the head coach, plenty of his players are fighting for their futures too with a number out of contract. The fans are of the opinion that Dutton should not be offered a fresh contract and should leave the club in the summer.
Dutton has only managed 3 wins in 18 games, picking up a total of 16 points out of 54 on offer. The form since Dutton has taken over has been nothing but poor. The side sit 21st in the table since the change in management, with Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Colchester below them, although Grimsby are level on points with the Saddlers.
This is down to the side not clicking, and players not performing as well as they had done. Key players have gone backwards, and Dutton appears not the be getting the best out of the side. It looks like the writing is on the wall and I expect this to impact the performance on Saturday.
Morecambe come into this game knowing that they must get three points. The lost to Bolton last time out leaving them fourth, four points adrift of third spot and five behind second-placed Cambridge.
Manager Derek Adams and his players go into the game knowing a win would guarantee a play-off spot and, depending on results elsewhere, could take the automatic promotion battle down to the final day.
One thing Morecambe have been good for is goals this season with a total of 65 scored in league two and on the road an average of 1.32 scored and 1.41 conceded. I have a feeling that Walsall might find the net here and that means that the visitors will need to push and score at least two to win the game and keep their automatic chances alive. Bolton play Exeter, who are desperate for the points, so it shouldn’t be a case of Morecambe downing tools here and expecting a playoff place.
The visitors have scored in 18 of the 22 away games this season whilst Walsall have conceded in 17 of their 22 home games and with just two home clean sheets against the top half.
I am happy to take Morecambe to score 1.5 goals or more here. They have done so against six of the bottom nine sides on the road and Walsall appear to be waiting for the season to end.
Morecambe 1.5+ team goals at 11/8 with Betfred
Bolton vs Exeter | Saturday 1st May 2020, 15:00
It’s simple for Bolton. Win the game and they are promoted, and I think they should be able to beat an Exeter side who are struggling for form.
Bolton have now won 15 of their last 20 league games and at home its now eight wins from their last 11 games, with draws against Cheltenham, Morecambe and Colchester, where they managed 12 shots and seven on target but couldn’t find a way to score.
Bolton manager, Ian Evatt has said that the squad are relaxed and looking forward to the game with a determination to get the job done. Bolton were seen as promotion challenger in the ante post betting, but after the first 11 games they were 21st having collected just 10 points with a record of W2-D4-L5. Things have changed for though! Wanderers have powered their way from 21st to third at rapid speed.
Following relegation from League One in the summer the club turned to Barrow manager Ian Evatt to not only halt the slide the club found itself in but to gain promotion back to League One at the first time of asking. Evatt created a squad in lockdown that has never played in front of its own fans and some might say that was a good thing earlier on in the campaign when things were not going well.
Whilst the character in this team never really came into question, even during the inconsistency of the season’s first few months. It was simply a question of familiarity with a complex system and one of quality in a few key areas of the team. This was address in the January transfer window with the result obvious to see.
Exeter City face one final push for the play-off places, but City know that a victory for them would give them hope of securing a play-off place going into the final day showdown with Barrow next weekend.
City secured a much needed 3-2 win against Grimsby Town on Tuesday as Alex Fisher and Ryan Bowman dragged City over the line after trailing 2-1 with ten minutes remaining. That halted a run of three consecutive 0-0 draws and puts the Grecians right back in the mix.
However, they were fortunate in their midweek win. The only edged the xG 1.4 vs 1.16 despite Grimsby playing the last 30 mins with 10 men and lost the shot on target count six to four.
Recently they have failed to have an attempt on target when playing Newport and just one shot on target when facing Forest Green. On the road their results have been poor with W6-D9-L7 with five of their wins coming against sides currently in the bottom half. Against the top half its W1-D5-L4 keeping just one clean sheet.
Exeter have fallen away just at the wrong time and I can’t see them stopping Bolton clinching promotion to the League One this weekend and will need to rely on other results going their way to keep their own promotion chances alive.
Bolton to win 23/20 at William Hill.
Newport vs Cheltenham – Newport 20+ Booking Points (11/10 SkyBet)
Walsall vs Morecambe – Morecambe to score Over 1.5 Goals (11/8 Betfred)
Bolton vs Exeter – Bolton to win (23/20 William Hill)