FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Tuesday night's EFL action.
Middlesbrough v Rotherham | Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Middlesbrough have never lost back-to-back games under Tony Pulis and the Teessiders kept that record intact on Friday night with a 2-1 triumph at in-form Sheffield Wednesday. Following a grim first-half at Hillsborough, Boro clicked into gear after the interval with goals from Mo Besic and Britt Assombalonga.
Pulis altered his approach for the encounter, reverting to a three-man defence in a 3-5-1-1 system with Stewart Downing operating behind lone striker Assombalonga. The Boro boss was pleased with his team’s response having described their performance in defeat at Nottingham Forest before the international break as, “like a bag of potatoes”.
The table-toppers returned to their obdurate best on Friday, restricting the Owls to one on-target effort – Adam Reach’s stunner – and took their opportunities in the final third. It’s now 68 games since Middlesbrough scored first and ended up on the losing side and Pulis’ posse never looked like surrendering that record.
Perhaps unsurprising considering the man in charge, but Boro’s defensive data is unmatched in the second-tier. The Teessiders are giving up just 0.45 Expected Goals from open play per-game and have faced the fewest shots on-target in the Championship, at just 3.15 per-game.
What’s more, the hosts have conceded just five goals in 12 league matches since their opening day 2-2 draw at Millwall – of those five goals, two were from shots outside the box and one was a penalty. To highlight their backline excellence, that’s five goals against in 18 hours worth of Championship football. Remarkable.
On Tuesday night they entertain terrible travellers Rotherham and I’m happy to support the home side in the win ‘to nil’ market at 20/23 (BetVictor). Middlesbrough certainly enjoy their midweek matches under the lights at the Riverside and have amassed a phenomenal W23-D8-L1 here from their past 32 Tuesday night tussles.
Boro have W12-D1-L1 when welcoming bottom-half opposition since a return to this level, recording 10 shutouts in those 13 outings, whilst Pulis’ record at the Riverside when excluding the play-offs is a wonderful W12-D2-D4, including 10/18 (56%) clean sheets.
Rotherham – the lowest-scoring Championship side – arrive off the back of a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Bolton. The Millers dominated proceedings, carved out enough opportunities to win the fixture but conceded a goal with less than 10 minutes to play to extend their winless streak to six.
Paul Warne’s men have scored only 10 goals since promotion – four of which were from the penalty spot, or attempts from outside the penalty box – and United have managed a paltry two strikes in their five away days thus far, all of which have ended in defeat.
The visitors are generating just 0.52 Expected Goals from open play per-game and are unlikely to be given much change from this Middlesbrough defence in midweek. It’s quite an obvious selection but I’m happy to board the win ‘to nil’ bus at odds-against quotes.
Bristol Rovers v Wimbledon | Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 19:45
Under-pressure Bristol Rovers boss Darrell Clarke has promised frustrated supporters that the “wins will come” after seeing his side fire a blank for seventh game in eight on Saturday. The Gas were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw by fellow strugglers Oxford, leaving the Pirates perched outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
After being second-best in the opening 45 minutes, Clarke made a double substitution at the interval, sending on Kyle Bennett and Sam Matthews and it appeared to inspire the hosts. However, while Tom Nichols came closest when hitting the woodwork, the Gas were unable to turn their opportunities into goals.
The data highlights Rovers’ profligacy in the offensive third. Only six sides have tabled more attempts at goal and Expected Goals suggests the hosts should be averaging around 1.37 goals per-game, dwarfing their actual average of only 0.64 goals per-game.
The departures of Billy Bodin, Ellis Harrison and Matty Taylor over the past few transfer windows have clearly had a detrimental effect, although Clarke’s charges have improved immeasurably defensively this term with league leaders Portsmouth and Barnsley the only teams with a better goals against record.
Considering the fortunes of both Bristol Rovers’ boxes, it’s therefore obvious to see a host of low-scoring duels being played out. The weekend’s goalless game was the eighth occasion already this season that Under 1.5 Goals has landed in a Gas match, whilst Under 2.5 Goals has proven profitable in nine of their last 10.
On Tuesday night, Wimbledon head west to the Memorial Stadium looking to answer their own goalscoring woes. The Wombles actually rate highly on a number of performance data metrics, featuring inside the top-seven when viewing shots attempted from inside the box, as well as raw shots.
But Neil Ardley’s group haven’t been able to find their finishing touch. Saturday’s 2-0 reverse at Blackpool – their sixth defeat in seven – saw the Dons out-shoot their hosts 15-5, landing seven on-target. Even home boss Terry McPhillips admitted three points was kind on the Tangerines as they were “nowhere near their best”.
Similar to Rovers, Wimbledon are vastly underperforming in the final third. Despite averaging 1.56 Expected Goals per-game, the visitors have registered an average of 0.71 goals per-game as they’ve failed to notch in six of their 14 outings, and only once registered more than a solitary strike.
So I’m happy to oppose goals at generous 4/5 (Marathon) quotes. The Dons have delivered successful Under 2.5 Goals winners in five of their seven away days, four of which produced no more than one goal. Meanwhile, nine of their most recent 11 trips to bottom-six sides also fell below the 2.5 goals line.
Wycombe v Rochdale | Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 19:45
If the match at the Memorial Stadium is set up to be a snoozefest, the Adams Park encounter between Wycombe and Rochdale should entertain, with Over 2.5 Goals an excellent play at 9/10 (188BET).
Craig Mackail-Smith produced a moment of magic in injury time to give Wycombe a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Scunthorpe here on Saturday. The Chairboys made a nightmare start and were struggling to get a foothold in the game early on, trailing 2-0 after only 10 minutes.
But goals from Dominic Gape, Fred Onyedinma and Mackail-Smith’s late intervention turned the tide in Wanderers’ favour. Gareth Ainsworth’s men were forced to play the final 10 minutes with 10 men following goalkeeper Ryan Allsop’s red card but the Blues boss hailed their efforts post-match.
Wycombe set-up in a new-look 4-4-2 formation and the Chairboys initially struggled to get to grips with their opponents who capitalised on some lacklustre defending. Ainsworth admitted he’d need to re-watch the opening stanza before deciding to persist with the system on Tuesday evening.
Either way, the Wanderers boss is unlikely to leave out the irrepressible Adebayo Akinfenwa, Mackail-Smith or the lively Paris Cowan-Hall. And with that trio fit and firing, the hosts will always have opportunities in the final-third; the newcomers have scored in 10 of their last 12 matches and are averaging 4.50 on-target efforts, which deserves credit.
Nevertheless, the Buckinghamshire boys have toiled at the back, silencing only Blackpool and Oxford since returning to this level. Wycombe have conceded at least twice in three of their seven Adams Park outings and leaked 10 goals across their past six matches, whilst also giving up 1.91 Expected Goals per-game.
Rochdale deservedly won 2-0 at Bradford on Saturday with two late Ian Henderson penalties settling the contest. Keith Hill’s men had fired in 20 shots – eight on-target – in that triumph just seven days after racking up 24 efforts – seven on-target – when losing 3-2 at home to Doncaster.
Saturday’s success ended a run of five fixtures without a win for Dale and Hill will have been delighted with his team’s performance having made five changes to his starting line-up. The visitors have scored twice or more in seven of their League One showdowns already – five of which came on their travels – and they will be confident of a repeat.
It’s been a tough start for the Lancashire outfit – eight of their 14 games have come against the current top-half with Dale also playing six of the top-eight. But the Greater Manchester club boast an excellent W4-D4-L0 record against clubs in ninth or below, suggesting there might be a smidgen of value on Hill’s men here.
Even so, I’m happier boarding the Over 2.5 Goals train, aware that the visitors have scored in each of their last 11 League One road trips. The Over 2.5 Goals selection has won in 8/14 (57%) Wycombe games thus far, as well 11/14 (79%) of Rochdale’s.
In fact, eight of Dale’s have broken the Over 3.5 Goals barrier and the two teams’ league fixtures are averaging a combined 3.11 goals per-game, and a collective 3.36 Expected Goals per-game.