FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's 3pm kick-offs.
Blackburn v Millwall | Saturday 11th August 2018, 15:00
Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray admitted the Rovers dressing room was very disappointed and frustrated after seeing Ipswich net an injury-time equaliser on their return to the Championship last weekend.
The League One runners-up scored twice in nine first-half minutes to overturn a one-goal deficit at Portman Road and were seemingly set for picking up maximum points from a confident and composed performance. Mowbray’s men were rarely threatened in the second period before an unfortunate late leveller.
Blackburn were left rueing Kasey Palmer’s missed opportunity that could have given Rovers a 3-1 advantage in the latter stages and having dusted themselves down, are looking forward to their first Ewood Park encounter of the new campaign on Saturday.
Palmer could be handed a first start in place of Dominic Samuel, while Jacob Davenport could also be in the squad having missed out through injury last weekend. Either way, Blackburn are expected to be able competitors having lost just twice on home soil in 2017/18.
Visitors Millwall were also licking their wounds a week ago having blown a two-goal lead at home to Middlesbrough. The Lions dominated proceedings for the majority of the match before uncharacteristically imploding in the final three minutes to leave manager Neil Harris deflated.
However, Harris heaped praise upon his troops for their positive performance, suggesting: “For 88 minutes, I doubt we’ll play as well as that again his season. I’ll stop short of saying it was men against boys for 88 minutes but what we did and how we dominated Boro was phenomenal”.
The capital club are unlikely to make major changes to their starting XI and the Lions are an interesting pre-match price along the Asian Handicap lines having lost just three away games against sides in 10th or below last term. Indeed, Millwall managed W7-D2-L3 when travelling to bottom-half teams and deserve our respect having made a late charge towards the play-off positions.
Nevertheless, my preferred play is to punt Both Teams To Score at kind 10/11 (Ladbrokes) quotes. Lee Gregory and Steve Morison are a handful for any defence at this level and it’s worth noting the guests fired a solitary blank in 13 trips to sides that finished in 12th or below, notching at least twice on eight occasions.
Blackburn netted in all bar six of their League One encounters during their promotion campaign and showcased their attacking ability in a lively showing in Suffolk seven days ago. And the arrival of Adam Armstrong this week gives Mowbray another option in the final-third when called upon.
Gillingham v Burton | Saturday 11th August 2018, 15:00
Gillingham tabled only two wins from their opening 15 fixtures last term so the Kent club were thrilled to start this season with a fine 2-0 victory away at newly-promoted Accrington last weekend.
Manager Steve Lovell was delighted with his team’s performance as goals from debutant Brandon Hanlan and Josh Parker put the Gills two goals up before half-time. Lovell suggested his only disappointment was that his team didn’t win by a wider margin having missed several other opportunities in an impressive effort.
“We dominated and I don’t think anybody would disagree with me when I say we could have been four or five up in the first half. There was some excellent stuff being played, it was great to watch”, said Lovell.
Accrington did come close on a couple of occasions, with goal-line clearances in each half, but Gills keeper Tomas Holy wasn’t overly troubled and in the end two goals were more than enough. Lovell went on to claim his side will get better as the season progresses and it’s well worth supporting the Kent giants on Saturday.
The hosts are available to back at 19/20 (Ladbrokes) in the Draw No Bet market when they welcome Burton to the Priestfield Stadium. Gillingham returned W4-D9-L4 on home soil under Lovell’s leadership in 2017/18 but should have Tom Eaves back in the starting XI to bolster what’s already appearing to be an underrated squad.
The recently relegated visitors have seen the majority of their major injury concerns clear up over the past week. Will Miller is now the only player unlikely to be in contention although boss Nigel Clough admitted, “everybody is not quite fully fit, but they are getting there”.
Skipper Jake Buxton, Jamie Allen and David Templeton will all require late checks as Albion bid to get their campaign off and running following a disappointing home defeat to Rochdale in their curtain-raiser. Burton were two goals down inside the opening half hour and struggled to bite back.
Clough’s men did register 17 shots and the Brewers boss has asked his team to show the same attacking intent in Kent on Saturday. The attacking endeavour and dominance shown after half-time against Rochdale is a blueprint for the approach they want to take this season but whether they’re ready to play to their full potential following such a disrupted pre-season remains to be seen.
I fully expect Burton to climb the table and compete towards the upper echelons of League One, although I’m happy to oppose the away side this weekend at the odds on offer.
Carlisle v Northampton | Saturday 11th August 2018, 15:00
Having highlighted Carlisle at 14/1 for relegation in the WLB Season Preview, I’m already feeling a little smug with the Cumbrians now as skinny as 8/1 in places (12/1 is still available) following a wretched fortnight at the Brunton Park club.
The Blues saw their squad decimated in the summer by a series of big-name departures, including Clint Hill, Mark Ellis, Nicky Adams and Luke Joyce. With manager Keith Curle also upping sticks, the club took an age to appoint John Sheridan and therefore recruitment was late and ponderous.
Off the field, the plight of the club has upset and angered supporters, so much so that there’ll be protests towards the ownership before and during the match on Saturday. Organisers say they want to make United's owners aware of the strength of feelings and call for regime change after “10 years of misery”.
Carlisle chairman Andrew Jenkins has offered to meet the supporters who are planning the protest to quell the mood of discontent although things could easily turn sour if the Cumbrians struggle to match their opponents Northampton.
Sheridan surprisingly started Mike Jones and Jamie Devitt on the bench during Blues 3-1 reverse at Exeter on the opening day and freely admitted he might have got his team selection wrong. However, the stout Lancastrian bemoaned his team’s basic errors despite an improved second-half performance.
Even so, Carlisle appeared disjointed and muddled and a repeat here is unlikely to go unpunished. With that in mind, I’m happy to take on Northampton at odds-against quotes of 30/29 (BetVictor) off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line. Just like the Draw No Bet market, a stalemate would see our stake returned.
The Cobblers went down 1-0 away at well-fancied Lincoln last weekend but Dean Austin’s outfit dominated for long spells until they were hit with a Matt Green sucker punch early in the second half. Town’s profligate finishing cost the club as they out-shot the Imps 17-5 and 8-2 in on-target attempts.
The Northampton boss is now contemplating shuffling his forward pack, especially so as the Cobblers beat a youthful Watford side 3-1 in a behind-closed-doors match in midweek. Attacking players Junior Morias, Billy Waters and Kevin van Veen all made a big impact and are pushing for inclusion.
Young midfielder Shaun McWilliams will miss out with a hamstring injury and Jack Bridge or Sam Foley is expected to take his place alongside Matt Crooks in, what on paper at least, looks a strong side for League Two.