FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) has kicked-off the campaign with six winners from his first eight EFL selections. Can he continue his hot form this weekend?
Fleetwood v Wimbledon | Saturday 19th August 2017, 15:00
Fleetwood manager Uwe Rosler admitted the Cod Army rode their luck a little during last weekend’s 1-0 win at big-spending Northampton, claiming his side need to address a few key issues before welcoming Wimbledon to Highbury.
Goalkeeper Alex Cairns has hit the world stage this week, with over 10 million online views of his spectacular triple save against the Cobblers but in truth, Fleetwood never really looked in trouble thereafter.
Expected Goals saw last weekend’s contest end 1.4-1.3 in Fleet’s favour and Rosler was quick to suggest his side may have suffered following a gruelling 120-minute League Cup tie against a physical Carlisle side just days before.
The German was also keen to strengthen his squad and was delighted to announce the arrival of mouth defender Baily Cargill on a season long loan deal. It’s been no secret Town have been hunting for a left-sided centre half to replace last term’s loan star Ben Davies.
With a full week to rest and recuperate, I’m expecting a strong display from counter-attacking aces here. Striker Conor McAleny remains a doubt having limped off with an ankle injury at Sixfields but with Devante Cole back amongst the goals, the hosts now have options across the park.
As well as back-to-back clean sheets to kick off the campaign, the Cod Army have shutout eight of their past 13 visitors whilst since early November 2016, Fleetwood have returned a superbly strong W19-D10-L4 (including play-off games).
For me, they shouldn’t be odds-against here. We can back Fleetwood at 21/20 (Coral). To put that price into perspective, the implied probably suggests the home side have a 48.8% chance of winning this contest and that just feels totally wrong, right?
Like Fleetwood, Wimbledon boss Neil Ardley blamed going to extra-time in the League Cup last week for the Dons’ lacklustre performance at home to Shrewsbury (0-1). AFC were flat across the park and deserved beaten.
The visitors did earn a solid point at Scunthorpe in their curtain-raiser – holding midfielder Jimmy Abdou grabbing an equaliser – but I’m still unsure about Wimbledon’s threat in forward areas following the departures of Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott and Dom Poleon this summer.
The Dons are a physical and often direct outfit but thus far they’ve managed one league goal and if we include the tail end of 2016/17, the visitors have fired blanks in nine of their past 11. Meanwhile, taking only away games into account, AFC have been shutout in 13 of their most recent 19 road trips.
Oldham v Wigan | Saturday 19th August 2017, 15:00
“I pick the team, I need five or six players. I need changes to the system and some players, unfortunately, are not good enough at this moment to get in the team.”
Those were the words of Oldham boss John Sheridan following Athletic’s third defeat of the season last Saturday. The Latics were undone by a 90th-minute winner by Walsall, the seventh goal they’ve conceded already this campaign.
I’m a big Sheridan fan so opposing Oldham this weekend is done with a heavy heart. What he’s achieved at Boundary Park across separate spells is nothing short of exceptional but it’s hard not to be alarmed by his recent outburst.
No new faces have arrived this week and Sheridan admitted he may need to sell in order to raise funds for squad-building before the close of the transfer window. Nevertheless, the former Irish international suggested he’ll be shaking up his threadbare squad for Saturday’s showdown.
Dan Gardner is likely to step straight in to the starting line-up having served a three-match ban. His midfield presence will be a much needed boost whilst Tope Obadeyi could also be brought in following a promising cameo against Walsall.
In truth, the hosts were good value for their first-half advantage against the Saddlers but after flapping, flagging and ultimately collapsing under the weight of second-half pressure from Walsall, Oldham need a significant improvement here.
Wigan will be playing their third straight all-Lancashire battle and the recently-relegated club have collected three wins from three across all competitions under new boss Paul Cook.
An excellent 1-0 triumph at MK Dons was followed by a fortunate victory over Blackpool in the League Cup. The Latics mad 11 changes to their team for the Tangerines tussle – a show of squad depth that’s available to Cook – before brushing Bury aside 4-1 on Sunday.
The visitors have won the shot count 25-11, the shots on-target count 12-3 and the expected goals mark 4.4-1.0 and I’m happy to support Wigan enhancing those impressive early stats with another domineering display.
However, I’m going to bolster the price from 21/20 to 31/20 with BetStars by adding in Under 3.5 Goals. A huge 20/24 (83%) of Oldham’s home matches featured fewer than three goals since the start of last season with 22/24 (92%) staying under the 3.5 goals line.
Backing this bet means we’ve Wigan wins by 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 or 2-1 on our side for Saturday.
Coventry v Newport | Saturday 19th August 2017, 15:00
It’s 47 years since Coventry concluded a campaign in the top-six of any division but the Sky Blues have made a good enough start to suggest 2017/18 might the year for that unwanted record to be broken.
Mark Robins’ men are the only League Two club with a 100% record after two matches so after two relegation, five managers and being forced to play their home games in Northampton – all in the past six years alone – the gloom is lifting and blue skies are returning around the city.
Nineteen year-old winger Jodi Jones kicked the campaign off with a hat-trick – including two ice-cool strikes and a sumptuous solo goal – as Coventry dispatched Notts County at the Ricoh Arena before Mark McNulty and Jack Grabber goals gave the Sky Blues a 2-0 success at Grimsby.
City have now recorded back-to-back clean sheets in league football for the first time in exactly 12 months. With new signing Tony Andreu and on-loan Duckens Nazon on the bench at Blundell Park last weekend, the squad is strong and belief has flowed back into the former Premier League outfit.
Coventry have won the shot count 23-14 and the shots on-target count 8-1 but looking at their expected goals ranking, the Sky Blues have only been superior by 2.6-2.0. And I reckon Newport could be ready to give Robins his toughest test thus far…
The Exiles arrive having picked up a point at both Stevenage (3-3) and Crewe (1-1) and Michael Flynn’s face another away day here with Rodney Parade still undergoing extensive redevelopment work.
Nevertheless, County have performed excellently in both draws to leave Flynn frustrated his team haven’t taken more points. Newport have already fired in a league-high 42 shots and head the on-target count too (19) whilst expected goals metrics give the visitors a really impressive 6.30-3.1 advantage.
Last weekend the Exiles saw Perry Ng sent off after only 17 minutes but the never-say-die attitude installed under Flynn kept the group competitive despite obvious signs of tiredness late in the day. Even so, it was only Crewe stopper Ben Garratt that thwarted their progress.
Flynn has options too. Frank Nouble’s notched in both games, Shawn McCoulsky’s made a great impact on-loan from Bristol City and Lamar Reynolds has also featured in changeable front pairings. But Newport looked very strong when all three were on the pitch in the closing stages at Stevenage so a switch to 4-3-3 could be in the offing.
Further firepower is expected to follow with Bournemouth striker Joe Quigley expected to join on-loan before Saturday so punters shouldn’t dismiss Newport’s chance of at least getting on the scoresheet this weekend.
We successfully backed Both Teams To Score in Country’s trip to Crewe last weekend and I’m happy to go in again at 7/8 (Unibet). This selection has proved profitable in nine of 14 away days for Newport under Flynn whilst 13 of their past 18 games as guests have featured at least three goals.