FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns to share his favourite fancies from Saturday's coupon.
Scunthorpe v Bristol Rovers | Saturday 11th November 2017, 15:00
A couple of weeks ago Scunthorpe chairman Peter Swann said he was confident the club would finish in the top-six and with 16 games played, the Iron are happy to be sitting in fifth in the League One standings.
Defensively, Scunny have been sound operators – only four clubs have faced fewer on-target attempts this term – despite last weekend’s FA Cup clean sheet against Northampton being their first shutout recorded in nine outings. Instead, it’s going forward where Graham Alexander’s troops have tended to struggle.
The Lincolnshire outfit seem unable to find the right partnership or blend in the final third. Paddy Madden nor Kevin van Veen have managed to find their scoring boots whilst the preferred pair of Tom Hopper and Lee Novak have performed indifferently when playing together in attack.
United have failed to find the back of the net in six matches this season with their 18-goal tally the lowest of any top-half team in League One. Nevertheless, the hosts should be given plenty of opportunity to enhance their goalscoring return when they welcome Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
The visitors also boast top-six ambitions but boss Darrell Clarke is coming under fire from a number of dissatisfied supporters. On the field, the Gas have now lost six of their last seven matches in all competitions whilst the collapse of a proposed new stadium has seen a section of fans question the club’s direction.
Carrying a small squad was always a potential hazard for the Pirates and Clarke has admitted he’ll need to head into the transfer market in January to plug a number of holes. And injuries and unavailability could have a major bearing on Rovers’ prospects when they head to Glanford Park.
Centre-back James Clarke remains sidelined and the guests will also now be without Ryan Sweeney and Tom Lockyer due to international call-ups – Rollin Menayese and Tom Broadbent will therefore combine at the heart of a defence that’s conceded on average 1.81 goals per-game, rising to 2.31 on the road.
Arguably a bigger loss is the continued absence of goalscoring midfielder Billy Bodin. Rovers have fired blanks in three of their four league fixtures following the nine-goal star suffered his hamstring injury in early October.
Scunthorpe are also without key personnel – ever-present captain Rory McArdle and midfielder Clayton Lewis will be away on international duty but the hosts have players capable of covering, so much so I’m happy to back the Iron at 6/5 (William Hill) on Saturday.
The home side have W21-D9-L5 in League One football at Glanford Park under Alexander – a 60% success rate and they’re entertaining a Rovers team that’s been beaten in 10 of their previous 13 games as guests, as well as returning a paltry W7-D6-L18 – a 58% loss rate – on their travels at this level under Clarke.
Coventry v Mansfield | | Saturday 11th November 2017, 15:00
Coventry manager Mark Robins made 10 changes against West Brom U21 in the Football League Trophy in midweek but is expected to restore the majority of his first-choice XI for Saturday’s mouthwatering match-up against Mansfield at the Ricoh Arena.
Experienced midfielder Peter Vincenti was the only Sky Blues survivor from the FA Cup win against Maidenhead but the likes of Lee Burge, Jack Grimmer, Tom Davies, Michael Doyle, Jodi Jones and Marc McNulty are all expected to be recalled as the West Midlands club bid to continue their strong start.
Wolves loanee and six-goal striker Duckens Nazon is away on international duty with Haiti but Coventry’s success this season has been built upon an outstanding defence that’s shipped only eight goals in 16 league matches whilst recording 10 clean sheets.
Such strength has led the Sky Blues to dominate the performance data metrics a third of the way through the campaign. Cov boast a 71% Expected Goals ratio, a 63% Expected Goals From Open Play ratio, a 66% Shot Ratio and 67% Shots On Target Ratio return – all four are comfortably division-leading figures.
Saturday’s hosts are giving up just 0.53 xG from open play per-game in League Two football, unsurprising when facing just seven attempts per-game and only 2.25 on-target efforts per-match.
At the Ricoh, Coventry have conceded just twice and claimed W5-D1-L2. Robins’ charges dominated Forest Green during an unjust 1-0 loss here last month but showed their mettle when comfortably dispatching highly-fancied Luton 3-0 away in their last league outing.
I’m obviously very keen to keep Coventry onside here and I’ll happily support the home side in the Double Chance market alongside Under 2.5 Goals at the very appetising quote of 6/5 from 188BET.
Ante-post favourites Mansfield arrive without a league win since the end of September (W0-D3-L2) and with a sole success on their travels this term (W1-D4-L3). The Stags have managed only three shutouts and make the journey without the suspended Krystian Pearce and Jacob Mellis.
Boss Steve Evans has plenty of options available when looking to replace the duo but Lee Angol and David Mirfin – two of their more outstanding summer recruits – remain sidelined whilst Town’s performances have often flattered to deceive.
Comparing Mansfield to Coventry’s earlier data, the Stages hold a 53% Expected Goals ratio, a 53% Expected Goals From Open Play ratio, a 53% Shot Ratio and 50% Shots On Target Ratio, much inferior figures from a club that were fancied to hose up in 2017/18.
Meanwhile, collectively the pair have produced 12/32 (38%) successful Over 2.5 Goals selections so backing against a goal-heavy game appeals.
Stevenage v Notts County | Saturday 11th November 2017, 15:00
Stevenage powered into the top-six of League Two following a W6-D3-L2 start to the season but Boro have since suffered four defeats in five, including a 7-1 shellacking at Luton, to slide into mid-table.
A kind fixture list could have been the catalyst for the Hertfordshire club’s positive early form – only five of their 16 encounters have come against top-10 teams and Darren Sarll’s side have tended to fare better when taking on the division’s lesser lights.
Stevenage have collected W1-D1-L3 when taking on League Two’s elite compared to W6-D2-L3 against the rest whilst their Broadhall Way exploits have also kept the club in contention (W4-D2-L2).
Goals have been a regular feature of Boro games this term, especially on home soil. The hosts have managed to net in all eight of their outings with six producing Over 2.5 Goals winners and seven banking in the Both Teams To Score column.
I’d expect another entertaining contest when table-toppers Notts County arrive this weekend but due to a number of home personnel struggling for fitness or already ruled out, I’d want to keep the Magpies onside. Indeed, backing the visitors in the Double Chance market and Over 1.5 Goals at 4/5 (188BET) should give us a good run for our money.
Goalkeeper Joe Fryer, defender Jack King and midfielder Jonathan Smith are all major doubts for Stevenage having missed training on Thursday. Elsewhere, defender Kevin Toner is still suspended and star forward Ben Kennedy is absent through injury.
In contrast, Kevin Nolan’s guests should field their preferred back four of Matt Tootle, Richard Duffy, Shaun Brisley and Carl Dickinson with the impressive midfield quartet Terry Hawkridge, Ryan Yates, Elliott Hewitt and Jorge Grant operating behind veteran strikers Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi.
Nolan swapped all 11 players out from their midweek Football League Trophy tie to ensure they’re fresh and ready to fire for this contest and with his side only firing a solitary blank in seven, they should have few issues finding their range against a shaky Stevenage side that’s outperforming their performance data.
Scunthorpe v Bristol Rovers – Scunthorpe to win (6/5 William Hill)
Coventry v Mansfield – Coventry double chance and Under 2.5 Goals (21/20 188BET)
Stevenage v Notts County – Notts County double chance and Over 1.5 Goals (4/5 188BET)