FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's 3pm kick-offs.
West Brom v QPR | Saturday 18th August 2018, 15:00
West Brom picked up their first victory since Premier League relegation last weekend, edging Norwich in an explosive seven-goal thriller from Carrow Road. And the Baggies have the ammunition to secure back-to-back triumphs on Saturday when QPR head to The Hawthorns.
Darren Moore’s men kicked-off their campaign with an unfortunate late 2-1 home defeat to Bolton. Despite dominating 72% of the ball and winning the shot count 18-8, Albion failed to conjure up enough quality opportunities and were made to pay when Ahmed Hegazi’s last-gasp headed came back off the bar.
The Baggies were then second-best for the majority of their match at Nottingham Forest and were trailing at the City Ground with 30 minutes to play. But the encounter sprung into life in the dying embers with debutant Dwight Gayle hitting the woodwork twice, either side of Matt Phillips' equaliser.
Last weekend the Black Country boys made Norwich pay for a collection of defensive and goalkeeping clangers, as well as riding their luck as the Canaries saw a first-half penalty saved, to pinch a 4-3 win. Gayle, Phillips, Jay Rodriguez and Harvey Barnes all combined superbly to prove plenty of final-third threat.
And that quartet could prove decisive for WBA when they welcome Rangers. The visitors were tame and second-best when going down at Preston on the opening day but were unjustly toppled by Sheffield United at Loftus Road last time out to sit rock-bottom of the Championship at this early stage.
Emerging star Eberechi Eze took the battle to the Blades almost single-handedly for the Super Hoops, although there was a lacking of inspiration, invention and incision from the rest of the R’s team, while defensive deficiencies continue to plague the capital club.
Steve McClaren saw backline stalwarts Nedum Onuoha and Jack Robinson depart in the summer with new German centre-half and skipper Toni Leistner the only new arrival. Right-back Darnell Furlong picked up a pre-season injury and, while Angel Rangel has been snapped up, the visitors’ defence is a major concern.
Few teams can match West Brom in the attacking stakes and the Baggies should pack enough punch to pile more misery on a QPR side that’s struggled significantly on their travels for quite some time. Rangers have returned a rotten W1-D3-L14 at teams outside of the Championship’s bottom-six since the start of last season and are easily opposed.
There’s a smidgen of value in supporting the home side around the 8/11 mark but we can boost the odds to 21/20 by backing the Baggies to win and Over 1.5 Goals with Ladbrokes – all five of the duos collective Championship clashes in 2018/19 have featured two or more goals.
Accrington v Charlton | Saturday 18th August 2018, 15:00
Accrington take on Charlton for the very first time on Saturday and there’s plenty of reason to believe Stanley are undervalued at the Crown Ground base.
John Coleman’s squad were stuffed 6-1 at Mansfield in midweek during League Cup action – their biggest defeat of his second spell in charge – but the Reds chief apologised to supporters who travelled to the game and suggested his motivated side will be ready to right the wrongs of that ‘freak result’ here.
A big crowd is expected and Accy are desperate to impress. Sean McConville and Sam Finley are both expected to dust off knocks from Tuesday night to play their part as Stanley look pick up back-to-back victories following their 2-1 triumph at Bristol Rovers last weekend.
McConville scored twice to help clinch maximum points and Coleman piled praise on his team’s attitude and performance at the Memorial Stadium. A fluent attacking display also saw Jordan Clark hit the bar as the visitors fired in four efforts on-target, a significant improvement on a week previous.
The Reds were overpowered in the midfield of the field against Gillingham, failed to land a shot on goal and made regular errors. Having been unbeaten at the Crown Ground since December – bar that Gillingham lapse – the hosts are unlikely to be rolled over when threadbare Charlton pitch up.
The Addicks sneaked a stoppage-time success against Shrewsbury last Saturday through Karlan Ahearne-Grant but Lee Bowyer’s team had toiled for the most part of that match. Athletic rode their luck, giving Salop enough opportunities to avoid defeat, while tabling just six attempts of their own.
True, Charlton played well at Sunderland in their campaign curtain-raiser but their only goal in that game arrived via the penalty spot and Saturday’s guests may lack the craft and guile to justify their short-priced favouritism here.
The loan arrival of Krystian Bielil from Arsenal will help Bowyer’s unenviable task, although his squad lacks a bit of experience and is most certainly weaker on paper compared to 12 months ago. Captain Jason Pearce remains absent, alongside Jake Forster-Caskey, Tariq Fosu Ben Reeves, Billy Clarke and Igor Vetokele.
Oldham v Macclesfield | Saturday 18th August 2018, 15:00
Our ante-post previews painted a gloomy picture around Boundary Park and, while we’re only two League Two games into the new campaign, early signs suggest Oldham’s return to the fourth-tier could be paved with pain.
The Latics have implemented an unsuccessful foreign recruitment model under their current ownership and are led by rookie boss Frankie Bunn. Last term’s loan stars Duckens Nazon and Eoin Doyle are no longer available and midfielder Ousmane Fane is unavailable after sustaining a broken leg in training.
Highly-rated midfield man Jack Byrne was allegedly to blame for the injury and the former Manchester City youth has been suspended by the club following a series of discipline breaches. Centre-half Anthony Gerrard was sacked by Oldham a fortnight ago for similar misdemeanours and defender Cameron Dummigan is crocked and unavailable this weekend.
Elsewhere, the experienced centre-back Peter Clarke is absent through illness meaning Bunn might need to call upon a youthful centre-back pairing of George Edmundson and Sam Graham. Supporters are baying for attacker Jose Baxter to be given a starting berth but fitness concerns still surround the maverick.
So with options severely limited – five academy players were called up on last weekend – and performances far from glowing, it’s laughing to see the Latics chalked up at odds-on quotes to beat Greater Manchester rivals Macclesfield.
Oldham pinched a point at Forest Green last Saturday with skipper Dan Gardner scoring from the spot. Athletic were out-played for the majority of the match with on-loan keeper Daniel Iversen credited for keeping the Latics in the game. The Danish U21 international pulled of a string of saves to earn the Man of the Match award.
Bunn’s men were also second-best in their opener against MK Dons and across the two outings have attempted just six shots from inside the opposition penalty area – one of which was the penalty.
Visitors Macclesfield are pointless from their first two tussles since returning to this level but Mark Yates’ men are unfortunate not to have gotten off the mark. The Silkmen conceded two stoppage-time penalties at Swindon to turn a 3-2 advantage into a 4-3 reverse before their 2-0 loss to improving Grimsby.
Town did enjoy an EFL Cup penalty shootout win over Bradford in midweek thanks to goalkeeper Rhys Taylor’s heroics. That victory raised spirits and beanpole forward Harry Smith showed his pedigree in the final-third against Grimsby last week to suggest Oldham’s defence could be in for a tough afternoon.
Yates has already publicly admitted Macclesfield “massively overachieved” last season but reaffirmed their commitment to mix it at this level and I’m happy to support the newcomers with a +0.50 start on the Asian Handicap line at 11/10 (BetVictor), a selection that will see us profit if Town avoid defeat.