FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's EFL action.
Sheffield Wednesday v Wigan | Saturday 19th January 2019, 15:00
Sheffield Wednesday responded to Jos Luhukay’s sacking with eight points from four unbeaten Championship fixtures (W2-D2-L0) but the Owls recent resurgence came to a close last weekend as in-form Hull convincingly ran out 3-0 winners against their Yorkshire rivals at the KCOM Stadium.
Caretaker boss Steve Agnew remains in situ ahead of Steve Bruce’s arrival and he’ll be keen to put Wednesday back in the Winners Enclosure when out-of-form Wigan arrive at Hillsborough this weekend. The hosts are unbeaten at home to clubs outside the top-six (W4-D4-L0) and have only once failed to score in front of their own supporters this season.
Wigan recorded an impressive an overdue 3-0 success over Aston Villa at the DW Stadium last time out to curb relegation fears but the Latics remain just six points off the drop-zone following a run W2-D3-L9 since October’s international break. Arguably more alarming is Athletic’s woeful road record since promotion (W1-D2-L10).
Despite their improvement, the jury remains out, for me, on Wednesday and so I’ll happily overlook the Match Odds prices here and instead head towards the cards markets. We can back Wigan at 4/6 to collect 20+ Bookings Points with SkyBet and that looks like one of the best bets on the coupon this weekend.
If you’re new to Bookings Points, a yellow card is awarded 10 Bookings Points, with a red receiving 25 Bookings Points. Should a player pick up two bookings and a subsequent red, 35 Bookings Points are given. So this selection is essentially looking for Wigan to pick up two yellow cards, or a straight red to pay-out.
The visitors have committed the fifth-most fouls (13.15) in the Championship in 2018/19 and are averaging the second highest number of cards per-game (2.41). Interestingly, the Latics have been brandished with an average of 2.77 cards per away game and they’ve collected 20 Bookings Points or more in 12 of their 13 road trips.
Overall, 22/27 (81%) of Wigan’s matches this term have seen Paul Cook’s charges receive 20 Bookings Points, with an average of 25.37 per-game. On their travels, the Latics are dishing up an average of 28.46 Bookings Points and the fourth-most fouls in the division per-game (14.62).
Peter Bankes has been handed the whistle for this one. He’s overseen 17 Championship games, given eight penalties and delivered 90 yellows at an average of 5.29 per-game, as well as two straight red cards, giving him an average of 55.88 Bookings Points. Meanwhile, in eight of his last nine league games he’s given the away side at least 20 Bookings Points.
Scunthorpe v Sunderland | Saturday 19th January 2019, 15:00
Four successive victories have propelled Scunthorpe into the relative safety of lower mid-table in League One, six points above the relegation zone, and manager Stuart McCall has said none of his players can afford to come off the gas as the Iron look to secure their third-tier status between now and May.
Confidence is high in the Scunny camp and with a capacity crowd at Glanford Park for the visit of Sunderland, the hosts will be hopeful of picking up another positive result. The Lincolnshire outfit also have a clean bill of health with only long-term injury victims Rory Watson, Jordan Clarke, Josh Morris and Ryan Colclough absent.
In a campaign dominated by injuries, McCall is relishing his selection dilemmas this weekend having seen five new signings arrive through the door in January to bolster the ranks. Only Tony McMahon has commanded a regular starting place but the competition for places, improved morale and performances have changed the landscape around the club.
Sunderland head to Glanford Park off the back of consecutive draws and two triumphs in six (W2-D3-L1) to slide five points behind pace-setters Portsmouth. Jack Ross’ visitors remain a major threat mind, boasting the EFL’s only record of scoring in every match in 2018/19.
Top goalscorer Josh Maja, who has stalled on signing a new contract, is expected to return from illness to feature on Saturday and Duncan Whatmore could also be involved for the Black Cats, who’ve only lost twice this term and claimed 25 points on their travels.
The Wearsiders’ performance data return has been a regular source for conversation since dropping down to League One – Sunderland are ranked 15th for shot ratio, 12th for shots on-target ratio, 15th for shots in the box ratio, 17th for xG ratio and sixth for xG from open play ratio – but their individual quality in both boxes has kept the club on an upward curve.
Rather than venture into the Match Odds or Handicap markets here, the best play has to be to support goals with Both Teams To Score standing out at 10/11 (William Hill). It’s a selection that’s landed in 19/26 (73%) of Sunderland’s league outings, including 9/13 (69%) of their away days in 2018/19.
Scunthorpe haven’t proven quite so prolific (15/28 winners overall and 8/14 at Glanford Park) but rarely has McCall been able to field a settled side without major injury concerns. The hosts have only fired three blanks on home soil this season, with an average of 3.57 goals per-game seen across those 14 fixtures, suggesting goals will be on the agenda.
MK Dons v Crewe | Saturday 19th January 2019, 15:00
I’m surprised to see MK Dons available to back at odds as big as 3/4 (Marathon) on Saturday against Crewe. Paul Tisdale’s troops may have been beaten in four of their past eight League Two tussles but only one of those arrived at Stadium MK with the Buckinghamshire boys conceding from one of only two shots on-target faced.
The Dons have returned W9-D3-L1 as hosts since relegation to the fourth-tier, boasting an aggregate goal advantage of 23-5 in that 13-game sample. No divisional rival can better MK’s 63% xG ratio return on home soil, nor their 2.08 xG average per-game when welcoming League Two opposition in 2018/19.
Tisdale’s men have W6-D1-L0 when hosting bottom-half teams this term, leaking only two goals and scoring at least twice on five occasions. Twice in their last three games MK have given up two-goal leads, whilst their 6-0 destruction of Cambridge here on New Year’s Day was a reminder of what this team is capable of.
Crewe pitch up with boss David Artell insisting his side can still make the play-offs. The Alex have picked up 10 points from a possible 15 in recent weeks to move into mid-table, but their positive performances appear to be consigned to games at Gresty Road.
The Railwaymen have W1-D3-L10 on their travels, scoring just six goals across 21 hours of action in games as guests. Crewe have lost all six trips to the top-eight, notching a solitary strike, and should be out-classed by a determined Dons team that’s desperate to sneak into the automatic promotion places once more.
Sheffield Wednesday v Wigan – Wigan to receive 20+ bookings points (4/6 SkyBet)
Scunthorpe v Sunderland – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
MK Dons v Crewe – MK Dons to win (3/4 Marathon)