FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) reveals his favourite three selections from the weekend's EFL action.
Peterborough v Lincoln | Saturday 12th October 2019, 15:00
Peterborough’s early season results have been plagued by inconsistency. Posh sit a point outside of the top-six having registered a reasonable W5-D3-L3 across their opening 11 outing; Darren Ferguson’s group have looked electric in the final-third, although their own defensive flaws have arguably held the well-fancied outfit back.
The Cambridgeshire club have notched a divisional-high 26 goals but only two teams in the top-16 have shipped more than Peterborough’s tally at 15 at this stage. Naturally, games have been full of entertainment with all bar three of Posh’s contests paying out for Over 2.5 Goals backers with seven of their 11 even covering the Over 3.5 Goals line.
Ferguson’s fellas appeal at a smidgen of odds-on against Lincoln on Saturday and if Posh’s process consolidates at their current levels, you would have to fancy the hosts as serious challengers for title honours. Peterborough 73% Expected Goals (xG) from open play return tops the tree in League One and Posh are only marginally second-best to Ipswich in xG.
However, with those aforementioned backline issues to be ironed out, I’d prefer to invest in the club’s glittering attacking arsenal this weekend. Peterborough have hit two goals or more in all bar one of their last nine league encounters since early August and 9/10 (Marathon) quotes on a repeat are just too good to turn down at London Road.
In front of their home supporters, Posh have hit 15 goals in five fixtures and the hosts are racking up an average 1.33 xG from open play per-game, as well as 1.77 xG overall – both league best figures that should put them into a strong position against Lincoln.
The Imps made a canny appointment in Michael Appleton and upset the odds to seal a 2-0 success at Sunderland last time out. The clean sheet that arrived alongside the triumph was only Lincoln’s second since mid-August and the visitors have particularly toiled on their travels since promotion (W1-D1-L4), leaking at least twice on four occasions.
Lincoln have shown gradual improvement since Appleton took charge and the new boss has spoken of his desire to cut off Peterborough’s threat at source on Saturday. That’s easier said than done and with Michael Bostwick out, Joe Morrell on international duty and Lee Frecklington also on the treatment table, reducing options a little more than standard.
Only Manchester City in the top four divisions of English football have scored more goals than Posh with the fearful front three of Marcus Maddison, Mo Eisa and Ivan Toney grabbing 24 of the 26 goals for Peterborough. Only five of those 26 strikes came via penalties or efforts outside the box, highlighting their firepower, and a smidgen under even-money for Posh to score Over 1.5 Goals is definitely worth a look.
Morecambe v Bradford | Saturday 12th October 2019, 15:00
Morecambe are well accustomed to being written off. Before a ball is even kicked in League Two, the Shrimps are always marked out as prime relegation candidates due to their miniscule budget and small squad. The Lancashire club are starting their 13th season at the bottom level of the EFL, although alarm bells are starting to ring around the Globe Arena.
Renowned for their excellent August form, Morecambe made a second successive slow start. The Shrimps managed just W1-D0-L7 in their opening eight games last year but recovered thanks to a thrilling run of results post-Christmas, thanks in part to key loan additions. However, Jim Bentley’s boys have again struggled to put early season points on the board.
The Fylde coast club have tabled a solitary success in 12 (W1-D4-L7) to sit two points off the bottom. Bentley’s boys head into the weekend on the back of a run of two points from a possible 24 (W0-D2-L6) and face pre-season favourites Bradford on Saturday without a whole host of players through injury and suspension.
Andrew Tutte has joined Rhys Oates on the treatment table with Ritchie Sutton, Aaron Wildig and Luke Conlan also struggling for the weekend. Meanwhile, Jordan Cranston is banned after his sending off in the 3-1 defeat at Port Vale last Saturday. With options depleted, it’s difficult to see Morecambe picking up a positive result.
Bentley’s charges have only won the shot count three times this term, and taken top honours on the Expected Goals (xG) metric twice. In eight of their 12 outings, the Shrimps have managed to register two shots on-target or fewer, whilst averaging only 5.83 attempts from inside the penalty area.
To make matters worse, Morecambe are also giving away a glut of goalscoring opportunities. Defensively, Bentley’s outfit have shipped at least two goals nine times already with no League Two team giving up a larger xG or xG from open play figure, as well as more shots from inside the penalty area.
Sixth-placed Bradford’s three defeats since relegation have all come against clubs above them and the Bantams are beginning to find their feet with four triumphs in six (W4-D1-L1). Gary Bowyer’s boys operate in the top-six for all major performance data metrics and should have the ability required to prise maximum points away from the Globe Arena.
Crawley v Colchester | Saturday 12th October 2019, 15:00
Crawley have been League Two’s entertainers in 2019/20. The Red Devils have seen 3.17 goals per-game with half of their fixtures featuring at least four goals; Gabriele Cioffi’s group have scored in every encounter and seen nine of their first 12 tussles pay-out for Both Teams To Score backers. I’m going to follow that formula again on Saturday at 4/5 (Bet365).
The Sussex side have fired in almost 17.50 shots on average (a league high) with 4.83 hitting the target. No League Two team has attempted more shots from inside the penalty box (9.25 per-game) and the Reds’ return in both the Expected Goals (xG) and xG from open play rankings also puts Cioffi’s charges alongside their leading divisional rivals.
Despite the obvious final-third excitement, Crawley haven’t proven quite as smart defending their own goal. The hosts have kept their sheets clean just three times, only Morecambe have faced more on-target attempts, whilst the Red Devils also rank towards the top end for xG, xG from open play and shots in the box conceded.
Visitors Colchester are much more reserved. The Essex boys have silenced four opponents and only delivered six (50%) winning BTTS bets thus far with an average of only 2.08 goals per-game. Nevertheless, ColU’s recent three fixtures have also provided enough offensive action to assume Saturday’s showdown could follow a similar pattern in Crawley.
John McGreal’s men will be missing midfielder Brandon Comley and winger Luke Gambin although there’s enough depth to the Colchester squad to suggest they’re still very able to cause Crawley problems at Broadfield Stadium.