FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's EFL action.
Bristol City v Wigan | Saturday 6th April 2019, 15:00
No Championship club enjoyed a better week than Bristol City. The Robins followed up a fabulous come-from-behind 3-2 victory at high-flying Sheffield United with a resolute display when winning 1-0 at Middlesbrough in midweek; the back-to-back triumphs propelled Lee Johnson’s side into the top-six, with a game still in-hand on their rivals.
City have been chalked up as even-money shots to make it three wins on the spin when relegation-threatened Wigan arrive on Saturday, and that’s a price I just can’t refuse. The travel-sick Latics have won once on the road since promotion – way back in August – and have returned rubbish figures of W1-D3-L15 away. No EFL club has performed so poorly on the road.
Athletic have been beaten in all 10 trips to clubs in 13th and above, and conceded at least twice in 12 of 16 games as guests when excluding the bottom-three. And since mid-September, Paul Cook’s charges have struggled to grind out positive results in the second-tier, pocketing just W5-D9-L16 and failing to even score in 15 (50%) of those encounters.
Profligacy in front of goal has been Wigan’s biggest issue but their ability to carve open goalscoring opportunities on the road has been a constant concern. The Latics are averaging just 0.48 Expected Goals (xG) from open play on their travels as they’ve posted a figure lower than 0.40 on eight occasions outside of their DW Stadium base.
Michael Jacobs is a doubt for Athletic and his absence would be a hammer blow, especially as Cook has only just been able to put back together his first-choice triple attacking axis of Jacobs, Gavin Massey and Nick Powell. However, even with a full-strength squad to select from, it’s difficult to justify too much positivity in Wigan considering the above trends.
Bristol City boast the division’s third-best defensive record and give up the fourth-fewest xG from open play opportunities in the Championship this term. The Robins have W13-D5-L4 when taking on teams in 12th and below and managed to fire only seven blanks in their 38 outings, suggesting they could (and should) prove too strong for their visitors.
The hosts went off odds-on at home to Ipswich, Bolton, QPR, Rotherham, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday already this season and the current even-money offering is just too big to turn down. In percentage terms, the price is implying Bristol City have just a 50% chance of picking up maximum points on Saturday, and that just doesn’t sit comfortably.
Wimbledon v Accrington | Saturday 6th April 2019, 15:00
Wally Downes was a wildcard appointment by Wimbledon at the start of December. After relieving Neil Ardley of his managerial duties with the Dons only off the bottom of League One on goal difference (W4-D2-L14), many observers (including this writer) expressed a degree of angst and nervousness about the Wombles’ potential plight.
Downes – whilst a Wimbledon club legend – had flirted with coaching gigs in the Indian Super League before returning from South Asia to take the available job at Kingsmeadow. The 57-year-old has inspired a remarkable revival from the capital club with only 11 League One clubs posting a better points-per-game (1.31) average during his stint with AFC.
Wimbledon have W7-D4-L8 under the former Crazy Gang member to move to within two points of survival having seemingly been cut adrift at the start of 2019. A famous FA Cup triumph at home to West Ham in January galvanised the club and Downes united supporters behind his quest to complete the ‘great escape’.
Smart loan signings, James Hanson’s return and a switch of system to 3-5-2 has aided the Dons’. Wimbledon arrive at the weekend on the back of six wins (and five clean sheets) from their last nine outings (W6-D1-L2), as well as four victories in their most recent five. Maximum points on Saturday would lift the Wombles outside of the relegation zone for the first time since mid-October.
If the Dons are looking up, Saturday’s guests Accrington are nosediving towards an immediate return to League Two. Stanley started life in the third-tier superbly, sitting in ninth place on Boxing Day having W9-D7-L7 from their opening 23 fixtures. John Coleman’s outfit had also been beaten just once in their opening 11 games in 2018/19.
However, the Reds have seriously toiled since Christmas. Accy have W2-D4-L10 since their Boxing Day win against Shrewsbury, whilst the visitors have W4-D6-L15 if we go back to the end of October. Meanwhile, more recently the Lancashire club have lost six of their last seven, including a Wednesday night 3-0 reverse at home to Sunderland.
A Wednesday-Saturday turnaround is always difficult and with fewer days to prepare ahead of a crucial six-pointer in the capital, it’s difficult to find the faith to support the rank ante-post outsiders this weekend. Accrington have already fallen to defeats in four of their five trips to teams below them in the table and have fired blanks in seven of their last 11 away games (W2-D2-L7).
With Wimbledon as big as 7/5 to secure a vital victory, there’s room to manoeuvre in the markets for extra security. Although the Wombles have returned performance data amongst the top-10 in League One for the majority of the campaign, their Kingsmeadow record remains unimpressive. Therefore, the 4/5 (BetVictor) +0 Asian Handicap appeals.
The +0 Asian Handicap works in the exact same way as the Draw No Bet market – returning your stake if the game ends all-square, you’ll just find more often than not there’s a slightly bigger price on offer, as we see here.
Swindon v Yeovil | Saturday 6th April 2019, 15:00
Yeovil parted ways with manager Darren Way almost a fortnight ago after a run of 10 defeats in 12 matches. Having been in charge since December 2015, the Glovers’ peculiarly offered the boss a new contract in November until 2021 despite fan pressure suggesting the Somerset side should be looking for a new man in the dugout.
Town’s toils showed no signs of abating with the team triumphing on four occasions following Way’s new deal and the board eventually decided to cut their losses with Yeovil precariously teetering two points above the drop-zone.
First-team coach Neale Marmon has been placed in caretaker charge and took the interesting step of making all training sessions open to fans – perhaps a move to get the Huish Park faithful back onside. However, he was unable to inspire an immediate response from his struggling squad as the Glovers suffered a 3-1 home reverse to Newport last week.
Marmon spoke positivity post-match but Yeovil rarely threatened going forward, generating just 0.47 Expected Goals (xG) with 0.20 xG produced from open play. Tom James’ goal against the Exiles was Town’s first in five fixtures with their 4-3-3 system featuring Gabby Rogers and Mihai Dobre flanking Alex Fisher failed to click in the final-third.
Yeovil have now managed W2-D0-L11 in their last 13 League Two matches, including losing each of their last five by an aggregate scoreline of 11-1. The Glovers have been beaten in each of their last seven on the road – six ‘to nil’ – and since December the visitors have produced an xG from open play average of just 0.35, scoring three goals in over 16 hours of action.
So I’m keen to oppose Yeovil once more on Saturday. Swindon can be supported at 7/10 (Marathon) at the County Ground, a price I’m happy to support.
The Robins have performed exceptionally well over the last two games, smashing Morecambe 4-0 before beating Bury 3-1 away last weekend. Richie Wellens’ troops have now W3-D2-L0 in their last five at their Wiltshire base – their best unbeaten home streak since 2013 – and this looks a great opportunity to enhance that return.
Only three clubs have generated a larger xG figure than Swindon’s 1.59 over the most recent eight outings with Kaiyne Woolery, Theo Robinson and Keshi Anderson particularly impressing in attack. And Wellens has warned his squad that players lacking drive and motivation ahead of the final furlong will be the first to exit this summer.
The no-nonsense boss has a full squad to pick from on Saturday, after confirming top goalscorer Michael Doughty has returned to full training. Doughty, who has scored 11 League Two goals this season, has been absent from Town’s last six games but may be asked to make an impact off the bench following the Robins’ impressive last two outings.