FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's EFL action.
Scunthorpe v Plymouth | Saturday 27th October 2018, 15:00
Scunthorpe manager Stuart McCall felt his side deserved a point against Blackpool in midweek. The Iron fell to their fourth successive loss as Armand Gnanduillet’s 18th minute goal proving the difference between the two teams.
United had their chances to equalise; James Perch went close as did Ryan Colclough, Stephen Humphreys and Rory McArdle, while Charlie Goode had a header cleared off the line. And McCall felt his injury-hit side did enough to at least earn a share of the spoils.
The numbers from Bloomfield Road would back up the Scotsman’s claims. But following on from defeats to Wycombe, Peterborough and Luton, the Scunny boss knows his troops must start to pick up points if they are to avoid being dragged right back into the relegation quagmire.
However, the hosts hands are pretty tied on Saturday. The Iron are down to the bare bones with only 16 to 17 fit players available. In addition to Matt Gilks and Rory Watson, both long-term absentees, Scunthorpe are also missing Josh Morris, Matthew Lund and Funso Ojo who came off on Tuesday night.
Lee Novak will be assessed before the game, although it’s in midfield where McCall’s men are suffering on the treatment table. Meanwhile, on the field Scunny are struggling defensively. The hosts have leaked 12 times in their last five fixtures, giving up an average of 1.70 Expected Goals over their past six.
The Glanford Park club were 2-0 up after seven minutes against Wycombe seven days ago before losing that encounter 3-2 and after the game McCall admitted even with a two-goal cushion, the team don't feel safe. Defensive lapses are costing the team with opposition outfits not having to work too hard to score.
Despite the negativity, Scunthorpe don’t shy away from the offensive side of the game. The Iron have struck nine times in their past five matches, generating 1.51 Expected Goals, firing in 67 attempts and landing 23 on-target. With wicked wideman Ryan Colclough pulling the strings, Scunny can certainly hurt teams.
McCall is expected to revert back to his preferred 4-2-3-1 system on Saturday following a defensive set-up on Tuesday night and with both Scunthorpe boxes proving profitable for goals-based backers this term, I’m keen to support a high-scoring contest when Plymouth pitch up.
No League One ground has seen more goals than Glanford Park with games averaging 4.00 goals, four of which have crossed the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. That’s no fluke, either, with the six matches producing a 3.54 total Expected Goals average. Overall, Scunny’s games are averaging 3.26 xG per-game.
Plymouth moved off the foot of League One with a vital 3-1 victory over Gillingham at Home Park in midweek. It was only Argyle’s second success of the season and under-pressure manager Derek Adams claimed the atmosphere in the dressing room post-match was as much as relief as it was jovial.
Freddie Ladapo scored twice on Tuesday and will spearhead the Pilgrims challenge as they bid to enhance an uninspiring return of 14 goals in 15 games. To do so, chief playmaker and set-piece specialist Graham Carey will be required and the Plymouth star is expected to shake-off a stomach complaint to play.
Argyle have their own selection issues to overcome – Ryan Edwards, Ryan Taylor, Gary Sawyer and Joe Riley all remain absent – but performances have improved immeasurably over the past few weeks and the Devon club will be confident of rattling Scunthorpe’s cage.
The visitors put in a desperate no-show at Oxford a fortnight ago but generated an Expected Goals average of 1.78 in their three matches around that contest, as well as giving Barnsley a serious workout when picking up a point at Oakwell.
Over 2.5 Goals (41/50 Marathon) is the call here. It’s already been trimmed since midweek and with the two teams collectively keeping just four clean sheets in 30 League One matches in 2018/19, I’ll be pinning my hopes on two dreadful defences contributing to a high-scoring duel.
Tranmere v Crawley | Saturday 27th October 2018, 15:00
Tranmere failed to do the business for us at Yeovil last week, returning a push when we supported Micky Mellon’s men in the Draw No Bet market. The Super White Army followed that goalless draw up with a 3-1 reverse at Forest Green in midweek, although the Birkenhead-based club had their moments.
Trailing to an early Forest Green goal, both clubs traded opportunities with James Norwood twice denied by the home goalkeeper before the host extended their advantage, scoring from the rebound of a saved penalty. Paul Mullin put the Whites back in contention before a late breakaway goal sealed Rovers’ fate.
Mellon believed his side weren’t brave enough in the opening 45 minutes and suggested his players had a bit of an off-day at The New Lawn. It was only the third defeat suffered by Tranmere since promotion, two of which have arrived against teams occupying top-six positions.
A return to Prenton Park should inspire a reaction out of the home players, and Rovers looked primed to pick up a positive result against poor travellers Crawley, especially with Ollie Banks returning to the fold following suspension.
The visitors have been imperious at their Broadfield Stadium base, but suffered defeat in five of their last six on the road, never scoring more than once.
The Red Devils are certainly higher in the League Two standings than their projected ratings suggest they should be. The Sussex side are posting just a 44% Expected Goals from open play ratio, and even though Town dominated the shot count against Exeter on Tuesday night, they were convincingly beaten on xG.
That’s hardly encouraging considering a sickness bug had engulfed the Grecians camp, leading to top scorer Jayden Stockley pulling out of the side, whilst Hiram Boateng was forced out of contention in the warm-up.
Meanwhile, post-match, Red Devils boss Gabriele Cioffi then explained to the press that he told the players he inherited that they are under-achievers – so goodness knows how they’ll take that!
So I want to be with Tranmere – I’m not convinced they’re worth supporting in the straight Match Odds – but we can include the hosts in a Bet Builder from Bet365 by backing Rovers in the Double Chance market alongside Under 4 Goals for a nice 8/11 offering.
Mellon’s men have conceded just twice in seven encounters on home turf, with all seven featuring Under 2.5 Goals and six concluding with no more than a solitary strike. Four of those fixtures ended in 1-0 Tranmere triumphs, whilst no League Two team has seen as few shots in the box this season.
And so with Crawley producing just 2.14 goals per-game on the road – including four Under 1.5 Goals games, it’s difficult to see a high-scoring contest on the cards and so having Tranmere not to lose alongside a selection opposing goals appeals here. We'll profit by correct scores such as 0-0, 1-1, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1.
Crewe v Grimsby | Saturday 27th October 2018, 15:00
I’m staying in the fourth-tier for my third and final selection, following a familiar theme to the last match by opposing goals when Crewe welcome Grimsby to Gresty Road. Under 2.5 Goals can be backed at 5/6 (Marathon) and that’s a value price according to my numbers across the first third of the campaign.
For starters, League Two is letting the EFL side down by producing the lowest-scoring games. Ahead of the weekend, matches are averaging bang on 2.50 goals per-game, but a chunky 57% of showdowns are concluding with fewer than three goals, compared to 51% in the Championship and 48% in League One.
Two of the chief culprits cross swords on Saturday with the Alex and Mariners combining for 20/28 (71%) Under 2.5 Goals winners at a collective average of just 2.00 goals per-game. Exactly half of those 28 tussles failed to produce more than a solitary strike. Yawn.
Both clubs come into this contest in their best form of the season so far. Crewe are unbeaten in three (W1-D2-L0), including earning four points from trips to Stevenage and Yeovil. The victory away at 10-man Stevenage last Saturday was the Alex’s first on the road and boss David Artell felt Crewe should have repeated that feat in Somerset on Tuesday night.
The Railwaymen took an early lead through the in-form Jordan Bowery but couldn’t hold on, conceding just 11 minutes later. The Cheshire club went on to dominate much of the second half with Artell saying afterwards that if it had been a boxing duel, it would have been stopped.
Again, Artell bemoaned his team’s lack of killer instinct in the final-third although their season-long numbers don’t make for too pretty reading. The Alex have averaged just 0.58 Expected Goals from open play – second-worst in the division with their 6.21 attempts from inside the box also ranking 23rd.
Grimsby have recorded four clean sheets on the spin, taking top honours in three (W3-D1-L0) to move up and away from the bottom-two following a treacherous opening. Danny Collins and Alex Whitmore have been excellent performers at the heart of the Mariners defence although results have been favourable.
Those four fixtures have seen Town lose all four matches on the Expected Goals count by a cumulative 4.14 – 9.21. Grimsby have been outshot 41-77 in the same sample – no wonder Michael Jolley is putting on a poker face in his dealings with the press when asked to comment on the club’s upturn in fortunes.
Like their hosts, the Mariners aren’t faring particular well in forward areas. The visitors have managed just 6.36 efforts from inside the penalty area on average – only better than Crewe and Notts County – and have only twice managed more than one goal in a game this term.
That sort of return will need a vast improvement if Jolley's troops are to have any joy against a Crewe side that's shipped just twice nine hours of league action at Gresty Road this season.