FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in the EFL.
Bristol City v Sheffield United | Saturday 15thSeptember 2018, 15:00
Bristol City have recovered from a winless first three Championship games to scoop maximum points from their most recent three fixtures to leave the Robins perched inside the top-six.
Lee Johnson’s side survived a few first-half scares against Blackburn in their last encounter ahead the international break before putting the pedal to the mettle and running out impressive 4-1 winners. The returning Famara Diedhiou came off the bench to grab a goal as City fired in 19 attempts, 11 of which were on-target.
The Robins are back at Ashton Gate on Saturday and I’m backing another goal-friendly game when Sheffield United pitch up with Over 2.5 Goals appealing at 10/11 with Betfred.
The Blades tonked Aston Villa 4-1 at Bramall Lane in their most recent outing to move into third following their own slow start. Chris Wilder’s charges have won four on the spin having opened their account with back-to-back defeats, and United are packing plenty of punch in the final-third.
Only West Brom (15) and Leeds (14) have scored more often than the visitors (12) and with the pair collectively averaging 3.08 goals per-game this season, there’s plenty of reason to believe an open and entertaining contest awaits.
The duo have seen an average of 2.62 Expected Goals from open play scored when their record are stitched together, while firing just two blanks between them in 2018/19. Meanwhile, since the start of last term, City and United have seen Over 2.5 Goals bank in 31/52 (60%) of their respective home/away matches, with Both Teams To Score copping in 30/52 (58%) showdowns.
This meeting pits together two of the top seven teams in the Championship for shots, on-target attempts and efforts from inside the penalty area.
Rochdale v Gillingham | Saturday 15thSeptember 2018, 15:00
Last weekend 10 of the 12 League One matches delivered for Both Teams To Score backers taking the season tally to a chunky 62% and another goal-filled Saturday could be in store from the third-tier, particularly at Spotland when Gillingham travel to Rochdale.
Dale played out an absorbing 3-3 draw at Scunthorpe seven days ago, twice fighting back from two goals down to pick up a precious point. Keith Hill’s troops won the shot count 19-9 and landed eight efforts on-target and could easily have claimed maximum points had Aaron Wilbraham finished a great late opening.
Nevertheless, Rochdale are cemented in mid-table after a reasonable opening to the 2018/19 campaign that’s been full of goalmouth action. The hosts have returned Over 2.5 Goals profit in six of their seven games with Both Teams To Score landing on five occasions as matches have averaged 3.71 goals per-game.
Only second-bottom Oxford (17) have leaked more than Dale (16) but only Barnsley have denied Hill’s men from scoring. What’s more, the hosts’ seven showdowns thus far have produced a chunky 1.83 Expected Goals from open play average, highlighting the open nature to Rochdale’s games thus far.
Opponents Gillingham are without a clean sheet since the opening weekend and the Kent club are winless since kicking off their campaign with back-to-back victories. Steve Lovell’s side have only failed to net once and only seven sides have fired in more shots at goal so there’s still plenty to be positive about.
But like their hosts, the Gills are struggling to keep the wolves from the door. The guests are facing almost 11 attempts from inside their own penalty box per-game and their 0.93 xG conceded from open play per-game is the seventh worst return to League One at this stage.
So two leaky defences overseen by management that prefer their teams to play on the front foot should result in another high-scoring duel. My preferred poison here is to punt the Both Teams To Score market at 4/5 with Bet365.
Under Lovell, Gillingham have delivered BTTS profits in 13/20 (65%) away days as they’ve scored in 17 of those encounters and recorded only four shutouts.
Swindon v Bury | Saturday 15th September 2018, 15:00
Staying on the goals theme, Saturday’s match-up between Swindon and Bury at the County Ground should produce another watchable encounter as two of League Two’s highest scoring sides lock horns.
Both Swindon and Bury are averaging 1.71 goals per-game after seven rounds of action, scoring in all bar one of their collective 14 fixtures. However, the pair have recorded just three clean sheets between them, leading to their collective contests averaging a massive 3.22 goals per-game.
With that in mind, I’m very keen to explore the 23/25 (Marathon) on Over 2.5 Goals. It’s a selection that’s already proven a successful formula in 8/14 (57%) of their combined outings, while Over 3.5 Goals was crossed off in half of those 14 fourth-tier matches and Both Teams To Score banking in 10 (71%).
Both clubs are towards the upper echelons across all the major performance data metrics – shots, shots on-target, shots attempted from within the penalty box – and no League Two teams comes close to Swindon’s 2.80 match average for Expected Goals from open play, suggesting a helter-skelter duel could ensue.