TWELVE winners from his past 14 weekend Football League fancies for Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire). He's back with three more to follow on Saturday.
Gillingham v Northampton | Saturday 15:00
Gillingham were sitting second in League One in mid-February with the Kent club looking like rewarding us with a handsome 2015/16 ante-post promotion punt.
Sadly, the wheels spectacularly came off as the Gills recorded W2-D5-L8 to conclude the campaign in ninth. And Justin Edinburgh’s charges haven’t really recovered from that end-of-season dip.
Back-to-back wins to kick-off the new season brought fresh hope to Gillingham supporters. But only two triumphs in their following 14 league fixtures has heaped the pressure on Edinburgh with fans calling for his head.
The Gills trailed 2-0 and needed a Frank Nouble double to bag an FA Cup replay against non-league Brackley last weekend with their EFL Trophy win over West Brom’s underage side in midweek their sole success in 10 and only their fourth victory in 17 at the Priestfield Stadium.
That 2-0 triumph over the Baggies saw Gillingham keep their first clean sheet in 29 outings, ending a club-record run without a shutout. Edinburgh’s inability to fix a problematic backline continues to irk Kent natives.
Questionable tactics – Edinburgh fielded two holding midfielders at home to Brackley last weekend – puzzling selections and a stubborn, inflexible approach have also turned fans against the boss. Injuries haven’t helped but the ex-Spurs defender will know, defeat isn’t an option on Saturday.
So I’d fancy the Gills to give as good as they’ve got and wouldn’t want to write them off against Northampton. But rather than risk taking sides here, the best option is back to another goal-heavy game between two high-scoring clubs.
Taking only League One action into account, Gillingham have scored in all bar two of their 16 games this term – 11 banked in the Over 2.5 Goals column with 14 collecting for Both Teams To Score punters.
Combine the two selections and Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score stands out at 21/20 (Coral) considering it’s already proven profitable in 10/16 (63%) of the hosts’ matches.
Delve deeper and since the start of last season, Gillingham have rewarded BTTS backers with 20/31 (65%) BTTS winners at the Priestfield with Over 2.5 Goals paying-out on 19/31 (61%) occasions. The home side have only fired blanks in four fixtures with the 31 matches averaging 2.75 goals per-game.
Visitors Northampton started life back in the third-tier tentatively. New boss Robert Page saw the Cobblers’ first five contests produce just six goals before deciding to let unshackle Town.
Northampton’s following 11 encounters have featured 40 goals, at a rate of 3.63 goals per-game. Nine saw Over 2.5 Goals collect, eight paid out in the Over 3.5 Goals bracket and eight were also profitable for Both Teams To Score hunters – our selection would have also won on seven occasions.
This weekend the visitors are without centre-half Gabriel Zakuani, weakening a defence that’s only away clean sheet arrived in mid-August. But I’d still back Page’s posse to get amongst the goals themselves – they’ve notched at least twice in seven of their past 11 League One battles.
Millwall v Bristol Rovers | Saturday 15:00
Facts – Bristol Rovers have earned 19 points from losing positions this season – scoring nine of their 26-goal tally in the final 15 minutes. Had the Gas failed to produce such regular comebacks, they’ve be rock-bottom and four points adrift.
Darrel Clarke’s charges are remarkable chasing a third successive promotion and having bagged W6-D1-L2 from their past nine League One matches – coming from behind to win on five occasions – you’d be wrong to rule them out from top-six contention again.
The Pirates have faced a fierce baptism of fire following their return to the third-tier with 10 of their opening 16 encounters coming against fellow top-half sides but Rovers have prospered superbly despite failing to master the arts of defensive solidity.
Saturday’s visitors to The Den have only managed one clean sheet this term – at shot-shy Oldham – but with the division’s third-best attack, a side that’s notched at least twice on nine occasions and the clinical Matty Taylor leading the line, goals tend to flow.
Bristol Rovers’ matches are averaging 3.06 goals per-game with 11/16 (69%) breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and a whopping 14/16 (88%) banking for Both Teams To Score backers. A BTTS repeat here is overpriced at 8/11 (188BET).
No League One outfit has seen more goals per-game than Millwall with the Lions 15 fixtures peaking at 3.47 goals per-game – 12 (80%) of those encounters have seen at least three goals with 13 (87%) also rewarding BTTS hunters.
Neil Harris’ troops appear to have recovered from a dreadful opening two months (W3-D3-L5) to collect nine points from a possible 12 recently with the Lions scoring in all bar one of their league dates thus far.
However, Millwall haven’t yet recovered from the loss of centre-half Mark Beevers in the summer and the hosts have also kept a solitary shutout this season – again, against Oldham but arriving all the way back on the opening weekend of 2016/17.
Steve Morison looks like missing out for the Lions and will definitely hurt the hosts’ forwardline but I’d still fancy the capital club to grab a goal in what’s probably going to be a very watchable contest.
Luton v Accrington | Saturday 15:00
Two wins in nine and a heavy draw bias (W2-D5-L2) has seen Luton lose ground on the automatic promotion places but the fourth-placed Hatters remain well in the hunt for a top-three finish this season under Nathan Jones.
The Bedfordshire boys have seen four of those five stalemates finish 1-1 and Jones is keen for his side to keep plugging away at opposition defences, suggesting his team have been a little unfortunate in the final third.
No League Two club have fired in more shots on-target than Luton this season and in Danny Hylton the Hatters have a striker that’s scored in seven of his last eight starts. Should Jones’ group continue to carve out opportunities, victories – in theory at least) will follow.
But whilst Luton offer a range of final third threats, Town have tended to toil defensively. In fact, you could argue that the Hatters’ lack of backline stability has hampered their prospects of a top-three position with Saturday’s hosts keeping only three clean sheets all season.
Jones’ men were held 0-0 by Notts County in their last league outing but that was their first shutout since August and I’d happily oppose another here with Accrington boasting Romauld Boco and Billy Kee in attack.
Stanley played up to their role as underdogs when ousting Bradford from the FA Cup last weekend, a welcome result with John Coleman’s men managing a sole success in six League Two fixtures (W1-D3-L2).
Like Luton, the unfashionable visitors have struggled to keep their sheets clean this term, recording three shutouts. The flip side is their frontline continues to flourish, scoring in all bar two league games this term whilst only seven sides have fired in more attempts at goal.
Both sides have delivered 11/15 (73%) winning Both Teams To Score selections this season and with Luton also proving profitable in the same market in 11/18 (61%) of their Kenilworth Road outings under Jones, I’m keen to follow the trends and snap up the 13/16 (188BET) on a repeat here.
To put those stats into context – that 73% success rate implies betting odds of just 4/11. So the 13/16 – that’s around the 4/5 mark – makes for terrific value.