FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's EFL action.
Scunthorpe v Gillingham | Saturday 8th December 2018, 15:00
I’m delighted we’re able to support Over 2.5 Goals at 4/5 (Unibet) when League One struggling Scunthorpe and Gillingham lock horns at Glanford Park On Saturday.
Any fan with a passing interest in the EFL will know Scunthorpe have been a great side to follow for goals; the Iron’s matches are averaging 3.55 with 13/20 (65%) breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. As hosts those figures rise to 4.20 goals per-game as 7/10 (70%) have featured at least three goals, with 6/10 (60%) paying-out for Over 3.5 Goals backers.
Stuart McCall has been savaged by injuries since arriving in the hot-seat at Scunny, although he irked supporters in last weekend’s FA Cup exit by selecting three centre-halves, no wing-backs or full-backs, Rory McArdle in midfield, and Kyle Wootton very deep in what appeared to be a bizarre 3-6-1 system. Unsurprisingly, Iron exited the competition with a whimper at Shewsbury.
Josh Morris has returned to the squad – missing a penalty in Sunday’s 1-0 reverse – but Jordan Clarke, Funso Ojo, Lewis Butroid and Ryan Colclough remain sidelined, and McCall hinted that two more are rated major doubts for this weekend’s contest. It’s far from an ideal scenario with the Iron returning just five league triumphs this term.
Scunthorpe have W1-D1-L7 in their most recent nine League One games and so Gillingham should have little to fear about the long journey north. The Kent club narrowly overcame non-league Slough last weekend, a result that came hot on the heels of their 2-1 victory at fellow strugglers Bristol Rovers 10 days ago.
The away success at Rovers came despite the Gills being out-shot 27-8 and generating just 0.34 Expected Goals, although having the division’s joint-top goalscorer in Tom Eaves leading the line, the visitors will always have an opportunity to make their mark. Indeed, Steve Lovell’s troops have scored in all bar five of their 20 league outings this season.
Nevertheless, defence is one area that Gillingham must improve on if they’re to avoid relegation concerns. The guests have kept their sheets clean in only four fixtures thus far, and are giving up 1.70 goals on average, leaking twice or more in six of 10 away days.
Collectively, these two teams have kept six (15%) clean sheets in 40 League One dates in 2018/19, with their combined contests averaging 3.35 goals per-game (3.65 when viewing home/away records). The duo have seen an average of 1.73 xG from open play between their respective matches, making the 4/5 a very appealing play.
Swindon v Newport | Saturday 8th December 2018, 15:00
Another fixture forecast for goals arrives from the County Ground where Both Teams To Score can be backed at 4/5 (Sport Pesa). It’s returned profit in 13/20 (65%) of Swindon and Newport’s respective home/away outings this season and Saturday’s showdown looks prime for a repeat.
Swindon, now under the charge of Richie Wellens, have endured a topsy-turvy campaign that was summed up by last weekend’s demoralising FA Cup exit at home to National League South side Woking. It was the fourth time the Robins have been knocked out by non-league opposition since 2010 in a performance the new boss described as “flat” and “below par”.
The Wiltshire club had tabled back-to-back triumphs heading into the clash but a lack of attacking options due to injuries meant teenage forwards Scott Twine and Sol Pryce were again handed starting places, while Town’s four defenders against Woking had an average age of just 21. Meanwhile, James Dunne, Olly Lancashire and Luke McCormick all returned.
Wellens has hinted that strikers Marc Richards and Kaiyne Woolery could be close to recovering in time for Saturday and their inclusion will bolster a Swindon side that’s posted some eye-catching numbers going forward. The Robins average 0.86 xG from open play, whilst at the County Ground they’re averaging 1.48 xG and 8.70 shots in the box.
Nevertheless, six of Swindon’s 10 visitors have scored twice here already and the hosts' 1.02 xG conceded from open play ranks as the fourth worst defensive record in the division.
Newport need no introduction into goalscoring. The Exiles have plundered an average of 1.55 goals per-game in 2018/19 with Mike Flynn’s men firing just two blanks. In fact, the Welsh club haven’t failed to strike on their travels since the opening day of the season.
The visitors are generating 1.27 xG on their travels, although that’s a negative supremacy compared to what they’re allowing at the back. County are conceding 1.36 xG in games as guests, and have silenced just one League Two team since mid-September – 10 of those 11 following fixtures have banked for Both Teams To Score hunters.
Newport saw key players Tyler Forbes and Joss Labadie return in midweek EFL Trophy action with Flynn resting and rotating his squad, making seven changes for that contest. He’s insisted the club’s sole focus is on Swindon this Saturday before an FA Cup replay against Wrexham that could deliver a money-spinning televised third round tie with Leicester.
Crawley v Northampton | Saturday 8th December 2018, 15:00
Crawley stemmed their bleeding with a 3-0 rout of Crewe at Broadfield Stadium a fortnight ago and enjoyed a full week off with no FA Cup football to deal with last weekend. The Crewe triumph was only the Red Devils’ second success in 11 across all competitions and eased pressure on Gabriele Cioffi, despite the very kind final score.
Crawley lost the shots, shots on-target, shots in the box and xG count against Crewe and have now returned just a 44% xG ratio over their past eight League Two matches. Even at home, where the Sussex side boast a strong W6-D2-L2 return, the hosts have registered just a 47% xG ratio, also posting a negative shots in the box supremacy.
However, Cioffi’s charges have been consistent in their knack of getting amongst the goals. Only MK Dons have stopped Crawley scoring here, and the home side have notched twice or more in seven of their 10 home ties. The Red Devils are generating a solid 1.28 xG per-game average at Broadfield Stadium and their uncompromising style can unsettle defences.
With their concerning defensive data, and forwardline that’s capable of firing, Crawley are a great side to have onside for goals-based selections and I’m happy to support Over 2.5 Goals at 10/11 (10BET) when Northampton head south. It’s a selection that’s proven profitable in 22/39 (56%) of their combined games, and 13/20 (65%) home/away matches.
Northampton have scored in eight of 10 encounters since Keith Curle took charge, only failing to notch in his first fixture against Bury, and at high-flying MK Dons. Six of their most recent eight outings have featured both sides scoring, whilst their past 12 matches have produced an average of 3.17 goals per-game.
The Cobblers generate a healthy 0.94 xG from open play, whilst away trips are registering 2.72 xG per-game. Looking purely at goals, Northampton’s away days are averaging bang on 3.00 goals per-game, which tallies nicely alongside Crawley’s return of 3.50, suggesting the Total Goals line has been pitched up on the short side for Saturday’s clash.