THERE are three more Football League fixtures to enjoy on Wednesday night. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has all three covered.
Nottingham Forest v Rotherham United | Wednesday 19.45
Nottingham Forest’s play-off dream probably ended on Saturday. The 0-0 draw away at Leeds has left the Tricky Trees eight points adrift of the top-six with nine games to play. It was a tedious game with neither side displaying enough initiative to warrant a fair claim for the points.
Boss Dougie Freedman refused to rule out Forest’s chances of piercing those play-off positions and the City Ground faithful will be encouraged by his bullish post-match words. And their W6-D2-L1 form in the nine games under the Scot suggests the hosts could and should return to winning ways against Rotherham on Wednesday.
Forest are available to back at 5/6 and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of support for the former European champions. It’s four wins on the spin at the City Ground with promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough and Bournemouth both beaten in their last two outings alongside the River Trent. However, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, excitement should be tempered as I’m adamant the Tricky Trees performances haven’t quite reflected their results.
Both Boro and the Cherries wasted a lorryload of chances and I can find flaws across the majority of those nine matches since Freedman took charge. I’m not knocking their excellent return of 20 points from those nine outings, I’m just suggesting a return to the mean could and should be on the cards anytime soon.
Now of course, Rotherham are nowhere near the class of Bournemouth and Middlesbrough but the Millers are desperately fighting for survival at the foot of the table and that need for points can’t be underestimated. Nor, in my opinion, can the motivational qualities of marmite man Steve Evans in charge of the Yorkshire visitors.
Five defeats in eight, including Saturday’s 2-1 loss at home to Wigan, has left Rotherham perched just six points above the drop zone and Evans’ knows his side must secure at least 10 more points for safety. Although that recent run of form is poor, the Millers have only lost 8/18 (44%) on the road and with Forest winning 8/18 at home (44%), there’s enough reason to believe that 5/6 isn’t quite the price some might have hoped for.
So instead I want to dip my toe back into the Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score market from Bet365. 6/5 is on offer for this showdown and that’s good enough to for me to pull the trigger.
The home side have seen Over 2.5 Goals in 12 of their last 15 Championship games, dating back to Boxing Day with 18/27 league fixtures now resulting in Both Teams To Score winners. The Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score selection has proved profitable in 9/14 Forest fixtures with their City Ground games averaging 3.11 goals-per-game.
The visitors’ short-term trends are also in our favour. Seven of Rotherham’s last eight have featured three goals or more while 7/11 have also produced ticks in the BTTS column. And the Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score bet has banked in five of the Millers last eight matches.
There’s enough promise to suggest the 6/5 should be a touch shorter, so I’m on.
Fulham v Leeds United | Wednesday 20.00
Fulham’s fight to avoid successive relegations continues on Wednesday night with an awkward home encounter against resurgent Leeds at Craven Cottage. Kit Symons’ men were second best for large periods at Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend but will have been pleased to have earned a rare point on the road.
So can they return to winning ways on home soil? I’m not so sure. The Cottagers’ Boxing Day defeat at Bournemouth was the first in a W3-D3-L9 spell that’s seen the Londoners plummet down the second tier table and only now does Symons seem to realise his team are in the midst of a relegation battle.
He seems a likeable guy but from his dealings with the press he comes across as underprepared and a wee bit flippant. That might sound harsh but the former centre-half has shown zero ability in getting this Fulham team defending properly (7/37 clean sheets) and their famed record at the Cottage remains largely unremarkable – when hosting Championship games, the Londoners have failed to win 10/18.
With at least five of their remaining matches against sides who will have something to play for (including games against Wigan and Rotherham) there are worse bets than taking the 10/1 on relegation.
So as you can tell, I’m pretty down on Fulham and with that in mind, I’m more than keep to gobble up the 7/10 on Leeds in the Double Chance market from Coral. Yeah, it’s pretty short but as we’ve seen in the paragraph above, Fulham have not recorded three points in 10/18 games on home soil, have bagged just 3/15 league wins and come up against a Leeds team that’s W7-D3-L3 in 2015.
Sure, Neil Redfearn’s men have ridden their luck along the way but their W4-D2-L1 record on the road during that 16 match spell deserves plenty of praise, not least because the Whites have shut Reading, Wigan and Middlesbrough out in three of their last four away days.
The Leeds boss has instilled belief, confidence and a team work ethic. Mixing a decent crop of foreign imports alongside experienced names and sprinkling of talent youth, Redfearn appears to have found the magic formula and no longer are United a walkover. And it’s those characteristics that reinforce the idea that the visitors have what it takes to get a result in London on Wednesday evening.
Burton Albion v Southend United | Wednesday 19.45
I’m a huge fan of using trends and stats to help find an edge in my football betting. However, on occasions, you just have to close the stats bible, trust your instinct and swim against the tide. More often than not, that approach will offer you bigger and better prices; it just boils down to trusting your own judgement.
Wednesday night’s titanic League Two tussle between Burton and Southend is a prime example, for me. Burton’s home record of W13-D2-L3 and 12/18 clean sheets suggest the league leaders should be gobbled up at quotes of 17/11.
Southend’s W9-D4-L5 record on the road might be the second best away return in the fourth tier but their horrifying W0-D3-L5 (failing to score in 4/8) figures when playing top-half teams on their travels should only reinforce that a low-scoring home victory is the way forward.
But I disagree and believe a bet on Both Teams To Score at 23/20 with Betfair is the better option on offer. Yeah, these two teams played out a goalless draw at Roots Hall just before Christmas and yeah the last eight meetings have all produced Under 2.5 Goals winners but I can’t help but feel this showdown is different.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink praised his team’s clinical performance as they swatted Accrington aside 3-0 at the Pirelli on Saturday, hailing their first-half display as the best he’d witnessed since arriving in Derbyshire. But their penniless visitors had plenty of opportunities to grab a goal or two and deserve plenty of credit for their spirited approach.
In Albion's previous home fixture, Newport ran out 1-0 winners and while there’s absolutely no doubting the quality in forward areas with Stuart Beavon and Adam McGuerk in the ranks, I do believe this Burton side can be got at.
Southend could be that side. They’ve scored in 14/18 road trips but only managed four clean sheets in those away days. And Phil Brown’s men have started to hit the ground running at the right time, W11-D7-L3 since November and now just three points off a top-three finish.
In Barry Corr and Joe Pigott the Shrimpers have two in-form marksman and Brown’s charges boast a solid Both Teams To Score record on their travels with 9/11 now banking following their 3-1 success at Dagenham last time out. It’s probably the one and only trend in my favour but put simply, I expect Southend to score. However, I’ve little faith in the visitors keeping a clean sheet of their own.
Nottingham Forest v Rotherham United – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (6/5 Bet365)
Fulham v Leeds United – Leeds United double chance (7/10 Coral)
Burton Albion v Southend United – Both Teams To Score (23/20 Betfair)
Is Mark on the right path to profit on Wednesday’s games? Do you disagree?
We’d love to hear your thoughts so let us know in the comments box below.