MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks his favourite three bets from the weekend Football League coupon. And there's a chance to win another Free Bet from our sponsors 888 Sport and vital Cash Race points in our brand new competition!
Brentford v Cardiff City | Saturday 15.00
Earlier this week I joined the We Are Going Up podcast lads to discuss the incredible unfolding race for promotion to the Premier League. Never in my lifetime can I remember such a tight battle at the top of the Championship table (or any Football League division) with the end of the season in sight.
So when doing my research, I noticed that Brentford, who stated the season as 50/1 title rags, are still available to back at 50/1 to win the league. The Bees are four points off the summit but with arguably the most favourable fixture list – Derby are the only top-eight side left to play.
Whatever the outcome of Brentford’s season and the scrutiny the club is under following the decision to let Mark Warburton go at the end of the season, the West London club have made a fabulous impact in their first season back in the second tier for 21 years and deserve plenty of plaudits.
But I’m really rooting for this side to at least finish in the top-six. The first of their 10 remaining games involves a visit from Cardiff on Saturday and I’m keen to get with the Bees at a shade of odds-on (17/20 888 Sport).
Firstly, I think the prices on Brentford winning the league, claiming promotion (6/1) and beating the Bluebirds on Saturday aren’t reflecting the quality of this team. Warburton’s brought together an irresistible mix of young flair players alongside hardened Football League professionals and boy, it’s worked.
At Griffin Park the Bees have bagged 11 wins from 18 in Championship football and their high-tempo, short-passing style has had better teams than Cardiff in a spin. Alex Pritchard and Andre Gray have hogged the headlines but Spaniards Jon Toral and Jota Peleteiro have both played their part in their scintillating performances and I expect the hosts to collect another three-point haul on Saturday.
Last weekend Warburton’s charges showed us just what they were all about. Threatening to take Ipswich apart on the break, Brentford also stood firm under an onslaught at Portman Road with David Button again enjoying a masterclass between the sticks. The team were forced to battle hard against their more physical opponents but they come out of the game with flying colours.
This weekend they welcome Cardiff to Griffin Park and as well as that outstanding home return on home soil, Brentford boast a fearsome record when taking on the bottom-half. Their 13 wins from 18 games against the lesser lights is the third best in the league and it should stand them in good stead.
Cardiff have made slow progress under Russell Slade and will finish the season in mid-table obscurity. Their seven defeats in 18 road games isn’t beyond repair but their W1-D1-L5 record against top-six teams is certainly of concern. Tie that record in alongside Brentford’s impressive return against bottom-half dwellers and you’ll see why I think siding with the Bees at 17/20 makes sense.
Slade’s visitors have only lost once in seven now but the former Leyton Orient boss was left scratching his head as the Bluebirds were beaten at home to Charlton last time out. Failure to carve out enough clear-cut chances was to blame and Brentford are unlikely to reserve any sympathy for the visitors as they bid to consolidate their place in the top-six, which they’ve held since November.
Scunthorpe United v Sheffield United | Saturday 15.00
Value, value, value. It’s a term that gets banded about in the betting world every day but what does it actually mean?
In my house, it’s the definition of getting a bet on at a better price than the selection’s true chances of winning. For me, that involves plenty of number-crunching but eventually we’ll find real value and that’s what I’ve managed to get hold of in this League One meeting.
888 Sport have chalked up Both Teams To Score at a weird 87/100 – that’s somewhere between 5/6 and 10/11. But if we take a look at both Scunthorpe and Sheffield United’s previous results we can see that Scunthorpe have had BTTS winners in a mammoth 23/34 (68%) of League One fixtures this season while Sheffield United have returned just one fewer at 22/34 (65%).
If we put the two percentage figures together and find the average, we can see that there’s a 66.5% chance that this match should feature Both Teams To Score. Turn that percentage figure into a fraction and you’ll arrive at a 33/50 quote, which in betting terms is around the 4/6 mark. So in a roundabout way, we can see we’re getting massive value by backing BTTS.
If you wanted further encouragement, Scunthorpe have kept just two clean sheets all season while Swindon are the only side Sheffield United have shutout in 17 League One outings now with their last eight all resulting in Both Teams To Score winners.
Sure, for balance sake it’s worth pointing out that Mark Robins felt his team “could have played until midnight without scoring” at Crewe last weekend but the Iron have proven enough times this season that they’ve enough firepower to score against any opposition side.
As for the Blades, Nigel Clough bemoaned their defensive errors as they were toppled by Fleetwood at Bramall Lane. With only 10 of their 38 goals arriving before half-time, the Sheffield side are giving themselves a mountain to climb in matches but they’ll be confident of adding to their impressive return of scoring in all bar three of their 17 road trips in League One this term.
Morecambe v Hartlepool United | Saturday 15.00
With just three league defeats since Boxing Day, Morecambe should be flying higher than 12th. Jim Bentley’s side have been handicapped by a bout of draws and are looking like ambling towards another mid-table finish. However, secure three points at home to rock bottom Hartlepool on Saturday and perhaps (just perhaps) a play-off push isn’t beyond reason.
The Shrimps started the season like a train, winning their first four fixtures. But they’ve failed to record back-to-back victories since. Until this weekend! Yes, I can’t resist pulling the trigger on 888 Sport’s 19/20 that Morecambe pocket the points when lowly Hartlepool visit the Globe Arena.
The hosts were booed off in their previous home outing (a 2-0 defeat to Cambridge) but showed their character and quality to win away at Luton last weekend. Bentley’s boys hit the Hatters with a blistering first half-hour as Jack Redshaw and Laurence Wilson put the Shrimps 2-0 up. But Luton fought back to level the scores before veteran Kevin Ellison forced an own-goal to clinch the victory and move Morecambe to within seven points of the top-seven.
Bentley's charges don’t have the best figures at the Globe Arena (W6-D5-L6) but they should be aided by a Hartlepool side without a host of key players through injury (and an appealing return of just two points on the road since early October).
Ronnie Moore is without Matthew Bates, Scott Fenwick, Tommy Miller and Michael Woods and admitted their plight has been “bleak for weeks”. They offered nothing up front at home to Burton last weekend and Moore blasted his players’ performance in their home loss to Dagenham in their previous outing.
With 13/17 (76%) away losses, failure to score in 10/17 (59%) of those matches and zero clean sheets, Moore knows it’s now or never if they’re to reverse their appalling away record. But with those trends on side, surely it’d be madness to ignore Morecambe’s claims at 19/20 this weekend?
Brentford v Cardiff City – Brentford to win (17/20 888 Sport)
Scunthorpe United v Sheffield United – Both Teams To Score (87/100 888 Sport)
Morecambe v Hartlepool United – Morecambe to win (19/20 888 Sport)
Win A £10 Free Bet + 10 Cash Race Points
Mark's shared his favourite Football League treble and now it's over to you guys. Pick a win-draw-win treble from the Football League this weekend and should it win, we'll give you 10 Cash Race points.
Due to getting a little too drunk at Cheltenham, we forgot to record a video this week. Oops. But you can earn an extra two Codeword points by including ‘Cheltenham Festival' in your email.
How To Win:
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