FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) reveals his favourite selections from the weekend's EFL action.
Brentford v Luton | Saturday 30th November 2019, 15:00
Just when you feel Brentford are beginning to match their consistently-high performance levels with winning results, the Bees go and chuck in another wobbly on the road. Thomas Frank’s team were second best for much of Wednesday night’s 1-0 defeat at Blackburn as the West Londoners suffered a seventh league loss of the campaign.
Brentford stepped it up in the second-half, pursuing a way back into the encounter. Said Benrahma's whipped free-kick came back off the bar and Pontus Jansson's header was cleared off the line as the Bees monopolised possession but only managed to land three of their 16 attempts on-target at Ewood Park, whilst generating 1.72 Expected Goals (xG).
Frank claims the Bees are close to becoming the complete Championship package despite that defeat. Speaking post-match, he said: “I think sometimes it's margins, in terms of we hit the post and it doesn't go in. Sometimes it's maybe a bit of experience, maybe play the chances a bit cooler, don't rush it. We're not far away.”
The loss left Brentford three points adrift of Swansea who occupy the final play-off spot ahead of the visit of Luton on Saturday. It’s a quick turnaround for the Bees but I’m confident in this team’ ability to bounce back with a positive result at Griffin Park. After all, the Hounslow outfit had churned out five triumphs from six prior to their trip to Blackburn.
Brentford have picked up W7-D1-L4 against bottom-half clubs this term, scoring at least three goals in five of those 12 fixtures. Under Frank’s watch, the Bees have W10-D1-L2 when welcoming the same standard of opposition to Griffin Park, and the hosts also rank second in the xG, xG from open play and shots in the box ratio rankings after 18 rounds.
The attack-minded outfit should be given plenty of opportunities too with Luton conceding the third-most chances from open play in the Championship since promotion. The Hatters are facing almost 9.50 attempts from inside the penalty area per-game, have shipped twice or more 11 times in the league already and managed a solitary shutout this term.
Graeme Jones’ group ended a five-match losing streak on Tuesday to deservedly down injury-hit Charlton at Kenilworth Road but Town take to the road having been beaten in seven of nine games as guests in 2019/20, leaking 2.00 goals per-game on average. And if we exclude the bottom-six, Luton have lost 11 of 15 Championship fixtures.
Brentford are too short to support but adding Under 4.5 Goals into the equation brings the Bees price into 10/11 (Coral). Despite Luton’s defensive toils, only three of the Hatters’ outings have broken this goals barrier, with Brentford’s games surprisingly the second-lowest scoring in the league at this stage.
Barnsley v Hull | Saturday 30th November 2019, 15:00
“It's probably our most compete performance of the season. We've had games where seven or eight of the team has performed and we've won. Tonight, one to 11 every single one of them were outstanding.”
That was the verdict of Hull boss Grant McCann after seeing his side swat Preston aside 4-0 at the KCOM Stadium on Wednesday evening. The Tigers racked up 21 shots – 10 of which were on-target – and an Expected Goals (xG) output of 4.06 as they made it four Championship victories in six to almost move to within striking distance of the top-six.
Josh Magennis was a handful after returning from a four-match ban to solve McCann’s striker crisis, with Polish schemer Kamil Grosicky and bang in-form Jarrod Bowen also playing starring roles. The latter added two more goals to his tally, taking his season total to 12 in the Championship, as well as bringing in his half-century for the Humbersiders.
In 2019 alone, Bowen has bagged 23 goals – nine more than any divisional rival – and the 22-year-old is averaging a goal every 135 Championship minutes in 2019/20. The league’s second-top scorer is averaging 0.44 xG per-game with the in-demand Tiger taking 3.70 shots on average with 1.60 hitting the target.
It’s difficult to dismiss those sorts of figures and the layers are finally starting to catch up with the threat posed by Bowen. However, I’m happy to build a bet around Hull’s star asset when the Tigers travel to Oakwell with goals expected against basement battlers Barnsley.
The visitors have only fired blanks three times this term and are creating the fourth-highest xG figure from open play. Should the Humbersiders maintain such standards, opportunities will undoubtedly arise with Barnsley having conceded the highest xG from open play figure in the league by quite some distance.
Austrian boss Gerhard Struber believes the Tykes can preserve their Championship status but the former Wolfsberger supremo has overseen back-to-back defeats since taking charge to leave the Yorkshire club eight points adrift of safety. Nevertheless, Barnsley remain an offensively-minded outfit and are well capable of creating chances of their own.
The Reds have only failed to score once at Oakwell – racking up at least two goals in four of their nine encounters – whilst eight of their nine outings before their midweek reverse at the Riverside crossing the Over 2.5 Goals mark. All nine of those fixtures paid out for Both Teams To Score backers and I’m anticipating a similar shootout when Hull pitch-up.
With that in mind, I’m going to play the 5/2 (Betfair) on Both Teams To Score, Over 2.5 Goals and Jarrod Bowen to score. The two teams prefer to play on the front foot and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Hull’s leading light amongst the goals in an enjoyable and entertaining encounter on Saturday afternoon.