Forest Green vs Bolton | Saturday 26th March 2021, 12:00 | Sky Sports
A top of the table clash from League Two is the early viewing on Saturday and it should be a good game with both sides looking to maintain their automatic promotion challenge.
There is no doubt that Bolton come into this match in better form with a recent record of W10-D2-L0 having scored in 15 consecutive games, whereas Forest Green have a home record of W8-D6-L3. But its their recent form which has started to cause some concern with just three wins from their last eight, which has included defeats to Stevenage and a 3-1 home reserve to relegation-threatened Southend.
Last time out Rovers managed a 0-0 draw with Mansfield and Forest Green manager Mark Cooper admitted that he was pleased with his side’s application: “I’m satisfied with the effort and the commitment which is what I asked for which is what we didn’t get on Saturday,” as they lost 1-0 at Cambridge.
So there does appear to be some inconsistent performances coming from Rovers especially away from home. At The New Lawn Stadium, they are a different beast with their good record backed with the fact they are 7th on home points per game and 4th on expected points. Bolton won’t find this easy, despite Rovers indifferent form of late.
Bolton were seen as promotion challenger in the ante post betting, but after the first 11 games they were 21st having collected just 10 points with a record of W2-D4-L5 with Forest Green in the automatic promotion places with 21 points. Things have changed. Wanderers have powered their way to fifth at rapid speed. They are the team every one of the leaders is looking over their shoulder to see right now.
Following relegation from League One in the summer the club turned to Barrow manager Ian Evatt to not only halt the slide the club found itself in but to gain promotion back to League One at the first time of asking. Evatt created a squad in lockdown that has never played in front of its own fans and some might say that was a good thing earlier on in the campaign when things were not going well.
Whilst the character in this team never really came into question, even during the inconsistency of the season’s first few months. It was simply a question of familiarity with a complex system and one of quality in a few key areas of the team. This was address in the January transfer window with the result obvious to see.
I like to look at the last 12 games to see how a team in performing and Bolton are flying. They have taken 32 points from a possible 36, I have them top of the expected points table, the highest expected goal ratio and shots in the box ratio over these 12 games. No side has scored more goals and only Tranmere have a better expected goals scored tally, whilst only Morecambe have had more shots in the box.
Over the same 12 games Forest Green have conceded 15 goals, with only five sides conceding more, two of whom are Carlisle and Colchester who in the bottom two spaces in the 12-game form table. Yet Rovers have scored 18 goals over this period, only bettered by Bolton and Tranmere. At home over the course of the season they have average 1.53 goals per game and have scored in 16 of 17 games at home – a 0-0 draw with league leaders Cheltenham their only blank.
I really like the look of Both Teams To Score here. Both sides have excellent scoring records. Rovers have kept two clean sheets at home in their last eight games, conceding three to Southend and Oldham, whilst Port Vale also found the net recently. As already mentioned, Bolton have now scored in the last 15 outings in League Two. Both teams to score has landed in a combined total of 62% this season and we can back this at 19/20, which would suggest an implied probability of 51%.
Both sides will be desperate not to lose the game and as I believe there will be goals, I also want to look at the card markets. Rovers average 1.35 bookings per home game and have collected at least one card in 15 of 17 games this season. Their visitors have collected an average of 1.53 cards and collected one card or more in 15 of 17 games, meaning that both sides have collected at least one card in 14 of 17 games.
It is also worth nothing that Rovers commit the 3rd highest number of fouls by any home side this season. Their matches average 2.88 cards at home, but their four games against the top six sides have seen 12 yellow cards and one red, so there is definitely a small up tick in cards when they face better opposition.
Bolton have collected an average of 1.53 cards per away game and picked up one or more in 14 of 17 games with their hosts being a little more consistent with at least one card in 16 of 17 games. Wanderers love a foul and have committed the second-most away fouls in the league, so I am expecting a niggly game with a few cards.
The referee is David Rock. He averages 3.59 cards per game in League One and Two this season. He has handed at least one card to both sides in 13 of his 17 games this season.
We can back both sides to collect at least one card and over 2.5 match cards at 78/100. This is a little skinny, so I am going to add under 4.5 goals to boost this to 17/20. Rovers have seen just 6% of home games go over 4.5 goals, whilst Bolton have seen 18%, but 12 of their last 16 games have seen under 2.5 goals.
The last bet I like is involving Oladapo Afolayan. He has been in excellent form since coming into the side at Christmas following a loan move from West Ham. He has been drawing 3.1 fouls per game and in his last four games he has been fouled on three, four, six and five occasions, no player in the division is getting fouled more than he is.
There is no surprise to see that he also averaged 4.8 dribbles per game, which is the second-highest in the division.
Depending how Rovers line up he could be against Kane Wilson or Dominic Bernard. Wilson has been booked on his last two appearances and averages 1.15 fouls per game, committing at least 1 foul in his last four games. Bernard commits 1.11 fouls per game and has been booked twice in his last four games, although these have come when he has played in the midfield, although most recently he has been asked to play on the right of a back three.
Wilson can be taken at 3/1 and Bernard at 4/1 both with Bet365 and both are worthy of a consideration considering they should be up against the exciting Afolayan.
Forest Green vs Bolton – Both Teams To Score (19/20 Red Zone)
Forest Green vs Bolton – Both Teams Over 0.5 Cards, Over 2.5 Cards and Under 4.5 Goals (17/20 William Hill)
Forest Green vs Bolton – Kane Wilson to be carded (3/1 Bet365)
Forest Green vs Bolton – Dominic Bernard to be carded (4/1 Bet365)