FOOTBALL LEAGUE boff Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) takes a look at Easter Monday's televised League One tussle between Portsmouth and Wigan.
Portsmouth v Oxford | Easter Monday 2nd April, 17:30 | Sky Sports
We don’t have to look too far for a back-story to this one. Wigan boss Paul Cook returns to Fratton Park for the first time since his acrimonious Portsmouth departure in May, three weeks after saying he wouldn’t leave them for anyone apart from Liverpool.
The way Cook handled his departure could be questioned, but he probably made the right decision. The Latics have a squad ready-made for Championship football, which is evidenced not only by the form of Nick Powell and Michael Jacob, but also by the squad depth that has allowed them to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals during their title push.
By contrast, Pompey’s squad relies heavily on Brett Pitman. The veteran striker has scored 37% of their goals, the second highest contribution percentage in League One – for contest, the third highest is Blackburn’s Bradley Dack with 22%.
Aside from Pitman, and perhaps centre-backs Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough, who have helped the team to three consecutive clean sheets, the rest of the side is very much in a developmental phase.
Pompey's poor return against the league's elite
Portsmouth have accrued two points from nine games against top five opposition, scoring three goals; and both returns could be even lower.
When these sides last met back in August, Kenny Jackett’s men had relied on a string of saves from goalkeeper Luke McGee to stay only one goal down before the hour mark, when Chey Dunkley’s sending off turned things in their favour in a 1-1 draw.
For this one, we’re backing Wigan to make their apparent superiority show. So far, they have already played away to five of the six teams with similar skill levels to Portsmouth – fifth place Scunthorpe to 11th-place Bradford – winning four of those fixtures, losing only to Peterborough, with three of the victories coming by more than one goal.
We’re lucky therefore, to get odds-against quotes on the West Lancashire outfit, who are 11/10 with Blacktype to get their 14th away league victory in their 19th road trip.
The betting angle
We reckon we can even go further than the outright price, too. The ‘Tics are 26/5 with Smarkets to be 1-0 up at half-time, which has been the case in their last two games while victory for them with a -1 handicap is 3s with William Hill.
For our best bet though, we’re recommending the Wigan win ‘to nil' at 23/10 with Coral. Paul Cook’s side have been victorious without conceding in a staggering 51% of their games this term, thanks largely to the goalkeeping of Christian Walton and the performances of Chey Dunkley, who is establishing himself as one of the best ball-playing centre-backs ever seen in the third tier.
By contrast, Portsmouth have lost ‘to nil' in 23% of their games, the joint-fifth highest percentage in League One. While the south coast club continue to make progress, our money is firmly on a happy return for Cook.
Portsmouth v Wigan – Wigan to win ‘to nil' (23/10 Coral)