FOOTBALL LEAGUE fan Ross Casey (@RossCasey24) tackles the first live League One fixture of the 2018/19 season as Sunderland host Charlton in the early kick-off on Saturday.
Sunderland v Charlton | Saturday 4th August 2018, 12:30 | Sky Sports
It's a new dawn at Sunderland with Ellis Short finally selling the club to end his unsuccessful time at the club, the pink seats at the Stadium of Light having been restored to their rightful red and a summer of necessary change could well yield excellent results with the Black Cats named 3/1 ante-post favourites by the bookies.
Back-to-back relegations has seen them in the third-tier now for only the second time in their history. Their Wearsiders' long suffering fans will be hoping that is their rock bottom moment and the club can now move on in a positive direction away from the former regime and a squad of players who quite frankly, stole a living.
Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman fell by the wayside as they propped up the Championship, sitting six points off safety last season.
Charlton have been another side in the Football league that have suffered from poor ownership and the club has failed to be promoted in each of their last two seasons amidst protests from the fans.
Despite the off the field shenanigans, the Addicks improved upon their 13th placed finish in 2016/17 to claim a play-off spot last season before losing their two-legged tie to surprise package Shrewsbury under boss Lee Bowyer.
The former Charlton favourite on the pitch has had a mixed bag in his 12 matches in charge so far. His 12 games have seen six Charlton wins, five defeats and a draw. After a steady improvement over two seasons at this level, he will be hoping to guide the Londoners to promotion this time around.
Sunderland's home form last season was the worst of all 24 Championship sides as the Black Cats recording just three victories in 23 attempts. The huge stadium full of angry at worst, and disheartened fans at best, provided an atmosphere which was at times toxic.
It should be used to their advantage with the fans getting behind their team and at this level, with almost half the stadium tiered off, that could well prove to be the case.
It is fair to say new boss Jack Ross organised a pre-season in order to gain confidence with four games against lower-league opposition and the players reacted with a 6-0 win away at St Mirren the highlight. Unfortunately, the one fixture that would have provided a real gauge for where they are against Middlesbrough was abandoned due to adverse weather.
Their summer transfer business has been wise with League One ‘stars' such as Charlie Wyke on board from Bradford and Jerome Sinclair handed the chance to reignite his career after stagnating in the Premier League. The likes of Jack Rodwell, John O'Shea and Billy Jones that all moved on in an attempt to rebuild and reclaim the badge from embarrassment.
What jumps off the page to me though, is the three-and-a-half clean sheets from four-and-a-half pre-season matches. The match against Middlesbrough was 0-0 when abandoned at the interval!
If Sunderland can keep clean sheets in this division, they will acquire plenty of points as they have plenty of firepower from the aforementioned Wyke and Sinclair as well as the likes of Aiden McGeady and Duncan Watmore.
However, for this fixture they are without Tom Flanagan, Reece James, Dylan McGeouch, McGeady and Watmore through injury.
Charlton are the underdogs in this one with best odds of 16/5 with Betway and that could be fancied by a few considering Sunderland's terrible recent record on home soil and when you consider that they only lost nine away from home last season.
An interesting stat I have found here is that, they only scored 27 away from home and also conceded 27. That tells me that low-scoring games are fairly routine for Charlton away games, with 20 Under 2.5 Goals away games across all competitions, including each of their last six last term.
In pre-season the Addicks are undefeated in seven and each of their last three games finished with fewer than three goals. Another plus to that train of thought is the loss of Josh Magennis to Bolton earlier this week.
The betting angle
After banging on about the Under 2.5 Goals , of course that was the first market I checked here, but the bookies have that covered with a best price of 3/4, so my selection will be Under 2.5 Goals and Sunderland double chance at 21/20 (188BET).
As mentioned above, Sunderland appear to have sorted their defensive woes, whilst Charlton are perennial Under 2.5 Goals landers away from home. With Magennis gone they have less of a goal threat and this bet takes a 3/4 shot and makes it an attractive odds-against proposition.
Sunderland v Charlton – Sunderland double chance and Under 2.5 Goals (21/20 188BET)