Where’s the money, Walker?
Football League fan Oli Walker (@JSBAHatter) takes you through the best and worst prices from the English fixtures with 3 teams to back, and 3 teams to dodge every weekend.
3 TO BACK
Ipswich Win @ 1.8 (4/5)
Welcome to another week of best bets from the Football League. As usual we start in the Championship with Ipswich hosting Wigan. Mick McCarthy's Tractor Boys are flying high in the league, just 1 point off top before the weekend's fixtures and very much in the promotion race. Realistically, if they're going to be taken as serious contenders for promotion they have to be winning fixtures like these - at home to bottom-half teams (a generous tag for current relegation dwellers Wigan). I think that's the message Mick will be giving his players, and they've beaten tougher teams than Wigan at home. They've won 9/13 home games including a recent 2-0 victory over Middlesborough, so to get a price of 1.8 on them to beat Wigan is a generous gift from the bookies. Wigan are having a troublesome season that only seems to be getting more troublesome, compounded by the sales of Callum McManaman and Adam Forshaw this week, the former a key creative player that now leaves a hole in a team that wasn't creating or scoring much anyway. Wigan's last 8 games read W1 D1 L6, they're still in the relegation zone and confidence will be rock-bottom - they'll be dreading a game at high flyers Ipswich. I can't see past an Ipswich win here, 1.8 is still available with BetVictor, WilliamHill, and Bet365.
Swindon Asian Handicap 0 @ 2 (1/1)
Onto League One's bet best of the weekend, and I'm seeing a shade of value in Capital One Cup heroes Sheffield United's match with Swindon. Commiserations to the Blades for giving Tottenham a real scare, they put a lot into the game and it so nearly produced a reward for them. I feel that may go against them this weekend though with tired legs and tired minds having to gee themselves up for a game against promotion-chasing and current table toppers Swindon. Regardless of those factors, looking at Sheffield United's league form I would've been opposing them anyway. It reads P8 W1 D4 L3, and conceded in 8/8 so it'd be a huge surprise for them to keep out Swindon this weekend, especially when reading Swindon's form. They're P8 W6 D1 L1 from their recent games, but their away form is even more impressive, P4 W3 D1 L0 with a whopping 12(!) goals in those 4 games. So I feel it's another kind bit of generosity from the bookmakers when you can get Swindon at '0' on the Asian Handicap. This means that we're siding with Swindon off what is effectively a Draw No Bet line - the only way we lose is if Sheffield United win the game, whereas it's void and we get the money back if it's a draw. I'm happy to take Swindon with the safety net of void as Brammall Lane is still a tough place to go, regardless of form and who's played who in the days beforehand. Let's hope Swindon can notch a win, BetVictor at time of writing have 2.02, a shade above Evens, on Swindon, Bet365 have Evens. Ladbrokes and BetFred also have Evens on Swindon Draw No Bet, the same bet.
Burton Albion Win @ 2.5 (6/4)
League Two's best bet this weekend is by far my bet of the
week, no, year so far. They're at home to indifferent Bury, and to see them this far odds-against is a real surprise to me given how consistently good Burton have been and how consistently inconsistent Bury have been. Burton's last 8 read P8 W4 D4 L0, incidentally all 4 wins were in home games and the 4 draws were in away games. So no prizes for reading Burton's home form as P4 W4 D0 L0, scoring 9 and conceding 1 in those 4 games which included a win over Shrewsbury. Their home record over the whole season reads P13 W10 D1 L2, keeping clean sheets in 7/13. It's a damn tough place to go and better teams that Bury have left there with nothing. Bury, though slightly improved, are still a long way from their excellent early season form and perfomances. Their last 8 reads P8 W4 D2 L2, however only Wycombe were a top-half side they've faced in these games, so that record is actually par for the course at best. They've lost 6/13 away (P13 W4 D3 L6) and I think Burton will be too strong and sturdy a team for Bury to repel. 2.5 is such a tasty price for a team that steamrollers anyone who dares enter the Pirelli, available with William Hill and Coral. BetVictor are 2.45 for the Burton Win.
3 TO AVOID
Reading @ 2.1 (11/10)
Now for the uglier prices of the weekend. The Championship sees Reading priced up as favourites at home to Sheffield Wednesday. This price immediately caught my eye; Reading (18th) are 9 places below Sheffield Wednesday (9th) in the table so I was curious as to why the bookies' saw them as such heavy favourites. The Royals' last 8 games read P8 W1 D4 L3, and they've only scored 6 goals in those 8 games, so aren't in a hot streak of form and confidence right now. Their inability to score recently makes the price even more baffling when they're playing one of the best defence's in the league in Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls are on the brink of the play offs now, whether they break into them is questionable but they're looking good for a top-half place at the end of the season. Their form reads P8 W4 D1 L3, including clean sheets in 4 of the last 5 games. They've also won 3/4 away games in recent weeks so to be able to get above 1.66 (4/6) double chance on the Owls looks a steal seeing as they've only lost 2/13 away all season as well. Just don't back the Royals' this weekend.
MK Dons @ 1.73 (8/11)
I seem to be opposing the Dons on a weekly basis now, but while they continue to be so abhorrently priced away from home I'll continue to do so. They always seem to be odds-on when playing away, travelling to in-form Crewe this weekend, and that contradicts one of my first rules of Football League betting - never back a team at odds-on away. It's just not a realistic strategy that's going to make you money, especially when you look at the Dons' form. In their last 8 overall it's a reasonable P8 W4 D3 L1, but away it's P4 W1 D3 L0 including draws with Crawley and Scunthorpe on their last away outings and a narrow 1-0 victory over Notts County on Boxing Day. It's the 1 win from 4 which concerns me; if teams like Crawley and Notts County can run MK close then Crewe definitely can. Crewe are in magnificent form for a team that was drifting towards League Two not too long ago. They're P8 W4 D2 L2 from their recent games, and have scored at least 1 in all of their last 9 games. From this you'd think Milton Keynes are going to have to score at least twice to take the points, I'd have backed them to do that a couple of months ago but now I'm not so sure; they've scored more than one just once in 4 away outings and in only 3/8 overall. Crewe have got a real chance of taking some points here, especially at the prices offered. Beware the MK Dons.
Shrewsbury @ 2.25 (5/4)
Another team that feature regularly in this column, and another that I'll continue to include whilst the bookmakers under-price them. Aside from Burton being my bet of the weekend to beat Bury, Newport avoiding defeat at home to the Shrews is a close second favourite bet, and is probably an overreaction to Newport's defeats in their last two games. Focusing on Newport first, they're P8 W5 D0 L3 - those 3 defeats coming away from home. I suspect a lot of people have looked at their 4-0 and 3-0 defeats to Cambridge and Northampton respectively and decided Shrewsbury will walk over Newport in this game and I think it'd be a mistake to write the Exiles off too quickly. For starters, both games were away from home, and Newport are a different beast when playing at home (onto that shortly). The Cambridge result, in my opinion, was an off day for Newport and an on-day for Cambridge - I'd bet that if they played that match 10 more times that result wouldn't crop up again. And again, when they played Northampton they were travelling to a team that'd just won two games in a row after being on a long winless run, and playing a resurgent and confident home team with a new found belief and crowd back behind them is not an easy game for anyone. As mentioned, their home form has to be considered too. They've P13 W8 D4 L1 (that loss was in their first home game in August!) and they've scored in the 12 consecutive home games since. So, it's a brave man in my eyes that bets on Shrewsbury to inflict Newport's first home defeat in 12. A quick look at the Shrews' form - P8 W4 D3 L1 so good form as you'd expect for a team in their lofty position, but away they're P4 W1 D2 L1, failing to score in 3/4 games. And a startling stat, by Shrewsbury's standards, is that they've failed to score in 7/13 away games - over half! With that information to hand, I'm very happy to oppose Shrewsbury this weekend and have filled my boots taking Newport on the handicap. Hopefully that'll prove fruitful come 5pm on Saturday.
Thanks for reading and best of luck with whatever you're betting this weekend.
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