After going 1-1 last weekend, Adrian Clarke is back to try and make it a clean sweep across the EFL this weekend. We head to the Championship and League Two in search of winners.
Welcome back to my EFL Insights column! Last week a nice BTTS NO landed for us at Tranmere but this time around I’m looking for a pair of winning angles, rather than goals… We start in the Championship with an appealing handicap selection…
Critchley’s Blackpool Can Test The Blades
Across the last eight matches, only one Championship club has amassed more points than newly-promoted Blackpool (16), and that’s leaders Bournemouth. So I was surprised to see the Tangerines rated as 6.2 outsiders ahead of this weekend’s visit to Sheffield United.
OK, they were separated by two divisions last season – and their respective budgets aren’t in the same stratosphere – but based on what I see with my own eyes there is not a great deal of difference between them.
After getting off to a slowish start Neil Critchley’s minnows have steadily grown into the division. Setting up in a very well organised 4-4-2 they are solid without the ball, but also capable of exploding into life with fast, dynamic attacks down the wings.
Up top, they are without top scorer Shayne Lavery at the moment, but Ryan Yates and Gary Madine are good enough to stand in for him in the short term. The team still has a threat.
If you study their record on the road, Blackpool have only been beaten twice; and on both occasions, they were very much in the game.
The Seasiders were reduced to 10 men early on in a 2-1 loss at Millwall and were good value for at least a point away to new-look Nottingham Forest in another 2-1 reverse. In the rest of their away matches the Tangerines have come away with a point at worst.
To me, they are a side that’s capable of giving any Championship outfit a run for their money and I would include Sheffield United in that category.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s Blades are slowly improving but they don’t come into this fixture in the best possible shape. They were beaten at home by Millwall and were disappointing in losses at Bournemouth and Middlesbrough. Those three defeats came in the last five fixtures.
Sheffield United are a good possession side, they boast a wealth of striker options, and there is no doubting that Jokanovic is a top coach, but they are not blowing anyone’s socks off. Not yet anyway.
At Bramall Lane Sheffield United have won three of seven, but their 6-2 hammering of Peterborough United is the only time they have triumphed on their own patch with more than a goal to spare.
For these reasons, I am drawn towards backing Blackpool with a +1 handicap (1.88) on Saturday afternoon. It isn’t too often a side who are flying high in the form table is offered at an attractive price on this level of handicap, and it is pulling me in.
If they do get beaten by a goal we get our stake back, but we have the draw and any Blackpool victory well and truly onside, and I am OK with that.
I have faith that Critchley, one of the most astute coaches around, can ensure his team put up a competitive display in the Steel City.
New Manager Bounce To Help Newport Slay Shot-Shy Stevenage
“The new manager has come in and there is a buzz around the place,” said Newport County forward Dom Telford earlier this week.
In other words ‘the new manager bounce’ is very much a runner at Rodney Parade right now as the Exiles begin an exciting new era under James Rowberry.
The former Cardiff City coach is meant to be the real deal. Groomed by the Welsh FA he earned the coveted UEFA Pro license at the tender age of 29. Now 36, he is ready to build on the good work of the previous manager Michael Flynn.
His philosophy is to play attractive modern attacking football and by all accounts, the Newport players have been really impressed by Rowberry’s ideas.
Winning helps of course and in his first official match in charge, the Welshmen recorded an impressive 3-1 win at Bristol Rovers.
Strikers Telford (5 goals) and Courtney Baker-Richardson (3 goals) have racked up eight strikes between them in the last five matches, so the new head coach has handily inherited a confident front line too.
Averaging two goals a game during that unbeaten spell Newport County are functioning nicely before that new boss bounce kicks properly into gear.
This weekend’s opponents Stevenage will head across the Severn Bridge with mild trepidation.
Alex Revell’s men have won just one of their last 12 League 2 matches, failing to score in five of their last seven outings too.
They are trying to play better football this term, and in a 0-0 draw with Leyton Orient last weekend they were OK, but the style change is yet to bring about positive results.
Played 7; Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 5 is an away record that will frighten nobody, so for me, the Exiles should be overwhelming favourites at the weekend.
They currently lead the market at 1.91 and to me, that’s a tempting enough price. In truth, if they had been closer to 1.8 I would still be interested in siding with this fast improving team.
So, it’s Newport County on the nose for me. With a new gaffer sharpening minds and raising spirits, they should have too much for 20th placed Stevenage.
- Blackpool +1 to beat Sheffield United 1.89
- Newport County to beat Stevenage 1.91
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