2/2 for Adrian Clarke last weekend so he’s aiming for the same this time around.
Fresh from last weekend’s delightful double it’s time to turn our attention to another pair of EFL contests.
Regular readers will know my fondness for taking a punt on the ‘Unders’ and that’s the theme of my latest Insights column….
HUDDERSFIELD v SHEFFIELD UNITED HAS THE LOOK OF A TIGHT YORKSHIRE DERBY
When clean sheets become a habit, good results almost always follow, so it’s little wonder northern neighbours Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United are both pushing hard for the play-offs.
I don’t think anyone expected Carlo Corberan’s Terriers to have a promotion tilt this term (maybe not even the head coach himself!) but they are right in the mix on merit.
Danny Ward aside they don’t have a plethora of goal threats so the foundation of their campaign has been built around a great work ethic, smart tactical play and general solidity.
Enjoying three shutouts on the spin they are currently on a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Usually involved in low scoring contests (just 12 of 31 have gone over two goals) unfashionable Huddersfield are developing the kind of ‘hard to beat’ mentality that makes them one of the division’s more awkward and stubborn opponents.
A total of 12 clean sheets (only Bournemouth have more) which includes seven on home turf, are stats that tell their own story.
Up next for them at the John Smiths’ Stadium are Sheffield United who are flying under new gaffer Paul Heckingbottom.
Across the last ten Championship matches, they have amassed more points than anybody else (25) and in veteran Billy Sharp they have one of the most in-form strikers around.
The Blades also boast seven clean sheets from their last 11 Championship fixtures.
Under Heckingbottom they look almost identical to the side Chris Wilder constructed, in and out of possession, and that’s as big a compliment as I can give them.
A late run at promotion suddenly appears doable.
Interestingly they weren’t at their best on Wednesday night when beating West Bromwich Albion 2-0, and nor were Huddersfield Town who picked up a point from a goalless draw at Preston North End.
Their combined play inside the final third (Sharp aside) looked a little jaded in both games.
There also must be a question mark over whether Sheffield United’s 36-year-old star can continue living up to his surname playing three times a week.
Starting six key games in four weeks it would be understandable if fatigue began to sink in for the veteran front man. Sooner or later, someone else must step up with goals.
Derbies are usually tight, gritty affairs and this weekend’s early kick off does have the whiff of that about it.
Avoiding defeat is of paramount importance and their defensive form is just outstanding.
I can’t pick a winner here, but I do have an inkling goals will be hard to come by. My selections has to be Under 2.5 goals at 1.75.
STANLEY SHOULD DESPATCH TRAVEL SICK CREWE
It’s just not happening for David Artell’s Crewe Alexandra this season.
Stranded in the drop zone, no League 1 side has a weaker record away from home, taking three points just once on their travels.
They are the second-lowest scorers, boast the third-worst defence and they approach a trip to Accrington Stanley dented by four successive, demoralising losses.
If Artell and his staff can instil belief into his inexperienced squad ahead of a visit to The Crown Ground this Saturday, then I’m in full admiration for their work.
Alex have been beaten eight times in their last nine away fixtures and have amassed a paltry two points from a possible 39 against teams currently sat in the top half of the table.
John Coleman’s Accrington just about fall into that category in 12th, but ten of their final 16 games are against sides lower than them, so I’d hazard a guess they could finish significantly higher.
Stanley beat in-form Oxford United 2-0 in front of their own fans in midweek, building on good victories against Rotherham United, Ipswich Town and Bolton Wanderers at their small, rather inhospitable stadium.
Scoring in all but one contest there, winning eight of 16 games, they do present a difficult test for anyone that knocks on their door.
They are not free-scoring. Striker Colby Bishop is a good player with eight to his name, but Stanley tend to share the goals around.
Midfielders Ethan Hamilton (6) and Harry Pell (5) offer a threat from deep, while central defenders Michael Nottingham and Matt Butcher (both 4) are expert at getting on the end of set pieces.
Recently both sides have featured in relatively low-scoring affairs.
Just one of Accrington’s last eight have seen more than three goals, and for Crewe it’s two from eight.
Nine of Alex’s 11 away defeats stemmed from encounters that featured three goals or less, and all but one of the hosts’ home victories fit that bill too.
It’s impossible not to fancy Accrington Stanley here and at 1.73 they are backable at the price.
However, if you want to be a little more daring (and the data is telling me we can!) then you can pair a Stanley success with Under 3.5 goals at a juicier 2.54.
As Del Boy once said ‘he who dares’ is my mantra on this fixture. I’m happy to make a small play on Accrington Stanley to win & Under 3.5 goals.
Huddersfield Town vs Sheffield United Under 2.5 goals (1.75)
Accrington Stanley & Under 3.5 goals vs Crew Alexandra (2.54)
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