EFL tipping supremo Adrian Clarke has a pair of bets for this first column of the new season!
It’s great to be back for another season of EFL predictions for Matchbook. I think my debut campaign went pretty well, ending with a 68% win rate, but now that 2021-22 is here, the slate is wiped clean!
Hopefully, these two selections will get this column off to a profitable start…
Stevenage Will Not Roll Over Against Barton’s Bristol Rovers
Two games, two defeats, three shots on target.
It’s not been a great start for Joey Barton’s new-look Bristol Rovers.
Putting aside his personal off the field distractions, these are difficult times for the Gas gaffer. After a chastening 2-0 loss at home to Cheltenham Town in midweek Carabao Cup action, he even admitted it’s the ‘toughest moment’ of his managerial career.
So much for the bright new dawn at the Memorial Ground, eh?
In fairness to Barton, he is missing many quality players at the moment, including goal threats Brett Pitman, Aaron Collins and Brandon Hanlan.
This season, barely creating a chance across the first 180 minutes of football is still alarming but not altogether surprising.
Brand new starting XI’s take time to gel, and, logically, we will not see the best of them for several weeks.
This will certainly play into the hands of Saturday’s visitors, Stevenage.
They beat Luton Town on penalties on Tuesday evening after producing an awe-inspiring performance in a 2-2 draw. They grinded their way to a solid 1-0 success at home to Barrow on the opening weekend.
They will head to the west country with that warm glow of early-season confidence.
Alex Revell’s men are seriously tough to beat, too, especially on the road. At the back end of last season, Stevenage won four, drew four and lost one of their final nine away fixtures. Across their last 12 matches as a whole, they only leaked 10 goals.
If any side can rock up at Bristol Rovers to add to Joey Barton’s stress levels, it’s stubborn Stevenage.
I think an Under 2.0/2.5 goals play could work out profitably at 1.92 as neither side are super-creative or ambitious, but that’s not my selection for the game. Considering all of the above, plus the fact Barton has only won three games since taking the job in February, I prefer the visitors on the handicap.
Stevenage with a 0.0/0.5 handicap is my choice at 1.88.
The only way we lose money is if Bristol Rovers take all three points, and the form book says that’s a bit of a stretch.
Powerful West Brom Are Backable At Home To Hatters
I expected West Bromwich Albion to be far shorter than 1.76 for their first match back in front of their fans at The Hawthorns at home to Luton Town.
The Baggies have Valerian Ismael at the helm now, a head coach that worked miracles at Barnsley last term on a fraction of the budget he now enjoys in the Midlands. He loves his teams to press with major intensity, and they will be quite the force from set-pieces too.
Based on what we saw on the opening night at Bournemouth, they are already in synch with Ismael’s ideas and will be a formidable outfit in the Championship this term.
Of course, one or two players have departed, including the excellent Matheus Pereira and Okay Yokoslu, but they still have a solid squad of players.
West Brom’s rearguard is arguably too good for the level, and in forward areas, they have Grady Diangana, Callum Robinson, Matt Phillips, Ken Zohore and Karlan Grant to choose from.
Their strength in depth is borderline unfair on the rest of the division.
Luton Town are a good side under Nathan Jones and began with a cracking 3-0 success at home to Peterborough United. They should be at least mid-table this season.
My reasoning here is based a little on their travel sickness in 2020-21. On the road to top-half sides, the Hatters lost 9 of 11 matches.
I also believe there’s simply a gulf in quality between the two sets of players.
Luton have the potential to upset anybody this year, so this is not a shoo-in, but West Bromwich Albion’s powerful style and talent pool should make them hot favourites here.
There is value in backing them at 1.76 for the win.
- Stevenage +0.0/0.5 (1.88)
- West Brom to beat Luton (1.76)
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