After a week’s hiatus, Adrian Clarke is back armed with a couple of strong EFL tips for you to consider this Saturday.
BACKING FOREST GREEN TO LEAVE THEIR WOBBLE BEHIND AT SPARKY’S EXPENSE
Just a few weeks ago Walsall’s well-respected boss Mike Flynn labelled Forest Green Rovers the best League 2 side he’d seen in 10 years.
Scoring goals for fun and sweeping the opposition away on a regular basis, everyone was tipping up the eco-friendly side to win the title at a canter. Records were set to be smashed.
This could still happen of course, but on the back of a five-match winless run Rob Edwards’ impressive side don’t have quite the same swagger. Forest Green will still get promoted, they will likely finish in top spot, but they’ve lost some of the aura that had people purring.
The bounce-back has to start somewhere though (they are too good for this mini-slump to continue) and I envisage that happening when FGR entertain Bradford City, League 2’s great underachievers, this weekend.
It’s a contest that will see their bright young coach Edwards reunited with the person who handed him his full Wales debut almost two decades ago, new Bantams manager Mark Hughes.
Sparky has stacks of experience, but he’s inherited a Bradford side in dire straits.
There was no shame in being beaten at home by in-form Mansfield Town and Swindon Town in his first two matches in charge but that’s five losses on the spin now.
The malaise goes much further back. Since this time last year, the Yorkshire outfit have won just 12 of 50 league games, scoring exactly a goal a game, averaging 1.04 points per match.
It’s a paltry return for a club their size in the fourth tier of English football.
Clean sheets are conspicuous by their absence. Shutouts have happened in just 17% of Bradford games this term, a joint-low for League 2 alongside bottom club Scunthorpe United.
Forest Green Rovers are very well equipped to savage that soft Bradford underbelly.
Matt Stevens (24 goals) and Jamille Matt (21) have scored seven more goals than Hughes’ new outfit have managed as a collective (38) all season.
Much of the service is supplied by flying wingbacks Kane Wilson (13 assists) and Nicky Cadden (10) who are first and third in the League 2 rankings for goals created.
If anyone can find cracks in Bradford’s wobbly rearguard it should be League 2’s highest-scoring side, fired up and with a point to prove.
Mark Hughes is in the process of trying to implement a more possession-based style of play, but this stern examination feels like it comes a little early in his tenure at Valley Parade.
FGR under Edwards tend to swot bottom half teams aside, winning 12, drawing three and losing just twice to sides currently 13th or below – and no one would be shocked to see them claim another scalp on Saturday.
This looks a superb opportunity for the Gloucestershire side to get back into the winning groove, and you can back the leaders at 1.75 with Matchbook to get the job done.
GOALS CAN MAKE UP FOR LACK OF GLAMOUR BY THE SEASIDE
Morecambe vs Cheltenham Town is just about the least showbiz fixture in League 1’s calendar but that’s not to say it won’t be a fun watch on Saturday afternoon.
The Shrimps may be immersed in a relegation battle, but they almost always score in front of their own supporters at the Mazuma Stadium. In fact, it’s happened in 77% of their home fixtures until this point.
Top scorer Cole Stockton has had plenty to do with that, registering 12 of his 19 goals in familiar surroundings on the northwest coast. He’s a player that Morecambe will almost certainly lose to a bigger club this summer.
A remarkably similar pattern emerges when you study the Robins’ road trips. Notching in 13 of 17 away games (76.4%) Michael Duff’s travellers will rock up by the seaside fully expecting to find the back of the net. They usually do.
Across their last eight matches home and away Cheltenham games have featured a total of 30 goals, and their penchant for making errors at the back is a contributing factor.
Only four sides have leaked fewer goals than Duff’s charges (59) so it will not be a surprise to learn they’ve managed just seven clean sheets in 36 games at this level.
Morecambe are even more porous, collecting a meagre five. They’ve picked the ball out of their own net 67 times across 2021-22; a stat that returning boss Derek Adams will be keen to slow down between now and the end of the season.
All the data suggests Both Teams To Score is a definite runner here, and it’s backable at a price of around 1.74 with Matchbook.
Over the course of the full campaign, only one side in the division has been involved in more matches where BTTS has landed than Cheltenham (64%) and Morecambe aren’t too far behind on 61% either.
In matches against opponents currently sitting in the bottom half of the table those BTTS percentages also rise to 81.2% (Cheltenham) and 64.7% (Morecambe) respectively.
These are two outfits who are better in the final third than they are trying to keep the ball out of their own net, so this is a clash that shouldn’t lack entertainment.
My selection has to be Both Teams To Score (1.74).
- Forest Green Rovers to beat Bradford City (1.75)
- Morecambe vs Cheltenham Town – BTTS Yes (1.74)
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