Mark O'Haire: I’ve Decided To Snub The International Game With A Pair Of Pokes From League Two

7 min

Euro 2020 qualifiers might be dominating the back pages this weekend but football betting analyst Mark O’Haire is staying home, highlighting the best betting opportunities available in the Football League.

No joy for my Insights column last time out. Despite creating the bulk of goalscoring opportunities, Lille were unable to make their dominance pay against Nimes, conceding a late penalty to scupper our selection in France. However, there were few complaints in Russia as Rubin Kazan and Tombov played out an unexpectedly entertaining encounter.

With top-level domestic action on hold, Euro 2020 qualifying is top of the agenda. I’ve decided to snub the international game and instead dip down to the Football League with a pair of pokes from League Two.

Grecians Can Overcome Green Devils

Forest Green top League Two after a quarter of the campaign.

The Green Devils were beaten play-off semi-finalists last season and were keen to have another crack at promotion in 2019/20 despite losing a couple of key components to their side in the summer.

Mark Cooper’s men hit the summit following a 3-1 home success against Crawley that followed up a 4-0 tonking of Salford. The Nailsworth outfit have now recorded W7-D3-L2 to takeover at the top of the table, keeping a divisional-high eight clean sheets along the way.

But I have to question whether the Gloucestershire club have the capacity to consolidate their position as league leaders. Put simply, no Football League team has overachieved more so than Forest Green in 2019/20, with the scale of their overperformance hard to fathom for punters who enjoy digging deep into the underlying data metrics.

Almost all advanced analytics measurements have the Green Devils looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone, rather than chasing pack. Cooper’s clan have attempted the fewest shots and attempts from inside the box, whilst also registering the third-lowest on-target efforts.

And Green have ridden their luck in defensive areas of the field too.

Mark Cooper’s Forest Green side have ridden their luck this season.

Remarkably, fewer than 4% of shots faced by Forest Green have resulted in goals, and only 14% of on-target strikes have ended up in the back of the net. Unsurprisingly, no EFL side are operating off such unsustainable margins and regression to the mean is surely on the cards sooner rather than later for the Nailsworth men.

That process could be initiated on Saturday when Green head to Devon to face high-flying Exeter.

The Grecians (W6-D5-L1) have stuttered in recent weeks, surrendering their position at the top of the League Two table, although performance data points to Matt Taylor’s troops as being the fourth-tier’s standout side in the opening exchanges of 2019/20.

City have W15-D5-L9 as hosts under Taylor in league football and lead the ratio rankings for shots on-target, shots in the box, Expected Goals (xG) and xG from open play this term. With Forest Green residing in the bottom-eight for the very same metrics, it makes sense to keep the hosts onside at 1.83 quotes here.

U’s May Stifle Salford

Salford responded to that aforementioned 4-0 loss to Forest Green with a resounding (on paper) 3-0 success over Walsall last time out. On both occasions, the margin of victory failed to reflect the balance of play and the Ammies appear vulnerable home favourites against Cambridge in Saturday’s showdown.

The EFL newcomers have yet to seal back-to-back triumphs since promotion and Graham Alexander’s inconsistent outfit aren’t to be trusted at short prices. Salford have won just twice in six home encounters and the big-spending club have notched more than a solitary strike just once in front of their home supporters.

The Ammies rank slap-bang in mid-table across the majority of performance data markers with ratio figures below 50% when viewing traditional shot and shots on-target metrics. Concerningly for Alexander, only struggling Morecambe have faced more attempts at goal, whilst just three clubs have conceded more on-target strikes from their first 12 games.

Mark is not trusting Graham Alexander’s Salford side at their current price.

Cambridge have endured a similarly stop-start season (W4-D4-L4) but the U’s are far more convincing on their travels, collecting 11 of their 16-point tally on the road (W3-D2-L1). Colin Calderwood’s charges are largely improved on last term and have even eked out a position inside League Two’s top-seven for xG and xG from open play ratio returns.

The visitors have enough nous and game management ability to avoid defeat in Lancashire and can be supported at kind 1.93 quotes with a +0.25 start on Saturday.

Recommended Bets

  • Exeter -0.5 – 2 units @ 1.83
  • Cambridge +0.25 – 2 units @ 1.93