Ex-professional footballer and current broadcaster Adrian Clarke makes his Matchbook Insights debut with a couple of EFL fancies for the weekend ahead!
Expect A Turgid Affair At Kenilworth Road
As somebody that played alongside Luton Town’s manager for three seasons back in the late 90’s I know for a fact nobody on earth will be more desperate for his side to win the ‘Nathan Jones Derby’ more than the man himself.
He is a fiercely competitive person; and this weekend’s Championship clash at home to Stoke City – the club that sacked him almost a year ago – has bad blood written all over it.
To give this encounter the context it deserves Jones unceremoniously dumped Luton Town in the midst of a League One promotion race in early 2019 for the lure of the Potteries. After enduring a miserable spell in charge there (winning six of 38 matches) he was shown the door, before returning to Kenilworth Road with an apology note during lockdown.
He’s since been more than forgiven. First for miraculously steering the Hatters away from near-certain relegation, before opening up 2020-21 with an impressive three wins from four Championship outings.
Having beaten Derby County and Wycombe Wanderers on their own patch already this term (plus Norwich City in the EFL Cup) Luton do look good value at 3.1 to beat Stoke City on Saturday.
Personally, I am not entirely convinced.
Jones’ side have got the better of fine margins so far this term, claiming nine points from four matches where they only managed 11 shots on target.
And importantly seven of those came at home to woeful Wycombe Wanderers.
So as much as Nathan Jones will fire his team up for this one (and he will!) they are not a side accustomed to creating stacks of chances in the Championship.
Their reliance on efficient finishing is strong.
Stoke City are a very solid team on their travels under the astute guidance of Michael O’Neill.
Operating in a well-drilled 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 they are yet to concede a goal away from home during the current campaign. Shutouts from trips to Millwall (0-0), Wolves (0-1), Preston (0-1) and Aston Villa (0-1) have shown a real comfort in different surroundings.
They haven’t scored more than one goal in eight attempts this season either, but with Lee Gregory, Sam Vokes, Tyreece Campbell and Nick Powell in their ranks that anomaly won’t continue forever.
The obvious bet here is to go low on goals.
There have been over 2.5 goals in just one of their eight combined fixtures to date, so 1.67 is tempting on Under 2.5 or alternatively, you can play Under 2.0/2.5 (ie half of your stake on Under 2.0 & the other half at under 2.5) at a more generous price of 1.88 and guarantee a profit if 2 goals or less comes in.
Stoke have a progressive new-look side that mixes quality with solid organisation.
The Potters to win at 2.5 also appeals but to a lesser degree in comparison to the goals markets.
I’m More Than Keen To Roll With The U’s This Weekend
Every now and then a price really leaps off the page and that’s the case for Scunthorpe United v Cambridge United this weekend. The U’s have been remarkably strong since the little-known Mark Bonner took charge in late January.
Winning 10 of 16 matches in charge in all competitions (initially on a caretaker basis) the East Anglians are now brimming with confidence, sat second in the League 2 table.
They are scoring plenty of goals with Paul Mullin one of the division’s most in-form marksmen. Talented veteran Wes Hoolahan is supplying much of the ammunition so the U’s striker could be set for a bumper haul this season.
When you realise Cambridge have also kept five clean sheets in nine matches they really do look excellent value at 2.61 to take all three points at Scunthorpe.
It should be pointed out that the hosts are not in wonderful shape ahead of kick-off.
They were battered 4-1 by Forest Green Rovers at home last weekend, and have won just once in five contests at Glanford Park since the campaign began.
Since the start of 2020 the Iron have actually lost seven of 13 home games, so Cambridge know they are not entering a League Two fortress.
80% of Cambridge United’s matches so far have been +1.5 goals so I would expect this affair to reach or go Above the Goal Line of 2.0/2.5 at 1.99 – and for Bonner’s men to prevail.
- Stoke City v Luton Under 2.0/2.5 goals at 1.88
- Stoke City to beat Luton Town at 2.5
- Cambridge United to beat Scunthorpe United at 2.61
- Scunthorpe vs Cambridge Over 2.0/2.5 Goals at 1.99