Adrian Clarke aims to keep the good times rolling this weekend with another profitable portfolio of picks in his sights!
Professional performances by Birmingham City and Colchester United landed us two more payouts last weekend (happy days!) so that takes the running total to 12-3 since I began this EFL column.
With so much unpredictability flying around at the moment I’ll certainly take that 80% strike rate.
This weekend I have three more tips to discuss…
In Form Imps Should Not Be Underdogs For Sunderland’s Visit
Flying under the radar right now are Michael Appleton’s new-look Lincoln City.
The 45-year-old boss has spent the last 15 months revamping the side Danny Cowley built so successfully, and it’s all beginning to come together quite nicely. Playing a brand of fast, intelligent and aggressive football Lincoln City have won 10 of their first 15 matches, conceding just 10 goals in the process.
Smothering opponents with their energetic style and organised press they are developing into a pretty well-oiled machine.
Keeping clean sheets in 60% of their games so far, Lincoln are in fact the stingiest team defensively in League One.
Appleton deserves credit for assembling a quality rearguard.
Talismanic central defender Lewis Montsma (five goals this season) was plucked from the relative obscurity of FC Dordrecht last summer, and is now reportedly being watched by Premier League scouts,
Keeper Alex Palmer and right back TJ Eyoma have been loaned in from West Brom and Spurs, while centre back Adam Jackson (ex-Hibs) and left back Tayo Edun (ex-Fulham) have also flourished since joining in January. They are not a team of star individuals but Lincoln’s teamwork is a cut above the majority of sides they come up against in League One.
Amazingly the second-placed side are rated 2.97 underdogs to beat Sunderland at home this Saturday, and that’s a price that really stands out.
The Black Cats are strong, make no mistake, but in spite of their enormous stature as a club they are currently the lowest scorers inside the Top 10.
They also arrive on the back of a shock 1-0 home defeat to beleaguered Wigan Athletic too, in what was new manager Lee Johnson’s first match at the helm last weekend.
He’s a smart young coach that will improve Sunderland’s tactical flexibility and movement – and in all likelihood make them much better to watch – but this clash is a stern early-doors examination.
Injuries have ruled out several key men, plus Johnson and his players are still in the delicate process of sussing one another out.
With all this to consider, I can’t think of a more difficult fixture for Sunderland to face at this moment in time. Yes, the Black Cats are unbeaten away from the Stadium of Light but they have won on just three of those seven outings. I believe they will need to play extremely well to make it four at Sincil Bank.
It could be a close-run thing but I am comfortable opposing the away win.
Lincoln City at +0.0 on the Asian Handicap (draw no bet) is my selection at 2.06.
The Championship Is The Place To Go Low
Down the years very few leagues around the world have been able to consistently match the Championship for excitement and drama.
However, in a very 2020 kind of way, this season some of the usual sparkle has faded.
Results remain hard to predict (nothing changes there) but goals have been in short supply!
With tactical caginess coming to the fore all five of the most popular results are currently under 2.5 goals.
The 1-1 draw leads the way (14%), with 1-0 (11%) 0-1 (9%), 2-0 (6%) and 0-0 (6%) following closely behind.
Overall 61% of Championship matches in 2020-21 have dipped under 2.5 goals, a 10% increase on the previous campaign.
A third of games would also have paid out on Under 1.5 goals too.
This weekend several fixtures stand out as likely low-scoring affairs but the two I have picked out are Derby County v Stoke City and Cardiff City v Swansea City.
Shot-shy Derby County have been much tougher to beat under interim gaffer Wayne Rooney but scoring goals remains an issue.
The Rams are rarely involved in thrillers at Pride Park. On home turf seven of eight Championship fixtures have witnessed two goals or less. In six of eight roads trips for Stoke City (another very solid outfit) the same applies.
Ordinarily, I would fancy the Potters to win this match but they have a number of starting attackers who are injury concerns.
So under 2.25 goals (2.0/2.5) on the Asian Handicap at 1.82 is the direction I’m taking for a match that has dreariness written all over it.
Welsh derbies don’t tend to be thrill-a-minute either
This weekend Cardiff City host Swansea City in a fixture that has produced just seven goals in the last six meetings.
The last three times Cardiff have hosted the derby, it’s finished 0-0, 1-0 and 0-1.
When you throw in the fact these two sides are among the best organised defensively in the division and unlikely to approach any match with gay abandon, let alone this high-stakes duel, it does not have the feel of a goal-fest either.
Neil Harris’ side approach it in better form, with striker Kieffer Moore on fire, but Steve Cooper’s Swans (in spite of defensive injury concerns) are usually a tough nut to crack.
In seven of eight away games, this term they have conceded one goal or less.
So for me it’s under 2.25 goals (2.0/2.5) on the Asian Handicap (1.88) that appeals again here.
The Championship is gruelling to play in, and this season I do sense that the quality has been affected by such a congested fixture list.
A cocktail of fatigue and cautious tactics mean that in the short term it’s wise to be wary of the ‘overs’ markets in the Championship.
- Lincoln City at +0.0 at 2.06
- Derby County v Stoke City Under 2.25 goals at 1.82
- Cardiff City v Swansea City Under 2.25 at 1.88