With a 4-3 record since commencing his weekend column, Adrian Clarke looks to stay in the black this weekend with two selections from League 2
Going For Goals in Cheltenham’s Trip To Home Specialists Carlisle
What happens when you pit a side boasting a perfect five-from-five home record against opponents who have scored in every away match so far this season?
To be honest who knows, but it shouldn’t, in theory, be a goalless draw!
That’s the angle I am taking this weekend when Carlisle United host Cheltenham Town in a tasty looking League 2 contest at Brunton Park.
It’s a rickety old stadium that’s witnessed plenty of goals so far; in fact the average has been a chart-topping 3.4 per game.
Carlisle’s last three home fixtures have all surpassed 3.5 goals, so taking 3.5 goals at 3.47 will surely be of interest to many.
Manager Chris Beech sets his team up in a 4-3-3 that plays high-octane attacking football and his midfield contains a player, Jon Mellish who completely embodies that team ethic.
Bursting into the box at will the energetic Mellish has bagged 10 goals in 10 matches! Not a bad return for a guy that used to play centre half for Gateshead.
The Cumbrians are one of just four sides in the top four divisions yet to drop a point on home soil but I am not in a major hurry to back them this weekend.
Cheltenham Town are one of League 2’s strongest outfits.
Since blowing a 2-0 lead in last season’s play-off semi-final against Northampton Town Michael Duff’s side has lost a little confidence defensively.
However, with frontmen Andy Williams, Alfie May and Reuben Reid working in tandem – and all have been accommodated in a new 3-4-1-2 shape – they can hurt anyone going forward.
Newport County and Cambridge United are in fact the only League 2 teams to have scored more on the road than the Robins, who love to play front-foot football home and away.
BTTS has landed in Cheltenham’s last three matches (all finishing 2-1) and that is the kind of outcome I’m envisaging here.
There’s always a danger that two good teams will cancel one another out but I do see goals as the way to go in this clash.
If they stay true to form Carlisle and Cheltenham will slug it out in an open affair, so taking Over 2.5 goals at 2.1 feels like a very tempting bet.
Backing The Grecians To bring Bradford Back Down To Earth
Winning their last two ‘proper’ matches by an aggregate score of 10-0 you could be excused for thinking Stuart McCall’s Bradford City are worthy favourites to beat Exeter City on home turf this Saturday.
For me despite the odds, they are definite underdogs.
Yes, the Bantams looked sharp when thumping non-league minnows Tonbridge Angels 7-0 in the FA Cup 1st round last weekend, backing up a comfy 3-0 win against Southend United the game before.
But rest assured they will not find it as straightforward against Matt Taylor’s promotion-chasers.
The Devonians are unbeaten in nine games and are yet to taste defeat away from St James’ Park.
They have drawn five of six on their travels but in the majority of those clashes, they came away feeling disappointed not to have won, rather than clinging on for a point.
The likes of Joel Randall (five goals), Jake Taylor (four) and Matt Jay (three) have eased the burden shouldered by last season’s star men Ryan Bowman and Randell Williams, so when those two talents also catch fire Exeter City could be hard to stop.
Losing 4-0 to Northampton Town in the play-off final may have derailed many clubs but with the Grecians sat handily placed in fourth, there is no obvious sign of a hangover.
Offered up at 2.8 for an away win in Yorkshire there could be plenty of takers.
I say this because up until Bradford City’s bounce-back week against brittle opposition they were struggling big time, especially inside the final third.
They had suffered dismal defeats to Barrow, Bolton, Newport County and Harrogate without scoring in October, with McCall’s future as boss questioned in the local media.
The truth is Bradford City still haven’t beaten anyone above 21st in League 2 this season.
Their record against the rest reads; Played 7 Won 0 Drawn 3 Lost 4, Goals Scored 3.
In spite of their huge fan base and stature as a club, it is Exeter City who have a far better team than Bradford City this season.
Backing the visitors on the Asian Handicap at 0.0 with the draw a no bet at 1.96 feels like a pretty sensible move.
Exeter really shouldn’t be losing their unbeaten away record at Valley Parade.
- Carlisle United v Cheltenham Town Over 2.5 goals at 2.1
- Exeter at 0.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.96