Mark O’Haire returns with his first bets of the new season and picks out two selections from the Football League.
Preston v QPR | Saturday 3pm
Over the past four Championship campaigns, 60% of opening day favourites have obliged, with odds-on shots returning profit in seven of nine encounters.
Despite injury blows to forwards Sean Maguire and Billy Bodin, Preston (1.95) look the best value team to enhance that record when they welcome QPR to Deepdale for their curtain-raising clash on Saturday afternoon.
Louis Moult is set to lead the Lilywhites frontline and although the striker hasn’t hit the ground running since arriving in Lancashire, a support cast of Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen should ensure Alex Neil’s men remain as tough to beat on home soil.
The hosts’ six defeats in front of their own supporters in 2017/18 all came against top-half sides with five losses arriving against top-six teams. Include away days and North End were beaten just twice in 24 tussles against clubs that finished the season in 13th or below.
QPR returned a rotten W1-D3-L13 at teams outside of the Championship’s bottom-six last term, and with defensive stalwarts Nedum Onuoha and Jack Robinson departing in the summer, new boss Steve McClaren is short of options at the back with Toni Leistner the only new arrival at Loftus Road.
Right-back Darnell Furlong is unavailable through injury and the Hoops may struggle to field a cohesive backline until reinforcements arrive. McClaren’s remit revolves around blooding a burgeoning group of youngsters and the visitors may pay for their prudence on Saturday.
Shrewsbury v Bradford | Saturday 3pm
Surprise managerial appointment Michael Collins believes Bradford can be a force to be reckoned with in League One this season and the Bantams look handy 1.80 shots with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start to pick up a positive result against Shrewsbury in their opening encounter.
It’s been a busy summer at Valley Parade with a number of experienced players leaving the West Yorkshire club and 15 new names arriving. Such upheaval would normally be cause for concern, although the quality of incomings has quelled discontent from the Bradford supporter base.
Jack Payne and Eoin Doyle are the latest pair to sign up for Collins’ charges and City have also bolstered their ranks with the likes of Sean Scannell and Hope Akpan as they bid to return to the second-tier after a 14-year absence.
On paper, Saturday’s trip to Shrewsbury looks a tall order for Bradford. Salop made a mockery of pre-season relegation predictions by pushing both Blackburn and Wigan all the way in the automatic promotion stakes last season before eventually losing out in the League One play-off final.
However, it’s been all change at The New Meadow this summer. Boss Paul Hurst was snapped up by Ipswich and leading lights Alex Rodman, Dean Henderson, Craig McGillivray, Abu Ogogo, Junior Brown, Carlton Morris and Ben Godfrey are no longer about.
Omar Beckle, Toto Nsiala and Jon Nolan are the only key players from last season to have been retained although the latter duo have been subject to intense speculation this week and have since handed in transfer requests following failed bids from Ipswich.
It’s a difficult situation for new manager John Askey to oversee and with potentially only one of last term’s leading lights lining up in Saturday’s starting XI, plus favourites returning profit in only 43% of opening round League One matches since 2014/15, I’m more than happy to oppose the hosts.
- Preston -0.50 Asian Handicap (1.95)
- Bradford +0.25 (1.80)