Lincoln v Crawley
Lincoln boss Danny Cowley felt the Imps’ performance in their 3-0 away win at Exeter last weekend was their best display he’s seen from his side on the road. City sparkled in a comprehensive victory to gain slight revenge on the Grecians for last season’s play-off semi-final defeat.
Two goals in two first-half minutes did the damage but summer signing John Akinde – scorer of the second – was the match’s standout star. The Exeter defence struggled to contain the physical forward and Lincoln’s top goalscorer could prove to be the difference as the Imps eye up automatic promotion.
Meanwhile, the new-look left-sided combination of Harry Toffolo and Bruno Andrade is already proving to be a real asset for Lincoln with the pair linking up wonderfully well to create Akinde’s goal. The added firepower in the City ranks has given the Imps a new dimension to their often rugged approach.
Cowley’s charges return home on Saturday eager to extend their excellent start to the campaign. Lincoln have W5-D1-L0 – scoring 14 goals in the process – to lead League Two, and the hosts make plenty of appeal at 1.93 to overcome a -0.75 Asian Handicap hurdle against Crawley.
The Imps are operating off a minimum 63% xG ratio when viewing all attempts, as well as efforts only from open play, and their fabulous W15-D8-L3 record at Sincil Bank should hold the home side in good stead here.
Crawley suffered late-goal heartache last weekend at Oldham, to come fresh off the back of Harry Kewell’s departure as manager for Notts County. Jimmy Smith and Filipe Morais took interim charge but neither player is keen on the role full-time, while reports are linking ex-Chelsea striker Pierluigi Casiraghi with the gig.
The Red Devils will need to assess Romain Vincelot following a knock picked up last weekend but Josh Payne is back from a ban and Joe Maguire and Luke Gambin are available after joining on-loan.
However, Town are unlikely to have the tools to stop the home side picking up maximum points.
Bristol Rovers v Plymouth
It might seem strange recommending an odds-on bet on a side that’s yet to record maximum points this season but there’s method to the madness.
Bristol Rovers have made a wretched start to their third successive season back in League One with the Gas picking up maximum points in just one of their opening six encounters (W1-D1-L4). Darrell Clarke is now under pressure to turn the tide with supporters growing uneasy.
Nevertheless, performances have largely been better than the Pirates’ poor points tally. Last time out, Rovers put in arguably their best defensive display of the season, even when they were down to 10 men for the final half hour of a 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury.
Frustratingly for Clarke, his side led until 17 minutes from time when Daniel Leadbitter put the ball into the back of his own net. It was another kick in the teeth and the Gas will now be without the suspended Joe Martin, as well as Tom Lockyer through international call-ups.
Even so, I’m confident the Pirates are a stronger suit than their early season results suggest. The hosts have posted strong numbers across all the major performance data metrics, never being ranked lower than 11th, including the second-highest Expected Goals ratio figure.
Contrast that with rock-bottom Plymouth (W0-D2-L4). Argyle have had a tough start, facing three of the current top five, but Derek Adams’ men are ranked no higher than 18th in the same metrics – that includes a paltry 28% xG ratio from open play.
The away side have lost 12/26 (46%) and have struggled to field a consistent side or adopt a regular formation and system due to lack of form, injuries and suspensions. Only three of the squad have started all six League One matches thus far and that lack of cohesion could cost Plymouth here.
It’s a big contest for the two south-western clubs, even at this stage of the season, and Rovers look best equipped to come away with maximum points.
- Lincoln -0.75 Asian Handicap (1.93)
- Bristol Rovers -0.5 Asian Handicap (1.99)