The Latics were sensational for long periods of their 3-3 draw at Priestfield, pegging the Gills back twice before taking a deserved lead early in the second half. It was a performance that brought gushing praise from opposition manager Justin Edinburgh and chairman Paul Scally, both of whom agreed they were the best opposition the Kent club had been up against for quite some time.
Ultimately, though, it was another two points dropped as the Lancashire side played out their fourth successive draw under the former Blackburn midfielder, and eighth in total. A 1-0 win over Fleetwood on August 15th seems like an awful long time ago now. The Latics have only lost two of their 11 league matches to date, but they must be desperate to taste that winning feeling once again.
However, the switch to an expansive 4-4-2 system can give them the edge against a rather passive Iron outfit with Michael Higdon and Dominic Poleon showing signs they could blossom into a formidable partnership. Both men have netted twice apiece in 198 minutes as a front two and Higdon’s career record (101 league goals in 247 starts) marks him out as serious value in the anytime scorer market at 11/4.
Few managers talk a more convincing game than Mark Robins but Scunny have lost five of their last seven matches, three of them since the embarrassing 1-0 home defeat to then-winless Blackpool, which was meant to be the watershed that triggered a furious response. Last weekend, they did pick up maximum points against Fleetwood, but it was a turgid encounter settled by their only effort on target.
The Iron have shipped at least two goals on their last 14 away trips (conceding 35 in total), so the Latics should fancy their chances of filling their boots if they can replicate the blistering standards witnessed in the Medway town a week ago. Take some of the 11/2 about Oldham scoring over 2.5 goals.
Elsewhere in League One, Port Vale travel to Southend for what promises to be a tight encounter but there’s enough evidence in the shot data to believe the visitors are worth a poke at 9/4. Based on their respective efforts since the start of the season, and making the usual allowances for home advantage, this should probably be an each-of-two contest.
Indeed, recent trends suggest a hectic summer is catching up with the Shrimpers. In their last five league outings, they’ve managed just 12 shots on target, yet half of them have found the back of the net to produce unlikely wins against Millwall, Scunthorpe and Crewe. Phil Brown will no doubt take some credit for those results on a tactical level but that kind of efficiency simply isn’t viable long-term.
Vale were worthy winners against title-favourites Sheffield United last weekend and boast a healthy 52 per cent shot ratio over the first 11 matches, which is markedly superior to Southend’s 46 per cent. If the Valiants maintain the same level of focus that’s seen them shut-out the opposition for at least an hour on ten occasions in all competitions, they can also land the clean sheet at Roots Hall, which is priced up at 11/4 with Bet365.
Finally, bank on Accrington to respond scornfully to their first defeat in eight matches by taking maximum points at Barnet. The Reds were beaten 3-1 by much-fancied Oxford last weekend, a result that pricked the ego of John Coleman. Having spent the previous two months trying to play down expectations, the Liverpudlian is suddenly on a warpath to prove that his troops belong in such esteemed company towards the top of the table.
Coleman, it seems, was upset by some reporters’ desire to cast Michael Appleton’s men as comprehensive winners at the Crown Ground when, in reality, an Accrington side missing both first-choice centre backs had the U’s on the rack at 1-1 with 15 minutes to go. Prior to that late setback, Stanley had bagged four straight victories and the Bees could be ideal opposition for them to get back on the winning trail.
Martin Allen’s men have lost seven on the spin away from home but timely home games against no-marks Stevenage and Dagenham have papered over the cracks lately. With a quarter of the season gone, Accrington are the fourth most-dominant team in the division with a 61 per cent shot ratio and my ratings on the season to date make them clear favourites here - at 11/10 or thereabouts - so the general 9/5 available on the away win is well worth snapping up.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.