Right now, the Owls are in dreamland, their every move played out against the backdrop of a new terrace soundtrack that starts ’Carlos had a dream, to build a football team’ and ends with ’We’re Sheffield Wednesday, we’re on our way back.’ It sums up the mood perfectly but the lines between cause and effect are becoming distorted, and it’s possible the club is creating a false momentum.
Wednesday are nine games unbeaten but it’s a sequence littered with favourable circumstances and opposition either fatigued or in turmoil. Somewhere down the line, you sense it’s building up towards a disappointment that nobody saw coming and Nottingham Forest look like ideal candidates to issue the reality check. The Reds are performing way above the standards indicated by the league table and they merit support at 13/5.
Last weekend, Dougie Freedman’s men needed stoppage time to snatch a point against Ipswich in a game where they could easily have been three goals ahead at half-time. It was the latest in a long line of hard luck stories, particularly at the City Ground where they’ve been mugged by three of the current top four. Forest might be languishing in 17th but they’ve dominated the shot count in nine of their 13 matches and their 53 per cent shot ratio is sixth-best in the division.
Meanwhile, the sense of gloom could be spread right across the steel city come Saturday evening because Sheffield United are way too short to beat struggling Crewe. Making a case for the Railwaymen requires all the power of one’s imagination, admittedly, but value is king and the home win simply has to be chanced at 13/2 or better. My season-to-date ratings make it a 7/2 shot.
Steve Davis’ autumn record offers arguably the best angle for justifying a bet on rock-bottom Alex. Over the past three seasons, Crewe have averaged 1.59 points per game between the October international break and New Year’s Day, a significant increase on the 1.04 points-per-game average at all other times. And it’s also worth pointing out they have played the Blades eight times since November 2012, winning three and losing three.
Elsewhere, John Sheridan has quickly knocked Newport into shape and they look a decent price to follow up successive away victories with their first win at Rodney Parade since March. The Exiles are up against crisis-torn Northampton, who have now reached the point where players haven’t been paid due to bank accounts being frozen by HMRC.
Chris Wilder has played a blinder in keeping the football separate from the club’s financial difficulties over the past few weeks but there was a noticeable change of tack in his pre-match comments yesterday, talking about the survival of the club being more important than results. That, in itself, should be encouragement enough to oppose the Cobblers as short favourites in south Wales.
Finally, get on Accrington to beat Leyton Orient at 10/3. These two teams might be streets apart in terms of budget but only a point separates them in the current League Two standings and the visitors are the better team in terms of performance. Stanley have played all of the top five, yet still boast a 60.2 per cent shot ratio, whereas Ian Hendon’s men have a marginally inferior figure at 59.6 per cent, having played only two of those pacesetters.
In stark contrast to events at Sixfields, Accrington’s promising start to the campaign was this week given an added boost with the news that local businessman Andy Holt has bought a controlling stake in the club, clearing £1.2m of debt with a further £600,000 set aside for investment. Suddenly, John Coleman’s insistence that the Lancashire minnows can push hard for promotion all season might have some legs.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.