Back Hull to underline their superiority over an unconvincing Middlesbrough side.
Whether you take your cues from results or performances, there’s not a great deal to separate these two sides. Hull are top on 31 points, Boro just a point behind in fourth, with both teams boasting an equal-best +15 goal difference. And the shot data paints an almost identical picture - Hull’s shot ratio is 60 per cent, Boro’s 59.
On that basis alone, the home win should be no bigger than 11/8 if you apply standard home advantage and it’s worth noting that six of the last eight league meetings between these two clubs have been home wins. But there’s just something about Aitor Karanka’s men that makes them unreliable in games of this magnitude.
Last season, they came up short in comparable tussles on the road at Bournemouth and Watford, slipping to routine defeats with barely a whimper, a trend horribly replicated in the play-off final against Norwich. So there was a sense of deja vu when the Teessiders were a goal down inside 60 seconds at Reading a month ago on the way to yet another win-to-nil defeat by two clear goals.
With those examples in mind, it's hard to resist additional bets on Hull to win to nil at 3/1 and Hull to win by two clear goals at 19/4. That’s not to say this is a problem the Teessiders can’t fix as they go but the market seems overly keen to grant them undue respect in advance when the feeling persists that they are perhaps a bit more emotional and rather more feminine than most of the other big-budget contenders.
Seven of Boro’s nine wins to date have been against opposition currently in the bottom half, while the eight points mustered from six games against top-half opposition consists of wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford before they got their acts together, surrendering a lead at Derby while Paul Clement was walking around in a fog and a goalless draw at home to Fulham.
So positive exhibits that demonstrate their automatic promotion credentials are hardly leaping out, whereas Hull have been quietly going about their business with real authority in recent weeks. A narrow defeat at Brighton in early September was declared a watershed by Steve Bruce, the moment when all the summer uncertainty was put behind them and the players knuckled-down to crack on with the job at hand.
Since then, the Tigers have gone nine matches unbeaten, picking up 21 points, conceding just three goals in the process. All six victories have been to nil, five of them by two clear goals, and confidence must be sky-high after they climbed to the summit with a thoroughly professional second-half display at in-form Brentford in midweek.
Meanwhile, third-from-bottom Bolton look decent value to close the gap on fourth-from-bottom Bristol City by landing only their second win of the campaign at 19/10. My 15-match and 24-match ratings both make the Trotters clear favourites and there’s ample evidence in their performance data at the Macron to suggest they will make most of the running.
Brighton, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday have all failed to win in Lancashire, while Wolves were beaten prior to the malaise created by Steve Morgan’s decision to put the club up for sale, so it’s a mystery why the Robins should be jollies here. All seven previous visitors are above Steve Cotterill’s men in the table, yet Bolton boast a 52.2 per cent shot ratio across those matches.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.