There’s not a lot to like about Hartlepool on recent evidence but Ronnie Moore has been in this position many times before and invariably lives to tell the tale. Just when you think he’s going round in circles, his team short of ideas and him short of answers, he pulls a victory out of the bag and milks the resulting confidence for every last drop. So take a chance on the Teessiders coming up trumps at nearly 4/1.
What Moore achieved at Victoria Park last season was nothing short of extraordinary. At its worst point, Pools were ten points adrift of safety with over half a season played but it’s also worth noting that the 62-year-old Liverpudlian didn’t bring success overnight. He didn’t win any of his first five matches and his first 16 games yielded just 15 points. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, boom - four wins on the bounce.
It was a blitz that few envisaged beforehand, starting with away wins at Morecambe and Oxford in March, chalked-up at 7/2 and 19/4 respectively. Hartlepool have picked up just eight points from the last 13 matches, six of those against Yeovil and Dagenham, the two worst teams in the division. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be too consumed by the current formbook, it pays to take a broader view.
Whatever the size of your sample, Orient should be clear favourites but the issue is one of scale. This is essentially a match between a home team showing a 42.5 per cent shot ratio against an away team on 57.5 per cent and the samples are now big enough to take those figures as a reliable starting point. Once home advantage is taken into account, no way should the away team be odds-on. Throw in the leveller of the television cameras being present, even less so.
Ian Hendon has yet to fully convince the Brisbane Road faithful of his management credentials. Sitting seventh before the weekend, the O’s are within striking distance of the automatic places but a run of five straight wins at the start of the season has now been exposed for the fact their first four opponents now sit in the bottom eight. Since then, the Londoners have picked up just 11 points from 11 matches.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an interest in the goalscorer markets, you could do much worse than backing Jake Gray. The 19-year-old Crystal Palace loanee is a box-to-box midfielder who repeatedly makes penetrative runs deep into opposition territory and Moore has been imploring his other midfielders to get their head up and pick out his runs, which they were slow to cotton on to initially.
Gray got into several good positions in the first half of last weekend’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Cheltenham and his seven goals in a dozen under-21 outings for Palace already this season indicate that he possesses ample composure when executing a finish, so you can’t really grumble with the 18/1 available on him to break the deadlock and the 13/2 to score anytime.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.