Northampton v Morecambe
But amid Chris Wilder’s inevitable post-match complaints about the referee was an admission that his team weren’t quite at the races, which is the second game in succession that he’s been forced to acknowledge a sub-standard display. The Cobblers were fortunate to come from behind and collect all three points at Dagenham & Redbridge last weekend.
That triumph at Victoria Road made it 13 wins from 16 league games, an extraordinary run coming from a paltry 51 per cent shot ratio. Squeezing so much out of so little simply isn’t sustainable over a long period and the sudden drop in intensity suggests some much-anticipated regression to the mean might finally be in the offing.
And when you’re looking to get one of the top teams beat at a big price, there’s nobody more reliable than Morecambe to get the job done. Last season, Jim Bentley’s men won 11 out of 18 matches against the top nine, beating four of the top five away from home, and their away record against the basement’s current top ten reads W3 D2 L1.
Indeed, had you staked £10 on the Shrimps in every away match where they went off at 11/4 or bigger during Bentley’s four-and-a-half year reign, you would now be sitting on £400 profit from 60 bets, around 66 per cent on turnover. As such, there’s no excuse for ignoring the 4/1 on offer with Bet365 here.
Swindon v Sheff Utd
The Robins have won seven of their last ten league outings, which started with a 2-1 win over a Scunthorpe side in red-hot form at the time. That was the first league outing of the Ling tenure and the dynamic has clearly changed in the subsequent period with Swindon performing more like the team they were last season than the one that was second from bottom after 16 matches with just 13 points.
Defeats to high-flying Gillingham and Burton over the festive period detract little from the overall pattern, especially now knowing what Ling was going through at the time. Under Williams, the players have subsequently come from two goals down to triumph with four-goal victories twice (against Southend and Crewe) and they ought to be feeling pretty invincible at the moment.
Sheffield United are in decent form themselves having bucked up their ideas in early December with a change of formation that coincided with the incentive of an FA Cup third round tie at Manchester United but they still haven’t quite done enough in my mind to justify an odds-on quote against a team that has netted 18 goals in the last nine matches.
Oldham v Bury
The Shakers are on a miserable run in League One having lost nine of their last 12 matches, which has sent them spiralling down the table from fourth to 15th. They now sit eight points adrift of the play-offs with a couple of consolation strikes in last weekend’s 3-2 home defeat to Walsall the only goals they’ve scored in eight hours of action since Christmas.
Oldham are still awaiting their first win of John Sheridan’s second stint in charge of the club, although the Latics have drawn 12 of their 25 matches - three more than anyone else - which would suggest they have been falling on the wrong side of fine margins under previous regimes and Sheridan is certainly the man to cure them if it’s a mental issue.