Fleetwood v Walsall
The Cod Army started tentatively against Darren Ferguson’s men but exploded into life when introducing the two newcomers from the bench with an hour gone. They were unable to force a breakthrough but asked many more questions of Thorsten Stuckmann in the opposition goal once the extra pace and purpose had been injected into their attacks.
If Fleetwood start with the same energy against the Saddlers, they can finally begin to justify an impressive 54.5 per cent shot ratio over 14 matches under the former Coventry boss. They might be languishing in the League One drop zone but performances have improved markedly on the 48.9 per cent standard set by Graham Alexander over the first dozen outings.
Those recent numbers are borderline top-six material and it’s surely only a matter of time before they start winning matches and climbing the table if they keep it up. Only once in the last 11 matches have the Fylde coast outfit not won the shot count and the additions of Cole and Kiwomya bring some much-needed variety and competition for places.
Walsall were left frustrated by a stoppage-time equaliser at home to Blackpool at the weekend and their march towards promotion appears to be slowing under Sean O’Driscoll. Galling though that last-gasp setback was, a point was no more than the Seasiders deserved and 15/8 is a fair price about the home win here.
Blackpool v Sheff Utd
The Watford striker is now on loan with his fouth different League One club having lost his way at Vale Park when a needless red card at Burton opened the door for AJ Leitch-Smith to command a regular place but he looks tailor-made for the Seasiders in their current plight, having proved over 15 months that he knows how to lead the line and take the pressure off any team that likes to sit deep.
There’s no doubt Neil McDonald has made progress by setting his team up this way, the 1-1 draw at Walsall providing a fine example against a team who ran out 4-0 winners at Bloomfield Road last August, and it’s worth noting that all eight victories this season have been accompanied by a clean sheet, so a supplemntary wager on Blackpool to win to nil at 6/1 is also advised.
Nigel Adkins’ men enjoyed a little purple patch in December but they are generally falling short of the standards needed for a top-six finish. A manual adjustment should probably be made for the individual quality the Blades can call upon, but my 16-match ratings make the home side no bigger than 2/1 here. If the Tangerines bag first, they have what it takes to hold out.