Mike Holden picks out his best bets from Saturday's Football League action.
Charlton v Bristol City
The Addicks ended an 11-match winless run as Jose Riga found a way to get the best out of both Simon Makienok and Igor Vetokele in the same system. Both players had lost their way at The Valley, having made positive first impressions, but they started together for the first time at New York Stadium and shared three goals between them.
Riga’s potential impact shouldn’t be underestimated. Charlton are most people’s idea of the worst team in the division but they were barely any better two seasons ago when the Belgian produced a run of seven wins in 14 matches to drag them out of trouble and his impact could be huge as an antidote to the clueless Karel Fraeye.
John Pemberton has gone back to basics in his bid to turn Bristol City’s fortunes around, his four games in temporary charge producing just three goals (one for, two against) and the club’s failure to add either Bradley Dack or Tom Bradshaw to their ranks on Monday offers little to suggest an increased goal threat here. Take the 12/5 about the Addicks.
Fulham v Derby
Now six games into his Fulham reign with that wealth of Championship experience behind him, we could be approaching the point of turnaround at Craven Cottage. The 47-year-old Serb played 4-4-2 in his first four matches, matching up the opposition in each instance, but has since changed the formation to variations of 4-5-1 in the last two outings with promising signs.
After holding resurgent Huddersfield away, the Cottagers were slightly unfortunate to go down to leaders Hull last time out. But that was two weeks ago, since when Derby have been in action three times. So the hosts have a rest advantage, during which time Jokanovic has finally been able to do some solid groundwork.
Derby’s promotion credentials are firmly under the microscope at the moment following a sequence of questionable off-field events that might have upset team morale and undermined Paul Clement. Tuesday’s goalless draw at home to Preston did little to quash the suspicion that the Rams are feeling the pressure. Odds of 11/4 about the home win are well worth chancing.
Gillingham v Swindon
Over the past 16 matches, the Gills’ shot ratio has dropped below 50 per cent, which isn’t what you come to expect a team sitting third in the division and now they come up against a Swindon side making significant strides after a disastrous start, with Luke Williams building on the solid foundations left behind by Martin Ling. At 18/5, the Robins represent a decent speculative punt.
Don’t attach too much weight to a 1-0 defeat to Port Vale in midweek, the Wiltshire club were robbed of three key players at short notice, leaving Williams to fit square pegs in round holes, and it was always going to be an uphill battle once a makeshift defence conceded from a set piece after just six minutes.
But Town dominated possession from thereon and created plenty of opportunities to equalise, suggesting they haven’t fallen too far from the standards set when winning six out of eight matches either side of Christmas, scoring 18 goals in the process. Vale Park absentees Rafa Branco, Jordan Turnbull and Nicky Ajose should all return for the trip to Priestfield.
Bristol Rovers v Wimbledon
In terms of shot ratio, the Dons are currently fourth-best in the division, their 60 per cent figure over 24 matches marginally better than Rovers’ 58 per cent, but defensive naivety on home soil is costing them dear. No fewer than six of their eight defeats have been at Kingsmeadow. On the road, they are much more sturdy, with an impressive W6 D6 L2 record.
But it’s a familiar trend. No fewer than 10 teams in the top-half of League Two have won more away games than they have home games - Bristol Rovers included - providing further evidence that the level nowadays has a plethora of effective tacticians and not enough players of the required technical ability to make a difference.