Mike Holden has chiseled out some cracking bets in the Football League on Saturday.
Derby v Huddersfield
In terms of shot data, this is essentially a match-up between the Championship’s biggest fallers and climbers. Since Christmas - a combined sample of 23 games - the Rams have dropped from a 57 per cent shot ratio to just 50 per cent, while the Terriers have sky-rocketed from 50 per cent up to 62 per cent. Make no mistake, that’s automatic promotion standards from the visitors.
With that in mind, plus the fact Derby have won only two out of 11 matches, and considering the inexperience of Darren Wassall, who might not know how to turn the tide if Town do bag the first goal, it’s also worth having an extra wager on Huddersfield to clear the -1 handicap at 10/1.
Preston v Brighton
North End are no mugs. They post solid shot data, roughly on a par with Blackburn and Birmingham - the two teams who did Albion favours in midweek - and there’s clearly nothing subservient about them. Burnley and Hull were both beaten in December, while Sheffield Wednesday were turned over only a fortnight ago. In nine games against the top six this term, Simon Grayon’s men have kept six clean sheets.
Brighton have responded brilliantly to their horror show at Cardiff, posting successive 4-0 wins over Bristol City and Leeds, but their last 17 goals scored have come from just 25 shots on target - including eight from nine in those last two outings - and there’s a suspicion that regression will bite them soon enough.
Walsall v Barnsley
The Tykes have won 10 of their last 12 league matches and though Lee Johnson’s departure to Bristol City last month was a blow, the play-off charge shows no signs of abating under caretaker Paul Heckingbottom. A Barnsley lad born and bred, he’s understood to be well-liked and respected by the talented team Johnson has left behind.
As ever, Walsall will set out to dominate possession and be patient with their build-up play, which could make for a slow burner. But if the visitors do find a breakthrough with time to spare, then expect the hosts to quickly run out of ideas. Rochdale and Millwall have both won 3-0 at this venue recently and a bet on Barnsley to clear the -1 handicap is also advised.
Newport v Wycombe
It only adds weight to the case for backing ‘no goalscorer’ at 7/1 that both teams were beaten in midweek. The Exiles went down 2-0 at Crawley, a game they were just 11/8 to win, with Feeney describing the result as a "reality check" after picking up 14 points from his first seven matches. He wasn’t overly critical afterwards, but there was a hint of irritation over complacency.
Wycombe pride themselves on clean sheets and though five in the last dozen matches isn’t a bad return, they can do better. Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at Cambridge was their third defeat by that scoreline in six matches, with three 1-0 wins also occurring in the last seven. With no 0-0 since August, and Gareth Ainsworth growing frustrated by fine margins, it might be overdue.