There’s a good reason why nearly every club in League One and League Two brought their opening Easter weekend fixture forward to Good Friday, and it wasn’t anything to do with traffic, attendances or policing costs. Given the increased understanding of sports science nowadays, managers want their players to recuperate and be in the best possible shape for Monday.
So here’s a game where neither side has that luxury. The turnaround is barely 48 hours and the upshot could be a low-scoring encounter, much like the games they both featured in on Saturday. Burton finished 0-0 with Oldham at lunchtime, then Millwall were beaten by a late goal in the afternoon at Bradford. The two matches combined produced just seven shots on target.
Naturally, both managers are promising an improvement here. Nigel Clough insists Burton’s energy will be better, while Neil Harris reckons Millwall will be able to call upon a bit more quality in the final third. And they might both be right, at least to begin with. However, if both teams stay true to their primary traits of being organised and competitive, it’s hard to imagine there being much to separate them when legs start to tire late on.
As such, a bet on the 0-0 at 7/1 seems like a relatively straightforward call. Even without taking the quick turnaround into account, my 16-match ratings generate a total goals expectancy of 1.76, which converts as an 18 per cent probability of the game finishing goalless, or 9/2 in fractional odds.
There was also the temptation to back under 1.5 goals but that was tempered slightly, once the best price dropped below 2/1, by the realisation that both sides would be extra determined to dig deep and find something extra should they fall behind. Given how both are currently holding on to a position they would like to keep, this is more don’t-lose than must-win.
The setback at Valley Parade was only Millwall’s second defeat in 14 matches but it compounds a poor return of just six points from eight matches against the rest of the top six (or six from ten, if you include seventh-placed Barnsley). In previous home games against Wigan, Walsall, Gillingham and Bradford, the Lions have yet to find the net.
Burton, by contrast, have taken 13 points against the same opposition and kept nine clean sheets in 19 away games overall. The only oddity in that impressive away record is the lack of draws (just one, at Crewe) but when you consider how eight games have finished under 1.5 goals and both-teams-to-score punters have been foiled on 14 occasions, you could argue a 0-0 is probably overdue.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system