Can Harris get his rewards in the fight against the drop?
Gillingham v Wycombe Wanderers
Saturday 9th April, kick-off 15:00
The rooster of displeasure was crowing in these parts following last weekend’s column. While Ipswich badly let me down at home to Cambridge, with the U’s reverting to type losing on Tuesday 4-1, we had two, yes TWO 96th minute goals to scupper a pair of winning bets. Accrington were 4-2 in the closing stages and somehow drew 4-4, while Gillingham put up a tremendous rearguard action at Sunderland and the Double Chance bet at 5.04/1 was looking good for a profit. Nathan Broadhead’s last-gasp winner ruined what could have been a profitable afternoon.
Talk about fine margins.
It won’t deter me from going in on Gillingham again, who are once more a huge price at 4.94/1 against Wycombe. A match-up with a team that score goals, and a team that doesn’t.
Neil Harris summed up the defeat perfectly by saying: “It was a bit of a kick in the nuts. I thought Sunderland were excellent, at spells in the game they made it really difficult for us to get out of our half.”
Considering Sunderland’s riches and their forward line, the Gills were very organised and dealt with the amount of balls pumped into their final third. They had zero shots on target and had just 19% of the ball – which must be some sort of record in League One. It was so close to a famous point.
I’ve latched onto the Gills recently as they simply have been harder to beat. Since the debacle of conceding seven at home to Oxford, and the defeat that ultimately cost Steve Evans his job, Harris has engineered 11 Under 2.5 games in 13, with six of those clean sheets. Delving deeper, games have been tighter too; with six at a scoreline of 1-0 or 0-1.
Wycombe had a bad wobble from January to mid-Feb, but they are unbeaten in seven and have five wins and plenty of goals. It was good to see Garath McCleary starring again on Tuesday as they hammered Cambridge 4-1. McCleary is such a gifted player at this level and looks so silky when on song. Sam Vokes also bagged a double in that to take his tally to the season for 14.
I don’t expect this to be a pretty game at all and it could be along the lines of the 0-0 at Portsmouth for Wanderers last month, as Pompey’s tiredness crept in. Wycombe were as usual fast and very direct, and Harris will have to get his rearguard hat on again and aim for a low-scorer.
The Under 2.5 Goals is rightly shorter than Over 2.5 at 1.865/6, and that’s still a fair price as I cannot see the hosts even considering going toe-to-toe. They’ll have one eye on Wimbledon’s game with MK Dons on Saturday, with the Londoners three points behind. Gillingham are still odds-on at 1.738/11 in the Relegation market, while the Chairboys are 1.84/5 for a Top Six Finish.
Gillingham are without a goal in each of their prior four league games at Priestfield Stadium, they have never gone five games without a goal at home in the Football League before. Indeed, no side have failed to score in more home games in League One this season than the Gills (10), so it throws up the possibility of another go at the 0-0 on the Correct Score. But I am going to use the same Double Chance tactic from last weekend, and hope we don’t have any late shockers.
KEY OPTA STAT: Wycombe’s 2-0 win over Gillingham in November was Gareth Ainsworth’s first league win over the Gills since February 2013 (1-0); he’s never won consecutive league games against them before.
Manning’s Dons continue to impress on the stats and can win derby
AFC Wimbledon v MK Dons
Saturday 9th April, kick-off 15:00
The big derby comes up on Saturday, and a lot is riding on the potential outcome for this. Wimbledon have won just twice all season at Plough Lane with an astonishing 12 draws, but they still remain in the bottom three. They haven’t won a game since December and Mark Bowen replaced Mark Robinson recently following this disastrous run, but the new boss admitted that time is running out by saying: “To give ourselves any chance, we have got to start winning games. It’s certainly not all over.”
This will be a baptism of fire for Bowen, and Robinson’s ideal to change the style of football has had catastrophic consequences. The Wombles are fourth in League One for long passes (2465), so not a lot has changed in terms of aiming for a progressive style. Compare that to the clear DNA of the MK club, who have made more passes in League One than any other team, and lead the division with 19,740 passes. Veteran Dean Lewington (pictured below), is leading with experience and he is 14th on the all-time appearances list on the Football League on 763.
They have a chance to go top on Saturday and are just a point behind Wigan, although Rotherham (who surely cannot implode now?) have two games in hand in third having led the way for much the season. The MK Dons are still a massive 9.89/1 to in the League One Winner market, with Wigan the new favourites.
The points total of 82 for MK is already one of the five best in Club history. They need two more points to move level with the 2006/07 campaign for the fourth best ever points return, and I am somewhat surprised they aren’t a little shorter in the betting at 1.910/11. Liam Manning’s team are equally good both home and away in terms of victories (12) and have won eight of their last nine games. They’ve taken the lead 30 times this term too; which is tied for second in terms of division rank. They were habitual slow-starters under Russell Martin, and that seems to have been eradicated.
Scott Twine continues to impress, and I like checking him out in the Betbuilder options on the Sportsbook on a regular basis. The attacker has the division lead in terms of total shots (124) and shots from outside the area (81). He is third for shots per 90 minutes (3) from stats on the MK Dons website, and Twine To Score First And MK Dons To Win pays out just over 5/1 on the Sportsbook.
KEY OPTA STAT: MK Dons are unbeaten in their last 11 away league games (W9 D2) which is equal to the club record in the Football League set in January 2008. Indeed, the Dons have won each of their last four league games on the road; they previously won five in succession in April 2014 under Karl Robinson.
Shrews can tame Town following Cambridge loss
Shrewsbury Town v Ipswich Town
Saturday 9th April, kick-off 15:00
Ipswich blew their big chance on Saturday by losing at home to Cambridge, and Kieran McKenna’s team are now out to a massive 34.033/1 in the Top 6 Finish market. It was their first reverse since January, so it’s hard to knock the new manager at Portman Road.
McKenna expressed great disappointment following such a passive display. It was described as their worst for a long, as Cambridge won nearly every second ball. The U’s were far more aggressive and Ipswich’s usual possession game completely deserted them. There was most certainly a problem in the middle of the pitch as their shape appeared to be all wrong. For a team that have fared so well on possession stats, it was an epic fail.
Can they bounce back? Well, the market has them as favourites at 2.35/4, so the answer is yes. But as always with Shrewsbury, they are underrated on the betting on a regular basis.
The Shrews have won each of their last two league games at Montgomery Waters Meadow by an aggregate of 6:0; they haven’t won three successive home league games without conceding since New Year’s Day 2018, but that could change if Ipswich turn up in the same meek mood as they did against Cambridge.
They suffered a 2-0 loss at MK Dons last weekend, but there’s no shame in that against the top ballers of the division, but they had previously beaten Morecambe and Lincoln and have a fair record at home with nine wins and six draws. They don’t concede too many either with just 18 shipped on Salop home soil. With Shrewsbury’s only previous home Football League win over Ipswich came on January 1987 (2-1), six of the other eight meetings have ended in draws (L2), which backs up our draw bet.
Town have five draws on the road and that is the same as Shrewsbury’s home total, and I like that play at 3.412/5 here to go with the Correct Score punts of 0-0 and 1-1.
KEY OPTA STAT: Ipswich’s 11-game unbeaten run in the league came to an end last time out against Cambridge (0-1), the Tractor Boys haven’t lost successive league fixtures since November – both 0-2 against Sunderland and Rotherham.
*You can follow me on Twitter @DudmanAl