No reason to deviate from Millers

Cambridge United v Rotherham United
Saturday 18th December, kick-off 15:00

Cambridge boss Mark Bonner has expressed his admiration for Saturday’s opponents Rotherham by saying they are the team that they want to emulate. That’s high praise indeed, and follows on from Steve Evans last weekend calling the Millers the best team in the league. They lost 3-1 at the Abbey last month, a match in which he saw their top credentials first-hand. “It was a good game that day, I thought we gave a really good account of ourselves, but came up against a really powerful and aggressive team in a brilliant moment of form, and they’ve really hit the ground running this season.”

That’s Rotherham’s way; strong, powerful and aggressive.

It’s surprising no team from a higher division has taken a punt on Paul Warne, although with his fierce loyalties to the club, it’s hard to see him leaving the New York anytime soon, and his stock is so strong there, the board wouldn’t dream of letting him go. Warne’s approach is very much of the modern-day manager and his hollistic style with his players along with an real identity has marked them down as the de facto champs.

Warne, however, is worried about a potential Covid outbreak.

The away side are short, but they deserve to be as they are unbeaten in 20 and have won 14 of those. Even though they are 1.564/7 on the road, that still isn’t a bad price and I have seen worse 1/2 chances around. They have only conceded three on their travels all season and we’ve had a lot of joy in collection on the -1 bet with them this season, and there’s no reason to deviate from that.

KEY OPTA STAT: After winning two of their first three home games in League One this season (D1), Cambridge United have only won one (1-0 v AFC Wimbledon in October) of their eight such fixtures since (D4 L3).

Jackson finally has the job, permanently!

Plymouth Argyle v Charlton Athletic
Saturday 18th December, kick-off 15:00

Charlton moved into the top half of the table last weekend courtesy of a 2-0 home win against Cambridge – once again highlighting the success of Johnnie Jackson’s 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs. Their pressing is so good and so sharp, and the rookie manager has completely transformed the Addicks. So much so that Jackson has finally been appointed permanent manager at the Valley. All the players wanted it, he’s a legend at the club and he’s a progressive young coach. What more did the board need?

Saturday’s win was their third successive victory with three clean sheets and a win against Ipswich. He’s now won six of his nine in charge.

Plymouth have failed to win in any of their last five League One fixtures, losing four (D1). Prior to this run the Pilgrims were unbeaten in 16 league games, winning 10 (D6). The shock of Ryan Lowe leaving for Preston was a massive bombshell and completely unexpected. He’ll be missed, and the Green seem to be going off the boil. They are a good footballing side that play possession stuff, but Charlton are sound defensively and can get a win here.

The Win To Nil market should also be considered.

KEY OPTA STAT: Plymouth Argyle have won just one of their last 12 Football League meetings with Charlton Athletic (D3 L8) including a 6-0 defeat at Home Park in the most recent Football League encounter in April.

Cotterill to get one over his old club

Shrewsbury Town v Cheltenham Town
Saturday 18th December, kick-off 15:00

Shrewsbury have won three of their last four home matches in League One, drawing the other. They’ve kept two clean sheets in that run, conceding just twice and scoring seven. That marks them down as a fairly solid team that will always trade at around 6/4. They’ve never be as low as 2.1011/10, but it’s their home record that is keeping them from the relegation places. They’ve won five at the Meadow, yet have failed to win a single game on the road.

This of course is the Steve Cotterill derby, as the Shrews boss led the Robins to three promotions in five years at Whaddon Road, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Coterill on a regular basis for the old Clubcall line.

They lost the reverse fixture 2-1 in November, but they played some excellent football until they were reduced to 10 men.

Shrewsbury have played their last three on the road, so a return to home soil is most welcome as their previous two matches were great results with a 1-1 versus Sunderland and a 1-0 win against in-form Charlton.

After three consecutive defeats on the road, Cheltenham are unbeaten in their last three away games in League One (W1 D2). The last time they went four games unbeaten in a row in the league was between December 2020 and February 2021 (a run of 7), but for me, they are better at home and this could be a low-scoring affair.

KEY OPTA STAT: Of Cheltenham Town’s four Football League victories against Shrewsbury Town, just one has come on their travels – a 2-0 win in March 2000 under Steve Cotterill.

Tough start for new man Mckenna

Ipswich Town v Sunderland
Saturday 18th December, kick-off 15:00

Another surprising exit in the managerial ranks came recently at Portman Road, with Paul Cook dispensed with having overhauled the squad completely. It seems the Town fans, who were very much looking for Mick McCarthy and Paul Hurst to leave as former managers, were fairly split 50/50. Cook was disappointed at the fitness levels of his players, and clearly hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with some board members, and personally I thought he should have been given more time, especially as he tried a complete overhaul of the squad in the summer.

The performance however against Barrow was the final straw in the FA Cup. Kieran McKenna has good good credentials as a Manchester United coach, and the 35-year-old fits the bill as en vogue appointments now at this level are young, progressive coaches. The list is endless. Nigel Adkins’ days appear to be numbered!

Sunderland have won four of their last six league matches, drawing two. No team has won more matches in League One this season than the Black Cats (13 – joint with Rotherham and Wigan) but only four of those victories have come on the road, and for that reason it might be worth playing on the stalemate here, with a pair of draws away from home this season but also a poor defensive record of shipping 19 away. That’s the worst of the top teams.

I’ll also be looking to play on the BTTS market at 1.814/5.

KEY OPTA STAT: Sunderland have won just one of their last eight trips to Portman Road in the Football League (D2 L5) although that win did come in their most recent such visit in January (1-0).

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