For the second consecutive week, there is a reduced fixture list in English Football. The internationals take centre stage this week, meaning there are no matches in the top 2 divisions in England, the Scottish Premiership, or in any of the international leagues covered on EFS. However, there are still many matches in the lower divisions to analyse and try to find some value.
The international break claims several matches in League One, with only five games scheduled on Saturday. There is another one on Sunday, where Wycombe travel to Prenton Park to take on Tranmere.
Wycombe are undoubtedly the surprise team of the season so far. Although they were not backed to be near the top before the season started, they currently sit tied with Ipswich in 2nd place with 33 points. They also sit 5 points clear of 3rd place Peterborough, having played a game less. Their success is built on a solid defence and a very organised team, having conceded 14 goals in 16 games, being the 3rd fewest goals in League One. They have only lost once all season.
A look at Wycombe’s success this season wouldn’t be complete without a reference to their manager, Gareth Ainsworth. Following Jim Bentley’s departure from Morecambe, Ainsworth is the longest-serving manager in the English Football League, having been in charge for over seven years. Ainsworth has taken the club from the foot of League Two to the automatic promotion places in League One, with reportedly one of the lowest budgets in League One. Last month, Wycombe were taken over by Rob Couhig, which will help the financial position of the club. Ainsworth should have the funds to keep their squad together and complement it in the January transfer window to help mount a serious promotion push.
Tranmere have battled well since winning the League Two playoffs last season. However, they have only taken 1 point from their previous 2 winnable home games against Shrewsbury and Southend. Although Wycombe have produced their best form at home, they have won 2 of their last 3 away from home, and there is good value at backing Wycombe to win at 13/10.
Of the other matches in League One, the best bet would appear to be Bolton. Bolton have recovered from their financial difficulties, winning their last two games, including a statement win over Fleetwood in their previous league match.
They host MK Dons, who have recently appointed Russell Martin as manager. His reign did not start well with a defeat at home to Port Vale in the FA Cup. Their away form has been below average all season, losing all but one of their seven games. Therefore, there is value in backing Bolton to win a 3rd consecutive match at odds of 8/5 and start to close the gap to the teams outside the relegation zone.
The top pick of the week comes from Walsall, who are currently short of confidence having lost their last 6 league matches. Although they beat League Two leaders Forest Green 6-0 in the Football League Trophy on Tuesday, they played a very young Forest Green side. The visitors to the Bescot Stadium are Cambridge, and this will be a far trickier test. Last Saturday, they conceded an injury-time equaliser to National League North side Darlington in the FA Cup. Despite all this, they are favourites to beat Cambridge at home.
Cambridge currently sit 12th, with 3 of their 6 wins coming away from home. Cambridge has looked amongst the top teams in the league at times, including winning 4-0 away at Mansfield and beating Exeter 4-0 at home. They have had a tough run of away fixtures, with only 1 of their 8 matches against teams in the bottom 10. It would be no surprise to see them win away at Walsall, and there is significant value in backing them at 2/1.
Other value selections for Saturday include Exeter, who are expected to continue their excellent home form against Cheltenham. Although both teams are separated by only 1 point in the league table, both have been much stronger at home than on their travels. Cheltenham has not faced any side in the top 10 away from home this season. While Exeter have lost their last 3 away matches, their last 2 home matches saw them beat rivals Plymouth and table toppers Forest Green. It is worth backing Exeter at 23/20.
Finally, the Broadfield Stadium is the venue for Crawley Town against Morecambe. Although Crawley have only won 1 of their last 6 matches, all of their opponents have been in the top half of the table, with 5 of them in the top 8. Crawley has been a much better team at home this season, with 4 of their 5 wins coming at home.
Morecambe have struggled this season. Without manager Jim Bentley, their recently resigned long term manager, it will be tough for them to stay in the Football League. They have lost 5 of their 8 games away from home this season. While Crawley is not likely to be pushing for promotion this season, they are a strong outfit, and it is difficult to see them not beating Morecambe. Although Crawley are best price 19/20, there is value in backing them.
One value pick that doesn’t belong on an accumulator comes from Woking vs Halifax Town. While their league position of 9th with 31 points paints them as a consistent mid-table side, Woking’s form has been anything but. Woking made a terrific start to the season, winning 7 of their first 8 matches. However, they followed that up by not triumphing in their next 11 games before beating Stockport County last time out.
Halifax sits in 3rd, with 11 wins from their 20 matches. Outside of a 5-0 defeat to league leaders Bromley, they have been better away from home, with 6 of their 11 wins coming away from The Shay. Last away match, they were 1-0 winners away at Sutton United.
Although this looks like an even match, the odds do not reflect this, with Woking around 5/4 and Halifax a best priced 11/5. Halifax would be a good bet at this price.
Finally, Hartlepool make the long trip to Kent to visit Ebbsfleet. Although they have recovered slightly from losing their first 5 games of the season, Ebbsfleet currently sit 22nd, in the relegation zone, with 17 points from their 20 games. 3 of their 4 wins have come away from home, whereas they have lost 6 of their 10 home games, and lost 2 of their last 3 home games.
Hartlepool are 14th in the league, with 27 points from their 20 games. While they have been inconsistent overall, they have won 4 of their 10 away games this season, which is the 8th best record away from home in the league. Currently, Ebbsfleet are the marginal favourites at around 7/5; however, Hartlepool should be favourites in this match. Therefore, backing Hartlepool at 17/10 would be the play here.
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