Birmingham v Middlesbrough
Friday night sees two out of form sides collide as Birmingham entertain Middlesbrough, with both seeking a morale-boosting victory before the league stops for the international break. Birmingham have endured an inconsistent, but not necessarily unexpected, start to the campaign, whereas Middlesbrough are clearly still adjusting to life under the Jonathan Woodgate regime.
Birmingham find themselves on a three-game losing run, although all were by a one-goal margin. That suggests that they aren’t so far away from turning things around as many expect, although it is doubly frustrating to lose tight games in this nature. Pep Clotet is looking to make his own mark on proceedings, but their main issue seems to be going forward.
The Blues just aren’t creating enough shots on goal in games. They’ve averaged 10 so far, which may seem like a lot, but it is actually one of the lowest in the division. They’re scoring just shy of a goal per game, which suggests their strike rate isn’t so bad, but to win games you’d think they need to offer more going forward. It is margins like this why they’re losing close encounters.
Middlesbrough only have one more goal than their Friday evening opponents, so we can’t really say they have the upper hand in that regard. What they generally are though is quite stingy defensively. Yes, they did concede four in the first-half to Sheffield Wednesday recently, and also shipped three away at Luton on the opening day. However, those seven goals in those two games account for exactly half of the 14 goals they’ve conceded. That therefore means they’ve conceded seven in eight otherwise, which is pretty good.
Boro are also winless in three, losing twice in their case. Confidence certainly isn’t so great at the moment as the club had aspirations of being much higher in the standings. Something I have noticed is that that too have been involved in a number of close clashes over the season. They have four draws to their name, both wins were 1-0 and three of their four defeats were 1-0, too. They aren’t far away from turning things around, but again it will be frustrating for them.
Looking ahead to Friday, naturally a low-scoring affair is my first suggestion. The price isn’t so appealing however, and although the stats suggest otherwise I get the feeling this could contain a few goals as both may sense this as a real winnable opportunity. I am however happy to back Middlesbrough 0 AH. All the pressure is on Birmingham as the home side and I just don’t think they’re quite comfortable taking the game to opponents at St Andrews. True, they outplayed Barnsley when beating them, but they were fairly fortunate to beat Stoke and draw with Bristol City, whilst Preston kept a clean sheet against them recently, too.
Both teams are under pressure, so playing away from home will suit right now. Boro don’t tend to concede too many in a game, with a few exceptions, and they are creating big moments right now, but just need to take a few more of them, which they’re more than capable of doing.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Middlesbrough 0.00 at 2.150
Huddersfield v Hull
We have a Yorkshire Derby on the Saturday Championship programme and both teams enter this contest following 1-0 victories on Tuesday. Huddersfield wrapped up their first win of the season in a bottom-of-the-table battle with Stoke, whilst Hull extended their unbeaten run over another local rival in the form of Sheffield Wednesday.
We’ll start with Huddersfield first and foremost and we’re very much starting to see the Danny Cowley effect at the John Smith’s Stadium. Being a Lincoln City supporter, I’ve seen first-hand the sort of impact he can have on a football club. He may have only been with his new club with a few weeks, but they’re now on a mini two-game unbeaten run and performance levels are most certainly improving.
The performance at Stoke was anything but pretty, but it was effective and it is a good blueprint for them to go forward in getting something on the road in future games. Playing that way on the road however arguably increases the pressure at home, where they will aim to be more positive. Cowley now goes in search of his first home success, and in-form Hull will present them with big obstacles to overcome.
Hull have gone under the radar under the management of Grant McCann this season and they’ve managed to build up a five-game unbeaten streak, including two wins in their last three. That did include a fine win away at Luton, suggesting that they are capable of going away and getting a result, as well as a positive performance. For all that last season they won away at places like Leeds and Preston, their record was largely poor and what cost them a higher league places.
When you have talents such as Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki in your side, then you will always be a threat in games. Goals generally haven’t been a problem for The Tigers, as they’ve only failed to score in one league match so far. On the flip side, they’ve only earned two clean sheets in those ten encounters, so they are very much playing to their offensive strengths in their quest for results.
I am wary of the fact that three of the four games Cowley has overseen has seen that finish under 2.5 goals, but at home they will certainly be more positive. Of course, Hull will be shown respect, but after winning at Stoke they’ll see this as a chance to build further momentum. Hull’s games are averaging around 2.7, with 6/10 finishing over 2.5. I do like Over 2.5 Goals here and it is a value call. Both will play to win and I fancy an early goal as well in what should be a frenetic derby.
Huddersfield are certainly creating more chances under the Cowley management, especially at home. They may have kept a clean sheet in midweek but they were made to work hard to achieve that, and Hull are always a goal threat with the two previously mentioned players and now Tom Eaves has his first goal for the club.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 goals at 2.090
Sheff Wed v Wigan
Sheffield Wednesday are looking to respond from a 1-0 loss to Hull City in midweek. It was the first league loss under Garry Monk, who afterwards admitted that there were always going to be bumps in the road in their journey. Nevertheless, it has still been a positive start to his tenure, with Sheffield Wednesday looking like Sheffield Wednesday again.
As for Wigan, they’ve once again been reliable on their home form to pick up points. They’ve won back-to-back home games, which was sandwiched between an away loss, albeit at likely promotion contenders Fulham. The reality is that The Latics have played five, drew one and lost four on their league travels this season.
Looking ahead to this weekend and Sheff Wed are deemed odds-on favourites to win this game. That fact alone generally puts me off as this is such a competitive and largely even league on any given day. All the clichés are true in the sense that ‘anyone can beat anyone’. They’re rightly favourites however given Wigan’s struggles on the road.
I do think that there has to be another angle we approach for this game, and I do think the goals count is one which offers great appeal from a value perspective.
Both sides have identical records in the sense that six of their ten league fixtures witnessed over 2.5 goals, whilst they’ve roughly on averaged produced 2.4 goals per game. Those numbers alone may suggest that the 2.5 goal line could be a difficult one to predict given the fine margins. However, I am quite happy to plump for under 2.5 goals as my selection for Saturday’s game, but why?
Well, something that is noticeable is that The Owls don’t tend to score too many goals at Hillsborough. They’ve scored twice as many goals on their travels compared to five league goals on home soil. Given they are odds-on favourites, that makes them least attractive. On the flip side however, Wigan have conceded 11 in five away clashes, but the last three all came against teams who were/are in good form.
Wigan have also failed to score in three of their five away league games, so they may be forced into doing more defending that they’d ideally like. They’re an attack-minded team, and that is probably why they get punished as much as they do away, whilst gain better results at home.
Sheff Wed boss Monk has preferred his side to play more on the counter attack. Achieving that at home is tough, even more so when you’re fancied to take the game and win quite comfortably. I think another tactical battle is likely, and this could lead to both cancelling one another out. On that basis, it may be a stalemate for long spells before opening up in the second half.
The last seven head-to-head encounters saw either side emerge victorious by a one-goal margin, suggesting that over time they’ve have been too evenly matched clubs when taking to the field. Those games were over many years however. What is more appropriately apt towards the modern day however is that Wigan have played 11 games in league and cup so far and only two saw both teams score. Sheff Wed have played 12, with just five witnessing BTTS. The numbers do swerve more towards this being a closely run match with few goals.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 at 2.070
Preview by: @JamesOR1.