Stoke and Watford lock horns for a televised Friday night fixture from the Championship. Mark O'Haire shares his favourite fancy.
"Considering Watford have scored only five away goals and those 11 road trips producing an average of just 1.18 goals – 10 seeing Under 2.5 Goals land – it makes sense to oppose a high-scoring showdown"
Stoke v Watford
Friday January 22, 19:45
Stoke pinch late point
Nick Powell's header salvaged play-off-chasing Stoke a precious point from an enthralling 3-3 draw at lowly Rotherham on Tuesday night at the New York Stadium. In a ding-dong battle, Michael O'Neill's men twice saw their advantage wiped out with the visitors then falling behind midway through the second-half before Powell's timely intervention.
An unfortunate Angus MacDonald own goal had given the Potters an early lead and a dull game burst into life in a frantic second period with Danny Batth on-hand to score Stoke's second. A strong wind and damp conditions contributed to a captivating contest full of excitement, mistakes and chances, out of kilter with the Potters' previous encounters.
Both sides could have taken all three points in a breathless finale but Stoke had to settle for a sixth stalemate in eight. Post-match, O'Neill said: "Each of the goals we lost were really poor. Ten draws is too many and we felt in a number of those games we've given up the opportunity to win. We are on a run at the minute of too many draws but we are trying to get out of it."
Deeney delivers for Watford
Troy Deeney's first-half penalty was enough for Watford to beat Barnsley and move up to third in the Championship. Referee Tim Robinson pointed to the spot when Deeney prodded the ball on to the raised arm of Tykes defender Callum Brittain and though keeper Jack Walton got a strong hand to the powerful spot kick he could not prevent it going in.
The Hornets had a second goal disallowed for offside when the recalled Andre Gray tucked away a rebound after Will Hughes hit the post from 25 yards, but in truth, the visitors looked the better side for periods without creating clear-cut chances. The closest Barnsley came to an equaliser was when Francisco Sierralta almost put through his own net.
Xisco Munoz's outfit have now won all three games at Vicarage Road since he took charge and the Spaniard was pleased with his side's display, saying: "I'm very happy because in front of us we had a difficult team. For me it was a good performance." Ben Foster remains absent, whilst Christian Kabasele and Isaac Success are closing in on first-team returns.
A last-gasp Ismaila Sarr goal sealed a 3-2 success for Watford in their last meeting with Stoke in November, only the Hornets' second triumph in eight league match-ups with the Potters since 2006 (W2-D3-L4). However, the Potters haven't often enjoyed home matches against Watford and come into this clash with just one win in six here against the Hornets.
Stoke 3.4012/5 have proven stubborn opposition for the majority of the Championship under Michael O'Neill although City's record against the front-runners isn't quite so strong. The Potters have been beaten in four of six contests with top-six teams and have also shipped two goals or more in four of their six outings here against top-10 opposition.
Inconsistency between home and away performances continues to impede Watford's 2.3411/8 promotion push. Only 11 (16%) of the Hornets' 43-point tally have been earned on the road with the visitors collecting a paltry two triumphs on their travels (W2-D5-L4). Exclude the bottom-eight and the guests have collected one point from five away days (W0-D1-L4).
Stoke's 10 matches preceding their midweek thriller at Rotherham produced only 11 goals in total and although the first half at the New York Stadium saw two goals, there was only one shot on target and very little of note in between. That suggests the second period on Tuesday evening was an anomaly and the Potters will return to their dogged ways here.
The hosts have kept 12 clean sheets this term with Under 2.5 Goals 1.594/7 also proving profitable in 17/25 (68%) fixtures. Considering Watford have scored only five away goals and those 11 road trips producing an average of just 1.18 goals - 10 seeing Under 2.5 Goals land - it makes sense to oppose a high-scoring showdown in Staffordshire.
With that in mind, I'm happy to take the 1.83 available on Stoke Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals via the Same Game Multi. It's paid out in nine of Watford's 11 games as guests, whilst Stoke have suffered only two defeats by a margin of two goals or more in 2020/21, highlighting the hosts' tenacity and competitive capability.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 83.00 pts
Returned: 84.92 pts
P/L: +1.92 pts