With Sheffield United in action on Friday night, Alan Dudman is expecting the Blades to produce another strong defensive display at Port Vale. Elsewhere, with points needed for survival, Carlisle do battle with Oldham...
"So Port Vale need to broach a defence that have kept nine clean sheets in their last 12 matches, can they do it?"
The Sheffield United correct scoreline keeps evading me (and please don't remind me of the 5-3 FA Cup prediction). For several weeks now I have tried with the 0-0 and 1-0 permutation and have missed out usually by one goal, but this Friday's game should hopefully go that way.
With the Blades, you know exactly what you will get; a side that gives up very few goals. Over Easter they drew 0-0 with Tranmere and were successful with a 1-0 victory on the Friday against Stevenage Borough. They did look a bit tired with the latest showing, and had to dig in against the Liverpudlians - but still their back line couldn't be breached. Sheffield United however, have a hex on Vale according to Opta stats too, winning five of their last six encounters.
I am already thinking about Nigel Clough's side as a big promotion candidate for next season, especially if they keep hold of John Brayford. The future is definitely bright at Bramall Lane, as another of their Academy youngsters created a good impression on Easter Monday. 18 year-old Connor Dimao looked very comfortable in possession and the match didn't faze him at all, I hope he gets another start.
Buzzy midfielder Stefan Scougall could return for the Blades this Friday, and his energy and zip was badly missed in the Rovers stalemate. Stephen McGinn might be a doubt, and it's unlikely that (Whispering) Bob Harris will feature.
So Port Vale need to broach a defence that have kept nine clean sheets in their last 12 matches, can they do it? Well the hard task is made even harder without the services of 16-goal top-scorer Tom Pope, who suffered an ankle injury in the recent MK Dons game.
Pope's injury added to long list of casualties for boss Micky Adams, who could only field five substitutes recently and had to include a youth team player. In fact, the Monday 1-0 reverse against Rotherham highlighted the loss of eight first-teamers that were unavailable to Adams.
Considering the Valiants have been involved in two 1-0 games from their two most recent matches, this really should be an under 2.5 affair. The price of around 1.88 is fair, and perhaps should be nearer the 1.70 mark. From a trading point of view, Vale have gained 15 points from behind at home all season according to Opta statistics, so there is a chance to back them at higher price in-play.
The visitors will pose a big threat from set-pieces though, a big problem for Vale this season. The hosts however are in a good run of home form, winning five of their last six. I would use the draw as a Cash Out play, considering the match up of these two, and for once I will swerve a dart at a correct scoreline - and stick with an unders bet.
Back under 2.5 goals @ 1.8810/11
If Carlisle were away this weekend they would have no chance, they have simply been awful on the road recently; losing five of their last six with heavy defeats against Peterborough and Preston North End. However, their form at Brunton Park has been much better, with just one loss in their last seven, including four draws and three clean sheets.
United are in relegation trouble and have three games remaining to save their League One status. The fact they have been hit recently 4-1 and 6-1 has done nothing for their goal difference either. We could be in for another Jimmy Glass.....
The Foxes do have a match in hand on their threatened rivals, but they are also three points behind Colchester, Crewe and Tranmere. The price on the hosts to win is terrible considering their position, and it's too short to take outright, even though they have beaten Swindon 1-0 at Brunton Park recently.
Oldham need one more victory to stave off the drop, and rookie manager Lee Johnson has conjured up a seven game unbeaten run from nowhere (their best sequence this term according to Opta). The Latics are not particularly attractive to watch, and Johnson seems to be going with a 4-5-1 using Jonson Clarke-Harris as a lone striker. They do need more up front and out wide, but at least they are strong defensively. Their historically record at Carlisle however is particularly poor, winning only one of their last nine visits.
This will be a very cagey encounter, and Oldham have conceded just six goals from their last nine (unders alert). Athletic earned another point on Monday with a dour 0-0 against Coventry, but that's a feather in the cap for Johnson in keeping out a decent City forward line. The fact the manager has stressed the importance of 'not losing the game' and 'keeping teams below us', shows the thinking of the away side here.
United do have potential matchwinners in Lee Miller and Gary Madine up front, plus Davis Amoo despite the recent criticism.
Considering the tight nature of the outright market this weekend, this match should be similar to the one above, which should enable users of the Cash Out facility to get a good run from backing the draw. I personally favour the 0-0 correct scoreline with an under 2.5 goals bet to cover the stake at around 1.910/11. Further evidence can be gleaned from the Opta stats, as Carlisle have scored just eight times in the opening 30 minutes of league matches this season, fewer than any other side.
Back under 2.5 goals @ 1.910/11
Back the draw @ 3.3512/5
One of the hottest teams at the moment in League One is Preston. Simon Grayson's side have already guaranteed themselves a play-off place, but have won four consecutive home matches and have scored 14 goals in the process. Shrewsbury were the latest team to incur the wrath of the Whites, and were duly hammered 5-2 thanks to a Paul Gallagher hat-trick. Previously they had battered Carlisle 6-1 with Craig Davies netting three.
If only North End had converted some of their draws into wins. 16 stalemates this term has really prevented them from having a go at Wolves.
Grayson made four changes on Monday and allowed teenager Alan Browne to play in midfield. His probing and attacking runs from deep were too hot for Shrewsbury to handle, and he looks a superb prospect alongside fellow teenager Josh Brownhill - who I have mentioned before in this column. Wing-wizard Lee Holmes is also playing well, and he can fizz balls in from out wide to the waiting forwards.
The hosts will obviously have one eye on the play-offs and with Gillingham all but safe in League One, this match has potentially nothing whatsoever riding on it.
The Gills gained a much-needed victory on Friday with a 2-0 success against Tranmere, even though they looked nervy for much of the game. Forward Cody Macdonald scored in that, and netted again on Monday in the 1-1 draw with Walsall. Macdonald has scored 16 this season, which is a personal best at this level. The Kent club need his goals, as according to Opta, the Gills have beaten Preston just once in their last seven league fixtures (W3 D3).
Doubt still surrounds the future of Gillingham boss Peter Taylor, who signed as interim manager following Martin Allen's departure earlier in the season, and has a contract until of the end of this campaign. Taylor's avoided the subject (mostly) at press conferences, stating it will all be decided once all the games have been played. This of course is not ideal given some players are out of contract.
The Kent club have one win from their last five but have suffered 5-1 and 4-3 losses during that mini-spell. The fact that Preston are scoring for fun at home and should have a carefree nature to their play, would lead me firmly to an over 2.5 goals and 3.5 bet. I also believe that despite the very short odds of the hosts, they really ought to win this comfortably.
Back over 2.5 goals @ 1.875/6
Back Preston to win @ 1.635/8
League One 2013/14 P/L (all selections one point)
- 7.66 pts