League One Betting: Southend shouldn't be dismissed against Wilder's Blades

Southend's defence will have to keep out Sheffield United's in-form Billy Sharp
Southend's defence will have to keep out Sheffield United's in-form Billy Sharp

League One leaders Sheffield United are looking good with five wins on the spin, but they face a tough game at Southend United on Saturday, and our third tier man Alan Dudman thinks the Shrimpers are worth a bet...

"Their record at Roots Hall since defeat to Fleetwood back in August has been excellent, and they have carved out an unbeaten ten-match run. Phil Brown's side have conceded just ten in that sequence, with three clean sheets as well."

Back Southend United to beat Sheffield United @ 4.407/2

Swindon Town 2.226/5 v Shrewsbury Town 3.505/2, the draw 3.55

A glance at the footballing runes will not be top of the 'must do' list for Shrewsbury manager Paul Hurst, as according to Opta, his club have lost their last five away games against Swindon in league competition.

Taking their first-half performance in a 1-0 defeat against Fleetwood on Bank Holiday Monday, you are likely to say those stats won't be broken, as they produced a fairly forgettable 45 minutes. With three defeats on the spin and just two victories on the road all season; Salop do not exactly stand out as a bet this weekend at 5/2.

This match pits 23rd against 19th, and it's a must-win game for both. Swindon's home form could just make them the bet here however, with only one defeat from their last seven at the County Ground.

I have fond memories of Swindon's home. I interviewed the gigantic goalkeeper Bart Griemink many years ago, and following an in-depth chat, I realised I hadn't turned on the record button on the hard-to-carry Marantz tape machine. It was a corker too.

I also haven't erased from my memory the out-of-the-blue performance from the Robins when they trounced Charlton 3-0. They have kept four clean sheets in that run of seven home games, and they also beat Rochdale 3-0. If they produce that, they win.

Shrewsbury have plenty of industry but lack creation going forward, but eight of their 13 away games have finished Over 2.5 Goals. Hopefully the hosts will have Nathan Thompson and Yaser Kasim fit, as those two are big players. And with Town conceding just 11 goals on their own patch in 12 matches, they just shade it here for me.

Recommended Bet
Back Swindon Town to win 0.5pt @ 2.226/5

Bristol Rovers 1.981/1 v Northampton Town 3.953/1, the draw 3.7511/4

Both these sides are consistent for their inconsistency - so they're in the right division! Although you can count on one thing with Bristol Rovers - and that's goals.

The Christmas period highlighted how teams can go from one extreme to the other. Rovers lost 4-1 to Charlton on Monday, but won 4-1 against Coventry previously. Throw in a 4-2 success against Bury and another heavy loss to Charlton (1-5) from the past six weeks, and you've got a ready-made angle for the Over 2.5 Goals.

In fact, 11 of their 13 matches in Bristol have hit the target for the Over 2.5 bet, whilst backers of the BTTS would also have collected on 11 occasions.

According to Opta, both sides have scored at least two goals in each of their last two meetings in league competition (Bristol Rovers 5, Northampton 4), so it's a fairly obvious way to be heading for Saturday.

Rovers score plenty, and with 24 at home this term, only Rochdale and Scunthorpe have netted more. The Gas will also be missing the injured Ryan Hartley, and the centre-back is a big threat at set-pieces with six goals.

Northampton themselves are wonderful in their patchy form - which is unlike a Rob Page side - as he likes a tight defence. They picked up a couple of wins on the road in December, and recently managed to stay in the game against in-form Sheffield United (losing 1-0 at Bramall Lane). They are worth an outside punt here.

Recommended Bets
Back Over 2.5 Goals 0.5pt @ 1.9010/11
Back Northampton Town to win 0.5pt @ 3.953/1

Southend United 4.407/2 v Sheffield United 1.9520/21, the draw 3.7011/4

Backing odds-on away from home is not always the best way to go. I did for this column when Sheffield United beat Coventry 2-1 at the Ricoh in mid-December, and I had to thank Billy Sharp for an 87th minute winner. Sometimes I've been the pigeon, sometimes I've been the statue, and the Blades scraped that victory.

Talking of statues - they'll erect one at Bramall Lane one day for Sharp, as the forward has been brilliant this campaign. Actually he's been brilliant most seasons, and he's a smashing player at this level.

Sharp has hit 17 goals this term for the league leaders, who are now 1.564/7 in the League One winner market. They have won their last five on the spin and conceded just two goals in that run. Things are looking good for Chris Wilder's men.

However, Southend do not deserve to be 4.407/2 shots here, and they are genuine play-off contenders at the moment.

Their record at Roots Hall since defeat to Fleetwood back in August has been excellent, and they have carved out an unbeaten ten-match run. Phil Brown's side have conceded just ten in that sequence, with three clean sheets as well.

The run of fixtures coming up for Southend will show us a bit about their mettle; with games against Rochdale, Bolton, and Scunthorpe.

The Shrimpers looked shattered in their Monday 0-0 against Swindon, so the latest batch of days' rest will be most welcome. Striker Nile Ranger featured over the Christmas period from the bench following injury, and I hope he starts this weekend. They look overpriced to me.

Recommended Bet
Back Southend United to win 0.5pt @ 4.407/2

*You can read more League One tips as well as Ian Lamont's (who is in profit this season over 40 points) thoughts on the weekend's League Two action by visiting our dedicated English Football League section here on Betting.Betfair.

League One 2016/17 P&L: -1.68

FA Cup 2016/17 P&L: +5.60

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