Alan Dudman previews League One action
Addicks and U's both make little appeal to win
Cambridge United v Charlton Athletic
I am amazed Sheffield Wednesday versus Bolton this evening isn't on Sky, but Wednesday's game on Tuesday at Barnsley is, although I am happy to sit out this Friday's match as the hosts are 4/6.
This season has surely been one of the most inconsistent, even more so than usual. Peterborough win twice 5-2 and yet can barely have a shot on target against Charlton and lose 0-3 to the lowest scorers in Cheltenham. It's very much time to give them the swerve too.
How an earth would you price up the Posh at the moment?
The Under 1.5 Goals between Cambridge and Charlton is altogether more straightforward to price up, as indeed is the 2.5 market, as neither are particularly fond of scoring.
Cambridge, one of the longest ball merchants in the division, have scored just 16 in 18 at the Abbey this season, and that's against Charlton's 21 on the road in 18.
Backing the Under 2.5 at 1.804/5 actually doesn't look the worst price in the world, and that's the sort of ballpark figure I tend to look for in a potential low-scoring game. The 1.5 is at 3.211/5.
Dean Holden (pictured below) made a good impact when taking over from Ben Garner earlier in the season, but there's a lot going on at Charlton behind the scenes, and indeed with the pitch at the Valley. It resembles an allotment at the moment and pigeons were seen on the grass recently during a game.
The Addicks won at Morecambe on Tuesday night 1-4, but some of the results in League One and teams suddenly finding their scoring boots is a factor to treat with extreme caution.
Having won none of their first seven away games at Cambridge United in the Football League (D2 L5), Charlton have since won both of their last two, a 1-0 win in August 1992 and 2-0 in April 2022, and that does back up our potential Under 2.5 play.
The hosts have won six and drawn four at the Abbey this term, and four of their last five have been low-scoring affairs - with two 1-1s. The Correct Score is another angle for me into this game, as I can't envisage either scoring more than once.
KEY OPTA STAT: Cambridge manager Mark Bonner is winless in his last three games against Charlton in the Football League (D1 L2), losing his only previous home game against the Addicks 0-2 in April 2022.
Pompey have a good chance for Mem three points
Bristol Rovers v Portsmouth
A proper mid-table clash awaits at the Mem this weekend as neither has anything in particular to play for. Portsmouth have certainly picked up under John Mousinho, and at least he's got them scoring again.
The Gas have not had a problem scoring this term, but they've had a big problem in keeping clean sheets and this is another club in League One with an awful playing surface.
Manager Joey Barton said this week: "Because if the pitch doesn't get resolved, as you've seen tonight, we've played a squad pass in there, it's hit a bobble and it's put the opposition through one-on-one. I know that does happen from time to time but I want to build a team that controls the ball."
Barton was talking post-match from Tuesday as they suffered a 0-2 reverse against Wycombe - a team far more suited with the dark arts of long ball magic. His record against Saturday's opponents is poor, as he has won just one of his seven games against Pompey in the Football League (D2 L4), a 1-0 home victory with Fleetwood in February 2020.
To their credit they gained a 0-0 recently at the Mem against in-form Barnsley, although Rovers do have attacking threats in Scott Sinclair, Ryan Loft, Josh Coburn, John Marquis, Aaron Collins.
Pompey won the reverse fixture 3-1 at Fratton and I do see it going that way again and they look a fair bet at around 2.56/4 on the Exchange.
Playing a few goals here knowing Rovers do concede (28 at home), the Bet Bullder of a Pompey win and BTTS pays out around 3/1.
Mousinho's side are fair on the road at the moment with one defeat from their last four, and that was against Barnsley, and have scored in three of their last four away. The pitch might suit them a little better this weekend.
KEY OPTA STAT: Portsmouth have avoided defeat while keeping a clean sheet in each of their last two away league games on a Saturday, with Pompey last keeping a clean sheet in three consecutive such matches in the same season in March 2011 in the Championship (W3).
Can May do it again? Or will defences dominate at Cheltenham?
Cheltenham Town v Exeter City
Saturday 18th March, kick-off 15:00
Quite where Cheltenham's recent 0-3 victory at Peterborough came form nobody knows. Alfie May scored the goal of the season, although he was helped by Posh's goalkeeper who looked like he was on a velcro attachment and pulled back in pursuit of the ball.
May is a class act at this level in a team that doesn't score many, and the Robins man is 5/1 for First Goalscorer this weekend on the Sportsbook and 23/10 for Anytime.
May has 14 in 36, and his brace at London Road was achieved with just 28% possession stats. Their xG at Whaddon Road is a very low 1.28.
Cheltenham have won each of their last three league games against the Grecians, this after having failed to win each of their previous 10 beforehand (D3 L7), and they are currently three clean sheets on the spin heading into Saturday.
Exeter are six points ahead of Cheltenham in the table, but arguably the hosts have a bit more to play for as they look to preserve their League One status.
Both have lost plenty and the Grecians have been involved in a series of low-scoring games on the road recently. In fact, backers of the Under 2.5 Goals for Exeter away recently would have been successful in all six of their previous games. I think that's they way to go here.
Unless of course, Alfie May morphs into Gabriel Batistuta again.
KEY OPTA STAT: Cheltenham have lost just one of their last five home league games (W1 D3), keeping a clean sheet in all four matches that they avoided defeat in. However, the one such loss saw them fall to a 0-4 defeat against Barnsley.