League Two Midweek Betting: Back fresh Forest Green to sink Stevenage

Mark Cooper's Forest Green have a strong recent record at home
Mark Cooper's Forest Green have a strong recent record at home
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Mark Cooper has been backed by his board to keep Forest Green in the Football League and can take another home win, while Barnet can come good at Yeovil and Lincoln should win at home, says Ian Lamont...

"Karlan Ahearne-Grant has made his mark quickly in Sussex, on loan from Charlton. Crawley skipper Jimmy Smith says they believe in what they are doing: Harry Kewell had the fans on his back just months ago, but the players have bought in to his methods and he seems to have found a good blend."

Forest Green Rovers [2.7] v Stevenage [2.9]; the draw [3.5]
Tuesday, 19:45

If the race for places two to seven in the division are now up for grabs and the tightest for years, the annual fight against relegation remains as close as ever, especially after Barnet won on Saturday.

Feasibly, Stevenage, in 15th on 39 points, could still be sucked into the battle. A defeat at league newcomers Forest Green, who are 22nd on 29 points, would squeeze the accordion further. Yet it is entirely possible and the statistics suggest there is a strong probability.

Forget the hosts' away form, Mark Cooper's men have won their last three games at the New Lawn, starting 1-0 against Port Vale, then handsomely beating Cambridge 5-2 before surprising Coventry a week ago.

Christian Doidge continues to act as the main threat, having struck 14 league goals, but now has an experienced league striker in Reuben Reid alongside him. The former Plymouth and Exeter frontman might have only struck once so far in his six games (to see off Port Vale) but he offers much quality.

He was one of 10 January signings as a patient board stick by Cooper (many others would have pushed the panic button) to justify making losses of £4.6 million over the past two financial years in order to get the team into the Football League. Now they want to stay there.

They also have the advantage of being fresher than their opponents, having had their game on Saturday postponed. Stevenage are no doubt frustrating Darren Sarrl, because they are just ticking over. Their results are doing little more than that. They have earned one win in six matches, two in nine and three in 10 games but also three in 18 depending on how you want to read it. Then six draws in that 18 game spell.

Ten defeats away from home does not read well either, although at least in their last four they have either lost by the odd goal (twice) drawn, or won by a single goal. They did at least score twice at comeback kings Accrington last time out, before losing 3-2.

Sarrl felt his side were "robbed" by only securing a point against out-of-sorts Luton at the weekend, questioning the referee. But the "shots on goal" were pretty evenly balanced between the sides and John Goddard, Jonathan Smith and Alex Revell were among those guilty of missing them for Boro. You can't blame officials for that.

Matt Godden and Dan Newton lead their scoring charts on 10 goals each, but in the last six games have scored one each. I've been waiting for the right time to tip Forest Green and their desire to stay up - and home form - should be to their advantage here.

Recommended Bet
Back Forest Green @ [2.7] to beat Stevenage

Luton [1.58] v Crawley [7.4]; the draw [4.2]

Tuesday, 19:45

As ever, it seems foolhardy to oppose Luton at home. They have only been beaten three times at Kenilworth Road, against Swindon in September, Coventry in October and Wycombe a couple of Tuesdays ago. The other "dropped points" came from a draw against Notts County in December.

But a common theme seems to be that all those sides had strong form - at least away - at the time.

I'll be laying them - thereby taking the chance on a Crawley win but covering the draw - because Crawley have League Two's best points record over 10 games with 24.

They seem to lack the free-scoring nature of Wycombe, who are second with 22 points in that table (in the six game table, Wycombe are first with 16 points and the Reds second with 15). Harry Kewell's men broke their own mould by scoring more than twice when defeating Grimsby. They normally win by tight margins. They are surely a work in progress, but making headway nonetheless. It still seems a big ask to reach the play-offs this season, and Kewell has dismissed the idea, but a late burst resulted in AFC Wimbledon's promotion two years ago.

Karlan Ahearne-Grant has made his mark quickly in Sussex, on loan from Charlton. With Enzio Boldewijn alongside the new boy and Mark Randall supplying chances, plus Dannie Bulman keeping the defence in order from midfield, the visitors are now forming a proper unit. Skipper Jimmy Smith says they believe in what they are doing: Kewell had the fans on his back just months ago, but the players have bought in to his methods and he seems to have found a good blend.

The Hatters also seem to have used up an abundance of goal vouchers. Having struck at least seven three times, they haven't thrashed anyone since Boxing Day (Swindon, 5-0) and have netted exactly one or none in six of their eight games since. In the others, they lost 3-2 to Wycombe and beat Lincoln 4-2, twice coming from a goal down, but therefore not winning by a huge margin.

The mercurial Danny Hylton is likely to still be missing through injury. Nathan Jones does have a plethora of alternatives at his disposal, from Jake Jervis, a recent recruit from Plymouth, to former Crawley man Jamie Collins (13 goals).

The big price of [7.4] on Crawley is tempting, especially on their form, but it is hard to see them getting all three points. Just in case, though, I'm laying the hosts.

Recommended Bet
Lay Luton @ [1.58] against Crawley

Lincoln City [2.1] v Cheltenham [4.0]; the draw [3.6]
Tuesday, 19:45

Having tipped them at Cambridge on Friday, I'm prepared to give the Imps another go. There seem to have been some fatigue induced hangovers going on recently. In Lincoln's case, it came after five games in 15 days, one of which resulted in them reaching a Wembley final.

Danny Cowley's side have more than a month to prepare, in which case they need to focus on building a strong position in the topsy turvy world that is places two to nine in League Two.

Last time at Sincil Bank, they held away kings Swindon 2-2, which seems impressive until you recall that their opponents had a man sent off after 21 minutes. But it is funny how playing against 10 can be harder than 11.

Matt Green and Matt Rhead really have the quality to be in double figures for league goals by now. Perhaps Tom Pett, the winger brought in from Stevenage, can help them shine.

This match seems a strong opportunity to win, being against a side with a below average away record of three wins and five draws. Mo Eisa might have perked up with a hat-trick, perhaps because he has a rival in the form of Fulham loanee Elijah Adebayo who has scored twice since his arrival. However, one win in four away games helps me conclude the hosts should prevail if they put their minds to it.

Recommended Bet
Back Lincoln City @ [2.1] to beat Cheltenham

Yeovil [2.4] v Barnet [3.4]; the draw [3.6]
Tuesday, 19:45

There are quite a few tempting chance bets this midweek. Given that Yeovil's home form is what is keeping them afloat in League Two, Huish Park does seem a fairly risky place to take a punt on the visitors, especially as the hosts have won their last two there without conceding.

However, those games were against Grimsby and Cambridge, who prop up the form table. The Glovers were undone by a rapidly improving Crawley on New Year's Day - by the odd goal in three when Darren Way's men had two players sent off in the first half.

What we're taking a punt on here is Barnet's improvement and Graham Westley's positive pronouncements about his squad. He seems to have learned that his actions towards his players at Newport 14 months ago were not popular. With the January window shut, he actually doesn't have the chance to revamp the whole squad and has to work with what he's got. Even so, he gives glowing references about his squad: they are a "positive bunch" and "more than a match for any team".

One win doth not a recovery make, but add in two draws before the defeat to high-flying Mansfield and progress is coming.

It appears that Westley dropped top scorer Shaquille Coulthirst, who has been carrying the team in terms of goals for much of the season in the absence of John Akinde. Instead, Westley used Jordan Nicholson, on loan from Peteborough, against Notts County alongside Akinde and Alex Nicholls, who seems revived.

Nathan Smith and Artur Krysiak being forced off in Yeovil's goalless draw with Crewe won't help their cause. In some senses Barnet are somewhat short for this one, but still worth taking a chance on and Westley tries to make his mark. The team above them in the table, Chesterfield, must feel tantalisingly close.

Recommended Bet
Back Barnet @ [3.4] to beat Yeovil

Ian Lamont's 2017/18 P/L

League Two
Staked: 123.84pts
Returned: 111.98pts
Total -11.86pt

FA Cup +14.21pt

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