Newcastle host Sheffield United at St James' Park on Saturday and Steve Rawlings fancies the visitors to stay on track for a European adventure...
"I fancy the Blades to pinch the points and splitting stakes between 1-0 and 2-0 in the Correct Score market makes sense."
Newcastle v Sheffield United
Saturday March 14, 15:00
Bruce's Boys seeking Blades double
The departure of Rafa Benitez at the end of last season and the subsequent appointment of Steve Bruce was seen by many Newcastle fans as a sizable step backwards.
Opinion certainly didn't sway early on in the season when the Magpies traded as short as 1.664/6 to be relegated after they'd lost their first two Premier League games- at home to Arsenal and away to Norwich - but it's hard to fault the job he's done since.
Newcastle lost three games in-a-row after spending Christmas Day in the top half of the table but they've recovered well since and they've lost just two of their last eight in the Premier League - back-to-back away games in the capital at Arsenal and Crystal Palace.
Now in 13th place, and eight points clear of the relegation places, Bruce's Boys look safe. They're now trading at in excess of 20.019/1 for the drop and after beating West Brom way in the fifth round, they've reached the quarter finals of the F.A Cup for the first time in 14 years.
The Magpies are having a steady and safe season if not a spectacular one and having beaten Southampton away last weekend, they're in search of back-to back Premier League wins for just the second time this term.
On the negative side, there's a chance they'll have one eye on next week's FA Cup tie at home to Manchester City and their injury list is growing. First choice keeper, Martin Dubravka, has now been ruled out for a month with a knee injury, but on the plus side, the last time they won two in-a-row in the Premier League, in early December, it was 2-0 away against Sheffield United and 2-1 at home to the Saints, so they'll be looking to repeat the feat on Saturday.
Bewildering Blades still sharp
Sheffield United were matched at 1.625/8 to be relegated before a ball was even kicked this season and given the other two promoted sides - Norwich and Aston Villa - look destined for the drop, it's hard to look back and say odds-on backers were way off the mark but here we are with just ten games to go and incredibly, a place in next season's Champions League can't be ruled out for the Blades.
Chris Wilder's side haven't lost at home since their surprise defeat to Newcastle in early December and they've been even better away from Bramhall Lane. They've conceded just 12 goals all season on the road and only the leaders Liverpool (9) have conceded less. They're yet to concede any more than two goals in any away game and last year's champions, Manchester City, and the champions-elect, Liverpool, are the only teams to beat them away from Bramhall Lane. The Blades are unbeaten in their last six in all competitions and they too have reached the quarter finals of the F.A Cup where they face Arsenal at home next Sunday.
Tight affair look highly likely
Newcastle have scored only 12 goals at St James' Park all season. No team has scored fewer at home and they're yet to score more than twice in a home game in 14 attempts in the Premier League. Couple that with the Blades stingy defensive record detailed above (conceded only 12) and it's absolutely no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals trading at long odds-on.
Newcastle home games have seen three goals scored only 36% of the time and only twice has there been three or more scored in Sheffield United away games. The Blades drew 2-2 at Chelsea way back in August and they came from behind to beat Norwich 2-1 in early December.
No in the Both Teams to Score market is also odds-on and again, that's not at all surprising. Games involving Newcastle have seen both sides find the net only 41% of the time and only 43% of Blades matches have seen both teams score.
The percentage goes up fractionally for Newcastle home games, from an overall average of 41% to 43% and both teams have scored in 54% of Sheffield United's away games but the market looks spot on to me and I'm more than happy to look elsewhere for a wager...
Patient Blades can pinch the points
There's been a steady stream of money for the visitors all week long and given Newcastle's overall form and their lengthy injury list, coupled with the Magpies inability to seize the initiative at home this season (led at half time only once!), I'm not in the least bit surprised but rather than back the Blades at an ever-shortening price in the outright market, I'm playing them in the Half Time/Full Time market and the Correct Score market.
Newcastle have played 14 times at St James' Park so far this season and they've been drawing at half time in 11 of those games - 0-0 eight times and 1-1 three times - and the Blades have been drawing 0-0 in five of their 13 away games to date. Another stalemate after 45 minutes looks highly likely so odds of around 5/1 about Draw-Sheffield United look more than fair.
I fancy the Blades to pinch the points so given Newcastle score so few, that 11 of Sheffield United's last 12 Premier League games have seen less than three goals scored and that only two of Sheffield United's away games all season have seen more than three goals scored, splitting stakes between 1-0 and 2-0 in the Correct Score market makes sense.
With Ollie McBurnie an injury doubt for the visitors, Blades legend, Billy Sharp, is likely to get a start and given he's scored three in his last four outings, he could be the best option in the To Score market at odds of around 3/1.
Staked: 57 pts
Returned: 65.78 pts
P/L: +8.78 pts
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1 pt Draw/Sheffield United at 6.05/1
½ pt 0-1 @ 7.613/2
½ pt 0-2 @ 13.012/1