More Questions Than Answers

A new season brings a fresh wave of hope and optimism, yet by 17:00 it had fizzled away having watched a drab Stoke performance.

This was the first competitive showing of the diamond with Nathan Jones’ players, but there were shortcomings in the 2-1 defeat that highlighted frailties in the system and left open questions about recruitment.

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Jordan Cousins was one of the summer signings to make his debut in the red-and-white stripes, but it’s fair to say it was indifferent, and hopefully better performances to come.

Eight ball recoveries and 3/4 on tackle success paint one picture, but at times, his positional play was found wanting.

For QPR’s second, he got sucked out of position, as did Joe Allen, allowing an overload, and Eberechi Eze the freedom of Stoke-on-Trent to glide his way through the heart of the defence before coolly slotting past Jack Butland.

It wasn’t all down to Cousins lack of positional play, but a lack of discipline from the midfield trio proving that despite five to six weeks of relentless work, the players still haven’t got hang of the diamond.

The faults in his positional play didn’t make up for some solid, if unspectacular passing. Again the stats show a steady display – 44/53 passes complete, 83% passing accuracy with one chance created from open play.

Cousins pass direction

Cousins successful and unsuccessful passes. Source: @StatsZone

However, when you look at who received his passes then you see a pattern of shorts sideways and backwards passing. 11 to Sam Clucas, 7 to Joe Allen, 6 to Tommy Smith – the list goes on.

There was little to no urgency in the passing, no tempo to get one of Clucas, Allen or even Nick Powell on the half turn – that injection of tempo was something QPR had and it saw them find a different gear to anything the Potters showed.

Cousins passes to

Who Cousins passed to. Source: @StatsZone

A player rating that wouldn’t surpass a five in my book, but with him arriving on a free transfer, the question has to be asked would he have been first choice in this position.

That’s what was lacking. A spark. A injection of life in the passing. So given the in-house dilemma at the base, I’m surprised Jones didn’t try to raid his former employers Luton for Pelly Ruddock.

The 26-year-old has received plenty of plaudits for the role he’s played throughout the Hatters continued success and would have been the ideal option to play the important role.

Obviously, Peter Etebo will return to the midfield and add some much needed energy, but he wouldn’t be the man to play at the base. There’s Ryan Woods, who can’t have impressed because he’s the one that would pull the strings and dictate the pace of play.


There are benefits to playing James McClean at left-back, especially in an attacking sense, but for that you need to play on the front foot and dictate the ball, something that never happened.

However, he didn’t do too much positive in possession when in attacking situations, and it shows in his ‘Attacking Dashboard’. Too many wasted passes saw us lose possession in good areas, once again highlighting poor combination play.

McClean Attacking dashboard

McClean wasteful in forward areas. Source: @StatsZone

He didn’t do too badly defensively considering QPR identified him as an area of weakness, especially in the second half. At that point, he was walking a disciplinary tightrope after his first half caution, but coped admirably without much cover.

McClean defensive dashboard

McClean won tackles and intercepted possession. Source: @StatsZone

33-year-old Stephen Ward brings experience, but is he really the answer in a fluid role that brings an emphasis on the full-backs in this system? No, probably not.

A similar question to the one about Cousins has to be asked, is the McClean role to save money and reduce spending on transfer targets, or is there genuine belief he is the answer because he offered more when we went to ‘Plan B’.


You can’t afford to give oppositions two-goal head starts and once again, that’s what Stoke did.

The Clucas goal in the 78th minute set up a grandstand finish that saw a penalty appeal for handball waved away and a Danny Batth header drop agonisingly wide when Joe Lumley got caught under a high cross.

A point would have been undeserved. It would have papered over cracks similarly to last season.

The introduction of Tom Ince in the 71st minute and the change of shape were arguably too late, yet it had a massive impact on the way the Potters played. Ince ran at his man and had QPR defenders backing up, something no one else previously did.

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Clucas going in at left-back at that point allowed McClean to push further forward and that seemed to offer more balance down that flank, but it was too little too late.

A damning indictment of the performance is summed by the number of shots on target we actually had – ONE.

Lumley won’t have many easier afternoons between the sticks and another issue was the lack of combination play in the final third.


Benik Afobe completed just 2 of 5 attempted passes, while strike partner Sam Vokes achieved just 6 of 12. The Welshman did try to link play up with Powell, but nothing seemed to stick in the final third and without that, there won’t be any sustained pressure for oppositions to try and resist.

Afobe passes

Ineffective Afobe. Source: @StatsZone

Jones talks about playing through the thirds, but we saw none of that. Given the lack of partnership and combination play then it will be Afobe who’ll come under fire. His languid style of play irritated last season and despite claims he’s fitter this time around, he’ll have to prove that to get the fans back on side.

The loudest cheer of the afternoon came when Ince replaced Afobe. That simply sums up the fans thoughts.

Tyrese Campbell offers something different – pace running off the shoulder and he looks a natural, instinctive finisher. When Jones bangs on about cutting edge, then Campbell looks the ideal forward, especially playing off a target man, like Vokes or even Lee Gregory.

But, first we need that combination play in the final third. That didn’t happen yesterday and plenty of long forward balls played into Afobe, Vokes and the channels proved ineffectual.

There’s still a long way to go, but a lot needs to be improved if the diamond is to work, from tempo of play with the ball, and discipline of keeping shape without it.

Heading into the week where the transfer window closes, there’s plenty of food for thought. All of that comes before a difficult trip to newly-promoted Charlton, buoyed by their win at Blackburn.

Saturday’s Football: 02/03/19

In the darts, Gerwyn Price will face a tricky test against Jamie Hughes while 500/1 shot Gabriel Clemens plays Simon Whitlock. With three of the top four players in the world exiting then it only furthers my hope that one of our two remaining players can make the final.

Their best prices have obviously shortened following yesterday’s results. Price is now 8/1 while Clemens finds himself at 66/1, so hopefully, they can continue their excellent performances.

I very rarely go for two bets but these two are hard to ignore at their prices, so we’re delving into League 1 and League 2 respectively.

Grimsby vs Cambridge (15:00)

I’ve previewed this game elsewhere and actually wrote the preview earlier in the week, so I’m surprised the price has held on the bet considering the strong vibes around the hosts.

After losing five on the spin, Grimsby signed off January with a win over promotion-chasing MK Dons. That was a sign of things to come with them going on to pick up 10 points from their next four games. February has been kind with three wins and last weekend’s 1-1 draw.

Michael Jolley’s side sit in 11th but if they keep up this run of form then they could quickly bridge the gap to the play-offs, which currently stands at seven points.

Here at Blundell Park, they have won their last three games and have kept clean sheets in each of them, which is four and a half hours of football without conceding on home soil.

Wes Thomas and Jordan Cook have netted two goals each in their last three home appearances, so they could prove to be a thorn in the Cambridge defences side.

Cambridge lost their 18th game of the season last weekend when going down 1-0 at relegation rivals Yeovil. The amount of defeats this season is the same as both of the sides in the relegation spots, so there is plenty of concern around the U’s Football League status.

Results need to improve but so do performances. The U’s have scored just once in their last five games and that was Luke Varney’s match-winner against Port Vale. The lack of goals has to be a major concern to Colin Calderwood and they found is extremely difficult on the road.

They have lost eight of their last away games with the only points collected coming in a 1-0 victory at bottom of the table Notts County when Greg Taylor struck the decisive blow.

In that run of nine away games, the U’s have breached their opponent’s defence just twice, which shows a mix of wastefulness in front of goal, plus a lack of cutting edge in the final third.

Given all the recent form, it is hard not to be looking at Grimsby here, given their recent run of home games, plus the fact that Cambridge have one of the worst attacking records in the league with just Port Vale having scored fewer goals.

The Mariners have won four of their last five games, including three of them here, all to nil, and up against a goal-shy poor travelling side as Cambridge then a home win at odds-against looks far too good to be true.

Grimsby Win (7/5 – Bet365/Sky Bet)

Luton vs Rochdale (15:00)

The second bet is a step up the footballing pyramid to League 1 where top of the table Luton host a Rochdale side clinging to their status in the third-tier.

Luton were held to a 1-1 draw last Sunday in front of the Sky cameras when Coventry came to town. Matthew Pearson put them into the lead before Jordan Shipley levelled for the Sky Blues before half time.

That’s now 21 unbeaten for the Hatters and they’re showing no obvious signs of missing Nathan Jones, who left for Stoke last month, with Michael Harford continuing the excellent work done by the Welshmen.

The hosts have the best attacking record in the league with 67 goals scored and they also boast the second-best defensive record, so this will be no easy task for the Dale.

Keith Hill’s side sit in 22nd and have leaked goals this season having already been breached 72 times, which is 14 more times than any other side in League 1, so that could see plenty of joy for this fluid Luton side.

Dale did win at Walsall at the beginning of last month but that is their only win in their last ten league games.

They’ve conceded nine goals in their last two games with a 4-3 defeat against basement-dwellers AFC Wimbledon and last weekend they were hammered 5-1 by Plymouth.

On their travels, they were also thumped 5-0 by 6th-placed Doncaster on New Year’s Day before losing narrowly at both Barnsley and Peterborough by 2-1 scores.

Luton are short in the outright market, so the handicaps have to be the play in this one given the visitors defensive woes.

The Hatters have beaten better sides than Rochdale with ease already this season. Just last month, they recorded consecutive 3-0 wins over Shrewsbury and Wycombe.

Here at Kenilworth Road, they haven’t lost since last March when losing to fellow promoted side Accrington Stanley.

This season at home, they have won by two or more goals on nine occasions with play-off hopefuls Peterborough being brushed aside 4-0 here in January.

When you look at Luton’s record against those towards the bottom and in a similar position to Rochdale then you see a 4-0 win over Bradford and a 2-0 victory over Walsall, while AFC Wimbledon, Gillingham and Oxford all have to come here.

James Collins is sat on 19 league goals for the season, so he will be licking his lips at the opportunity of facing the side with the worst defensive record, so he can take his personal tally to 20.

It’s hard to ignore the handicaps in this game given how easily Rochdale have shipped goals in recent games, so this could be a good way to back the league leaders.

Luton -1 Handicap (6/5 – Betfair/Paddy Power)


UK Open Darts

Gary Anderson returns to action in the UK Open, as he looks to retain the trophy he won for the first time 12 months ago.

There’ll be a different feel around Minehead this time around with a crowd allowed in following last year’s decision to play behind closed doors due to Britain being in the grip of the ‘Beast from the East.’

James Wade, Steve Beaton and Wayne Jones remain the only ever presents with the trio making their 17th consecutive appearance in the competition.

This tournament is referred to as the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ with its open style draw and this year sees more players and the world’ top 32 entering in the fourth round rather than the third.

With more players taking their chance, could there be some value to be had in taking on those top ranked players?

Usual Suspects:

Michael van Gerwen (10/11 – Various)

The reigning World Champion has allowed his cloak of invincibility slide despite taking top honours at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day.

The Dutchman has romped through tournaments in recent years but he hasn’t fared too well in this and was beaten in the third round last year when dumped out by Jeffrey de Zwaan.

He was forced to withdraw in 2017 due to a back issue, so his name hasn’t been on this title in a couple of years and that is something that ‘Mighty Mike’ will want to address.

On the floor, he won the Players Championship 3 event beating Ian White in the final 8-5 with a 105.7 average. The following day saw him lose 6-1 to Nathan Aspinall in the last 16 despite averaging 103, so he is giving opponents chances.

He may be unbeaten in the Premier League after defeating James Wade in Exeter last night and although his claims are for all to see, his price isn’t for me.

Gary Anderson (8/1 – Various)

Last year’s winner Gary Anderson returns to action from the back injury that caused him problems during the World Championships and forced his withdrawal from the Premier League.

His winning run saw him lift the trophy averaging 97.77 for the tournament, which saw him beat Rob Cross in the quarter-finals before getting the better of Corey Cadby in final 11-7.

For as much as ‘The Flying Scotsman’ has the natural ability to defend his crown, much will be bad of his back issue.

Anderson isn’t usually one to put it all in on the practice board and considering his recent injury he may be a little rusty, which is why he’s hard to fancy despite all of the ability he possesses.

Rob Cross (18/1 – Sky Bet)

The 2018 World Champion made his UK Open debut all the way back in 2016 as a Riley’s Qualifier.

He reached the fourth round where his run was ended by eventual champion Michael van Gerwen. A year later he came back and went a round further before the open draw paired him up against Peter Wright and he found ‘Snakebite’ too good.

‘Voltage’ was below par last year after his exploits in his debut season but he has started to show signs of a recovery and some of that was evident in last night’s thrashing of Daryl Gurney.

It is just one Players Championship semi-final so far in six events and he’s been shelling a few too many darts at the doubles in those floor games, which has to be the concern, so his arrival in Minehead could see him facing early trouble.

Peter Wright (20/1 – Betfair/Paddy Power)

2017 UK Open winner Peter Wright fell at the first in the third round last year at the hands of 18 year old Nathan Rafferty.

That was arguably the biggest shock in last year’s tournament and the colourful Scot will be looking to avoid a repeat this time around.

For me, he is one of the darting nearly-men that has the game but consistently knocks on the door without breaking through.

He maintained his unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign with a victory over Mensur Suljovic but that doesn’t tell you the whole story of his season.

At last weekend’s two Players Championship events, ‘Snakebite’ won just one game beating Jelle Klaasen 6-5 on the Saturday before losing in the second round. On the Sunday, he lost in 6-4 in the opening round to Benito van de Pas, so it’s been a scratchy start to 2019 for the Scot.

Part of the issue I have with him is his consistent tinkering with his darts rather than finding a set of tungsten and sticking to it.

That constant chopping and changing always tempers my enthusiasm for him because it can see him blow hot or cold with little in between with him proving that last night when losing 7-4 to Mensur Suljovic.

Michael Smith (20/1 – Betfair/Paddy Power)

After reaching the World Championship Final, plenty was expected from Michael Smith coming into 2019 but his Premier League campaign has hardly got going.

He’s had distractions away from the board and got married days after finishing as runner-up at the worlds but the biggest issue has been with his health.

Just the other day he was forced to have emergency surgery on an abscess around the groin, which has been causing him issues while on the oche. His participation should really be under question but he’s confirmed to carry on playing!

The abscess is likely to have had some sort of impact on the 28 year olds game and he has been ordinary on the tour. His best run on the floor saw him reach the quarter-finals of Players Championship 1 but last weekend saw him just win once across both events.

‘Bully Boy’ is a fluent player who scores big but with him likely to be playing with discomfort then that has to concern, plus he hasn’t yet to fire in 2019.

James Wade (40/1 – Various)

I’m a fan of James Wade maybe because I’m a fellow leftie but he’s just a solid proposition who gets on with the game.

His doubling is very strong and that will always see him pinch the odd leg here and there with him taking advantage of a lax moment from his opponent.

But, ‘The Machine’ has managed to break the ton-plus averages in the past six months or so, which isn’t something he’s known for and that proves his scoring is stronger than it used to be.

The ever-present is a two-time winner of this trophy and after winning consecutive titles last year when claiming the European Championships and World Series of Darts Finals then we know he still remains capable of victories after a barren spell.

He reminded people of that last night in the Premier League when defeating Michael van Gerwen 7-3, which saw him finish with a 47% checkout success rate, including a 121 on the bull.

A couple of years ago he would have started around half the price he is chalked up at, so those 40/1 quotes do have some substance to them with Wade’s game looking better than it ever has done.


There are four players I’ve identified that look to be worth following in a tournament that can open up due to its nature.

Gerwyn Price (22/1 – Ladbrokes/Coral)

The former rugby player is arguably the most in-form player arriving in Minehead.

After a slow start to the Players Championship events, he reached the semi-final in the fourth one in Wigan then last weekend in Barnsley, he recorded back-to-back victories, joining an elite list in achieving that.

The Welshmen averaged 101.54 across Saturday’s event that saw him win the final with a 109.7 average, while on the Sunday his overall average was slightly better at 102.97.

‘The Iceman’ has seemingly found a happy medium now he’s deleted social media and he’s now learned how to handle with the crowd booing him.

Price remains unbeaten in the Premier League after four games. He started that campaign with a 7-4 win over Daryl Gurney and has followed that up with three consecutive draws.

Last night he earned a draw with ‘contender’ Luke Humphries where he took out a tidy 76 to earn a point. It was a game that saw him nearly hit a perfect leg with his attempt at D12 narrowly missing for the nine-darter.

He’s playing full of confidence and his recent performances have been very impressive, so he’s hard to ignore here considering he was runner-up here in 2017.

I’ve used my Ladbrokes daily odds boost for this bet and it’s been nicely boosted to 25/1!

Glen Durrant (33/1 – Betfair/Paddy Power)

Round Two sees three-time BDO World Champion Glen Durrant make his UK Open debut.

There’s no doubt in my mind that he is being underestimated by many, despite going through Q-School and earning his tour card the hard way.

He’s already made his mark in the PDC by winning Players Championship 4 where he picked up some notable scalps along the way, including Mensur Suljovic, Gerwyn Price and then defeated Dimitri van den Bergh 8-3 in the final.

That run of results saw him claim his maiden PDC title and his average across that day was 101.28 while he was mightily impressive in his semi-final win over Price when averaging 109.3.

The Middlesbrough man put in three ton-plus averages last Saturday in Barnsley, including in defeat to Ian White.

He made his Premier League debut in Glasgow where he shelled too many darts at double to trouble Daryl Gurney but his scoring was as sound as usual.

The 48 year old has already shown he can compete at this level since his switch, plus he’s shown that when invited to take part in the Grand Slam of Darts.

In 2017, he topped his group after beating Peter Wright and Alan Norris while last year he opened his campaign with a 5-1 win over Simon Whitlock.

There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Duzza’ will quickly climb the PDC rankings and he’ll do that by putting in a good run in Minehead – something I expect him to do.

Danny Noppert (200/1 – Various)

Another man formerly of the BDO is Danny Noppert and at a three-figure price, he could be one man to put a run of results together to challenge the more established names.

He earned a two-year tour card last year and that saw him take his chance in the PDC World Championships in December.

‘Noppie’ got underway with a 3-0 win over Royden Lam in the opening round but his prolificacy on the outer ring proved costly against Hopp where he missed 19 darts at double.

The Dutch thrower has plenty of ability, as he showed when reaching the BDO World Championship final back in 2017. He can score powerfully but it’s those pesky doubles that tend to be his Achilles heel.

He has had a taste of this Butlins scenery after competing here last year, which saw a second round exit at the hands of Ryan Harrington, son of Rod.

The 28 year old can use that experience to good effect this time around and he starts his campaign in the third round against Mickey Mansell. There’s no doubt it’s a tricky tie for the Dutchman but if he scores as well as he can then he should give himself plenty of time on the doubles to see the legs out.

He arrives in Minehead full of confidence after last weekend saw him put in runs to the semi-finals in both Players Championship events. Those efforts came on the back of early exits in the previous few events, so his determination on the practice board has worked.

After a slow start to the year those two competitions will have got him back into the groove and with him having that winning mentality then he can draw upon that to put in a good run, plus he’s already recorded a perfect nine-dart leg on tour this year!

Gabriel Clemens (500/1 – Various)

One man to watch this year is Gabriel Clemens. He has buckets of ability and this year should start to see his emergence up the rankings.

Last Saturday, he put in a charge to the final of Players Championship 5 only to find a Gerwyn Price averaging 109.7 too good.

The following day saw an exit in the last 32 but not before he made his mark. In the first round, he defeated Jamie Hughes in a deciding leg finishing with a 111.2 average in what will go down as one of the better contest across all the Players Championship events.

‘The German Giant’ beat Glen Durrant in the second round before losing to Adrian Lewis despite averaging 97 against the two-time world champion.

He impressed me during the World Championships that saw him exit in the second round at the hands of John Henderson. The Scot prevailed 3-2 at Ally Pally but it was a ding-dong affair that saw plenty of maximums and big finishes.

Clemens is capable of averaging around the 100 mark and has shown that he warrants plenty of respect with some of his performances already this year.

He’ll be straight into the third round with him holding a position in the top 64 on the Order of Merit, although he’s playing the difficult Zoran Lerchbacher.

Last year, he started in the second round when whitewashing Andrew Gilding 6-0 then he put in a solid performance against Kim Huybrechts but ultimately losing out 10-8 to the Belgian.

He built on that throughout the year, which saw some good performances, especially on the Ally Pally stage.

The German is starting to make waves on the PDC circuit and the quotes of 500/1 look ludicrous for a player that is very capable of causing an upset or two.


Don’t be put off by the big prices in the UK Open. Last year saw John Part reach the quarter-finals while David Pallett and Robert Owen were semi-finalists.



Thursday’s Darts: 28/02/19

Yesterday saw more of a gut feeling punt rather than a solid stats bet, which ultimately failed with no penalty given in Southampton’s 2-0 victory over Fulham leaving the Cottagers deep in the mire.

Nothing in the football appeals, so I’m heading to the Premier League where one main bet has led me to a second market, so two bets here with one at a rather juicy price.

Daryl Gurney vs Rob Cross

The second scheduled game on stage in Exeter sees the 2018 World Champion take on the Grand Prix winner.

Rob Cross has one of each result from three games following last week’s 7-2 defeat at the hands of Michael van Gerwen but he never really found his groove.

After a defeat on the opening night, Daryl Gurney has bounced back with two consecutive wins over ‘Contender’ Glen Durrant and last week, he saw off Michael Smith 7-5.

‘Superchin’ was an early casualty on Saturday in Players Championship 5 losing in the second round 6-3 to former World Championship runner-up Kirk Shepherd.

The following day saw him go one round better before falling in a deciding leg to ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans where he averaged 94.4.

Cross lost in the fourth round on Saturday then on Sunday he was eliminated in the third round despite averaging 104.4. That loss came at the hands of Krzysztof Ratajski, who won 6-2 averaging 105.6, so it was a massive performance from the ‘Polish Eagle’, who was then knocked out in the next round by Ricky Evans, so these two players could have met in Barnsley if things had panned out differently.

There is not much to separate them coming into this one with both averaging 99 across their three Premier League games with Cross having hit a couple more maximums.

The market here surrounds the Northern Irishman and it involves him in the checkouts.

When beating three-time BDO World Champion Glen Durrant, Gurney hit two 121 finishes going 60, 33, 28, plus last week he rattled in a 140 out to take the sixth leg and go 4-2 up against Michael Smith.

Gurney’s fluent rhythmical throw aids those three-dart combinations and, for me, he is one of the more sound players at hitting them, even in the big moments.

Given some bookies are asking for just a checkout of a ton or more is quite appealing here for the Northern Irishman considering it’s something he’s achieved in his last two games, plus he took out a 119 and 138 against Cross in their two Premier League clashes last year.

That looks a great bet to me and means we’re dipping our toe into the checkout market then it’s worth pointing out that you can get 9/1 on Gurney to have the highest checkout of the night.

On Night Two of competition, Gurney would have landed this bet with a 121, which no player beat, only Gerwyn Price came close with a 120.

Plus, last week in Glasgow ‘Superchin’ took out the highest checkout across the five contests with a 140 with only James Wade hitting a 120+ checkout with his 129 effort against Price.

Yes, it’s a risky proposition with Michael van Gerwen leaving himself 170 a couple of times a game but with Gurney having landed this bet in two of the three weeks then he shouldn’t be the seventh biggest price of the lot.

Daryl Gurney Over 98.5 Checkout (5/6 – Betfair)
Daryl Gurney Highest Checkout of the Night (9/1 – Sky Bet – 0.5pt)


I’m hoping that at some point today, I’ll have time to put together my thoughts on the UK Open.

There looks to be plenty of value knocking around in the outright market and I’ve got a shortlist of four that might be worth following in the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ that starts in Minehead tomorrow.

Wednesday’s Football: 27/02/19

Brendan Rogers watched on as his new Leicester side defeated Brighton 2-1 at the King Power in a game that saw Jamie Vardy score and be the only Foxes recipient of a card to let us down on the betting front.

Tyrese Campbell netted his third goal in as many games for Shrewsbury as they ran out 2-0 winners over a flailing Doncaster.

There are a couple of things that I’m tempted by but the main bet here is something at a price I’m willing to go for.

Southampton vs Fulham (19:45)

These two sides are both in desperate need of points and both lost in the capital over the weekend.

Fulham went down 3-1 at West Ham despite taking an early lead while Southampton created chances but failed to take any, as they went down 2-0 at Arsenal.

After both Cardiff and Brighton lost last night, this looks a good opportunity for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s charges to aid their chances of survival.

Southampton have already beaten Everton and held Crystal Palace here this year but the defeat at the hands of Cardiff looked to be quite damaging and mentally, that would have been a huge blow after it seemed that had scored a late equaliser in that one.

Given how the Saints created chances at Arsenal then they should have plenty of joy but their lack of a prolific goalscorer could prove costly, even against this Fulham side.

After siding with West Ham and goals on Friday night then similar has to be considered with the Cottagers yet to win away this season and have conceded 35 goals on the road.

Claudio Ranieri’s side are defensively frail and no matter who he seems to select, they still are leaky and for me, goalkeeper Sergio Rico is a bit of a liability.

If Hasenhuttl watched Fulham’s defeat on Friday night then all you need to do is get the ball wide and put good quality balls into the box. James Ward-Prowse will offer that from set pieces, so it’s hard to get away from the hosts.

Southampton to Win & Over 1.5 Goals (27/20 – Coral/Ladbrokes) looks a reasonable angle, while seven of Southampton’s last eight games have seen BTTS (3/4 – Bet365).

The bet I’m going for is something that was well highlighted on Friday night and something I feel will be punished if replicated here.

Sergio Rico was treading on thin ice with his continued pushing of Javier Hernandez against West Ham.

The Mexican forward stood in front of the keeper prior to set pieces and it resulted in the Spaniard shoving the striker out of the way.

Somehow, Lee Mason failed to penalise the goalie but one official, who is far stricter and doesn’t mind pointing to the spot, is Anthony Taylor.

The Altrincham based referee has awarded six penalties in the Premier League so far this season.

He gave Crystal Palace a penalty at the weekend at Leicester and somewhat more interestingly is the fact he’s given three penalties in the three games he’s taken charge of Southampton.

His only visit to St Mary’s this season saw him give two in a 2-2 draw with Brighton while earlier in the month, he penalised Jack Stephens for handball against Burnley.

Both sides average around the 11 foul mark with Fulham having already conceded eight penalties and Southampton seven.

I was eyeing this bet up after Fulham lost on Friday and am sticking to my guns believing that if Sergio Rico continues his antics then the player stood in front of his will exaggerate the foul to force the referee’s hand.

Penalty to be Awarded (10/3 – William Hill – 0.5pt)

Football Shortlist

Aberdeen vs Hamilton (19:45) – Aberdeen -1 (19/20 – Ladbrokes)

Two Graeme Shinnie goals saw Aberdeen run out routine winners at St Johnstone on Saturday and Derek McInnes’ side are hard to look past from another easy win.

Hamilton are four points off the bottom and look totally devoid of confidence, as highlighted by their 5-0 home thumping by Rangers.

They found themselves 3-0 down inside 24 minutes and 4-0 behind by the break, so if Aberdeen get at them early then the hosts could have plenty of joy.

Accies have failed to score in their last five away league games, which includes a 4-0 defeat at Dundee, 2-0 losses against both Edinburgh clubs and a 3-0 defeat at Celtic.

The hosts have enjoyed plenty of success against Hamilton and are unbeaten in their last six in all competitions (five wins, one draw). The three most recent fixtures have all ended 3-0 in Aberdeen’s favour, so the handicap has to be the best way of finding a pro-Aberdeen bet.


Spezia vs Livorno (20:00) – Both teams to score (EVS – William Hill)

This looks a fine way into this Serie B clash with eight of Spezia’s 12 home games seeing this outcome while it’s won in eight of 11 Livorno away games.

The reverse fixture ended 3-1 to Spezia and both teams had found the net inside 20 minutes.

In their last away game, Livorno were 2-0 up at Lecce, who sit above Spezia, before throwing that away and losing 3-2, ending that with nine men.

A bet at EVS for respective 67% & 73% strike-rates looks rather kind on the evidence at hand.

Tuesday’s Football: 26/02/19

There’s Premier League action and some games in the Football League too but it’s the top-flight that caught my eye.

Leicester vs Brighton (19:45)

Life at the King Power begins without Claude Puel after his sacking on Sunday following the Foxes 4-1 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace on Saturday evening.

First-team coaches Mike Stowell and Adam Sadler are set to take temporary charge for this important game for the Foxes, as they look to steady the ship and bring an upturn in fortunes out of this playing squad.

Leicester have lost their last four home games and haven’t won here since beating Man City on Boxing Day. Puel’s style of play came under fire from the supporters and even Jamie Vardy openly criticised the regime, so the change of manager could see the Foxes regain the winning thread.

Brighton didn’t have a league game at the weekend, so arrive at the King Power with fresher legs and will be looking to win their first league game of 2019.

Chris Hughton’s side have fallen below the usual standards and a run of four defeats in five sees them in 15th-place, just three points ahead of the drop zone, which means things are slightly precarious for the south coast club.

The Seagulls have only won twice on their travels this season with those coming at Newcastle and Huddersfield. Hughton’s side led 2-0 at Fulham in their last away match but succumbed to the Cottagers in the second half and ended up conceding four times, which was very unlike Brighton.

As much as I feel a home win is on the cards, it’s not one I could back comfortably but there is something relating to Leicester that has caught my eye.

20+ Leicester Booking Points (home): 11-13 (85%)
20+ Brighton Booking Points (away): 8-13 (62%)

I’ll be honest and admit I wasn’t expecting to see those figures with Leicester given Puel was a possession based manager.

However, they have an excellent cards record and in the reverse fixture, they had James Maddison sent-off for a second bookable offence with his second caution a dive.

Also, the game last March between the sides saw the Foxes have Wilfred Ndidi dismissed and a further four players cautioned.

The team stats look good and when you delve further you see Ndidi, Ricardo Pereira, Ben Chilwell and Nampalys Mendy all rank well for fouls committed.

Lee Probert is the man in the middle and he’s averaging 3.4 cautions per game but I feel he’s stricter than he used to be.

His two involvements with Leicester this season have seen the Foxes collect 20 booking points, which fits the bracket with what they’ve done at home.

Meanwhile, out of interest, his two Brighton games have seen the Seagulls collect 30 booking points, so if trends were to be followed then we could see a high card count.

But the bet focuses on the hosts and their surprisingly poor discipline at home this season. Ndidi leads the way for the Foxes with seven cautions with Pereira, Mendy and Harry Maguire all on five.

Ndidi is 7/2 for a card while Mendy is 4/1 – both with Sky Bet, so they could be well worth looking at as potential candidates.

With this not being televised, it is unlikely that player shots on target markets would be priced up but I’d be looking at Demarai Gray there if the price is right.

The winger is a selfish player who has shots at goal when it would be better to find a teammate and sustain their attacking pressure.

20+ Leicester Booking Points (5/4 – Sky Bet)

One to Note

Shrewsbury vs Doncaster (19:45) – Tyrese Campbell to Score (14/5 – Betway)

Tyrese Campbell struck twice for Stoke in the FA Cup Third Round replay against Shrewsbury in January before the Shrews fought back to win through 3-2.

Since then, the son of Kevin has joined the Shropshire club on loan to further develop despite impressing the Stoke faithful during his brief appearances, especially with his performance against Leeds United.

The 19 year old has found the net in his last two games for Shrewsbury, including the winner at Peterborough on Saturday with a well-taken finish.

The hosts aren’t away from danger, so will need to win to further the gap, while Doncaster will be looking to consolidate their play-off spot.

However, the Yorkshire club have only kept one clean sheet on the road all season, so the prospects of the hosts breaching the Rovers defence looks strong and with the pace, Campbell has likely to cause the visitors trouble, he can continue his fine recent run.

Sunday’s Football: 24/02/19

It was an excellent Saturday with all three bets winning, including the main bet at 11/10 in Mansfield vs Forest Green.

There were 95 booking points in that game alone with the bet having won by the 52nd minute.

The side bets on 40+ booking points in Burton vs Fleetwood (10/11), landed with two late cards, while BTTS & Over 2.5 Goals flew home in Plymouth’s 5-1 thrashing of Rochdale.

There is a bet in Denmark that I have got my eye and looks worthy of backing.

Brondby vs Randers (17:00)

The Danish season resumed at the beginning of this month and it’s been a difficult time for Brondby with just one point from their two games.

A 3-3 draw at Nordsjaelland was followed by last weekend’s 2-1 defeat Esbjerg and that leaves them in fourth, leading a number of teams on 31 points.

Randers are on the same amount of points but are three places lower due to an inferior goal difference.

Their season re-commenced with a 3-0 win at AaB with two goals from Mikkel Kallesoe before losing 2-0 to league leaders Copenhagen last weekend.

The visitors haven’t beaten Brondby since 2014 when winning here 2-0 and that run has seen six Brondby wins and four draws.

However, this season hasn’t been good enough for one of Denmark’s top sides and it’s seen Alexander Zorniger pay the ultimate price with his job despite two second-place finishes and a Danish Cup triumph.

It’s just three home wins three home wins, which is nowhere good enough and compared to last season’s tally of 14 home wins, they are nowhere near competing with the likes of Copenhagen and Midtjylland.

Martin Retov has been appointed to turn around their fortunes but they weren’t helped by allowing Teemu Pukki to leave the club in summer.

Despite all of that, there is one market where Brondby are good and that is corners.

Brondby 6+ Team Corners (home): 9-11
Brondby 11+ Match Corners (home): 7-11

Also in 9-11 home games, they have won the handicap market too, which has been set at -2 for this one.

If recent form is anything to go by then the hosts could find themselves chasing the game, which hints towards the corner markets.

Randers have scored in all but two of their away games, which came against the top two sides, so they are likely to find the net meaning Brondby could end up going all out for three points.

11+ Corners or Over 10 Corners (11/10 – Sky Bet or Betfair) doesn’t look a bad bet but the stronger stats hint towards the Brondby team corners market, which has an 82% strike-rate.

6+ Brondby Corners (4/5 – Sky Bet)

One to Note

Man United vs Liverpool (14:05)

It’s a hugely significant game at the top of the table in deciding where the title will end up.

Man United have been excellent under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but their biggest test saw them fall short in the Champions League against PSG.

Liverpool were unable to break down a negative Bayern side despite creating a couple of good chances, which were wasted.

A couple of player angles worth a look would be:

Ashley Young to be shown a card (9/4 – Sky Bet) – It took him just 21 minutes to get carded in the FA Cup tie at Chelsea last Monday taking him to ten cards in league, cup and Champions League. The 33-year-old could be caught out against this Liverpool front three and he does commit a number of fouls.

2+ Paul Pogba Shots on Target (12/5 – Betfair) – The Frenchman isn’t afraid of having a pop at goal and ranks second for shots on target this season, behind Mo Salah. He averages 3.4 shots per game and I can see him being able to get shots off from distance here with Liverpool trying to keep close tabs on Marcus Rashford.


Saturday’s Football: 23/02/19

Despite a shaky start, West Ham recovered to earn three points in defeating Fulham 3-1 at the London Stadium to land our 5/4 bet on the Hammers and Over 1.5 Match Goals.

It’s a game in League 2 that holds a bet with some appeal at an odds-against price.

Mansfield vs Forest Green (15:00)

These two sides are both going well in the league with Mansfield third and Forest Green in 5th, four points behind today’s hosts.

It’s been a damaging couple of weeks for the Stags with 1-0 away defeats at Newport and then bottom of the table Notts County.

Despite those losses, they do remain in the third and final automatic promotion spot. This is the first of two consecutive home games and David Flitcroft will be looking to solidify their current position by picking up maximum points starting here.

Forest Green got back to winning ways after two defeats by seeing off struggling Yeovil 3-0 with Christian Doidge among the scorers.

Rovers were unbeaten in six games on the road but that was halted when losing 2-0 at Swindon earlier in the month but generally, they’ve been good away from home, so will provide a stern test to the hosts.

The angle for me is cards in this one, especially two sides embroiled in a promotion battle and things have got a little twitchy for Mansfield in recent weeks.

Mansfield 40+ Booking Points (home): 11-16 (69%)
Forest Green 40+ Booking Points (away): 11-16 (69%)

They are some of the better stats for this sort of market and obviously, it’s a harder barometer to judge with both sides in a game contributing to the match total.

Forest Green average 20 booking points per away game while Mansfield average 16, so if you take them literally then it’s looking around the 36 mark.

However, in five of Mansfield’s last seven home games, they’ve collected at least 20 booking points with a couple of 30’s and even a 35 count in there.

The other part of the equation is the referee – Matt Donohue. He averages 3.88 yellow cards per game, which is par for the course in the Football League.

The whistler has only shown six reds all season but two of them have been in his last four matches.

17 of his 29 matches have seen 40 or more booking points, including his only involvement with Forest Green.

Rovers ran out 1-0 winners over Crewe that day at The New Lawn but three of their players were on the receiving end for cautions, including goalkeeper James Montgomery.

Mansfield rank highly for fouls committed and both of these sides sit in the top ten for cards in League 2, which makes this case more solid.

Last season’s clashes were quite tasty with 70 booking points shown here and then 95 in the reverse, so a repeat of those would be superb for this bet that has stronger stats than some games but is odds-against despite those others being odds-on.

40+ Booking Points (11/10 – Sky Bet)

Football Shortlist

Burton vs Fleetwood – 40+ Booking Points (10/11 – Sky Bet)

It’s a similar case to the game above but despite the stats being fine for both sides, it was the referee who put me off here.

Burton 40+ Booking Points (home): 8-16 (50%)
Fleetwood 40+ Booking Points (away): 14-16 (88%)

As you can see, Fleetwood games have been full of cards, especially their trips where they have averaged 35 booking points per game.

In seven away games they have actually covered this bet themselves, including their most recent trip to Bradford where they collected 50 booking points.

Burton’s stats aren’t as good you might think but five of their last six home games have seen this bet, so Nigel Clough’s side have shown a bit more fight or aggression in the view of officials.

The case here is pretty much about the visitors having collected the most cautions and joint-most dismissals in League 1 this season, so Joey Barton has definitely added some bite to his troops.

The problem I had here was referee Michael Salisbury. He averages just 2.8 yellows per game and has only shown four reds in 31 matches, which is some restraint.

Just 10 of his 31 games have seen 40 or more booking points and two of those ten have come in the EFL Trophy!

His last trip to the Pirelli Stadium did see him show 40 booking points but just one card went Burton’s way but it would still have landed this bet.

I’m more convinced by the main bet considering the price, both sides and the referee unlike this one, which is shorter in price but with a lenient official.

Plymouth vs Rochdale – BTTS & O2.5 Goals (EVS – Sky Bet)

Rochdale suffered a hammer blow to their survival hopes on Tuesday when going down 4-3 against basement-dwelling AFC Wimbledon.

Dale led 2-1 at the break and it looked to be petering out for a 3-3 draw until Joe Pigott completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot.

It’s now just one win in ten games in all comps for Keith Hill’s side who sit in a perilous position.

Plymouth were in trouble prior to Christmas but Derek Adams challenged his side to climb the table and that’s what they’ve managed to do.

Five wins from eight games in 2019 with just one defeat to their name shows the Pilgrims have turned a corner and should have enough to survive.

Eight of their last ten home games have gone Over 2.5 Goals with six of those eight also seeing both sides finding the net.

It’s eight of Rochdale’s last nine that have seen Over 2.5 Goals with six of those eight also seeing BTTS, plus Dale have only failed to score in two away games this season, so they are known to find the net on their travels.

Argyle have only kept two clean sheets here at Home Park. They came against Wimbledon (24th) and Oxford (22nd), so two sides in the relegation zone while Rochdale have scored more than both.

Dale are reliant on Ian Henderson firing because he’s got 16 of their goals so far because it’s Brad Inman on four being their next highest scorer.

Plymouth made the trip to Lancashire earlier in the season and won 2-1, so with recent stats backing up the goals angle then this does look likely to be a high-scoring affair.


Friday’s Football: 22/02/19

I’m still working out how Mensur Suljovic failed to get over the line against Raymond van Barneveld. The Austrian was 5-1 up with Barney averaging in the low 80s, yet the Dutchman still fought back to make it 5-5. At 6-5, Suljovic missed a match dart before the points were shared. Baffling!

The side bet on Over 2.5 Wade 180s (EVS) did land, as he threw five in his 6-6 draw with Gerwyn Price, in a match where ‘The Machine’ average 103.89.

It’s hard to ignore a bet in the televised Premier League game after already previewing that elsewhere.

West Ham vs Fulham (19:45)

These two sides should be fresh after having last weekend off with neither having any involvement in the FA Cup.

It’s two consecutive 1-1 draws for West Ham with points collected against Liverpool and Crystal Palace but worryingly for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, it is no win in five matches.

Fulham remain deep in the mire and sit eight points off safety, so things do look rather bleak for Claudio Ranieri’s side. They were well beaten at home to Man United in their last game and prior to that didn’t really offer much in a 2-0 defeat at Selhurst Park.

The case, I believe, is pretty easy to argue for this bet, so here it is.

The Cottagers remain the only side in the top-flight yet to register an away win, plus they’ve only collected two away points in draws at Newcastle and Brighton so far.

It’s just eight goals scored in away games and 32 conceded – the most of any side in away games, so things do look bleak for them ahead of this short trip across the capital.

Ranieri’s men have also failed to score in more away games than they have scored in with seven blanks fired from 13 away games, so Lukasz Fabianski could be in for a quiet evening on that evidence.

But the vital piece to the puzzle for this bet is that they have conceded two or more goals in 11 of those 13 trips, so it could prove a long night at the London Stadium for the visitors.

The Hammers won the reverse fixture in December with first half goals from Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio, so a repeat of that would be good enough to land the bet.

Marko Arnautovic is likely to return to West Ham after returning from injury against Crystal Palace while Manuel Lanzini and Samir Nasri are also back in training.

That bolsters the Hammers attacking options quite significantly and with Fulham having conceded the second-most shots on target this season then you’d expect the hosts to breach the visiting defence on a number of occasions.

Not only the return of those attacking players could offer clues to goalscorers but Declan Rice (13/1 – Unibet) could be an anytime angle. He scored the winner against Arsenal and missed a gilt-edged chance against Liverpool with the score at 1-1.

I generally think the price on a home fan is very generous considering Fulham’s awful away record and form this season but I’m adding goals to the outcome to boost the price.

West Ham to Win & Over 1.5 Goals (5/4 – Coral/Ladbrokes)

Football Shortlist

Dijon vs St Etienne (18:00) – 10+ Corners (8/11 – Sky Bet)

I’m taking the degree of safety with this bet because Over 10 Corners is 11/10 with Bet 365 but a number of Dijon home games have fallen exactly on the ten count.

In fact, this 8/11 bet has landed in 9 off Dijon’s 11 home games with four of those finishing on exactly ten, so that’s why I prefer this market to backing ‘Overs’ this time around.

Earlier on in the month, I backed a game involving St Etienne to go high on the corners and it did exactly that.

That day they travelled to Rennes with the corner count seeing 14, of which St Etienne took eight.

This bet has won in 8 of their 12 away games, including their most recent seven trips.

Both sides need points for different reasons with the visitors going for European places while the hosts are trying to get out of trouble, so that looks a fair price for corners with both sides averaging around the five mark.


Tondela vs Porto (21:15) – Over 40 Booking Points (10/11 – Betfair)

This is priced accordingly but it has won in 16 of Tondela’s 22 league games so far this season, including the reverse fixture that saw 80 booking points.

The hosts the sit in 11th place but that is still just two points above the relegation places and facing the league leaders is a tough ask.

However, they have beaten Sporting here already this year and only lost narrowly to Braga, so it could be closer than a few are expecting.

Tondela have picked up 50 yellow cards and ten reds, which is the most dismissals of any side in the Portuguese top-flight this season.

Porto does have one of the fewest yellow card counts and they are just one of two sides yet to have a player sent-off.

I am expecting it to be a backs-to-the-wall job for Tondela and their players will do everything they can to keep this goalless for as long as possible.

Again, that factors in the usual cynical fouls when wrong side, plus time-wasting the longer this goes and seems to be heading for a draw.

The reverse fixture in September saw Porto score the only goal of the game in the 85th minute and that was Porto’s third consecutive 1-0 win over Tondela.

If looking at the match outrights then Porto & Unders would be the way I’d be going here but with Tondela averaging 35.9 booking points per home game then this 10/11 bet is the way to go.



Thursday’s Darts: 21/02/19

What a turnaround it was from Man City to beat Schalke 3-2, however, it was unsuccessful in terms of our punt on Weston McKennie didn’t land despite him committing a couple of fouls.

I listed the three City players a card away from suspension. Fernandinho was cautioned while Nicolas Otamendi was dismissed, so if you went in with that angle then the job was a good’un.

Nothing stands out in the Europa League, so I’m heading to Dublin for the Premier League Darts.

Mensur Suljovic vs Raymond van Barneveld

The last game on stage in Dublin for Week 3 of the Premier League sees the retiring Raymond van Barneveld continue his farewell tour.

The legendary Dutch icon is retiring at the end of the year at the World Championships but in two weeks of this competition, he’s failed to fire.

‘Barney’ earned a point last week from an unlucky position against Gerwyn Price but he started off with a defeat to James Wade.

He’s up against the quirky Mensur Suljovic and the Austrian has been unlucky so far to have only one point on the board.

He drew in the opening week to ‘Challenger’ Chris Dobey, who performed at a high level in front of his home faithful but Suljovic showed his experience to come from behind to get on the board.

Last week, he averaged 101.07 but only managed to record three legs in a 7-3 defeat at the hands of World Champion Michael van Gerwen.

The Austrian is averaging 101.03 for the tournament, has hit seven 180s and has a checkout success rate at 34.6%.

In contrast, ‘Barney’ has the lowest average of all the players with just 91.97, which was massively affected by last weeks 88 despite earning a point.

The Dutchman has registered five maximums and has a lowly checkout success rate at 33.3%.

It was noticeable in Glasgow last week that the veteran thrower was back to his old head shaking and looked fairly negative during his performance.

He entered the first two Players Championship events at the beginning of the month and only won one game across two days. He lost to Ryan Searle in his second game on the opening day but it was a first-round exit to Steve West on Day Two.

Suljovic entered the most recent Players Championship events and on the Sunday, he was knocked out in the Last 16 to eventual winner Glen Durrant.

‘The Gentle’ averaged around 95.6 on the second day to go with his 96.87 on the first day. For me, if he reflected those averages here then he’d be leaving with all the points.

The Austrian played well in this competition last year but was eliminated on Judgement Night despite averaging well throughout. He’s started in similar fashion this year and he’s a consistently solid player.

He won the Champions League a couple of years ago and has the game to defeat a below-par van Barneveld, who is struggling for form and consistency.

Mensur Suljovic to Win (17/20 – Unibet)

One to Note

James Wade vs Gerwyn Price

The opening game sees the unbeaten Gerwyn Price face James Wade in what should be a close affair.

Wade beat ‘Barney’ in his first game 7-4 before going down by the same scoreline to an inspired Rob Cross last week when it looked like ‘The Machine’ would take something from the game.

Price has seen off Daryl Gurney 7-4 and somehow managed to only draw last week to van Barneveld despite leading 6-2.

The bet for me has won in both games so far and is something in a pro-Wade market.

Wade has notched seven maximums in his two games – hitting four in his opener and three last week against Cross.

I’ve been impressed with him lately with his scoring improved and the grouping of his dart in the T20 bed is far more consistent than it used to be. His increased averages should give him more darts at doubles, which therefore offers a better chance to win legs and matches.

Over 2.5 Wade 180s (EVS – Ladbrokes) is a fair enough bet for me with this likely to see a minimum of ten legs, if not going the full 12!