Back Blackpool to avoid being an April fool
Tangerines still dreaming of promotion
Sky Bet Football League
Luton v Blackpool
The best April Fool's gag I can remember was from Shoot magazine in 1989 when they ran a front-page 'world exclusive' story showing Ian Rush in an Everton shirt after a transfer from Liverpool.
These days the so-called jokes are provided by social media "banter" accounts that have mainly sucked the fun out of sport and this column will instead concentrate on the serious business of trying to find winners.
Hopefully a bet on Blackpool at Luton in a crucial Sky Bet League Two contest will leave a smile on the face of punters but the Hatters' run of results is no laughing matter for manager Nathan Jones.
Luton were eyeing up automatic promotion a few weeks ago but sixth-placed Town now have the same number of points as fifth-placed Blackpool with both sides just one point ahead of the team in eighth and in danger of dropping out of the playoff positions.
One win in nine has seriously damaged Luton, who last tasted success at Kenilworth Road on February 14. There has not been much love from their supporters since that Valentine's Day victory over Hartlepool.
Luton have not beaten a fellow top-ten team in 2017 and Jones was unhappy with their performance in last week's 2-1 defeat at Colchester.
He told the club's official website: "In the first half we were nowhere near. It came out of the blue really, I didn't anticipate a performance like that. We had no urgency, no real workrate, no aggression about us in the first half and then fundamentally we couldn't defend crosses."
It was interesting Jones suggested that performance "came out of the blue" considering he said this after a 1-1 draw at Newport only four days earlier: "In the first half we were poor all over. We didn't win our first headers, we didn't get on seconds. We didn't stick to the game plan, we were nowhere near."
Danny Hylton, Luton’s 19-goal top goalscorer, is a major doubt having missed training all week and next best, with ten goals, is long-term injury victim Cameron McGeeghan.
Nobody else has more than five league goals and Blackpool must fancy their chances of at least avoiding defeat.
The Tangerines have won five of their last six which includes victories to nil over second-placed Plymouth and fourth-placed Stevenage, while their only defeat in 15 league games came at Portsmouth.
Taking the +0.25 Asian handicap option is preferred with a half-stake win should Blackpool avoid defeat.
Blackpool +0.25 on Asian handicap
2pts 66-67 188 Bet
The draw harmed Stevenage's chances of automatic promotion but in isolation they once again outperformed market expectations and are proving to be a profitable team to follow.
Boro are odds-against to overcome Barnet, who are 11 points below them in the League Two standings.
The reason for the big price is simple - the two teams are well-matched in the shot ratio statistics - but Stevenage have improved plenty in recent months and Barnet seem to be going backwards.
There was a golden period for the Bees in the shots department under impressive caretaker management duo Rossi Eames and Henry Newman who should count themselves unlucky to have lost out to Kevin Nugent in the battle for the permanent position after Martin Allen's exit.
Barnet had one shot on target in a 1-0 loss at Notts County (who played 79 minutes with ten men) and had five efforts on target to Cheltenham’s six in a fortunate 3-1 win last week.
Stevenage have won seven on the spin at home and look a value bet to make that eight.
1pt 15-13 188Bet
Athletic have definitely picked up under John Sheridan, losing just once in ten games, but six of those matches were at Boundary Park where opposition teams are stymied by the horrendous surface.
On the road Oldham have hung on at Peterborough with one shot on target in a 1-1 draw and the 0-0 at Swindon saw Athletic fail to register an attempt on goal in a match where the total shot count was 26-8 in favour of the hosts.
Sixth-placed Southend have landed a hat-trick of wins and the front two of Simon Cox and Nile Ranger are a handful for anyone at this level.
1pt 17-20 bet365, Betfair, Betway
Plays of the day
Wanderers have won their last five by an aggregate 16-5 and it could be argued that Chesterfield are playing even worse than their run of seven defeats in 13 suggests.
Portsmouth 4-7 general
For many Pompey are the best side in the basement but they throw in too many stinkers (1-1 with Morecambe, 0-1 Crewe, 0-3 Stevenage in last seven games) to lump on them at Hartlepool.
Bolton 2-5, Wycombe 8-11, Roma 1-5 188Bet
Both teams to score
Games at Aston Villa 13-15, Peterborough 11-17, Rochdale 4-6 188Bet
Nile Ranger 11-2 general
Nile Ranger has started for Southend 15 times and their only defeat in that time came against leaders Sheffield United. He has scored in his last three outings and also notched first in the reverse fixture against Oldham.
Thought for the week
Our Soccerbase Twitter account ran a poll earlier this week asking whether Jermain Defoe should go to the World Cup and 74 per cent said yes to the 34-year-old heading to Russia next year.
Defoe may well be on the plane - his 14 goals for Sunderland this season (five penalties) is a decent effort - but that would be a damning indictment of England's forward options because he has rarely looked good enough for international level.
Despite being a "guaranteed goalscorer" Defoe has failed to hit 20 league goals in a season and the teams he has played for never won anything while he was in the side.
Some chuckle at the "all he does is score goals" comments but there is something to be said for less selfish forwards who sacrifice personal goal tallies for the greater good of the side.
Jamie Vardy made selfless runs in Germany to create space for Adam Lallana and Dele Alli but Defoe failed to repeat the trick against Lithuania.
Yes Defoe scored, but Alli was right behind him to tap it in and Gareth Southgate needs to get the best out of the Alli-Lallana-Raheem Sterling triumvirate by using strikers who bring them into the game.
Defoe, 35 in October, does not fit the bill. All he does is score goals, and not quite as many of them as his fans believe either.