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Friday, 14 December, 2018

League Two trio could provide a timely boost

Best bets in the EFL and beyond

Exeter manager Paul Tisdale has earned another crack at the playoffs
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English Football League
3pm Saturday

Exeter v Carlisle
A trio of Sky Bet League Two outsiders could provide the punting ammunition for Cheltenham despite a fiendishly difficult set of fixtures at a critical stage of the campaign.

With less than two months remaining of the Football League season clubs are beginning to fall into three categories. Some are desperate for the points to push for promotion, others are desperate for points to stay in their division and a few stuck in mid-table are desperate for a holiday.

Two teams with ambitions of making the top seven meet in Devon and there could be some mileage in taking hosts Exeter to make it a painfully long trip back north for Carlisle in a rematch of last season's epic playoff semi-final, which was won by the Grecians.

First, the negatives behind a bet on Exeter. City's poor pitch may not suit their preferred playing style and on shot data Paul Tisdale's team are punching well above their weight to be sixth in League Two with at least two matches in hand on the sides above them.

On shot ratio (share of match shots), Exeter are seen as one of the worst teams in the division and on shots-on-target ratio City are performing better but still below average for League Two.

However, that is surely factored into the prices with Exeter outsiders at home to tenth-placed Carlisle, who are four points behind them having played three matches more. City have lost only two of their last eight league games, both 1-0, against big-spending Luton and Mansfield.

Carlisle perform particularly poorly against the stronger sides in the division and have won just one of their 14 fixtures against the teams currently above them. That run includes seven defeats in as many away trips by an aggregate score of 21-6.

Keith Curle's side have won four in a row but those successes came against Chesterfield (23rd), Barnet (24th), Yeovil (17th) and Grimsby (20th). Exeter's ace marksman Jason Stockley could once again be make the difference for the Grecians.

Exeter draw no bet
1pt Betfred, BoyleSports

Forest Green v Notts County
Team news is key in this game with Christian Doidge doubtful for Forest Green but boss Mark Cooper is hopeful his star striker can recover from a twisted ankle and it could be worth risking Rovers to take something from the visit of Notts County.

Doidge has scored 16 League Two goals and is clearly important, although Forest Green managed to come back from a deficit at Newport on Tuesday to draw 3-3 once the forward had been subbed, and Cooper has other options such as January arrival Reuben Reid.

The signing of Reid was one of a number of improvements Forest Green made to their squad in the transfer window and they look much better for their relatively large investment in the new year.

Cooper, who was briefly boss at Notts, has seen his new-look side collect 11 points from a possible 15 since the start of February and home is where the heart is for a Rovers team searching for a sixth straight success in Gloucestershire.

County are winless on their league travels since Boxing Day, but the dip in their performances is even more alarming. They lost the shots-on-target count 7-2 in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Cheltenham and the same statistic was 8-0 in favour of Cambridge in a recent 1-0 loss.

Forest Green +0.25 on Asian handicap
1pt 11-12 188Bet

Wycombe v Cambridge
That success for Cambridge was one of a number of eye-catching performances since Shaun Derry was sacked and interim manager Joe Dunne is doing his best to get the job on a permanent basis.

United were unlucky to gain only one point from excellent performances against top two Accrington and Luton but the point against the Hatters should stand them in good stead for the trip to Wycombe.

It's now one clean sheet in 12 for Wanderers, who look a little short given Cambridge's recent resurgence.

Cambridge or draw double chance
1pt 4-5 bet365, BoyleSports

Bet on these games at

Plays of the day

Blackburn 8-11
Tony Mowbray's men let slip a 2-0 advantage against Wigan last week but Blackburn are full of goals which should be bad news for Ewood Park visitors Blackpool.

Fiorentina 4-11
It's totally understandable for Fiorentina to have their minds elsewhere following the sudden death of captain Davide Astori. Even against Benevento it is hard to trust the hosts at cramped odds. 

Middlesbrough 6-10, Blackburn 7-10, Juventus 1-4, Porto 2-7 BoyleSports

Both teams to score
Games at Coventry 68-67, Swindon 4-6, Yeovil 8-9, 188Bet

Thought for the week

There always has to be a reason why something has happened in football punditry, where it is seen as better to give a strong opinion as to why a certain result occurred than a shrug of the shoulders and an "I just don't know" type of answer.

I have certainly used the "experience" line many times myself when questioned about a result or asked for a pre-match prediction, it's almost a default response.

However, too often it's a throwaway line which does not reflect the minor details which frequently decide high-level matches such as Juventus's narrow victory over Tottenham on Wednesday.

Experience was given as a deciding factor after Spurs conceded twice in three minutes having dominated for an hour, yet in last season's Champions League final this ultra-experienced Juve team did exactly the same against Real Madrid.

On another night Harry Kane would go around Gigi Buffon and score rather than finding the side netting. On another night Kane's header would hit the post and go in rather than roll on the line. On another night we'd be calling Juve over the hill rather than experienced.

Through experience, I've learned to accept these things just happen and quite often the only explanation is "that's football."

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Carlisle perform particularly poorly against the stronger sides in the division
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