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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Tynecastle clash is value to pass off peacefully

The Soccer Boffin delivers his best bet

Referee Craig Thomson is an experienced top-level arbiter
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Saturday 3pm

Back under 45 bookings points in the Ladbrokes Premiership game between Hearts and Hamilton. Hills offer 11-8, which just might be too high. Each yellow will count as ten points and each red as 25.

Odds of 11-8 imply a 42 per cent chance of a payout. This season 59 per cent of Ladbrokes Premiership games have featured a bookings make-up below 45.

There are reasons for thinking that the chance of a low make-up today at Tynecastle is smaller than 59 per cent – but perhaps not quite as small as 42 per cent.

Hamilton by themselves have averaged almost 30 bookings points, home and away, in the three seasons since they returned to the Premiership.

Only half of their games, home and away, have finished with a total bookings make-up below 45. That is still better than 42 per cent but we are not done yet.

Just one of Hamilton’s five previous Premiership games against Hearts produced a bookings make-up lower than 45 – the last one, at the SuperSeal Stadium in November.

That was because Hearts too received a large number of yellow and red cards for a long time until quite recently. This season, though, their card counts have been average for the Premiership.

One of the other previous meetings was refereed by the man who will have the whistle today. Craig Thomson is a good and experienced official.

In May he will have completed 15 years in the Premiership. In each of the last ten seasons he has also officiated in the Champions League. He has shown yellow and red cards no more or less regularly than a typical colleague.

Hamilton are likely to receive more bookings points than Hearts at Tynecastle. And the total for both teams could be any number, including all the high ones.

There is a greater likelihood at Tynecastle of a bookings make-up of 45 or more than on any other ground in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Saturday. Celtic and Rangers do not play until Sunday.

However it is possible that the chance of a make-up below 45 is still better than the odds acknowledge.

Under 45 bookings points in Hearts v Hamilton
0.5pt 11-8 Hills

Bet on this match at

Thought for the day

Luck is more likely to decide the result of a Premier League game than an FA Cup tie. Among sixth-round ties over the next three days, Chelsea versus Manchester United (two Premier League teams) is more likely to be determined by luck than Arsenal versus Lincoln (Premier League against National League).

That is the opposite of what many people think so I had better explain.

The chance of luck influencing the outcome of a sporting contest increases as the difference in skill between competitors decreases. In a football match it would be at its maximum if the teams had identical ability.

Such a game would not be decided by a difference in skill because there is none. It would have to be decided by something else. Perhaps the location, or motivation, or any of a number of other factors, including luck, such as a kind roll of the ball or blast on a referee’s whistle.

When there are large differences in skill other factors are less likely to be big enough to become decisive.

Lincoln are the first non-league team in 103 years to reach the FA Cup last eight. What would have to happen for them to reach the semi-finals?

Lincoln would have to play well by their standards and Arsenal would have to play badly by their standards. But Lincoln would still need some good fortune as well.

Lincoln would probably need a more generous slice of luck to beat Arsenal than Manchester United might need to beat Chelsea.

The most likely semi-finalists are four of the top six in the Premier League. Most years the FA Cup is won by one of the best teams in England.

It was always so – even when people think it was not. In an official history of the FA Cup published in 1960 the then chairman of the FA wrote: “The prize goes regularly to one of our famous and powerful League clubs.”

I find this reassuring – unlike most people. For me it confirms that when there are meaningful differences in skill between teams the best players usually win.

When the best teams face each other, or for that matter when comparably bad teams face each other – that is when luck tends to become more important. 

Hamilton by themselves have averaged almost 30 bookings points, home and away, in the three seasons since they returned to the Premiership
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