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Friday, 31 October 2014

The Inside Line: Bristol City v Oldham Athletic (01/11/2014)

Comparisons with Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, articles on his lucky pants and an obsessive search for magpies and brief links to jobs at a higher level.  It’s been an interesting week for Bristol City manager, Steve Cotterill.

And that’s all because it’s November and City are STILL unbeaten. Being nearly one-third of the way through the season and still to register a ‘L’ in the results column is a remarkable achievement.  Yet in the last couple of weeks – as Preston North End maintain their own outstanding winning run and close the gap – more and more questions have been raised about the conceding of soft goals, the carelessness of protecting leads, and dropped points in recent games.

Is this unfair criticism of a team who are taking all before them and remain, for now, in the highest possible position they can attain? Or is it justifiable concern of what might lie ahead, should these shortcoming not be addressed? 

Probably a bit of both. I have seen some people say this week it might be good to lose, to rid ourselves of this unbeaten tag and be able to concentrate on winning games, rather than not losing them again.  Poppycock. Absolute, pure, poppycock!  Apologies for my drift into 19th century old-English language there, but it felt appropriate. 

Losing can become a mind-set.  That feeling of defeat adding nervousness at the end of games as you know how deflating it can be – look at us this time last year when, despite a number of performances that deserved more, we couldn’t buy a win, and threw away many even positions late on due to the tension and apprehension.  Yes, this is a different set of players in the main, but that’s exactly why we shouldn’t want to lose.  To borrow a phrase from our gaffer, this is a team of winners right now, a team with such fighting spirit that they won’t lie down and won’t accept defeat.  We have no way of knowing how that first defeat might affect them, so let’s not wish it along any time soon.  I bet Arsenal fans weren’t hoping for a defeat at this stage of their unbeaten season…

Saying that, Lee Johnson’s Oldham Athletic arrive at Ashton Gate in fine form themselves, unbeaten in 13 and storming into the play-off picture – probably to the surprise of many, given their budgetary constraints. This is the first of a number of very tough challenges for Cotterill’s Robins in November, ahead of match ups with Swindon, Preston & Peterborough. It’s important we don’t dismiss Oldham in our anticipation for those perceived, ‘bigger’ matches.

Stu Radnedge caught up with Latics fan Joshua Bowker ahead of Saturday’s game to find out what’s going so right for ‘LJ’ and his band of merry men.

“After years and years of floating around the doldrums of the bottom third of League One, perennially flirting with the relegation zone, Oldham have finally had a positive start to the season. Headed by ex-Bristol City player, Lee Johnson (and his numerous comrades who have links to Ashton Gate) there is a real air of positivity around the club at this early stage of the season. Looking up the table, rather than down the table is an unusual situation to be in at this time of the season.

The Latics and City meet as arguably two of the most inform sides in the division, and both have certainly made themselves hard to beat, with Athletic having not lost in 11 league games. Expect goals though! Latics haven’t drawn a blank or kept a clean sheet in 6 games, and City’s run stretches to 7 games.

Johnson has brought in several players who he played alongside during his career, and some who have spent time at Bristol City, including James and Brian Wilson, George Elokobi and Liam Kelly. Kelly was brought in as a straight swap for Korey Smith in midfield, and was handed the armband on the way into Boundary Park. Kelly has been outstanding in the last month or so, after initially struggling, most likely due to a lack of match fitness. Johnson’s decision to change from a flat four in midfield to a diamond has brought out the best in the squad, with Kelly excelling at the base of the diamond.

The new formation has also allowed Jonathan Forte and loanee Jabo Ibehre to spearhead the attack. Forte has had a blistering start to his Oldham career, scoring 11 goals in just 12 starts. Put into context, he managed a mere 9 in 99 games for Scunthorpe, and Latics’ top league scorer last year finished with just 6! Johnson has truly found the best in him, and Ibehre has certainly proved to be the perfect foil for Forte. Despite being Colchester’s player of the season for the past two years, he fell out of favour this season and joined up with Latics. His strength and ability to bring others into play is a trait that Latics haven’t had since Matt Smith departed. Forte and Ibehre’s partnership, although in the extremely early days is already blossoming. The combination of Ibehre’s strength and Forte’s pace has yielded 4 goals in the last two games they’ve started together.

At the other end of the pitch, James Wilson has relished the opportunity of game time. Despite being in Bristol for 8 years, he only managed 21 starts. Despite joining in January, he’s surpassed that total, and been a virtual ever present, and just keeps getting better and better. He’s strong, athletic and a calm head at the back, he’s already been through 3 different centre-back partners this season, and hasn’t looked phased at all. His partner this weekend is likely to be Timothee Dieng – it has been for the previous 4 games, and has admirably held his own against difficult opponents such as Eoin Doyle and James Hanson in his first season in English football.

Johnson has always championed possession-based, attack-minded football. During the struggles last year, that philosophy went a little to the wayside. However it is back this season, with ‘keeper Paul Rachubka always looking to play out to his defenders – although the addition of Ibehre allows for a more direct option. Kelly anchors the midfield, and looks to start attacks from his own half by dropping in between the defence. Either side of the diamond in midfield are Carl Winchester and Mike Jones, who have been two of the most impressive performers this season. Their drive and energy from midfield was a factor missing from last season, and expect them to provide the attacking impetus from deep. Danny Philliskirk operates behind the front two, and Smith will almost certainly be tasked with nullifying his creative talents.

This feels like the strongest Oldham squad in a long time, and dreams of the playoffs which seemed distant back in August, feel more possible. After navigating difficult games such as Chesterfield, Peterborough and Bradford in recent weeks and remaining unbeaten, a successful result this weekend would really build hope. Latics’ away form this season reads one win, one loss and five draws. Backed on by a sold out Latics’ end, this should be a fantastic game between two confident teams, both hoping to maintain their unbeaten records.”

My thanks to Stu (who organised this from India!) and Joshua for this piece. It seems set to be an enthralling encounter between two good footballing sides fighting to preserve long unbeaten records.  I can see yet another 2-2 draw in the offing, but then I regularly waste money with the bookies so who knows!


The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 24 October 2014

Bookies Corner: Barnsley v Bristol City

I'm delighted to say that after a short break, Easyodds.com football tipster and Bristol City fan Ross Casey is back this week with a betting column on City’s trip to Oakwell to face Danny Wilson’s Barnsley. After the late slip-up preventing us of three points at Ashton Gate in midweek, can we take the win at Barnsley like we have in three of our last four visits?  Keep reading below for Ross’ full betting preview including his most pertinent trends and oddities…

BRISTOL CITY – 11/10 (Multiple)
BARNSLEY – 59/20 (MarathonBet)
DRAW – 13/5 (Multiple)

It doesn’t take a genius to see a trend in Bristol City’s matches that we score goals. In sixteen matches this term we have only failed to hit the net once and that was against Orient when Baldock’s goal was disallowed for no reason at all.

It is not just the fact we are scoring that is so pleasing – 14 of our 20 outfield players to play first team football this season have hit the net. The wide range of goal threats we have is brilliant for keeping opposition teams on their toes.

With all of these goals flying in it is of little surprise that there are some interesting betting trends regarding goals. If you live to bet on the over/under line you can pretty much guarantee a winning bet on a Bristol City fixture going over 2.5 goals – in eight of our last nine matches three or more goals have been scored! Over 2.5 is available at 3/4.

I find the first goal brackets interesting in our matches too – four of our last six fixtures have had an opening goal scored in the opening 10 minutes. The bookies haven’t seemed to latch on to this trend as yet as the best price available is a tempting 16/5.

Unfortunately we have lost the ability to keep clean sheets in our most recent matches. After a run of three shut-outs in a row stopping at Port Vale we have now conceded at least one goal in each of our last seven matches. Both teams to score is the option here at 13/20. If you were to choose between this and over 2.5 goals I would go with overs as that has slightly better profit margins.

An interesting statistic about Danny Wilson’s Barnsley this season is that they are do or die at home. In eight matches on home soil they are yet to draw a match. Considering we have drawn just one of our last 10 fixtures at Oakwell it is perhaps unsurprising that the draw is the least likely outcome in the full-time result market at 13/5.

Encouragingly for Steve Cotterill is the really embarrassing statistic that Barnsley have conceded a huge 12 goals in their last four at Oakwell. For a defence featuring Lewin Nyatanga I find this hard to believe! With this in mind take your pick from the starting line-up on Saturday and back some Robins players to hit the back of the net. Easyodds.com offers all of our stars from Aaron Wilbraham at 6/4 all the way down to Derrick Williams at 12/1.

Speaking of former players, I love backing ex –players to score as they seem to have that extra spring in their step when playing former clubs. Look at the proof of Leroy Lita’s hat-trick for Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate for proof of that!

He is 11/5 to score against us again and Lewin Nyatanga is 20/1. The way we defended set plays on Tuesday night may well prove that to be a whacky but wonderful wager! Andy Cole’s son Devante is on-loan at Barnsley from Manchester City and has impressed with his pace and willing running so far. He will give Aden Flint all sorts of problems if he plays on the shoulder of our line. He has scored 5 in 13 this season and has scored in his last two matches – his best price to score against our defence is 13/5.

We are pretty successful against Barnsley in terms of our win/loss record. We have 41 wins to their 30 but the last time these sides met at Oakwell we lost 1-0 to a Tykes side that had 10 men for the last 40 minutes. Oh how I don’t miss those Championship years of depressing losses after hard fought draws!

I genuinely do think that Devante Cole has a bright future ahead of him and using our price comparison service I have found some good value on him scoring two or more goals in this match. With back-to-back goals for the young forward and our no clean sheet in seven, he looks a good bet at 16/1 to score two or more. Most bookies are around 9/1 on this bet but Bet365 are offering almost double that at 16/1.

First Goal Between 1-10 Minutes @ 16/5 – BET NOW

I like this trend that I have sniffed out and whilst it may be over within 11 minutes I think the bookies have underestimated how keen Barnsley are to concede and us Robins to score! 4 in 6 is a decent trend plus Joe Bryan missed out JUST with his 11th minute strike at Walsall. Here’s hoping for another quick start!

*All prices supplied by www.easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Fri 24th October 2014*

The Exiled Robin

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