One should not be a snob when it comes to obtaining betting value and that is why one is suggesting dipping into the fifth tier of English football for a long-term wager.
The English Football Conference is 11 rounds old, which means that the 24 teams competing for two spots – one for the champion and one for the winner of the play-offs – in next season’s English League Two have fulfilled more than one-fifth of their fixtures. So one has a fair number of matches on which to base one’s assessment of the division.
Barnet, which fell into England’s fifth tier in 2013, is the English Football Conference title favourite at odds of +400 with several bookmakers, including Betfred and Ladbrokes, as its leads the ladder on 25 points, one clear of the chasing pack. Barnet has won eight, drawn one and lost two of its first 11 English Football Conference games and Bees boss Martin Allen is a lower-league legend. Allen, whose Mad Dog nickname says everything that one needs to know about him, is in his fourth spell in charge of Barnet and each of his three previous spells have been successful.
Scoring goals has not been a problem for Barnet this term. Lee Cook’s seven goals puts him joint top of the English Football Conference scoring chart, John Akinde has netted six goals and Charlie MacDonald has notched five goals. Barnet has scored 28 goals in its 11 English Football Conference matches, six more than any other side, and only one team has conceded fewer goals than Barnet’s six.
Surely that entitles Barnet to English Football Conference favouritism then. Well, one is not so sure about that and this is why: Barnet has had an incredibly soft schedule in the first 11 rounds, not playing a single side ranked in the top six and facing all of the bottom-seven ranked teams.
Bristol Rovers is the highest ranked English Football Conference side that Barnet has played this season and the Bees had the good fortune to meet Rovers, which is the big fish in the small pond following its relegation from English League Two last term, in the second round of games. Bristol Rovers had not hit its straps when it travelled to Barnet.
Barnet beat Bristol Rovers 2-0 at The Hive but it has lost both of its English Football Conference matches versus the next highest ranked teams – 10th-placed Wrexham (0-1 at home) and 15th-placed Lincoln (1-2 at home). So, to cut a long story short, Barnet’s position at the top of the English Football Conference is built on rocky foundations.
One is much more interested in Torquay, which finished last in English League Two last season to slip out of the English Football League for the second time in seven years, at odds of +800 with Coral to win the English Football Conference.
Chris Hargreaves was the manager who took Torquay into the English Football Conference but he was not to blame for the Gulls finishing bottom of English League Two. Hargreaves did not become Torquay’s boss until the second week of January and, in the 21 English League Two games for which he picked the Gulls side, they won seven, which was not a bad effort considering the mess that he inherited from Martin Ling.
Torquay is second on the English Football Conference ladder, one point adrift of Barnet after stringing together a 10-match unbeaten run, including six wins on the spin, five of them without conceding a goal. Torquay’s early English Football Conference schedule has been tougher than that of Barnet and its next assignment is away to relegation favourite Telford, a game that it is odds on to win.
One does not expect Coral’s odds of +800 about Torquay to last because the Gulls are likely to occupy top spot on the English Football Conference ladder after the next round of matches since it is odds on to win at Telford and Barnet is odds on not to win at Forest Green in which is, arguably, the toughest game on paper for the Bees so far this term.
Torquay to win the English Football Conference
Where to Bet: Coral
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