Bristol Rovers is a false favourite for its English League One game at Walsall on Saturday and one is willing to bet that the Saddlers have turned a corner early this year.
Sheffield United is odds on across the board to win English League One and escape the clutches of England’s third tier but last weekend the Blades lost to Walsall for the third time this season. Walsall smashed Sheffield United 4-1 at the Banks’s Stadium after previously beating the Blades twice at Bramall Lane – 2-1 in English League One action and 1-0 in the English Checkatrade Trophy. Sheffield United is English League One’s most likely champion and, while Walsall is a flawed team managed by an inexperienced operator who may be out of his depth, clearly the Saddlers have something about them to get the better of the Blades three times.
Walsall is 14th on the English League One ladder, six rungs and eight points below Bristol Rovers. However, it is worth noting that Walsall has played two fewer English League One matches than Bristol Rovers and that is one of many reasons why it is important not to trust ladders in their most basic form. Walsall and Bristol Rovers have lined up against every one of their English League One opponents and, according to one’s collateral form analysis, the Saddlers and the Gas are tied on 10-3-10. Those numbers in themselves are sufficient for one not to believe the raw English League One ladder and dig a bit deeper, both pertaining to individual results and other things that are happening regarding the two sides.
Inconsistent would be a fair term to describe Walsall’s form across all competitions but the Saddlers have risen to the occasion not only versus Sheffield United but also, for example, Bolton. Walsall had Joe Edwards sent off just 16 minutes into its English League One home game against Bolton but the Saddlers fought like lions to open the scoring through Jason McCarthy and close out a 1-0 victory.
Bristol Rovers is trading as a marginal English League One away favourite with some bookmakers even though the Gas have not collected maximum points from any of its seven trips to teams ranked in the top 15. Furthermore, Bristol Rovers has lost five of those aforementioned English League One road matches, including four of them by two or more goals.
The reverse English League One fixture between Bristol Rovers and Walsall took place in September and there was a significant name on the scoresheet for the Saddlers. Erhun Oztumer fired Walsall into the lead before Matt Taylor’s penalty-kick equaliser. Oztumer is Walsall’s most skilled attacker but Saddlers boss Jon Whitney had been leaving him out of his starting line-ups until Sheffield United rolled into the Banks’s Stadium last weekend. Oztumer started and the rest is history. One understands that it is difficult for Whitney to build a Walsall side around the so-called Turkish Messi but, like most English League One teams, the Saddlers are not falling over themselves for creative midfielders. Walsall is a much stronger side with Oztumer pulling the strings rather than picking his nose. Before betting, perhaps check to see that Oztumer is set to start and also of importance is injury-prone midfield dynamo Isaiah Osbourne, who would have managed to carve out an English Premier League career if he had remained sound.
Betfred and BetVictor are offering odds of +175 about Walsall posting an English League One home win over a Bristol Rovers team that is, according to one’s ratings, equal to the Saddlers and that is without factoring in the poor results of the Gas away to half-decent foes. Walsall should be trading at odds of around +120 to prevail.
Walsall to beat Bristol Rovers
Saturday 21st January, 15:00 GMT
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