With the international break on the horizon next week, most domestic football is pushed to the sidelines, but there are still some very important games in the lower reaches of English football during this week. The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is open to teams from League One and League Two, and with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, this week’s matches take on extra significance.
This competition always has the potential to throw up the odd shock result, as some teams prioritize league placings over the possibility of reaching Wembley, and there are some big prices being banded about this week for sides on home ground against supposedly superior opposition. We’re taking a few flyers with our tips in search of some of the attractive odds, and have a trio of decent value bets lined up.
Southend v Bristol Rovers
We start with Southend who are a very nice +130 with Skybet to take care of Bristol Rovers at Roots Hall on Wednesday night.
The Shrimpers were among the favourites for League One this term, having amassed a good squad of players under experienced boss Phil Brown. All is not going entirely to plan so far with his side in 12th position, although they are only nine points off the top with a very long way to go. After winning five out of six throughout September and early October, they’ve faltered lately and have failed to win in the last four games (two draws, two defeats). Brown will be keen to see his team get back to winning ways in this competition, and it’s worth noting that most of the poor recent form has been away from home. On their own ground, United have won four of the last six, with their last defeat coming way back on the 12th of September.
Bristol Rovers have been in good form this season, but they are a division below and were expected to make their presence felt in League Two. It would also be fair to say that their season hasn’t gone to plan either, and they mirror Southend’s performance as they also sit 12th with the same number of points (23). Away form has been good at that level, with four wins in a row, but this is a step up from the likes of Hartlepool and Mansfield. They haven’t won away at Southend in the last five meetings (two defeats, three draws), and the price on a home win looks well worth a nibble.
Fleetwood v Sheffield United
On paper this should be an away win, with League One’s 8th placed side taking on one of the division’s relegation candidates, but the Blades may not have it all their own way on Tuesday evening. Although Fleetwood are 21st in the table and staring relegation from the football league down the barrel, they’ve shown brief glimpses of revival recently with good home wins over Burton and Shrewsbury (in the last round of this competition). Staying in the league must be the priority for Fleetwood, but any win is good for confidence and they would love to complete a minor giant-killing here.
Sheffield United are expected to challenge for automatic promotion this term – they were pre-season favourites for the title – but at the moment they’re 8 points off the lead, and just outside the play-off zone. They’ve suffered a couple of demoralizing defeats in the league lately at the hands of Crewe and Millwall, but got back to winning ways at home to Worcester in the FA Cup on Saturday. Away from home, however, they haven’t won in five games (3 draws, 2 defeats), and had to resort to extra-time and penalties in the last round of this competition to overcome Hartlepool away.
On balance, there is no reason that Sheffield United should be hovering around the even odds mark, and although it’s taken on trust that the Fleetwood players will ‘turn up’ on the night, it’s a price worth taking a speculative punt with.
Plymouth v Millwall
As a Championship side until relegation last term, it would be easy to think that Millwall are head and shoulders above Plymouth, but that may not be the case. The South Coast side have won 7 of their last 9 games in all competitions, and 11 of their 16 games in the league so far. Home form has also been superb with 7 of the last 9 in front of their own fans resulting in victory. They’re five points clear at the top of the table, and were knocked out of the FA Cup last week by Carlisle. That means this is effectively their only possible distraction from the league for the rest of the season, and with just three rounds until the final, they are fancied to give it a real good effort against Millwall.
The Lions will also have one eye on promotion, and they’re just outside the play-off zone in 7th in league One. They’ve been in excellent form lately having won six of the last ten games and lost just once in that sequence. However, away from home they’ve failed to win three of the last four (lost 1, drew 2), and Home Park is a very tough place to go. High winds are expected on the South Coast during the week, and this could be a blustery cup tie under the lights where anything could happen. Plymouth will be fired up for this one, and might just pull off a little shock against their more illustrious opponents.
Southend to beat Bristol Rovers
Wednesday 11th November, 19:45 GMT
Fleetwood to beat Sheffield United
Tuesday 10th November, 19:45 GMT
Plymouth to beat Millwall
Tuesday 10th November, 19:45 GMT
Once or twice per month we will provide you with the latest sports tips and keep you updated about the biggest events.