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EFL League One Preview and Best Bets

english league one

Bolton Wanderers vs Sheffield Wednesday

Bolton to win – 15/8 (2.88)

Bolton continued their good start to the season with a 1-0 win at home to Morecambe on Tuesday night, a result that moved The Trotters up to fourth in the table. They registered an xG of 1.43 to their opponents 0.38. They won the game without really getting our of second gear, good individual performances from Connor Bradley and George Johnston were enough to see them get the three points.

Sheffield Wednesday lost 2-0 to Peterborough on Tuesday night, with both goals coming via the same method. A cross from the right was met by a central header twice, resulting in two goals. This has been a problem for The Owls since last campaign and it could be a great avenue for Bolton to exploit on Saturday, with Connor Bradley on the right and Jack Iredale on the left supplying the balls for the returning Dion Charles to bury into the Wednesday net. 

Bolton have been brilliant at home for months now, and this season they’ve played three matches at the University of Bolton stadium, averaging three goals a game. I think they’ve comfortably got enough to hurt Sheffield Wednesday as I would expect them to put in another good attacking performance here. The aforementioned trio are complimented by Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Kieran Lee, Oladapo Afolayan, and Amadou Bakayoko, all of whom are supreme talents for this level.

I’m not quite sure why Wednesday are favourites for this game given they’re away from Hillsborough, their form on their travels was a little ropey last season, and they finished 7th in the away league table. They also have defender Reece James suspended for this game after he was sent off against Peterborough. For me, all signs point to a home win here and I’m very happy to take the generous price on offer.

Burton Albion vs Port Vale

Burton to win – 2/1 (3.0)

This is game between two teams who have struggled to get their seasons up and running. Burton are bottom of the league and have taken just one point from their first four matches, conceding twelve goals in the process. Port Vale are winless since their opening day victory against Fleetwood, including losing 4-0 to fellow newly promoted side Exeter. Both of these sides will see this as a great opportunity to kickstart their campaign.

Despite the poor start to the season there have been signs of resurgence in Burton’s last two performances, they managed to score four goals last weekend in a 4-4 draw against Accrington Stanley at The Wham Stadium, although they were 4-2 up heading into injury time in that match and would have been disappointed to drop points. They lost 1-0 at home to Ipswich on Tuesday night but that doesn’t tell the story of the game, they absolutely battered the Tractor Boys, with an xG of 1.95 compared to Ipswich’s 0.88 and can consider themselves very unlucky to not win, never mind coming away empty handed.

I fancy Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s team to get their first win in this game, they’ve been knocking at the door in the last two matches and a home game against a newly promoted seems like the perfect opportunity to register a victory. The Brewers are available at a very tasty price, as Port Vale are seen as the favourites in the bookies odds. I think the odds are probably the wrong way round and the home side should be favourites here. 

Oxford United vs Morecambe

Under 2.5 goals – 23/20 (2.15)

All the knowledge you have gathered about Oxford over the last four seasons is now useless. Get those pre-season preconceptions in the bin and start facing the harsh reality of this yellows side. That harsh reality is that they don’t score goals, and they don’t create a lot of chances. No longer are you going to see these 5-1, 4-2, 7-2 score lines that you have become so accustomed to, instead welcome to 1-0, 1-0, and another 1-0. The only real question that remains is if Oxford get the one or the nil (Morecambe to win 1-0 is 17/1, just sayin’).

Karl Robinson seems to have severely changed his tactics to tighten up at the back, the overlapping fullbacks which have been a stable of Oxford for years have been vanquished. Neither Sam Long on the right or Steve Seddon on the left were getting anywhere near the byline in Tuesday’s defeat at home to Lincoln. I can’t see them creating too many clear-cut chances against a Morecambe side that are nothing if not well organised unless they revert back to the Oxford of old, and I think that’s easier said than done.

Morecambe succumbed to a 1-0 defeat away at Bolton on Tuesday night, they looked toothless for much of that game and have been without star striker Cole Stockton for the last two matches. There have been rumours that the 28-year-old has handed in a transfer request and his absence has certainly raised a few eyebrows. The Shrimps have only scored one goal in their first four games, and it’s looking like it might be a long season for Derek Adams’ team.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, I will be doing something that has never been done before in this column and backing an Oxford game to go under 2.5 goals. All the information we have seen this season so far suggests that under 2.5 goals is the far more likely outcome in this game but that is not reflected in the price.  

Shrewsbury Town vs Ipswich Town

Ipswich to win – 11/10 (2.1)

Ipswich have been in imperious form at the start of the season, they’re sitting pretty at the top of the table and look to be living up to their billing as the pre-season title favourites. I’ve been really impressed with Kieran McKenna’s team so far; they addressed their major weakness from last season (a lack of goals) with the addition of Marcus Harness from Portsmouth. The versatile Irish forward has scored three in his last three games and sits just one goal behind Colby Bishop in the League One scoring charts. McKenna spoke in the summer about how quickly Harness ingested the information given to him about Ipswich’s style of play and how he would be utilised in the system, it seems like all that pre-season swotting has done the trick and his goals might just fire Ipswich to promotion. 

Shrewsbury have got a very similar team to the one that finished last season in 18th place, scoring just 47 goals in 46 games. They haven’t spent any money in the transfer market so far, relying on free transfers and loans to enhance their squad. Their gameplan remains almost identical, look to absorb pressure, and hope for a bit of magic from Daniel Udoh. I don’t think they’ll have much joy with that against a well-organised and well-drilled Ipswich side. 

The Tractor Boys have won both of their away matches so far this season, and I’m expecting that run to continue in Shropshire on Saturday afternoon. I think they will be too resolute for Shrewsbury to break down and I think they’ve now got the firepower in attack to hurt their opponents.

Exeter City vs Cheltenham Town

Exeter to win – 4/6 (1.67)

The Grecian gods have been smiling on Exeter so far this season, the southwest side have made a fantastic start to life back in the third tier, sitting in fifth place with seven points from the first four games. This is Exeter’s first season back in League One following ten years in League Two, the highest they’ve finished in their history is 8th in the third tier and they might be harbouring some early season optimism that they can equal that in this campaign. 

Exeter are a team that relies heavily on their academy, and this is what sets them apart from many other teams in the EFL. In their 3-1 win against Wycombe on Tuesday night seven out of the eleven starters were academy graduates. Former Exeter academy players include Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu, who spent last year on loan at Venezia.

I went into this season fearing the worst for this Cheltenham side after they lost Michael Duff to Barnsley in the summer, and I haven’t seen anything to change my mind. They’ve taken just a solitary point from their first four league matches and haven’t scored since the first half on the opening day. 

When these two teams met in the League Cup Exeter put seven past Cheltenham in their own back yard. I wouldn’t expect a repeat of that 7-0 score line, but I think the result will be the same with Exeter taking the three points. The price isn’t anything exciting, but a win is a win. 

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