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EFL League One Preview and Best Bets

english league one

Accrington Stanley vs Burton Albion

Accrington to score 2+ goals – 1/1 (2.0)

I really like the way Accrington have started the season, they were the better side against Charlton on the opening day, before taking advantage of a refereeing error to beat Shrewsbury 1-0 away from home. Tom Flanagan being wrongfully dismissed for Shrewsbury in comical fashion with two yellow cards within seconds of each other, the referee could be clear seen saying “One yellow for the push, second one for dissent and that one’s a red, see you later”, the irony being the push was actually committed by the Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper.

Accrington lost key defender Jay Rich-Baghuelou in that game against Shrewsbury, he was replaced by Everton loanee Ryan Astley in the 21st minute. Astley scored his first ever goal in senior football in the midweek EFL Cup game against Tranmere, Stanley were 2-0 up early in that game but ended up losing on penalties following a 2-2 draw.

On Saturday they face a Burton side who have had started the season dreadfully, losing 3-0 away to Wycombe to start off the campaign, then losing 4-0 at home to promoted Bristol Rovers, they even crashed out the cup against League Two Rochdale after a 2-0 defeat at Spotland Stadium on Tuesday night. That’s 9 goals conceded and 0 scored in their opening three matches of the season, relegation form. The Brewers have gone from 7/2 at the start of the season to 13/8 to drop down and it would be hard to advise anyone against that bet.

John Coleman has made a career out of beating teams that are low on confidence. In last season’s campaign, Crewe were comfortably the worst team in the league, finishing bottom by eight points. Accrington beat Crewe 4-1 at home and 1-0 away. I think Accrington will almost certainly win this game, my only slight caveat is that their defence has looked a little ropey, conceding twice against both Charlton and Tranmere. I think the safest bet is Accrington to score two or more goals, available at the same price as them to win the game.

Bristol Rovers vs Oxford United

Over 2.5 goals – 10/11 (1.91)

The game at The Memorial Stadium should have plenty of fireworks both on and off the pitch. Both of these teams play in mould of their managers, Joey Barton, and Karl Robinson. If it were possible to bet on a scrap on the touchline, we would probably be on to a sure-fire winner with these two fiery characters going head-to-head.

The last meetings between these two were memorable on the pitch has well as off it. They met in The FA Cup first round, with the first game at The Kassam finishing 2-2 after a late Rovers equaliser. It was in the replay back at the Memorial Stadium where the magic happened, the game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes being exploding into life in extra time. Oxford scored two early goals and led 3-1 at half time in extra time, Bristol Rovers then score three second half goals to win 4-3.

Oxford have started the season in unusual fashion, with both league matches finishing 1-0. They did show some signs of the Oxford we expect in their EFL Cup game on Tuesday night, fighting back from two down against Swansea with a last-minute Cameron Brannagan equaliser before winning on penalties. I’m choosing to see that as a sign of things to come in the league. Bristol Rovers have almost mirrored their opponents on Saturday; their opening two games have seen a total of seven goals, yet they lost a tight game 1-0 to Crawley in the EFL Cup.

I just can’t imagine another Oxford United League One game going under 2.5 goals, the last time they had three league games in a row with two goals or less was back in January, which was 22 league games ago. I think this bet represents good value, as over 2.5 goals is seen as the less likely outcome based on the odds.

Cheltenham vs Portsmouth

Portsmouth to win – 5/4 (2.25)

To me, this fixture really outlines how a cup game can impact the mood around a club, and why I believe more managers should attempt to create a winning mentality in the early rounds of cup competitions. Neither of these sides have managed to get a win so far this season, Pompey have drawn both of their games (albeit in wildly different fashions, first a 3-3 then a 0-0), and Cheltenham have lost two from two.

In midweek, their results could not have been more different. Portsmouth got a very impressive 3-0 win away at Championship Cardiff City, whilst Cheltenham were demolished 7-0 at home to newly promoted Exeter. This is nicely summarised in the match odds, prior to Tuesday’s EFL Cup action Portsmouth were available at 7/4, this price has now shortened to 5/4.

I find it hard to see anything but a comfortable Portsmouth victory in this fixture, they have better players all over the park and will be full of confidence after their midweek exploits, the opposite can be said of Cheltenham. It’s a shame to miss out on the juicier price but I still think anything even money or better represents great value.

Summer signings Joe Pigott and Colby Bishop both got on the scoresheet against Cardiff and the early signs are suggesting that the two strikers might be forming a nice partnership at the top of the pitch in Portsmouth’s 4-4-2 formation. I really like what I’m seeing from both players, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one, or both, on the scoresheet again this weekend. They are available at 11/5 (Joe Pigott) and 8/5 (Colby Bishop) whilst the double is a tasty 7/1.

Port Vale vs Bolton Wanderers

Bolton to win – 11/8 (2.38)

Bolton have been extremely impressive so far this season. They kicked off the campaign with a respectable 1-1 draw away at pre-season title favourites Ipswich and followed that point up with a magnificent 3-0 win in the ‘Wanderers derby’ against last season’s play-off finalists Wycombe. On Tuesday night they swatted aside League Two title favourites Salford City, beating The Ammies 5-1 at the University of Bolton Stadium.

I really like what Ian Evatt is building at Bolton, they spent the summer improving the first team and they now possess a fantastic depth of quality right throughout the squad. Key players last season such as Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Kieran Sadler (both of whom scored against Salford) have yet to start a league game in this campaign.

Port Vale were trounced 4-0 by fellow promoted side Exeter City last weekend, and in truth the score line could have been worse, such is the ease that their backline was sliced through time and time again. They went up against Championship side Rotherham in midweek with a much-changed side, they lost 2-1 and were fairly toothless but it’s hard to take anything much from the game given the weakened team.

I think Bolton will have far too much for Port Vale and the price represents excellent value. For my money The Trotters should be in and around the play-offs come the end of the season and beating newly promoted sides is a prerequisite for teams with Bolton’s promotion ambitions.

Wycombe Wanderers vs Shrewsbury Town

Wycombe to win – 23/20 (2.15)

This is a game between two teams that had disappointing defeats last week. Wycombe succumbed to a 3-0 defeat away to the aforementioned Bolton, whilst Shrewsbury lost 1-0 at home to Accrington Stanley. The two teams have very different ambitions for the season, Wycombe will be hoping to go one better than last season when they lost in the play-off final to Sunderland, whilst Shrewsbury would most likely be content with surviving with games to spare.

Gareth Ainsworth’s mood will no doubt have been boosted by the addition of Alfie Mawson on Thursday, an unbelievable signing for League One level. I love the idea of him attacking Joe Jacobsen set pieces, I also think he plays on Saturday as Wycombe have been really struggling for defensive personnel.

Salop are yet to find the net this season, they have registered an xG of 1.96 so it could be argued that they have been slightly unfortunate in that regard. They were arguably the better side against Accrington before Tom Flanagan’s red card, but only really created on clear cut chance which was from an Accrington defensive mistake. Most of their joy came from crosses into the box and I think that’s something that Wycombe will defend fairly comfortably.

I expect The Chairboys to record a routine home win in this game, Shrewsbury will be initially difficult to break down, but I think Wycombe will find a way through.

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