Boreham Wood v Southend United
Another match day, another Boreham Wood under 2.5 goals selections as they take on Southend United in a big clash as far as the play-off picture is concerned.
The reason for backing this selection is easy from a Boreham Wood point of view. They have seen less than three goals scored in 12 of their last 13 league matches, in 77% of their league matches overall this season and 75% of their home matches in the National League. Luke Garrard’s side have scored more than once in just 29% of their league matches, conceded more than one in 17% and their last seven home matches against top 13 opposition have all finished under 2.5 goals. They have won their last four while keeping clean sheets and the consistency in selection is having a positive influence on the side after a lot of necessary chopping and changing early in the campaign.
They also come into this game having had a week’s rest, unlike Southend United who had the daunting task of taking on Wrexham at the Racecourse. They performed admirably, a tight, gritty affair finishing 1-0 to the hosts, an impressive scoreline in comparison to many that have visited Wrexham this season. That’s not a surprise, with experienced goalkeeper Steve Arnold and captain Nathan Ralph back in the XI, as well as target man Harry Cardwell, shoring up the structure of the side. While they have seen just four of their last nine finish under 2.5 goals, another four of those matches finished 2-1. The Essex outfit have scored more than once in just one of their last six and conceded more than once in two of their last nine. They have seen 54% of their matches this season finish under 2.5 goals.
Solihull Moors v Scunthorpe United
I’m backing Solihull Moors to make it three consecutive victories for the first time this season when they host lowly Scunthorpe United this weekend.
Solihull Moors are in a much better place than they were a couple of weeks back. A run of nine matches in four weeks further drained a side struggling for confidence and selection consistency, Neal Ardley unable to turn around their fortunes. They finally had a week’s break and responded with back-to-back victories against relegation threatened sides at home, fielding a near exact XI in a consistent shape. Not only were they victorious, but they were comfortable on both occasions. They’ve had a further week to prepare for this one, another home clash against bottom four opponents.
Scunthorpe United are doing their best to mount a late fight to avoid relegation but change has probably come too late. Jimmy Dean earned his second victory as Iron manager last time out, beating an out-of-sorts Altrincham side 2-0. However, they have lost three of their last five, were unable to beat basement outfit Maidstone United away from home and their record on the road has seen them lose ten of 17 matches, and nine of ten against top half opposition – they have failed to score more than once in nine of those matches.
Wealdstone v Chesterfield
Wealdstone continue to defy the odds and they will be up for the task of giving Chesterfield a run for their money in midweek when the pair meet for the second time in three weeks.
The Stones come into this game in eighth, three, four and five points behind the three sides directly ahead of them and they will know that victory would be huge in achieving the most unlikely of league finishes – they remain a part-time outfit. They have won each of their last three matches and lost just four of their last 20. Chesterfield have stumbled recently, a nine-match winless run ended over the last two weeks with two wins and a draw. They are now six points adrift of third place Woking.
The most recent fixture between the pair finished 1-1 and I can see both sides scoring again here. The Stones have scored in all but three home matches this season and kept just four clean sheets at Grosvenor Vale. They have seen BTTS in six of their last eight matches and in seven of ten against top seven opposition, showcasing their expansive style of football. Chesterfield, meanwhile, have scored in all but five league matches this season and have kept just one clean sheet on the road. They have seen both sides score in eight of their last ten and in each of their last four.
York City v Altrincham
It’s always worth looking into both teams to score with Altrincham around and I’m backing it this midweek.
For starters, only Gateshead (71%) have seen both teams score in a higher percentage of their league matches than Altrincham this season (69%). This is largely down to Alty’s inability to keep clean sheets regardless of personnel – no side has kept fewer clean sheets than their three. Their runs of failing to score goals have often come in small batches (always a run of two or three matches) but while they come into this one having failed to score against Wealdstone and Scunthorpe United, they did score twice against York City in the FA Trophy at the weekend. They will also welcome back striker Regan Linney to the side after being cup-tied.
York City, meanwhile, have seen both teams score in eight of their last 12 and five of their last seven, the two outliers being against an Eastleigh side with seven clean sheets in nine games and a Bromley side with ten men and no goalkeeper for a half, as well as one available striker – and he was ill. The Minstermen have also seen both teams score in 71% of their home league matches this season, including each of their last five and both under interim boss Michael Morton.
Morecambe v Charlton
Morecambe’s season fortunes look dependent on their home performances. Two points away from safety, the Shrimps abysmal away record isn’t helping in their pursuit of survival. Defeat at Shrewsbury Town on Saturday means Morecambe remain on a joint-league-low total of just eight points collected on the road. At home however, things are much more encouraging. A total of 25 points from 18 home matches includes a run of just one defeat at the Mazuma Stadium since the 8th October, that being a 3-0 loss to play-off chasing Peterborough United with three low-xG chances finding their way in.
17-year-old Adam Mayor is an emergent star for the Shrimps on the left-hand-side. The midfield loan pair of Jensen Weir and Liam Shaw are crucial for the energy and creativity they can provide. Morecambe have looked to address the reliance on Cole Stockton’s goals with the signing of Oumar Niasse. The former Everton and Hull City netted three goals in 12 appearances at this level for Burton Albion in the second half of 2021-22.
Morecambe have to take advantage of hosting underwhelming opposition this Tuesday night. Charlton Athletic look thankful for the points they already have given the difficult situation both on and off the pitch. Uncertainty around the ownership and general state of the squad could well carry into next season, Charlton right now needing to address a five game winless run, having only beaten bottom club Forest Green Rovers in their last seven matches. Dean Holden has players who seem to be performing below standards. Midfielder Scott Fraser should be one of the best creative players in the entire division and has missed their last two matches. Deep-lying midfielder George Dobson has been a rare highlight, as has exciting Crystal Palace loanee Jesurun Rak-Sakyi who is a constant threat from the right or in attacking midfield. 19-year-old striker Miles Leaburn is a prospect who is likely playing his final games for Charlton Athletic before a move up the pyramid. Australian Ashley Maynard-Brewer can show himself to be an impressive goalkeeper at this level.
Slogging their way to the end of the season, Charlton Athletic feel a side that can be got at. The Addicks might possess some quality personnel but are rarely being able to show it in effective 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-1-2 setups. It’s a journey from London to Lancashire this midweek to face a Morecambe side who earmark every home match as an opportunity for precious points. It was a draw with play-off side Bolton Wanderers last time out at the Mazuma Stadium, the Shrimps simply have to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them here.
Northampton Town v Mansfield Town
The Cobblers need to up their game. Fourth in the current League Two table, Northampton Town sit three points off third place Stevenage and the automatic promotion places, whilst also being aware that a strong Stockport County and Bradford City lurk right on their shoulder, both a single point behind them.
A desperate need for fit and available full-backs isn’t helping Jon Brady’s side, starting their 1-1 draw at Hartlepool United with Ryan Haynes at left-back and young Harvey Lintott at right-back, neither of whom are the starters if everyone is available to play. Wingers Sam Hoskins and Mitchell Pinnock will always present Northampton with a threat as a key goalscorer and key creator respectively. Striker Louis Appéré is not a prolific goalgetter, but his overall game and hold-up play makes him a notable threat when present on the pitch.
Mansfield Town have to compete with a big injury list, but are still able to put out a quality eleven each game. A surprise 5-2 defeat at home to Salford City is the only negative result inserted in a run of five wins and two draws that has seen the Stags eye up both the play-off and automatic promotion places.
January signing Alfie Kilgour has been superb in centre of a back three alongside James Perch and Riley Harbottle. Kieran Wallace sits in midfield with Stephen Quinn and Ollie Clarke further ahead. Jordan Bowery occupies the left-wing-back role in the absence of key creator Stephen McLaughlin. Callum Johnson and Elliott Hewitt compete for the right-wing-back slot. Relentless forward Lucas Akins is partnered up top by Davis Keillor-Dunn, who has goals in each of his last three games since arriving from Burton Albion at the end of the January window.
A goalless draw at promotion-chasing Stevenage is the one game Mansfield Town have failed to score in since the beginning of December. Up against a fellow promotion and top seven chaser in Northampton Town, who themselves possess one of the league’s top scorers and top creators, this should be an enthralling contest at Sixfields Stadium.
Stevenage v Crewe Alexandra
Stevenage are back to winning ways in League Two as they prepare to take on 17th place Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night.
Boro won 3-1 over the weekend against Walsall at the Lamex Stadium after two goals by attacker Josh March and the other from striker Luke Norris. That result keeps them in 3rd position and three points above 4th place Northampton Town with a game in-hand. Speaking afterwards, boss Steve Evans said there was some ‘big performances’ from his players and he will be hoping for more of the same in their upcoming game.
On the injury front, goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond is sidelined which has seen the Hertfordshire club swoop to sign Norwich City stopper Jon McCracken on loan and he had an impressive debut against the Saddlers and looks to be a shrewd replacement. Stevenage are back to their best now after a few disappointing results and are in a great position to go on and get promoted to League One now. They have been a strong side this term and have won 18 of their 34 outings, with only table toppers Leyton Orient managing to pick up more victories, and they should have too much quality for their next opponents as they eye back-to-back wins.
It has been a poor campaign for Crewe on the whole and they will already be keeping an eye on next season as they don’t really have anything to play for now. They won 4-3 at home to Salford City last time out with by forward Dan Agyei (x2), defender Connor O’Riordan and midfielder Joel Tabiner and even though they won the match, they still conceded three which highlights their weaknesses at the back. Their manager Lee Bell admitted it was ‘disappointing’ to see their backline breached on a few occasions and that is something that high flying Stevenage will look to exploit.
In terms of selection news, striker Courtney Baker-Richardson is back for the Cheshire club and will compete with Agyei and Elliott Nevitt for a place up top but it might take him a while to get back up to speed because he has been in the treatment room for the past few months. Crewe’s victory over Salford was their first in five and they have won only twice in their previous 12 games so haven’t been pulling up any trees over recent times as they prepare for a tricky test against a promotion chasing outfit.
Sutton United v Grimsby Town
In-form Sutton United will look to pick up another positive result as they lock horns with a Grimsby Town side who have one eye on their FA Cup quarter-final clash against Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend.
The U’s drew 0-0 away at Barrow last time out which wasn’t a bad point on the road as they look to sneak into the play-offs. Speaking afterwards, boss Matt Gray said his players ‘dug in’ and he was pleased with the performance again.
On the selection front, striker Donovan Wilson is fit again which is a boost and he will provide an alternative option to likes of Lee Angol and Omar Bugiel up top. Sutton are proving to be a tough team to play against in League Two at the moment and are unbeaten in their last nine league games and they have only been beaten once in 2023 and that was against 7th place Salford City back in January. The London club are a tough nut to crack and Gray has them organised well at the back and they have kept four clean sheets in their last five. They are a very strong outfit at home and haven’t lost at Gander Green Lane in their last 10 outings there so most signs point towards them picking up another three points on Tuesday as they look to close the gap on the top seven even further.
Grimsby’s FA Cup match on Sunday is their priority and that is far more important to them even though manager Paul Hurst probably won’t admit that. They have some big selection decisions to make and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make some changes with a view to their clash against the Seagulls. They beat bottom of the table Rochdale at home in their last game with striker George Lloyd scoring the winner in the second-half and that was their first win in five league games. First-team coach Ben Davies was on media duties afterwards and said afterwards they had some ‘good moments’ but it wasn’t the best showing.
Regarding team news, midfielder Kieran Green is back now and provides another option in the middle of the park to players such as Gavan Holohan and Harry Clifton which is useful. Despite their cup heroics and in terms of their performance in the league, Grimsby haven’t been anything special this season and find themselves down in 16th place as they prepare for a tough test down south.
Millwall v Swansea
It looked as though Swansea had made a breakthrough at half-time on Saturday as they led Middlesbrough 1-0 but their fragile state was exposed in the second half as they rolled over and conceded three in the space of 20 minutes.
The Swans are usually better at home as well so it is not looking great for them heading to The Den. Russell Martin’s side have not scored a goal away from home in their last three and lost the xG battle quite convincingly in two of those three. Taking their away form over a longer period doesn’t paint as bad a picture, they are level for xG created and conceded over 10 matches, but it really has been a trigger from the January window that seems to have caused this little collapse, and although they aren’t in danger of relegation, they find themselves in the lower reaches of the table now and things are turning very sour between the club and the fanbase.
Which is far from the case in East London where Millwall feel like something of a model of consistency. It always feels like we come to this stage of the season and Millwall under Gary Rowett are in the playoff picture. However, this year it really does feel as though they have the weaponry to stay there. Tom Bradshaw has been on fire recently and his partnership with the impressive Zian Flemming has really had chance to develop now. Behind them, the solidity remains, but there are more options going forwards for sure. Their home dominance is still strong, a +0.8 xG differential over the last 10 matches demonstrates that. Indeed, they have won 8 of the last 10 xG battles, losing out only to Burnley and Bristol City.
So there are strong reasons in the form and collateral information to side with Millwall in this fixture at a price not far off even money.
Middlesbrough v Stoke City
Middlesbrough under Michael Carrick look a team Premier League-bound. A stunning transformation since late October has seen the Boro turn from relegation battlers into serious promotion contenders, constantly eyeing the Sheffield United results after wins of their own. The weekend’s results have closed the gap between second and third to four points, Middlesbrough having the opportunity to close that gap to just one point ahead of Sheffield United playing at Sunderland on Wednesday.
Michael Carrick’s 4-2-3-1 is built around exceptional attack-minded positioning and is not deterred by the setback of conceding goals. Ryan Giles dominates the left flank from full-back. Hayden Hackney and Jonny Howson control the tempo in midfield. The front four of Cameron Archer, Aaron Ramsey, Chuba Akpom and Riley McGree are all competent goalscorers who can interchange position whilst in possession and lead an aggressive press when the ball is in the midfield third. The strength of the Boro team is further shown by a bench which can contain the likes of Dan Barlaser, Marcus Forss and Alex Mowatt among others.
Stoke City’s confidence has certainly been boosted by their two recent results. Having dismantled manager Alex Neil’s former side Sunderland on the 4th March, the Potters hosted play-off side Blackburn Rovers on Friday night, building-up a three goal lead from a Ki-Jana Hoever brace and a Tyrese Campbell goal before two late consolations set up a tense finale. Josh Laurent, playing in deeper midfield in a 4-2-3-1, had a particularly notable performance alongside Ben Pearson and behind Will Smallbone. Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Hoever featured at right-back as part of a defence that included goalkeeper Jack Bonham behind him, Axel Tuanzebe, Morgan Fox and Dujon Sterling.
It’s a pair of good consecutive wins for Stoke City, but the trip to the Riverside Stadium could be a whole new level of difficulty. Only league leaders Burnley have better form than Middlesbrough, who regularly score more than one goal a game in their attack-minded setup. Just two of the Boro’s last nine matches have seen Carrick’s side score less than two goals, helped by the division’s top scorer Chuba Akpom who grabbed his 22nd this season from the penalty spot at the weekend. Middlesbrough are coming for Sheffield United, and coming at them fast.
Porto v Inter Milan
Sérgio Conceição’s Porto will face off against Simone Inzaghi’s Inter in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 in the Estádio do Dragão on Tuesday, with the hosts looking to overturn a 0-1 deficit after conceding a late winner to Romelu Lukaku whilst playing with 10 men. They will be forced to do so without two starters in Otávio and João Mário, the former getting sent off in the 78th minute of the first leg in Milan, the latter picking up a knee injury on Friday’s 3-2 victory against Estoril Praia.
Apart from João Mário, the only regular starters who were named in the XI were Diogo Costa in goal, Pepe in central defense, and Stephen Eustáquio and Otávio in midfield, with Marko Grujić breaking the deadlock within 9 minutes only for Benfica loanee Tiago Gouveia to level the scoring in the 27th minute. André Franco found the back of the net against his former club shortly after to restore Porto’s lead, but Francisco Geraldes equalized from the spot in the 67th minute to prompt a double substitution from Conceição. Mehdi Taremi came and Wenderson Galeno came on for Eustáquio and Toni Martínez, with the former winning a penalty and converting from the spot in the 73rd minute as Porto came away with a 3-2 win.
Since that defeat to Inter on February 22, Porto have lost 2-1 to Gil Vicente, beaten Chaves 3-1 and won 3-2 against Estoril, and they currently sit eight points behind league leaders Benfica with 10 matches left as well as two points above Braga and seven above Sporting. For the first time in 5 and a half years, they have conceded 2+ goals in back-to-back games at the Dragão, and they will be taking on another team that sits second in the table. Inter followed up the first leg win with a 0-1 loss at Bologna, a 2-0 win against Lecce, and a 2-1 defeat at Spezia, and they currently trail Napoli by 18 points.
They are expected to be without Slovakian defender Milan Škriniar and will be looking to shore up the backline after a shaky start that has seen them concede 30 goals in 26 matches. I’m expecting plenty of goals in this one – Porto’s defense is showing signs of rustiness as of late, and they could have trouble dealing with a strike pairing that will see Lautaro Martínez partner either Edin Džeko or Romelu Lukaku. The lack of stability for either side could lead to a lack of defensive organization and chemistry off the ball – whilst Matteo Darmian should partner Francesco Acerbi and Stefan de Vrij in the back three, and whilst Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco should occupy the wingback positions, it remains to be seen which midfield trio Inzaghi goes with among Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcelo Brozović, Nicolò Barella and Hakan Calhanoglu.
Similarly, it is unclear who will occupy the right back position in João Mário’s absence, or whether Conceição elects to change the formation to cope with the absence of Otávio. All of this uncertainty could lead to some defensive miscommunications, but I nevertheless expect Mehdi Taremi, Wenderson Galeno and more to prey upon an Inter defense that is struggling to keep clean sheets at the moment. Expect plenty of goals from either side in Porto.
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