It was contrasting emotions for both of these teams during their midweek Championship clashes. Hull City cruised to arguably their best result of the season when despatching in-form Preston North End 4-0 at home, but lowly Barnsley’s winless run continued when losing to out of form Middlesbrough. Now under new management, Barnsley will be hoping that new boss effect kicks in sooner rather than later, as they’re starting to become cut adrift at the bottom. Goals are anticipated in this local derby based on form across the season. Barnsley’s matches are averaging over three goals, with 10/18 over 2.5 goals, whilst Hull’s is very similar at just under three, but 12/18 with at least three goals.
Stoke suffered their first loss since the managerial change away at Cardiff last time out and will be eager to maintain their 100% home record under Michael O’Neill. That is easier said than done over a Blackburn side, who on their day can beat anyone in this league, but remain far too inconsistent to ever be confident about their prospects. The clear issue for Blackburn however is their away record, as they’ve lost four on the spin. Goals have flowed in Stoke’s matches this season mainly due to how much they’ve conceded, with 11/18 containing over 2.5 goals. For Blackburn, it is 10/18 where the same can be said, with their away games featuring approximately 3.30 goals on average. Both will play to win, as that is the only way they know how to.
It is now four without victory for Birmingham heading into this weekend, although back-to-back away draws at Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday are hardly bad results. Nevertheless, they’ll strive for all three points at home, which is where five of their seven league wins have come. Millwall have adjusted to life under Gary Rowett quite nicely indeed and have built a mini three-match unbeaten streak to boot. They recently won away at Swansea, with Rowett fielding a new formation, which he believes could cure their away day blues long-term. A tight match is expected given Birmingham are one of the lower scorers in the division, with 11/18 finishing under 2.5 goals. Also, Millwall will look to make this tight on the road given it worked so well at Swansea, plus 6/9 away this season anyway ended with two goals or fewer.
We have a real relegation battle in the National League this weekend as third from bottom Wrexham travel to bottom side Ebbsfleet. Both teams have clearly struggled with putting wins together this season but this is a game which promises to deliver in one respect. Both teams to score will be the play quite simply because both are so used to it paying out. Both sides only have five clean sheets and eight times failing to score in league action between them this season. 17/23 and 15/22 of Ebbsfleet’s and Wrexham’s matches respectively has seen BTTS fly in, as well.
The FA Cup has added significance this weekend with a spot in the coveted Third Round up for grabs and this all-League Two affair looks an intriguing contest on paper. If this were a league fixture, it would present fifth against ninth, and both aren’t so easily beaten these days. It is just two defeats in Cheltenham’s last 16 in all competitions, whilst for Port Vale it only two losses in 13. A draw could be a good call in that regard but we’ll again go for both teams to score. 13/19 of Port Vale’s league matches this season has seen it pay out, whilst Cheltenham’s are above the league average for BTTS, too.
Another same division affair takes place in the FA Cup this weekend which catches our eye, on the Sunday card on this occasion. Gillingham against Doncaster is a mid-table, bottom half encounter if this was a league matchup, but both teams are in decent form. For Donny, they’ve lost one of their past four in the league, whilst also knocking out AFC Wimbledon in a cup replay, whilst Steve Evans’ Gills knocked Sunderland out in a replay and also have recent wins to Lincoln, Accrington and Tottenham U21s to their name. This should be tight and Under 2.5 Goals has to be the play. This has paid out in seven of Gillingham’s previous eight and also Doncaster’s last three in succession. Seven of Doncaster’s nine away league fixtures contained two goals or less, so a tactical game is anticipated.