TUESDAY JANUARY 22ND
I wrote a preview of the postponed Barnet-Swindon game last tuesday and have reproduced it below, all of the comments are still valid, even more so, as since then, Swindon have beaten Nottingham Forest and have signed several players, which was not previously an option, as they had a transfer embargo, so now, there is real competition for places.
FA CUP REPLAY
BARNET- SWINDON TOWN
This is a big morning in the life of STFC, there is a press conference at 10am to announce the completion of the takeover, which will secure the future of the club. This will be a massive boost to a club with potential, they have a decent group of players and are in good form, unbeaten in 6, including top performances against highflying Walsall and league leaders Swansea, where they played much of the game with 10 men. There is a big incentive for them to go through, as the winners will host either Premiership side Fulham , or Bristol Rovers, in what would be a West Country derby,drawing a huge crowd.
Barnet have failed to kick on from a promising start to the season, they have won just 4 from 16 and lack the resources and support to put in a real challenge. They come here on the back of a fine win at MK Dons, but that owed as much to the home team's inept display, as anything else. I feel that there is a clear class difference between these two and expect Swindon to progress.
5.5 points Swindon -1/4 ball 2.06 asian line.
BOURNEMOUTH - LUTON TOWN
I have to oppose Bournemouth, the club is really considering the administration option and taking the 10 point deduction, that will seal their relegation fate. This has clearly got through to the players and they have put in a number of totally inept displays recently and look what they are, the worst club in the division. At present, unless they can sign a keeper today, they will be forced to start an inexperienced 17 year old in goal, who already played a youth game and 20 minutes of a league match, at the weekend, actually within a couple of hours of each other.
Despite all their problems, Luton performed pretty well in the narrow defeat to Leyton Orient and new boss Mick Harford, is determined to take the game to Bournemouth, looking for the win that will take them above Millwall. Remember, they have already been deducted 10 points, so this is really a mid table team at worse, albeit one that has lost a handful of it's best players.
6 points Luton +1/4 ball 1.80 asian line.
HARTLEPOOL - SOUTHEND
OK, one final, final chance for Hartlepool to get back into my good books ! They were dire on Friday in the 2-0 home defeat by Cheltenham and could have been several goals down at the break. Boss Danny Wilson read them the riot act afterwards and the players are aware that many of them are drinking in the last chance saloon. The visitors have some major problems and are struggling to find a striker to lead the line, they also have a big FA Cup 4th round tie on, not Saturday, but Friday night. Add to that, the lengthy journey up to the North East and it is clear that the home team, hold all the advantages, including an extra days recovery time.
5 points Hartlepool -1/4 ball 1.98 asian line.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN TENNIS
VENUS WILLIAMS - ANA IVANOVIC
We have discussed Ivanovic a lot in the last month and you are all well aware of my thoughts on her and how well she has prepared for this season, hopefully she will start to reap the benefits and a grand slam semi, will be a very nice reward.
Ana has been writing a blog during the tournament and made some observations about Venus last week...
I've never played anyone who covers the court as well as Venus. Her retrieval skills are amazing - shots that against lesser players would go for winners come back with interest. I lost to her at Wimbledon and the US Open last year. She was serving extremely well, which made her very difficult to break. Again, you have to play very consistently to beat her; stay in the rallies as long as possible. The closest I came to beating her was the first time we played, when I was 16. I missed eight set points that day!
Williams is not serving as well here, infact, she has almost as many double faults as aces and has particularly struggled on her second serve. She has yet to meet a top player and her unforced error count has been very poor, with 108 against just 82 winners, verses Ivanovic, stats like that will not be good enough. Venus can always step up a level, but she will have to, otherwise she will be joining Serena in the stands, at the odds available, we have to oppose her.
4.5 points Jankovic 2.56 exchanges.