Sunday, October 09, 2011


I sent out some 20 freebie copies of my notes for today this morning, they included the three football matches below. Falkirk won 3-0, Notts County who are 1-0 up at the break and the draw was denied by a goal in the 95th minute of the match ! Ouch !

For now it is football only and I will start with the Serie B game between Empoli and Varese. We talked about the hosts ahead of their midweek Tuscany derby meeting with Livorno ( see foot of email) and the possible new coach effect, Giuseppe Pillon got an immediate response from his players and was especially pleased with the cleansheet in a 0-0 draw. The visitors had not played in Serie B for 25 years, before promotion the season before last and nearly forced another promotion after only losing out in the play offs on their return, that would have been a fourth promotion in five years after being in the Eccellenza league ( 6th tier) as recently as 2005 following bankruptcy. That would have possibly been one promotion too much and this is likely to be a key season in the always difficult second season following promotion, when the glow of success has worn off. Goals never flow freely for them, just 51 last year with the three clubs ahead of them all scoring at least ten more and teh situation was compounded in the summer with the loss of several key players, including top scorer Ebagua who joined Torino and both full backs. They did win 2-0 at struggling and winless Vicenza in midweek, but that doubled their goal tally ( just two in seven previously) for the season and they meet a far more robust opponent today. The home side and especially Pillon will want to build on the point at a big rival on his home debut, but it will not be easy with four players still away on international duty and Coppola and Ficagna both unavailable after leaving the game with inuries on wednesday, the natural replacement for Ficagna is also missing. Varese tight defensively, but with few goals are also missing three players, so two teams who will both be looking to build on midweek results might easily cancel each other out. If Empoli were at or close to full strength I would be firmly in their camp, but as things stand, I see all the value in the draw. Empoli- Varese draw 3.0 + .... there is some 3.10 on offer.

In Scotland, we have the semi finals of the Challenge Cup and tiny Annan Athletic, who come from a town of only 8,000 people are expecting to break attendance records today, with the visit of Falkirk. Hosts only got into the league in 2008, but are sitting proudly atop Division 3 this morning and have got to this stage, by playing teams really struggling in their division, previous round was a "big" scalp for them winning at First Division Ayr United, but their hosts had other priorities and rested a lot of players. Falkirk will not do that today, with no immediate other distractions and a proud record in this competition, which they almost always take seriously and have won a record three times. Their supporters are also travelling in huge numbers and are likely to make up at least 60% of the crowd at the very homely stadium. The visitors are expected to put in a big promotion push back to the SPL this year and look a class apart from Annan, both in terms of personnel and resources. We might see some goals here, as both are missing starting defenders, but for me their can be only one winner, despite Athletic's fantastic form this season, the gulf is big IMO. Falkirk's only loss in eleven came recently at Morton, but that was understandable, soming as it did just a few days after a famous 3-2 defeat of Glasgow Rangers in the League Cup, they have since recorded a very nice win at strong Hamilton and should be finely tuned after a free midweek. Odds for them are a little skinny at circa 1.72 but that would be my pick, however, in running might be a more attractive option. The Bairns have scored 19 in their last eight starts, but only one has come inside the first 39 minutes, which is incredible and that was scored in the 17th minute. Therefore, they are bound to trade bigger "in play" and will not panic if the early breakthrough doesn't come..... as it rarely does for them !

In League 1 Notts County host Hartlepool United. I am not getting overly involved, but County were only interested in this game as I advised in midweek and you can forget the JPT loss to ten man Chesterfield. Home boss Martin Allen loves the television cameras and will have his troops pumped up for this. These are two evenly matched teams, but I believe the hosts have more potential, even though Allen is a little tactically naive IMO and rarely has a Plan B. United have really overachieved so far, they are unbeaten on the road with a 3-2 record, but committed highway robbery in collecting four points from trips to MK Dons and Bournemouth, in the first they scored with their only two attempts at goal and were battered senseless for 90 minutes ! They got a real thumping here last season, losing 3-0, it could have been five ( !) and the performance that day still rankles with the coach, especially as they came into the game on the back of seven wins in eight starts and full of confidence. They lost their unbeaten record last week and it will be interesting to see how they respond. In January they were 0-2-5 with a 2-17 goal difference on the back of that loss here and Mick Wadsworth will be looking for a much better response. If pushed... Notts County -0.5 ball 2.02 asian line.

A little later today, I sent a follow up email with a solid bet for tonight's NFL and this for the PGA golf .....

I must admit to be tempted by Pinnacle's pairing of Tiger Woods and Trevor Immelman in the, two golfers who have had huge problems off the course in recent years, with the big difference being that the South African's have not been self inflicted.

Consecutive rounds of 68 are a big improvement for Woods but he has to do a lot more to convince me that he has finally exorcised his demons, or even really started on the long road back. On thursday he putted poorly, but the flat stick has saved him the last two days, when he has been very wayward off the tee and also with his irons at times, of course you could argue that it is all close to coming together, but I am not so sure. He is ranked outside the top 70 off the tee and to me this is worrying, as he is not even trying to hit the ball a long way, being way down distance wise. Immelman withdrew in Boston recently following a death in his extended family, but returned at the Justin Timberlake and shot a very promising 67-67-69-69 for a high finish and his 70-69-70 this week offers further encouragement that the 2008 Masters champion is finally over the illness problems that have plaqued him for the best part of four years. He has shot 67 , 68, 69 the last four rounds he has played on Sunday on Tour and Immelman seems sure to give anyone looking to take on bad boy Tiger, a good run for their money at a tasty looking 2.63 with the tie no bet option.

I think the outright market is a little more interesting, Briny Baird leads on -13, two shots clear of Paul Casey and Ernie Els, with Hadwin, Wi, Molder and Cauley on -10, Rollins -9 and the field at -8 or worse. Casey ( he of the Popeye forearms) and Els are proven worldwide winners sandwiched between a whole host of non winners. Baird has banked circa $12m in prize money but has now played 374 Tour events without a win and he must have had a very sleepless night. Casey has only won once in the US in 2009, but has had some problems since, however, he is a 13 time winner around the world, twice already this year, including in South Korea last week, which was a big confidence boost. He hit a fantastic run of form last Fall, finishing 2-4-6-3 on his last four starts on US soil. He is -7 for his last 22 holes here, with no dropped shots and must go close today. He feels he was "trying too hard" with the putter yesetrday and didn't take advantage of the chances he had, but holed a nice putt on the last when he "just relaxed" and hit the ball.

Ernie is a 57 time winner around the world and normally starts and finishes the season strongly, he has not forgotten how to win and has improved his finishing position 75% of times when starting the final round inside the top 5 in the last 18 months. Now that he is back with long time caddie Ricci Roberts he looks far more comfortable, the two have been together on and off for two decades and I feel Els needs him on the bag. Roberts said yesterday "Tee to green, he hits the ball better than any guy out here,'' "If he putted like some of these youngsters, he'd be winning six or seven tournaments a year. He's been patient this week and just hung in there. Probably left a few out there." Ernie has worked incredibly hard on his game in recent months and it is finally starting to fall into place, he said "I changed a lot of things and feel that the work I've put in is starting to come through. I'm starting to feel comfortable on the things I've been working on. I think the FedEx race [he made it to the third tournament, the BMW Championship] was good for my game. I kind of scraped through, and I had a lot of pressure on me and my game. You're just trying to survive. So I feel that's helped me, and then obviously the work. I don't think you forget how to win.'' If he holes a couple of putts today, it will take a very good performance from one of the others to stop him.

Casey, Els and Baird will all play together in a three ball, which IMO only increases the pressure on the non winner. Casey is 4.80 on the exchanges, Els 5.50, that equates to combined odds of 2.56 for either to win and looks good value. Two proven winners who both hit form at this time of year, one with a recent victory to his name, the other very hungry and with an old friend back in his camp.... sounds OK to me ( and I make it a 1.5 unit selection). To win the same on both selections at those quotes, you would need to invest 46% of your stake on Els and 54% on Casey.

Good Luck.

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