SATURDAY DECEMBER 17TH
There is quite a lot to get through today, so let's start in League 1 and the televised match between MK Dons and Preston North End. New North End Chairman Peter Ridsdale only took eight days to get rid of Phil Brown and I am sure the decision was already taken before he took charge of the club on December 6th. The hugely experienced pairing of Graham Alexander and David Unsworth will take charge of team affairs whilst a replacement ( Billy Davies ?) is sought. I think Brown was a little unlucky, he got Preston really buzzing and set up to play a certain way and the 4-3-3 formation was working incredibly well, before he lost all three front players at the same time and for extended periods. however, he spent too long trying to stick with his game plan, when he clearly didn't have the personnel to do so and paid the price, when results nosedived. If you had said to me ten weeks ago that PNE would be available at circa 5.0 to beat any third tier team this season, firstly I would have laughed and secondly I would have made it my bet of the season, however, like in politics one week, let alone ten, is a long time in football and that day has arrived and I hesitate to pull the trigger. I am sure that the new coach when he arrives, especially if he can keep both Mellor and Hume at the club, will oversee a big upturn in fortunes, but there is no "new coach effect" today, having said that, the mood at the club seems likely to have lifted, despite one or two senior players speaking up for Brown this week, they are the more vocal players and I suspect the silent majority are probably relieved.
Dons are very strong at home, where they are unbeaten and their high possession style of play is well suited to the big playing surface, something we have discussed on several occasions.They have quite a few knocks today a couple have been openly discussed, but boss Karl Robinson has admitted there are a couple more, but he doesn't want to disclose the players concerned.
I will probably play a minimal stake on Preston at circa 5.0, as I couldn't handle it if they won unbacked at that price and IMO, any stake lost on them today is only loaned, as there will be money to be made on North End in the next month or two. There is a good chance that we will see Neil Mellor and Iain Hume from the start today, Hume played 45 minutes last week on his comeback, so I see no reason why he will not be available for 75 + today and if the pair have a going day, they can give Dons plenty to think about.
Elsewhere in the third tier, the Chesterfield board gave a big vote of confidence to boss John Sheridan this week, it seemed a little more than the normally dreaded vote and in it they detailed that funds would be provided to strengthen in the transfer window. That is good news for Sheridan and the supporters, but it doesn't really ease the pressure today, when Walsall are the visitors. The Spirites go to Huddersfield on Boxing Day and failure to win today is going to leave them cast adrift at the foot of the table, with a mountain to climb in the New Year, they need three points and soon. It is certainly not going to get much easier than today, the Saddlers are still reeling from an extra time defeat on home soil to Dagenham, who are 92nd of 92 clubs in the Football League in midweek and that was an expensive loss as it came along with injuries to three players and with Ryan Jarvis still suspended, the visitors are short of options today.
Hosts have lost Leon Clarke, who has returned to Swindon Town after completion of his three month loan, but the prolific Jack Lester looks set to be available to play some part today, even if it is from off the bench. Chesterfield do have goals in them and get forward very quickly, but defensively have struggled all season. However, this is kind of their season on the line, it is their last home start of 2011 and they desperately need the points, they are facing a tired opponent, who might be forced to play a youth team player in the key central defensive role and one who arrive at a similar low ebb confidence wise. There was plenty to like about Chesterfield's unlucky loss at Wycombe last week and in recenty starts against Preston and Sheffield United, I take them to claim a much needed three points. Chesterfield -0.5 ball 2.25 + general quote.
I have a further "red type " selection at odds of 3.50 and two strong ( 1.5 unit picks) in the EPL, both at odds against and also a speculative suggested bet at odds of over 21-1 ( trying to pay for Christmas and New Year in one fell swoop) that I feel has a real chance of success. However, I will not be able any of those on the blog today, but will probably return with a pick or two tomorrow, so please check back.