JANUARY 1ST 2012
Three match previews to start the New Year, two afternoon kickoffs in the Conference and the late NFL game, the very last of the regular season.
I am keen on all three bets and all were close to being maximum stake selections. Next email will be at the usual time on Monday, when we have an almost full round of Football League and five EPL matches to enjoy.
CONFERENCE NATIONAL :
SOUTHPORT - FLEETWOOD TOWN
These are the return fixtures of matches played on Boxing Day. These two played out an incident packed 2-2 draw at Highbury Stadium, where Town forced a late equaliser courtesy of the prolific Richard Brodie, despite playing 35 minutes with ten men, after Jamie McGuire was sent off, he is suspended for today's fixture. That would be a significant loss for most teams, but Fleet are a very well financed club and have an incredible 33 registered players, including former Manchester United player Danny Rose, who signed earlier this week, choosing Town ahead of Crystal Palace who were very interested in him, Rose goes straight into the squad and is a direct replacement for McGuire. Back in their BSS days we talked about Fleetwood and how they had funds that other clubs could only dream about, planning a £5m stadium upgrade and £250k on improving the playing surface, to say nothing on the investment in players. They have a dream FA Cup tie against Blackpool next week, who are the nearest "big" club and the one manager Micky Mellon made his name as a player at, so that will be a distraction of sorts and enough for me to scale down my stakes slightly, but it is promotion to the Football League that is the target this season and to those ends, this game is MASSIVE. Three points would keep them, at worse, within two of leaders Wrexham and effectively take Southport and the rest of the chasing pack out of the equation ( 9 points and a game in hand), at least for the time being.
Town missed out on promotion in the playoffs last season, losing to AFC Wimbledon in the semi-finals and are, as you might expect, keen to avoid that lottery this time round. They are more comfortable on the road, having already posted ten wins away from Highbury, in addition to a second round FA Cup win at League 1 side Yeovil Town and have actually won 9 of their last ten ( one draw) away starts in the Conference. In all league starts, home and away, they have averaged 2.5 goals per game and it is hardly surprising given their financial clout, as they can attract players like Brodie for whom they paid a significant five figure sum, just to take on a season long loan deal. Most of the others have either huge Football League experience or know how to get out of the Conference and all that knowledge makes for a very well balanced squad, which should go close to claiming the title. They are also full time and especially at this time of year, that gives them an advantage over part time squads like Southport, who were forced to fit in a Thursday night training session, the only time the players met inbetween the two matches. Fleetwood dominated the second half on Monday even with ten men and I expect them to come out on top today. 1.5 units Fleetwood Town -0.25 ball 2.05 asian line.
HAYES & YEADING - EBBSFLEET UNITED
I have just watched 20 minutes of extended highlights from the first meeting, which Fleet won 3-1, that was perhaps a little harsh on Hayes IMO, who created chances of their own, especially in the first hour when the game was still in the balance. They had a lot of joy down both flanks and the wide players were able to cut inside with some ease, number 10 Luke Williams, whom I had not seen before, is apparently attracting scouts on a regular basis and it was easy to see why, as he ran United ragged at times. With the FL transfer window opening again this week, I am sure that he will be out to impress today. To be honest, both defences were pretty dire and more like BSS standard ( on a poor day !) and it is difficult to see either keeping a cleansheet anytime soon and with the last three h2h meetings all producing at least four goals and Hayes last ten starts averaging 4.2 per game, with 8 going "over" and Ebbsfleet's last 10 averaging 3.7 and 6 from 8 "over", I have to take this to follow suit. A point a piece is not really going to help either too much, especially the home side, who would probably remain in the drop zone with a draw and who then start the New Year with two road fixtures. I take this one to carry on in a similar vein to Boxing Day, first goal will blow this wide open and it will not be long in coming . 1.5 units "over" 2.75 goals 1.85 asian line.
NFL : DALLAS COWBOYS @ NEW YORK GIANTS
This is a playoff game in everything in name, as the winner will take the NFC East title and the loser eliminated from the post season picture. With the title will come a home playoff game against either Detroit or Atlanta and that is a very win-able match up, so a huge incentive to win this. The pair met in Dallas three weeks ago, the Cowboys held a 34-22 with a little over three minutes remaining, but Eli Manning led the Giants to two touchdowns and a famous 37-34 win. Both Manning ( 400 yards) and his counterpart Tony Romo ( 321 yards and four touchdowns) had massive days in that earlier meeting, both seem likely to face each other again tonight, but Romo has been touch and go all week, after badly bruising his hand last week and he definitely would not have been risked if this was a "normal" regular season game. Advantage number one to the Giants.
The second is the momentum they took from that win in Texas and they are definitely the mentally tougher of the two teams IMO, I could not see the Cowboys mounting a similar comeback here in New Jersey. The Giants defense was a little beat up ahead of that game two and was without key safety Kenny Phillips, a situation that Romo was able to exploit, now with Phillips back and he has an interception in each of the last two weeks and Romo's limited arm, it is another big swing in the Giants favour and advantage number three.
They are further boosted by the likely return of Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora, he has trained this week after missing the last month and with the Cowboys offensive line being forced into changes, everything appears to be going New York's way. Big chink in their armoury has been an inability to run the ball much, but in Dallas, Brandon Jacobs ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns, so even that is a positive and will keep the Cowboys "honest" and not just watching Manning and his team of receivers. I just cannot see beyond the Giants here. 1.5 units New York -3 points 1.95 Pinnacle Sports / Vegas Line.