League 1 : Port Vale - Brentford
We discussed Brentford in some depth yesterday and those notes are reproduced at the foot of the page, since writing those, they have added young Cardiff City central defender Ben Nugent on loan for the rest of 2013. 19 yo Nugent is well thought of at City and made 12 appearances in their Championship winning team last season, it is a sign of how far the Bees have come in recent seasons, with some supporters claiming to be "disappointed" by this signing, three campaigns back, the same people would have been bouncing off the walls with excitement. I assume he is seen as cover for Dean and Craig and he looks a good addition to me, further increasing options, I guess we will see him for the midweek Capital One Cup game against Dagenham and not today. No problems for Brentford and if there were, I would still be happy with the options/alternatives.
Vale were promoted last season from League 2, upfront they look ok and have done well to retain Tom Pope (46-31-12) and the signing of Gavin Tomlin ( 33-13-2) from Southend United looks good business. However, the jury is still out on Pope who has not scored as many goals in 163 league appearances( just 28) as he managed last season and at 27 he is unlikely to have suddenly found the magic touch and we need to see how this campaign pans out for him and he will be well watched by better defenders. Likewise Tomlin is coming off his best ever season in terms of goals, but he struggled to score many at the higher level on previous attempts and has been a bit injury prone over the last two seasons, also he takes a while to get going, not scoring before November last year, or January (!) in 2011-12. They do have Lee Hughes, who has been a prolific lower league striker, but he is 37 yo and only played 90 minutes five times last season, the line up in pre season has indicated they will go with Tomlin and Pope.
One thing the hosts definitely lack is pace in midfield and defence and the Bees have this right through the team, Vale boss Micky Adams, who managed Brentford in a former lifetime, admitted this week that he is still 2-3 players short of what is required, especially in central defence and left back. In pre season he has been alternating Carl Dickinson between the two positions and he cannot play both ! Football is all about fine margins, two points and a penalty and they would have been two divisions between these two clubs this season, as it is, I still see Vale as a strong League 2 team at present and Brentford a very strong third tier team. Huge competition for starting places up front for the visitors, bench will be full of players desperate for a chance and the better quality early season pitches are definitely in favour of the ball playing Bees. Joey Barton, or Forrest Gump as Neville Southall referred to him today, was at GP on Tuesday for the 3-2 win over Cardiff City and has already highlighted the potential of Conor McAleny, who could run riot at this level he, Donaldson, Grigg, Hayes and Dallas give the visitors massive attacking options and potential. 1.5 units Brentford -0.25 ball 2.13 asian line/Ibramarket.
League 2 : Fleetwood Town- Dagenham and Redbridge
It is a bit of an understaement to say that money is tight at Dagenham, they have been run on a shoestring for years and the laces have been pulled a little tighter this season and boss Wayne Burnett, who won just 2 of 12 starts last season, will do well to keep his team, who only avoided relegation on goal difference, out of the drop zone. The lack of goals in the squad is going to hurt them badly,five of the fowards registered at the club are an average of 20 yo and have managed 55 league appearances and one goal between them. After Dwight Gayle left the club in November last season, Daggers scored just 25 goals in 28 starts and this issue has not been addressed over the Summer, but is as much about money as anything else.
We spoke about Fleetwood in detail on July 25th and this is really a case of the haves and have nots in League 2, these kind of games can be banana skins , but we have already seen the firepower of the Cod Army in pre season and they will want to hit the ground running. After the wins over Preston and Coventry, they had a wake up call in a 1-1 draw at Southport last weekend, boss Graham Alexander spoke about that this week: “All in all over the course of pre-season the lads have been fantastic, they have really worked hard. We have put them through their paces and worked them hardly mentally as well as physically. Today what pleased me more than anything was the lads, who, after the game, were disappointed with themselves, they know themselves that they have not reached the heights in the previous games, but there are certain factors in that. We will just prepare for the game next Saturday and the big kick-off.” The visitors took nine games to record a win last season and have lost 68 matches over the last three seasons, they were fortunate to survive last year and might not be so lucky this time round. This is far and away the hosts "easiest " match (on paper) in August and they will be greedily eyeing up the three points. 1.5 units Fleetwood Town -0.75 ball 1.98 asian line/Ibramarket.
League 1 : Crawley Town - Coventry City
I highlighted the problems the Sky Blues are having in trying to cobble a squad together, over several recent pre season previews, they lost to lower league Fleetwood Town and Oxford United and should have got a similar result at Mansfield Town and there is a very real threat now that they will be playing League 2 football next season, with a potential 15 point penalty deduction hanging over them and that is the minimum they would be deducted.
They will have to roll out the youngsters again for this and look up against it, Crawley is never an easy place to go and their pre season could hardly have gone better, although the club is up for sale there seems no rush to conclude a deal, they lost just 2 of their last 14 starts, which included a 2-0 win against a much stronger City side last April, they have added former Norwich City captain Andy Drury, West Brom defender James Hurst and Jonny Maddison from Sunderland, to an already solid looking sqaud and they look booked for an upper mid table finish.
Home boss Richie Barker was very excited after his team beat Premier League opposition in Crystal Palace (3-0) last week and said:“I was really pleased with the performance of our players against Crystal Palace - all the senior players got 90 minutes so they know what it’s like. The result didn’t really matter. I’m sure if they put out their full team for 90 minutes it could have been a different result.“The whole five weeks of pre-season has gone exactly as we’d have liked it to go. We had a couple of lads missing for seven to ten days through injury but everyone’s fit for the first day.“I almost know my starting line-up for Coventry and it’s not necessarily the line-up which beat Palace!”
I have to take a little on the hosts.... 1.25 units Crawley Town to win 2.20-2.25 general quote.
Football League 1
Brentford have been well tipped up, pretty much across the board, we were on them last season at much bigger prices and I do feel that they were probably better value then, they came up just short, but most of us earned money out of them, so they do not owe us anything.
However, the Bees were one of the two best teams in League 1 last year, they are definitely stronger this season (I will talk about the new signings later), the division is weaker this time round IMO and the the squad which was one of the youngest , is a year older and a lot wiser. We have spoken often about how they tend to improve as a club in second/ third meetings against teams and that attention to detail and investment in backroom staff , will be even more valuable this season. We talked last season about any number of things that the Bees do ,which other teams at their level either do not have the resources for, or if they do, choose to spend their money elsewhere.
For example, Brentford have a Performance Analysis team which..... the rest of this email, which extends to another 2,000 words, has to be kept solely to subscribers at this stage of the season.