Five Things We Learned...
Each Monday, this new feature collates the vital information that the Best of the Bets team have extracted from the previous weekend's football and aims to make sense of it from a betting perspective. This week Sam Dymond, Joe Brewin, Henry Milward, Rich Greatorex and Mike Holden reveal what stood out for them...
Fulham are an overs side
OK, so it's nothing that we didn't know before, but when you've spent three days stuck at a wedding in Scotland, it's hard to glean any new opinions from the weekend's football.
The Cottagers were at it again on Saturday, letting late 2-1 and 3-2 leads slip to draw 3-3 at Reading. It was the eighth time from the opening nine games that Fulham had competed in a match that had finished over two and a half goals, while a third of those have gone beyond four and a half.
It's easy to see why. Long gone are the days of Roy Hodgson's pragmatic Fulham. Even under Mark Hughes, the West London club would often opt for a safety-first approach. Martin Jol's philosophy, however, is one of attacking intent and explains the presence of Dimitar Berbatov, Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz, Damien Duff, Alex Kacanicklic, Ashkan Dejagah and Kerim Frei in his sides.
Full-backs John Arne Riise and Sascha Riether spend much of their time bombing up the flanks while even holding midfielders Mahamadou Diarra and Chris Baird - two goals in two games - have shown a willingness to get forward. Entertaining, yes, but it has left a strain on the formerly impenetrable Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland in trying to protect the goal at the other end. It shows no sign of ending. (SD)
The Championship is still predictably unpredictable
Leicester City's home defeat to Crystal Palace was not such a shock despite the Foxes' 100 per cent home record and flying start to the campaign. But those two factors secured the visitors huge odds of 6/1, despite heading into the clash in fourth place and a superb season of their own to boot.
Struggling Millwall, meanwhile, inflicted Huddersfield Town's second consecutive defeat with a crushing 4-0 win at the New Den. Similarly there was victory for out-of-sorts Birmingham City at Leeds United, while lowly Peterborough United trounced Derby County 3-0 for their second win on the spin.
It's a nightmare to predict, a betting man's hell and heart-wrenching entertainment at times - but don't we love it? (JB)
Dean Saunders may just have it in him to lead Doncaster’s promotion charge
We were never convinced by Saunders’ managerial qualities during his all-mouth-very-little-trouser time at Wrexham. But after the failed Willy McKay experiment at Doncaster last season, the Welshman is busy leading a turnaround in League One. Rovers sit fifth after securing the third of three mightily-impressive victories at the weekend.
Having seen off fellow top-six hopefuls Brentford, Donny then beat leaders Tranmere at Prenton Park and topped it all off with another three points on the road, this time accounting for rivals Notts County. The South Yorkshire outfit take on Bradford Park Avenue in the cup next weekend before returning to league action against Crewe in ten days' time. And if they can maintain their momentum, a top two spot may yet be on the cards. (HM)
Paolo Di Canio is a psychological genius
No, not psychotic, but psychological; a master of the subconscious. Prior to his Swindon side taking on Stevenage in League One action on Saturday, the feisty Italian insisted his priority was not the league match, but instead a Capital One Cup fourth-round meeting with Aston Villa this week.
“Even if we prepare for the Stevenage game as a Champions League final we have to be honest that straight away there is Aston Villa," Di Canio told reporters on Thursday. "I don’t want to lose the Stevenage game but it’s not the end of the world. I have to be honest, Villa is the priority, not Stevenage."
Cue a thoroughly dominant display from his Robins side as they thrashed Stevenage 4-0 at Broadhall Way, handing Borough a first home defeat of the season. No doubt the former West Ham striker will insist his statement was genuine, but even so, next time you see Di Canio playing down the importance of a fixture, it may prove wise to pile into a comfortable Swindon win. Perhaps starting with an upset against the out of sorts Villains on Tuesday. (RG)
Rochdale could charge after Christmas
If you believe that the characteristics of a management team transfer from club to club, then Rochdale could be a team to keep an eye on during the second half of the season under John Coleman and Jimmy Bell.
The two men have a history of slow starts but are capable of harnessing great momentum once everything clicks into place. In their last full season at Accrington Stanley, they guided the Reds from 18th at Christmas up to fifth with 52 points from the last 27 matches. They know the course and distance better than anyone and, at Spotland, they have fewer logistical obstacles to overcome.
The idea of such a surge was triggered by Bell's remarks following Saturday's goalless draw against ten-man Fleetwood, a game in which Dale also missed a penalty. He said: "It's two points dropped and we've told the players that. We certainly believe we have got a fantastic squad that's good enough to win promotion. But a quarter of the season has gone, and we've got to quickly start learning the importance of these games."
At the moment, Dale are 40/1 for the title and 7/1 for promotion – and they could get bigger still before the tide turns in their favour. (MH)
Read what the Best of the Bets team have gained from the weekend's football in Five Things We Learned... every Monday.
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