The Long Shot is hungover. Not because we have spent the week throwing our winnings around in the classy establishments around town, because unfortunately last week there were no winnings to be had after all three selections bit the dust.
And I’m not allowed in any of the classy establishments anyway after what I refer to as ‘that misunderstanding’. I should probably leave it at that.
No, the Long Shot is hungover because it was the annual Christmas party at Long Shot Towers last night and as you are well aware, the combination of mulled wine, Slade and photocopying your backside is enough to leave any man in a world of pain the next day.
But even though the head is thumping, the thinking is clear and with £105 in the pot (based on a level £10 stake on each tip) here are this week’s selections, which I’m expecting to top up the fund for my mum’s Christmas present.
Well, they better do, or it looks like she won’t be getting much this year. Again.
Stoke to beat Everton and under 2.5 goals @ 19/4
I haven’t quite figured out why Stoke City are as big as 2/1 to beat Everton at the Britannia Stadium and I am going to go one further than saying they can merely down the Toffees by putting them up to win a game of two goals or fewer at 19/4.
I’ve written about the fact Everton are not winning enough games – their last-gasp victory over Tottenham Hotspur last time out was only their second victory in ten games – and they are up against it facing a Stoke side that are unbeaten at home this year and go into the match in the form of their Premier League careers.
Only Manchester United have won more points than Stoke over the last six fixtures and their record at the Britannia this year is incredible. Only the Manchester clubs and West Brom are averaging more points per game and Tony Pulis’ side have let in just two goals in seven games, shutting out five visiting teams.
In fact, Stoke boast the best defensive record in the league with just 12 goals conceded and even if they still don’t score many – 14 goals in 16 games is a haul only Aston Villa can worsen – one could be enough against an Everton side that have kept just one clean sheet in their last 15 games.
Thirteen of Stoke’s games this year have had under 2.5 goals and I think this can be another one, with Everton profligate in front of goal and Stoke tight at the back. But the Potters can nick it, and the 19/4 is well worth a play.
Steven Fletcher to score any time for Sunderland v Man Utd @ 17/4
You might think that this looks like a bit of a strange one, what with Sunderland being rubbish and all that, and you could well be right.
But I just have to have a go on the 17/4 that Steven Fletcher scores against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
For me, that is a price the Long Shot needs to be getting involved with. We all know the Black Cats are struggling big time and a 3-0 win over an even poorer Reading side doesn’t change that.
But it’s not like United are watertight. Anything but, in fact: the league leaders have let in 23 goals – only seven sides have conceded more goals – and have only kept three clean sheets in 16 league games.
They failed to shut out the opposition in five of their six Champions League games and both their League Cup ties, and as everyone now knows, the Reds also have a real tendency to concede first.
Sunderland might not be the most potent side but they can strike against United’s dodgy rearguard and Fletcher can be the man.
The Wearsiders are 19/20 to find the net against United and when they score, it is often Fletcher – he has seven league goals to his name already this year. At 17/4 – over 4/1! – he is capable of nicking a goal and we have to be on him to do so.
Draw/Sheffield United in Sheffield United v Tranmere @ 9/2
At the start of the season, nobody would have expected that Tranmere Rovers would travel to Sheffield United ten days before Christmas top of the tree in League One, but even though that is the situation I think the natural order will eventually be restored and that can start with the Blades cutting down Rovers after a drawn first half on Saturday.
As well as Ronnie Moore has done at Tranmere, the feeling remains that a slide down the table is inevitable and United, who have better players, will finish above them and I think they will beat them at Bramall Lane.
The 9/2 on the sides going into the break on level terms before Sheffield win the match is of real interest. No side has been drawing after 45 minutes more often than Danny Wilson’s men this season, who have been all square at half-time 13 times and have been losing just once in their 20 fixtures.
But Tranmere are something of half-time draw specialists, too, with 11 of their games level at the interval. So I expect a drawn first half and I think that Sheffield United can pinch the win and the 9/2 on that happening looks like a good price to me.