I don’t know about you, Long Shotters, but thank God Valentine’s Day has been and gone, eh?
I’m not entirely sure why, but I always expect a deluge of Valentine’s Day cards and messages from mystery girls – you’d think with the money I spend in Stringfellows they could have a whip round for a card – but as usual, I received just one solitary card, like I do every February 14th.
And I wouldn’t mind, but I could barely read what it said inside, it was that intelligible. Honestly, my handwriting gets worse every year.
To make my week even shoddier, the tips last week were about us useful as that petrol station bouquet of flowers I bought to give the girl behind the bar in the pub down the road (I wouldn’t say that plan backfired, but I’m on the look-out for a new local), with none of the three selections coming anywhere near close to paying off.
But fear not, as we still have £147 in the kitty, and these three beauties can get us back on track.
Manchester United to beat Reading and under 2.5 goals @ 4/1
What is it about Manchester United and home ties against bog-standard Premier League opposition in the FA Cup? The Red Devils face another one in the form of Reading on Monday evening and the 4/1 that it is a routine home win at Old Trafford with under 2.5 goals looks okay to me.
You can’t see past a United victory – 11 wins in the last 15 games in all competitions tells you as much – but it could be the case that the league leaders stroll through the match with the minimum of fuss.
There is recent evidence of that happening: in four of the last ten matches at Old Trafford, a bet on a United win and under 2.5 goals would have landed, and with Sir Alex Ferguson sure to make changes to his team, it has all the hallmarks of a match that the Red Devils will negotiate with little stress.
No side in the Premier League has a worse record away to the sides in the top half than Reading, who have taken just one point and scored six goals in seven matches.
But they have only let in 14 goals, an average of two per match, so Brian McDermott’s men have it in them to keep the score down against a United side that will want to do just enough and no more.
Barnsley to beat MK Dons and over 2.5 goals @ 4/1
Barnsley have done the Long Shots a couple of favours over the last fortnight and I like the look of the 4/1 that they go to stadium:mk and beat MK Dons in the FA Cup in a match that sees over 2.5 goals.
The transformation in Barnsley’s fortunes since sacking Keith Hill and replacing him with David Flitcroft has been immense: under Hill’s former number two, the Tykes have won six of their seven matches, drawing the other, and it is surprising to see them at 2/1 to win against a team from the division below.
When you also consider that their last two away victories have seen at least three goals scored, the 4/1 becomes hugely appealing.
The contrast is stark at MK Dons. Karl Robinson has won many plaudits for the job he has done, but the club are now 12th in League One after a run of just two league wins in ten fixtures.
All six defeats in that run were over 2.5 goals and with Robinson’s priority now to get their promotion campaign back on track, Barnsley can continue their fine run.
Draw/Southend in Southend v Northampton @ 9/2
And so it is back into the familiar bosom of yet another old friend: our tried and trusted draw at half-time and Southend to be winning at full-time, regardless of the venue or the opposition.
Okay, maybe I am not quite that blasé, but it is a bet that I like, having tipped it up before to win and watched it repay us handsomely, and I like the 9/2 quote on the same thing happening again when Northampton Town travel to Roots Hall in League Two on Saturday.
We are re-treading old ground here, but Southend are level at the break more often than not, with 18 of their 31 matches all square after 45 minutes. With Northampton drawing at half time 16 times this season, a first-half stalemate looks likely.
And the Cobblers’ away record suggests defeat is on the cards. Only Barnet have won fewer points on their travels than Aidy Boothroyd’s side and no team in the bottom tier has a worse record away to the teams in the top half of the division.
Southend can extend that record after a drawn first half.