The best bets of the 08/09 season
1) Fisher (1:0) NEWPORT 2 (4.00 @Blue Square) 2 units FT 1:3 (+6 units)
Fisher are another non-league team that will have a long season they did manage to sign a couple of players lately (their transfer embargo has been lifted), but they've also lost a couple of important players and Newport should have way too much for Fisher's unexperienced squad Fisher failed to score a league goal at home since September (0:2 to Hampton, 0:1 to Chelmsford, 0:3 to Thurrock, 0:1 to Bognor, 0:2 to Bromley, 0:3 to Wimbledon). Newport have also lost a couple of players lately, but they've just brought in three new players, they have a much better and much more experienced squad, their defence is getting better and better, they finally have two consecutive wins (1:0 vs Worcester, 3:1 vs league leaders Chelmsford), Reid scored a hat-trick against mighty Chelmsford and I can't see them losing this match I just hope it's not going to be another unlucky draw. I'll stake two units on a handicap win because Fisher rarely concede only one goal and I don't really think they'll score in this match.
2) HYDE to get relegated from Blue Square North (3.75 @Blue Square) 3 units YES (+8.25 units)
Hyde failed to get into play-offs last season and after they sold a bunch of key players in pre-season and at the beginning of this season, it became obvious that they are going to struggle to stay in BS North. Their recent results (ten matches without a win, 32 goals conceded in these ten matches) prove it and when they do manage to bring a new player to the club, it's usually some guy from a couple of levels below BS North the only player who their opponents should keep an eye on is striker Simm and as Hyde had a major budget cut a few months ago, I wouldn't be surprised if they sell him too. I'm pretty sure these odds will be a lot smaller a few weeks from now because Hyde have some very hard matches in the next ten days (Telford away, Tamworth at home, Farsley at home) and they still have to play Southport twice, Telford twice, Tamworth at home, Stalybridge away, Harrogate at home and, of course, a couple of matches against direct rivals Redditch at home, Hucknall at home, Workington away, Fleetwood away, Workington away, Vauxhall away, Blyth at home, Redditch away and Solihull at home. They're the second worst away team in the league and I don't expect them to become unbeatable on the road and as I don't think Blyth are going to get relegated (they're not that bad at home, they had a great FA Cup run and now they can focus on the league, they have three points less than Hyde, but they played three matches less than them) and both Hucknall (two points less, one match more) and Burscough (16 points just like Hyde, but played a match less) seem like they're improving, so Hyde could even finish on the bottom of the table. Workington, Fleetwood, Redditch, Solihull and Vauxhall could all join the relegation battle of course, but they all currently have between five and nine points more than Hyde (Workington, Fleetwood and Vauxhall have played one or two matches less than Hyde) and, as I said, I expect the odds on Hyde to get relegated to get a lot smaller in the next couple of weeks and we could always have another 'relegation' bet in BS North later this season. At this moment, this is a very good value bet and I'm surprised these odds are still above 3.00.
3) Team Bath BRAINTREE 2 (3.25 @Bwin) 2 units FT 0:3 (+4.5 units)
As I wrote last month, Team Bath haven't been the same team since Abbott left them back in November (the guy scored five goals in the first three matches, eight in the first nine). They had an amazing start in BSS (nine wins and two draws in the first thirteen league matches), but they've only managed to win three times in the next thirteen matches, only once in the last six. Team Bath have lost eight out of last ten home matches (!) the only two teams that they've managed to beat were poor Fisher and struggling Dorchester who had just lost a couple of key players at the time. 0:2 to Maidenhead, 0:3 to Bromley, 1:3 to Eastleigh, 1:2 to Wimbledon, 4:1 vs Fisher, 0:2 to Hampton, 0:2 to Worcester, 1:2 to Basingstoke, 4:1 vs Dorchester, 1:2 to Weston. That's 20 goals conceded in the last ten home matches and Braintree are a much better team than Fisher or Dorchester. Braintree had to wait a bit for their first away win of the season, but when they finally took all three points at Hayes back in October, they've continued with good performances on the road (1:0 at Hayes, 2:0 at Bognor and 2:2 at Basingstoke in November, 1:1 at Havant and 2:2 at Dorchester in December, 3:0 at Bishop's Stortford in January). After that, they've lost at Wimbledon who were on fire at the moment, won at Fisher, lost at Weston and Newport and finally, last weekend, won 4:1 at Bromley (finally a trashing their supporters were hoping for). They've lost again on Tuesday, 0:1 to high-flying Hayes (the only goal was scored from a penalty that had to be taken twice Braintree's keeper Holloway saved the first one, but the referee pointed at the penalty spot again to rule that the keeper was off his line when the first kick was taken) but they'll have a much easier job against an unmotivated Team Bath outfit and if they're going to be up for it, this could be another high-odds winning bet. Braintree already managed to beat Team Bath this season, it was 4:1 at their place back in August. I don't understand these odds, both teams should be around 2.40.
4) AD-HOC DRAW-NO-BET: Maidenhead BASINGSTOKE 2 (4.75 @Paddy Power) 2 units & X (3.75 @Paddy Power) 1 unit FT 1:2 (+6.5 units)
I wrote a lot about Maidenhead lately, about their recent departures (best scorer Pacquette, influential winger Binns, defensive midfielder Hinds and second best scorer Newman have all left the building) and uninspired performances (one win in the last six, but only against poor Fisher 0:2 to Team Bath, 1:0 vs Fisher, 0:0 at Eastleigh, 1:1 vs Thurrock, 1:2 at Chelmsford, 0:1 to Windsor & Eton). They also have some injury problems (standard defender Saroya is out injured, the only remaining winger Smith played 20 minutes against Windsor after being out for quite some time), they've just lost 0:1 to Windsor & Eton (two leagues below BS South) in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup and their manager has just admitted that they don't have the quality to reach the play-offs. Basingstoke are out of the relegation zone, they only have two defeats in the last nine matches and although both defeats were embarassing (0:3 at St Albans, 0:5 at Hayes), they had some nice wins too (2:0 vs Bromley, 1:1 vs Hayes, 3:2 at Bognor, 2:1 at Team Bath, 0:0 vs Dorchester, 0:3 at St Albans, 1:0 vs Bath City, 0:5 at Hayes, 0:0 vs Welling). Basingstoke are still fighting for their lives, they only have four points more than 20th Thurrock, but they played a match more and their goal-difference is worse than Thurrock's. They should take something from this match at depleted, unmotivated Maidenhead I expect a low-scoring draw, or a 1:0 win, hopefully Basingstoke's.
5) Alfreton Fleetwood OVER 3.5 GOALS (3.10 @Blue Square) 3 units FT 3:3 (+6.3 units)
We should definitely see a lot of goals in this match just take a look at Alfreton's recent results (3:1 at Ilkeston in the FA Cup, 2:2 at Harrogate, 1:4 to Gainsborough, 3:1 at Retford in the FA Cup, 2:1 vs Stalybridge, 2:2 at Redditch, 4:2 vs Bury in the FA Cup, 4:1 vs Solihull, 4:3 at Blyth in the FA Trophy, 0:4 at Scunthorpe in the FA Cup). They'll be up for it of course, they want another three points, but defenders Brown and MacIntosh are both very doubtful (striker Hearn returns) and as you can see from their results, they can score against almost any team, but their defence isn't really the best in the league. Fleetwood also score and concede a lot lately (1:3 at Ossett in the FA Trophy, 2:5 at Harrogate, 2:3 to Hartlepool in the FA Cup), but not just lately they had plenty of high-scoring results this season, especially away from home (1:4 at Farsley, 3:5 at Hyde, 4:3 at Gainsborough, 2:3 at Barrow...) and after three defeats in a row, they'll also be up for it, Warlow and Bell have scored plenty this season (Warlow scored in every of the last four matches and Bell added two). I wouldn't bet on Alfreton at these odds (2.10), but these OVER 3.5 GOALS odds look too good to be true.
6) DOUBLE: Dorchester HAMPTON 2 @1.67 & HAYES Bromley 1 @1.62 (2.70 @StanJames) 3 units FT 0:1 / 2:1 (+5.1 units)
Dorchester have been absolutely terrible lately, but who can blame them, they've lost a lot of key players and at least they've survived a budget cut. Anyway, they have one win, two draws and six defeats in the last nine (1:2 at Chelmsford, 0:0 at Basingstoke, 1:4 at Team Bath, 0:2 to Bishop's Stortford, 0:2 at Wimbledon, 1:0 vs Havant, 0:3 to Maidenhead, 0:2 at St Albans, 0:0 at Worcester), they've scored only one goal (1:0 vs shockingly poor Havant) and conceded nine in the last six, two handicap defeats and a win against Havant in the last three home matches. I don't think they'll score a goal (Mudge, Moss and Fogden are all long gone and, fun fact alert, they have ''yet to score past Hampton in three league meetings between the two teams since the latter achieved promotion in April 2007 the latest being a 2:0 defeat at the Beveree in November'') and I'm pretty sure they'll concede. Hampton have only three points less than league leaders Wimbledon, but they've played a match less and it seems like we're going to see an interesting fight for automatic promotion to Blue Square Premier. Hampton did have two extremely off days in March (0:1 to Newport, 0:4 at Welling), but they've still won 12 out of their last 14 matches and they've had five away wins (3:0 at Weston, 2:0 at Team Bath, 2:0 at Bromley, 1:0 at Bath City, 2:1 at Worcester) before the shock defeat at Welling. But enough about Welling, Hampton have already bounced back, they've trashed promotion candidates Chelmsford 4:1 two weeks ago and managed to beat struggling Havant 2:1 (another late goal, it's been their specialty lately) last weekend. I know all about the manager-of-the-month curse. In fact Hayes' manager's already won it twice this season, back in September (and they've lost the next match, at home to Braintree) and now for March, but I don't think the curse will strike again and there are plenty of reasons. First of all, Hayes have been absolutely amazing lately, eight wins in a row (2:1 vs St Albans, 2:0 at Welling, 2:0 vs Newport, 5:0 vs Basingstoke, 3:1 vs Worcester, 1:0 at Thurrock, 1:0 at Braintree, 2:1 at Weston), five home wins in a row, three handicap home wins in a row, 16 goals scored and only two goals conceded in the last seven. Second of all, they're playing against Bromley who have been terrible away from home lately and who are stuck in the middle of the table, so the motivation should definitely be with the home team. Bromley have three defeats and a draw at poor Thurrock in the last four away matches (0:2 at struggling Basingstoke, 0:1 at Worcester, one of the worst home teams in the league, 1:1 at the biggest candidates for the third relegation spot Thurrock, 1:2 at injury-ravaged Weston) and they've just lost 2:3 at home to Whitstable (strugglers in Ryman South, two levels below BSS) in Kent Cup (Bromley were at full-strength). Last but not least, Bromley played four matches in the last two weeks and Hayes only played one at this level of football, at this time of the season, that's a very important fact. The season is over for Bromley, but it's far from being over for Hayes and if they keep an eye on Bromley's best scorer McBean, they'll win this match as simple as that.
7) HAVANT & WATERLOOVILE St Albans 1 (2.50 @Bet365) 3 units FT 2:0 (+4.5 units)
St Albans had a great run in October and November, but now they have two consecutive defeats in the league and that FA Trophy match vs Stevenage last Saturday (the plan was to see how good they really are) turned out to be a disaster (1:4). Thurlbourne suffered a bad injury in that match and is definitely out, Clarke is awaiting surgery, their strikers are struggling at the moment and I simply have to take these odds on a home win Havant are much better than their current form or position on the league table. They're still struggling in the league, but they're bound to win a match soon (and this is a perfect opportunity/opponent), a new Cup win (3:1 vs Bury in the FA Trophy) must've affected their confidence and they have a bunch of players returning from their injuries (Martin, Butters, Elphick, Booth, Gray). Watkins scored a hat-trick last Saturday, their experienced defenders should take care of St Albans' out-of-form strikers and they have plenty of players who can make a difference in a match like this. It's all about the odds really and Havant should be bigger favorites against St Albans at this particular moment in time. It was 1:1 at St Albans on the opening day of the season btw, but Havant won their home match last season it was 3:1 for Havant and I expect a similar result, maybe a bit less goals.
8) HAYES & YEADING Bishop's Stortford 1 (2.40 @Bwin) 4 units FT 1:0 (+5.6 units)
''We have some potential and some realised talent in the squad, but collectively that is the worst side I've seen us field for some years. No one's fault in particular, but we just don't create chances and can't seem to complete basic stuff. Did we have a shot today?...''. Fans' mood after Bishop's 0:2 home defeat to Bath City wasn't very good and the reason is simple this season they can forget about play-off spots, title challenges and, unless they find an amazing striker as soon as possible, big wins and lots of goals scored. This season, they have a new and young squad, Pearson's goals (27 league goals last season) are long gone, and the main goal should be building up a side that can compete at this level. Their current strikers don't look good enough, they've also lost away at Weston and only shared points at home with Bromley and I can see them conceding a few at Hayes & Yeading. Hyam, King and Jermy are injury doubts (they're definitely not 100% fit, so even if they play, Bishops won't be at 'full-strength'), Green is out injured for at least another week and if I were a bookmaker, my odds would probably be 2.10 anything better than that looks great to me. Hayes & Yeading lost the first two matches of the season, at home to title candidates Chelmsford and away at high-flying Team Bath (top of the table at the moment) two of the best teams teams in BS South this season, but as soon as they managed to field a full-strength team (and bring in a couple of new, experienced players), they started to play some great football and their 3:0 win away at Worcester could've even been more convincing. Scott and Hendry are finally fit (they both scored at Worcester), new striker Fitzgerald also scored his first goal, young winger James impressed as a sub in the first two matches and he played another good match, but this time from the start, but the most important factors in the whole story are probably two new defenders Ruby who signed from Woking and Martin who came on loan from Exeter. They both went straight into the first eleven and they'll stay there, along with Cadmore who signed from Wycombe in July (midfielder Gregory came from Wycombe at the same time) and Allen-Page who was one of their standard defenders last season. Hayes & Yeading always play open, attacking football, they have a couple of very good forwards (Palmer and Knight are both great strikers too, so if Scott and Fitzgerald fail to score in the first hour or so, there are always extra options from the bench) and they score a lot of goals. With their defence improved with the arrival of two experienced defenders (three if you count Cadmore), Hayes & Yeading should not only win this match comfortably, but win a lot more matches this season than they did last season. Their forward line was always great, but now their defence finally looks almost just as good.
9) Solihull STALYBRIDGE 2 (2.38 @Skybet) 4 units FT 0:2 (+5.52 units)
Solihull have major selection problems for this match their best scorer Edwards, Faulds, Gould and Gardner are all injured, their second best scorer Daly and experienced midfielder English are both suspended, Ducros has been released and Middleton is on a honeymoon (I don't think loan signings can help them against play-off candidates). Solihull did manage to beat Blyth on Boxing Day and Redditch on a New Year's Day (and they are much better at home than away), but that's still only two wins in the last eight (they've even lost 1:3 to Rushall from two levels below in the Birmingham Cup this Tuesday) and Stalybridge are a much better team than Blyth or Redditch it was 5:0 for Stalybridge at their place in September and 4:0 for Stalybridge in both last season's matches. Stalybridge are at full-strength, they're much better away than at home (they're the second best away outfit in BS North), this will be their 8th away match in a row so they're used to travelling (they have four wins, a draw at Gainsborough and defeats at high-flying Telford and at BS Premier outfit Ebbsleet in these seven matches) and these odds look very good I certainly would't go above 2.15 for an away win.
10) MAIDSTONE Fisher 1 (2.38 @Blue Square) 3 units FT 3:2 (+4.14 units)
Just when Fisher started to play some football after losing all the key players in the last few months, they got another major problem to deal with their manager Burnett left for Grays. It's always risky to bet against a team that's just lost a manager (even more when playing against a team from a lower level), as players tend to give 110% so that they could show the new manager what they're capable of, but it's a bit different this time, because Fisher are still without a new manager and players have no one to impress and their league results aren't something Maidstone should be afraid of, especially away from home where Fisher scored two goals (one in a 1:1 draw at injury-hit Worcester last Monday and one in a 1:2 defeat at poor Bognor last Saturday) and conceded 12 (they lost 0:3 at Chelmsford, Eastleigh and Welling). Maidstone are currently 6th in the Ryman Premier and although they weren't very good at home so far this season, they have a better team than last season, key midfielder Saunders is returning after suspension and if you keep all of Fisher's problems in mind, these odds really shouldn't be bigger than 2.20 (if that much).