Something for the weekend
In his regular Monday column, Matt Briggs seeks out the early football value with West Ham fancied to see off Manchester United.
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West Ham v Manchester United
Manchester United have taken up more of my column inches that anyone this season, but they are just the gift that keeps on giving as they helped us well into profit again last week. Liverpool (19/10), as predicted, were the latest team to pile the pressure on United boss David Moyes as they cantered to a 3-0 win at Old Trafford with United still looking devoid of any cohesion or style of play. United were the favourites going into the game and they will travel to West Ham as favourites too because punters are still desperate to back the ailing champions. Why? I am not quite sure, but they look as vulnerable as ever this weekend and anyone backing them at odds-on is at risk of being whisked away by the men in white coats. The Hammers are a 19/5 shot, and while that looks big, I suggest we get the draw on side and take the 12/5 draw no bet. But make sure you're quick because another inept showing in midweek - and they have had plenty this season - will see that price shorten up. United have been a shambles under Moyes. I cannot remember the last time they played well and by the time the face West Ham at the weekend they will have a had a spell of three games in six days. With Olympiacos up next in the Champions League and chasing down a 2-0 aggregate scoreline they might well be out on their feet when they run out at Upton Park. The intensity of their Liverpool defeat was fierce and they will have to go full throttle at the Greeks too - a fact which will not be lost of Sam Allardyce, February's manager of the month. Big Sam, who guided his men to four wins from four in February, will have his charges flying out of the traps as they look to avoid a third straight defeat. Their latest away beating at Stoke though could have been a different story had they had managed to build on Andy Carroll's opening goal. Big Sam pointed to a penalty appeal that was waved away, but they will be desperate to put things right and put some more space between themselves and the bottom three. Striker Carroll did get 82 minutes under his belt and he looks set to start again against United and with the evergreen Kevin Nolan running from deep it would be no great surprise to see him in behind United's midfield and popping up with a goal or two. United are simply not a proposition at odds-on, even though they have chalked up a respectable eight wins on the road, and West Ham are more than capable of rocking Moyes' boat some more at a tasty price.
Morecambe v Northampton
Northampton are a side I've talked up in this column before and they look a decent shout at 11/5 to win at Morecambe at the weekend. New boss Chris Wilder has made a huge impact since his arrival from Oxford and the Cobblers are on a six-match unbeaten run - had he taken charge in August they would probably be in play-off contention. Instead they are facing a fight to survive in the league - a battle which I'm convinced they will win. Wilder has made them defensively sound with only three goals conceded in their last six games, but it is fair to say they have not yet found that attacking spark. It's no surprise with the addition of several new faces at Sixfields, but as the new boys begin to gel I have no worries they will begin to fire with the likes of Emile Sinclair and promotion expert Alan Connell on board. Wilder is far too good a manager to have a relegation on his CV and they will have identified the trip to the Globe Arena as a winnable fixture. The Shrimps have won seven of their 19 home games and they look vulnerable against a side who could end the day just three points behind them - if they beat Rochdale in midweek and win away on the Lancashire coast. The 11/5 about one of League Two's form teams looks worth taking now.
Walsall v Leyton Orient
Orient's 1-0 home defeat to Brentford last weekend allowed the Bees to climb above them into second spot, but they are worth backing at 6/4 to bounce back at Walsall next Saturday. Away from home Russell Slade's unfashionable outfit have been brilliant with 11 wins from 19 games and they face a Walsall side who have slipped well off the play-off places after a run of nine games without a victory. They played well in last week's 1-1 draw at Rotherham, but the confidence has been ebbing out of them and Orient - the division's top scorers - would hardly be their pick of opposition.