Something for the weekend
In his regular Monday column, Matt Briggs seeks out the early football value - with Wolves looking standout value.
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Walsall v Wolves
Money-bags Wolves climbed into top spot in League One after their routine 3-0 victory over Port Vale - their seventh straight win. New signing Nouha Dicko was on target twice, while the highly rated Bakary Sako grabbed the other goal and those two are proving a real handful for teams in the third tier.
With James Henry and Kevin McDonald pulling the strings in the midfield and a defence which has kept five clean sheets in a row, I would not have been surprised to see Kenny Jackett's men odds-on at Walsall. With favourite backers and accumulator punters sure to be sticking them in their bets this weekend the 11/8 looks worth snapping up now because it will not last long.
It's not often there is any value about on the big-name teams and Wolves are certainly that as they attempt to get back into the Championship at the first time of asking.
Likeable boss Jackett has got Wolves coming into form at the right time and 13 goals for and none against in the last five games is impressive to say the least. Eight wins from 16 away games would have been enough for me to make them even-money favourites at best and so the 11/8 looks good, especially when you look at Walsall's poor form.
The Saddlers have promised so much in patches this season but they are well off the boil at the moment and without a win in five games. A derby game is sure to get the pulses racing at The Bescot, but Wolves are flying and look ready to send Walsall to their seventh home defeat of the season.
Barnsley v Nottingham Forest
It is safe to say I have had my fingers burnt by Barnsley several times over the last few seasons and I can only conclude they are a side to swerve when they are the bookies' favourites.
They are at home next Saturday and are definitely not fancied by the layers with Nottingham Forest in town. Barnsley are a tasty-looking 13/5 to condemn the visitors to three straight defeats and with Forest beset by injuries it looks a price that might well get hoovered up.
The Tykes are rock-bottom of the Championship, but not cast adrift and a win next weekend could see them move out of the drop zone if results go their way. Last weekend's 5-0 thumping at Huddersfield could have been different had loanee Nick Proschwitz not missed two good first-half chances. Boss Danny Wilson was positive in defeat and he will know three points is a real possibility against a weakened Forest outfit.
Forest boss Billy Davies said he was forced to play under-21 coach Jonathan Greening as they were thumped 4-1 by Wigan (12/5) - a result I predicted last week and which had the column well in profit again. Injuries are hitting Forest hard with just 18 players available against Wigan and with 12 goals conceded in the last four games they look vulnerable. They will have to show plenty of spirit at Oakwell, but Barnsley are fighting for their lives and they look well worth supporting at the odds.
Scunthorpe v Northampton
If Chris Wilder had taken over at Northampton at the start of the season the Cobblers might well have been pushing for a play-off place rather than fighting against the drop into non-league football.
Wilder has guided Northampton to 11 points from his seven games at the helm and if that 1.5 points per game average had been the norm from the off in August then they would be sat in seventh spot instead of next to bottom. With that in mind the 10/3 draw no bet quote about them winning at promotion-chasing Scunthorpe looks big.
The raft of new boys at Sixfields have made a difference and with the guile of Alan Connell and pace and power of Emile Sinclair they have a front pairing who could cause the Iron problems. A draw at the weekend at home to Bristol Rovers was another solid display from the improving Cobblers, who have a similar points tally to Scunny since Wilder's appointment in late January.
Second-placed Iron are going well in the basement division and Saturday's draw at Newport was their 18th game unbeaten. They are undoubtedly strong at Glanford Park with just two defeats all season, but with the season entering its final quarter the pressure is on.
Northampton are certainly not the no-hopers the table might suggest and the result might just come down to who wants it more and with the professional careers of the Northampton players on the line it would not be a huge shock if they ground out an away win.