League 1 : Oldham Athletic- Barnsley
Lee Johnson left Oldham just a couple of weeks ago to take charge of Barnsley and now makes a speedy return to Boundary Park to face his former club. Emotions both of the good and bad kind will be running high, but Johnson is 3/3 at his new club who have yet to concede a goal with him at the helm and the Tykes could move into the top six with a sixth straight win and cleansheet (there were two before he arrived) and he knows more about the home squad than any man alive and can orchestrate another victory.
This will be the Latics second home start since LJ departed, we opposed them in the first a visit from high flying Preston North End ....
Four straight wins, all with cleansheets, have seen North End back on track and they sit just three points behind MK Dons who are currently second, with a game in hand, they are booked for a top six finish regardless and should be all guns blazing for the points this afternoon, as a draw will be viewed as two points dropped. Athletic are one of 12 (!) teams seperated by just five points who are battling for what appears to be just one remaining post season spot, they had put together a good run, but have lost their last two starts, by a combined 4-0 to two relegation threatened teams. I suspect there were already rumours about what was about to happen and this week it did, with boss Lee Johnson moving to L1 rivals Barnsley on Wednesday. That was a big blow and with the Tykes being a bigger club, but 7 places below the Latics in the table, has proved tough for some supporters to take. Dean Holden will take charge on a temporary basis and will have to do so without two key defenders in left back Joseph Mills and central defender George Elokobi, they both left the field early last week in the 3-0 loss to Orient, who destroyed the Latics down the right flank and the left side of defence, Elokobi was also primarily a LB before this season, is a big problem today. Gallagher and Humprey have 13 assists between them playing on the right flank for North End this season and this looks a good match up for them, given the team news. Preston have sold close to 2,000 tickets for this game and their supporters will make up maybe 30% of the crowd, which is a big edge in a small stadium.
Athletic lost that 4-0 and whilst they felt the scoreline was a little unjust, that was the third game in a row they had majorly underperformed and it might be that we will not see any improvement until the new boss is at his desk. They did subsequently win on the road at Port Vale , but the respite was brief and they lost away to basement club Yeovil Town last weekend. Barnsley arrive buoyant and with supporters feeling like they are at the start of something big, they will have a similar number of followers at the game as North End and face a side eager to do well against their former boss, but very short of options, with Liam Kelly, James Wilson and Dominic Poleon all picking up injuries during training in the week, George Elokobi, Joseph Mills, Jacob Mellis and Amari Morgan-Smith remain long term absentees, whilst Brian Wilson will serve a one match suspension . That means they will be without six of their most regualr players, including their entire backline, which is too much for any team to overcome, let alone one in possibly their worst form of the campaign. 1.75 units Barnsley level ball 2.30 asian line/Sportmarket Pro, alternative would be the +0.25 line at circa 1.90 or the straight away win at 3.20+ which of the two options, I prefer.