Saturday, 20 December 2008

Blades vs Palace - Preview

Sheffield United take on Crystal Palace tomorrow, with Neil Warnock returning to the club he supported as a boy and managed for seven years. His first match at the Lane since his departure was a scruffy, dismal game of football in the midst of the Bryan Robson era and he departed with a 1-0 win. This time, things should be even tastier, with United managed by Warnock’s long time number two, Kevin Blackwell – neither will want to lose, so expect a well fought, close battle.

Palace are the in form side, topping the form table with five wins and a draw from their last six matches, while United have struggled of late, losing three home matches in a row (albeit to Reading, Wolves and Burnley) – something which hasn’t happened since before Neil Warnock was at the lane – and scraping a last gasp point at Swansea, after a poor performance. It’s worth considering though, that Palace’s last game was a bit fortunate, a 2-1 win over ten man Doncaster, with a last minute winner and an earlier penalty, while other wins have come against Southampton, Norwich and Derby – four of the bottom seven sides - which slightly undermines their form.

I’ve always viewed Palace as a bit of a bogey side, but it seems we have an edge over them in recent years. In the last ten meetings, United lead six wins to three, with a single draw and if you consider two of those wins were last season, when Robson was in charge, the record doesn’t look so bad. However, in the last five league meetings at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane, Palace have managed three wins to United’s two, in a WLWLW pattern.

The teams are very similar this season, in that neither scores a huge amount of goals, often relying on set pieces and that we are in seventh, one place ahead of them by virtue of a marginally better goal difference. Their top scorer (Kuqi) has scored a paltry six times in the league and Beattie has scored ten, but four of those have been penalties – the stats suggest this is going to be a very even, low scoring contest, probably decided by a refereeing decision or a jammy set piece. I also expect Warnock to line up with a 4-5-1, making it tricky for us to score – they’ve been playing an attacking 4-5-1 of late, but Warnock always likes to flood the midfield away from home and be a little more negative, so they’ll likely dig their heels in and defend for 60 minutes, before opening up a bit if they’re still level. As we’ve struggled this season to break down sides attempting this, I really can’t see many goals in this one.

It is disgraceful that Palace can be snapped up at a best price 13/5 on the high street (Ladbrokes) and a gargantuan 3.9 on Betfair; it really is a massive insult to Neil Warnock’s side and any gambler worth his or her salt should be considering gobbling it up on principle. I wanted to lay United when I saw that we were evens with William Hill (a ridiculously short price) but it seems we’re 2.16 on the exchanges, which is a bit more fair. I still think it’s a bit short, but as I’m skint, I’ll be leaving it. If I could be certain Kuqi will start (hamstring niggle, late fitness test) I’d likely back them.

Of the last ten meetings, just three have finished with fewer than 3 goals, but for the reasons stated previously, I just can’t see where the goals are coming from in this and I’m snapping up a good chunk of the 1.9 on Betfair for the under 2.5 goals market. I’m also going to do something I NEVER do and have a cheeky fiver on the draw, because at 3.5 it looks pretty juicy to me.

Good post again by Scott, looking forward to seeing how his bets pan out. Good luck all!


moDtheGod said...

Both bets were looking good until 88 minutes!

Incident packed game, our opener came from a horrible defensive error (good finish though) and their first was a set piece and a bit of good fortune (it was kicked against someone's back, I think). Our second was a penalty and theirs was a long punt forward, the header landing on their guy's toe, a good strike (4 and a half minutes into the 4 minutes of stoppage time, I hasten to add). We still don't look like scoring from open play and to be honest, neither do they. I'm amazed there were four goals!

The Kenster said...

draw looks like a scoop to me!