Improving Nottingham Forest visit a West Bromwich Albion side in a bit of a rut on Friday night. Michael Beardmore provides the preview and best bets.
1pt Draw at 14/5 (General)
1pt 8+ West Brom corners at 9/4 (Sky Bet)
0.5pt Kyle Bartley to score anytime at 17/2 (Paddy Power/Betfair)
It’s fair to say the Sky Bet Championship seasons of West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest have taken somewhat contrasting and divergent paths to reach their current positions of third and 12th respectively.
Six wins in an unbeaten run of 10 games to start the campaign appeared to put perennial yo-yo side Albion in place for another push for promotion back to the Premier League.
Four defeats in the past nine, however (albeit all away, which we will come to later), have seen an already-ominous gap – seven points at time of writing, likely more as you read this – open up to top two Bournemouth and Fulham.
Forest, by contrast, have recovered from an awful start – six defeats in seven costing Chris Hughton his job – with successor Steve Cooper overseeing five wins, five draws and just one loss in 11 games.
That one defeat did come against Fulham, and it was a heavy one (4-0), but there is little to suggest over the past few weeks that Albion are in the same class as the Cottagers, having been thoroughly rolled over 3-0 at Craven Cottage last month.
Nonetheless, their unbeaten home record at The Hawthorns – six wins and three draws – commands respect, although you can say the same about Forest’s away form, the division’s third-best with four wins and three draws from their past seven trips.
This divergence of form – Forest improving after a poor start, Albion dipping slightly after a good one and the two sides meeting in the middle – makes the DRAW look overpriced at 14/5 with several firms.
The Baggies have been held at home by Millwall, Derby and Middlesbrough in recent weeks – teams of either a similar standard to Forest or worse – while Cooper’s men have drawn four of their past five.
Goals have dried up recently for West Brom – just two in their past five games – but it has not been for the want of trying, with an expected goals (xG) figure of 7.48 for those five games.
Their shot count across those five matches is 25, 20, 9, 17, 11. Plus 23 in the 3-0 win over Bristol City the game before.
That’s a consequence of the high-octane system employed by boss Valerien Ismael – a direct style that has not been met with widespread acclaim by the footballing puritans among Albion’s fanbase.
It does, however, lead to a lot of set-pieces, and one man very much at the forefront of that barrage of shots in recent games is defender Kyle Bartley.
He has registered 15 shots in his past five games, scoring once in that run as well as once earlier in the season at home to Millwall, making BARTLEY TO SCORE ANYTIME worth a small play at 17/2 with Paddy Power and Betfair.
I also cannot let the Baggies’ corner count pass by without a mention. It’s a statistic they lead the division in, boasting 6.79 corners per game.
At home that figure leaps to 7.33 per game and, in their past five matches at The Hawthorns, Albion have recorded corner counts of 8, 8, 11, 8, 9 which makes 8+ WEST BROM CORNERS appeal at a backable 9/4 with Sky Bet.
While each side's recent record makes the draw the best value outcome, we can expect the Baggies to do the majority of the attacking at home and register a number of corners, with Bartley hopefully finding the net from one.
Score prediction: West Brom 1-1 Nottingham Forest (Sky Bet odds: 6/1)
Odds correct 1530 GMT (24/11/21)
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