Championship preview: Swing low at St Andrew's

Betting advice from Michael Holden of Best of the Bets

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The Independent Football

Sean Dyche has made a big difference in a short time at Burnley - but that's not to say it's all for the better. In attempting to cure the Clarets of their defensive ineptitude, the former Watford boss has gone too far the other way, solving one but creating another.

Once the Championship's great entertainers with a livewire striker on course for a 40-goal haul, the Lancashire club have suddenly become a team the purists would shut their curtains on. As such, we see plenty of mileage in backing under 2.5 goals when they head down the M6 to Birmingham on Saturday.

This is one of those bets where the stats tell the whole story. Before Dyche was handed the job at Turf Moor, Burnley matches were averaging at 4.23 goals per game. Since he picked up the baton at the end of October, that figure has plummeted to 2.11 goals per game.

Poor old Charlie Austin is the biggest loser. The former Swindon man showcased his predatory instincts to the new manager by scoring important goals in each of his first two matches, taking his personal tally for the season to 17 but his thirst for service didn't wash with Dyche.

In the past seven matches, Austin has only managed one goal from open play and it's hard to imagine him sticking around in January if the right offer comes in. The main thing that might have prevented him warming a Premier League bench was the reassurance that life could so enjoyable in a cavalier team.

The unders angle is an avenue for profit yet to be closed off by the bookies because they appear to be working off the overall average when quoting even money for this game. They might also be swayed by a few high-scoring games at St Andrew's of late but we can rationalise those in a way that still leaves this wager smelling of roses.

Birmingham's last three home matches have produced 14 goals but they were all against teams at the top of the table who expected to pick up maximum points. They all came out on the front foot and seized the initiative and they were all pegged back once Blues had nothing to lose and threw the kitchen sink.

Hull were 3-0 up by half-time, Middlesbrough went 2-1 ahead just after the hour, Crystal Palace were 2-0 in front at the same point and Lee Clark's men came roaring back with six goals in response. But that sums Birmingham up. They need a dose of adversity before they spring into action.

Only seven times in 22 attempts have Blues scored the first goal and if they're going to wait for Burnley to make the first move, they could be waiting a long time - only three times in the last eight matches have the Clarets found the net inside 80 minutes.

Meanwhile, there's a couple of cagey draw-no-bet options that merit an interest at a shade of odds-against - get with the away team in the games at Ewood Park and Hillsborough.

We've already made the case for Brighton to finish in the top six in our Championship half-term report and though they looked a little jittery when falling two goals behind in their midweek clash with in-form Millwall, they showed great character to bounce back and salvage a point late on.

It was a spirited revival that should do their confidence no harm at all as they look to bounce back from a sequence of only three wins in 16 matches. It's a record that hardly supports this bet but reassurance comes in the knowledge that the Seagulls have controlled most games throughout that spell and their re-emergence in the promotion race is long overdue.

Blackburn have been dreadful since the appointment of Henning Berg, failing to win in four attempts at home, and recent defeats to Bolton and Cardiff aren't nearly as acceptable as they appear on reputation. Neither the Trotters nor the Bluebirds boast an away record that lives up to expectations.

The opposite can be said of Charlton, though. They might be struggling to do themselves justice when required to make the running on home soil, but they're much more comfortable when setting their stall out on the road and they have what it takes to frustrate an easily-frustrated Sheffield Wednesday crowd.

The Addicks went down 2-0 at Bolton last weekend but it needed a moment of class from David N'Gog to break the deadlock on 74 minutes, illustrating why Chris Powell's men had gone seven unbeaten on their travels prior to that, picking up maximum points at Blackpool, Bristol City and Burnley.

Wednesday picked up a much-needed three points in a televised local derby with Barnsley last weekend to keep Dave Jones in a job but their problems haven't gone away. Indeed, they could resurface pretty quickly against a team who knows only too well how to pull off a smash-and-grab at Hillsborough. Charlton were 1-0 winners on this ground en route to the League One title last January.

Betting advice...

2pts Under 2.5 goals Birmingham v Burnley at evens
Clarets have transformed into a dour side under Sean Dyche and can set up to frustrate Blues.

2pts Brighton to beat Blackburn (draw no bet) at 11/10
Seagulls control most games and a change in fortunes could be imminent against dire Rovers.

2pts Charlton to beat Sheff Wed (draw no bet) at 11/10
Addicks are keeping things tight on the road and they have what it takes to frustrate nervy Owls.

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