Football League half-term betting preview: Robins the ideal festive gift


It was made out to be a one-horse race from the outset and while Crawley have lived up to the billing of League Two favourites, they have never truly convinced us about the scale of their superiority over the rest of the division. However, the odds still paint the picture of a foregone conclusion and we see an opportunity to take them on with a genuine live threat at what could transpire to be a monster price.

Swindon were 12/1 for the title before a ball had been kicked, at which point the untested Paolo Di Canio had so many questions to answer. Now the odds are 10/1 as we approach the half-way point and Di Canio is beginning to answer all of those questions emphatically with his team unbeaten in 15 matches and firing on three fronts. The circus has real substance and now the time has come to sit up and take notice.

The Robins are fast becoming a revelation and we strongly believe they have what it takes to make up the nine-point gap on Crawley to finish top of the pile, especially when you consider that Steve Evans must still take his troops to the County Ground on Valentine's Day. Evans might have an appetite for confrontation but you suspect this is one battle he won't relishing after the humbling experience of his first encounter with Di Canio.

Indeed, it was Evans who first labelled Swindon as a circus, prompting the Italian ringmaster to launch an astonishing and frankly hilarious tirade back in the direction of his opposite number prior to their meeting at the Broadfield Stadium in September. It was a brave move from Di Canio, one that could have backfired with defeat, but it's testament to the respect he commands from his dressing room that his team ran out easy 3-0 winners.

That result was a clear marker of the standards that Swindon can attain - note also the recent FA Cup wins over Huddersfield and Colchester - and the psychological blow Di Canio inflicted in his war of words should serve as some indication of how the mind games might play out if the two teams find themselves nip and tuck in the run-in with the media eager to make something of it.

Those of us who dismissed Crawley's ante-post odds of 3/1 as nonsensical probably felt vindicated when they suffered their 6-0 embarrassment against Morecambe at the Globe Arena but the Sussex outfit responded with a show of financial clout that, in an instant, said everything that needed to be said and illustrated why the layers were right to be so wary.

However, as time ebbs away without the Red Devils opening up an unassailable lead, so does the capacity for a quick fix. And when you leave Evans and his players to their own devices, we still see unknown surroundings on the road providing enough opportunities for them to come a cropper from time to time. Their discourteous manner has won them few friends and they won't be short of enemies willing to knock them off their perch in the closing months.

As for the other challengers, Southend and Cheltenham can be very proud of their efforts up to this point but we don't really anticipate a title challenge being sustained by either team, not least because both appear to be on the downslope of long unbeaten runs having had their heads turned by lucrative FA Cup third round ties, a missed opportunity in the Shrimpers' case.

Shrewsbury are going round the block for a second time and you can't knock the consistency with which they take points off the lesser weights but they don't land nearly enough prize scalps to suggest there's any great value to be found in best odds of 12/1.

Meanwhile, staying with the same division, there's a notable cut-off point about half-way down where the bookmakers seem convinced that promotion possibilities diminish rapidly and for the sake of two points in the current standings, the odds jump from single-figures up to standout quotes of 25/1. It just so happens that the name immediately below that cut-off point is Accrington Stanley, a club we expect to improve significantly in the New Year.

The Reds only had 25 points at this stage last season but generated enough momentum when playing everyone second time around to make the play-offs. Now they have 29 points and we fancy them to do something similar.

John Coleman might be working to one of the smallest budgets in the basement, a situation that prevents him from building the team he would like in the early months of the campaign, but he knows the course and distance better than anyone and his experience really comes to the fore after Christmas when motivation at most other clubs is on the wane and the bigger fish find fewer quick fixes to their unforeseen problems.

Indeed, when you consider that Coleman has improved Stanley's league position year on year in 11 of the past 12 seasons, then who's to say they won't at least match last season's final total of 73 points considering they will head into the Christmas period eight points better off than they were last term? At 25/1 for promotion, they represent an intriguing shot to nothing.

Recommended bets:

2pts Swindon to win League Two at 10/1 (Bet365)

1pt Accrington Stanley to win promotion at 25/1 (Boylesports, William Hill)

For more betting news and views, visit

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home