The loser gets the bullet. That's how Tuesday's crunch relegation tussle between Blackburn and Bolton is being billed and like those crowds that used to gather for the guillotine, us punters can't get enough of it. What would normally be a fixture that generates little appeal outside of Lancashire is likely to get a boost in viewing figures purely because of what's riding on the game for the men in the dugout.
And if we take the current league table as an indication that both sides are more or less the equal of each other, then we see value in backing Bolton at 13/5 because virtually all of the circumstantial evidence going into the game seems to be in their favour.
Whereas Steve Kean has been a dead man walking for the best part of three months, the pressure is relatively new to Owen Coyle and while the Boton fans are beginning to turn against him following a sequence of 13 defeats in the last 15 matches, their protests are somewhat subdued by virtue of his long association with the club. What Kean wouldn't give to have some kind of past connection with Rovers right now - anything to dampen the hostility of the Ewood Park crowd towards him. Home advantage, what home advantage?
The Blackburn players are dropping like flies with all manner of injuries and it's reaching the point where we're tempted to suggest that some of them might be looking for a way to take themselves out of the firing line, although it would probably be a little inconsiderate to level that accusation at Scott Dann. No amount of abuse from the stands is worth a ruptured testicle.
Bolton have fired blanks in three of their last four outings but, nonetheless, the chances of a first Blackburn clean sheet this season seem remote. Last month's 5-0 win over Stoke offers ample evidence that the visitors have goals in their locker against sloppy opposition. Wanderers also scored four at QPR and three at Wigan in their two other victories this term.
Indeed, it's that Wigan match we'd most like to draw comparisons with because the scenario then was remarkably similar to the one that faces them here. The short trip to the DW proved to be a rather empowering afternoon for the Trotters, backed by a vociferous hardcore support at one end of the ground, creating the sort of buzz for the players that they experience all too infrequently at the Reebok. The feel-good factor generated that day proved to be a false dawn but it will suit Bolton to be back in that position with a big following occupying the Darwen End.
However, that only accounts for part of our thinking here because if Blackburn are to have any say in this game, then it stands to reason they will have to bring their shooting boots. In the last five matches that Rovers have snatched a result, they have either shared or been marginally on the right side of 33 goals. Home wins over Arsenal and Swansea were achieved by 4-3 and 4-2 scorelines, while draws at QPR, Norwich and Wigan finished 2-2, 3-3 and 3-3 respectively.
As such, we like the look of the 2/1 available on over 3.5 goals. In truth, we might be pushing our luck if we expect both bets to cop but we do have a strong fancy for Bolton to bag a couple of goals based on Blackburn's defensive inadequacies, so you might view to view the goals bet as a saver of sorts in the event that Wanderers prove to be just as careless at the back. Betfred go best price about both bets.
1pt Bolton to beat Blackburn at 13/5 (Boylesports, Paddy Power)
1pt Over 3.5 goals at 2/1 (general)
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