Keen price on offer for Keane tonight

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The Independent Online
A few years ago it was common to find bookmakers betting 5-1 or more the field in their first-goalscorer lists on football, but many punters soon realised that, say, Alan Shearer at 5-1 to score the first goal in any match was a high-value bet. As a result, the odds have been adjusted accordingly, and it says a great deal about the wealth of attacking talent that will be on display at St James' Park tonight that Les Ferdinand is a 4-1 chance to open the scoring.

Newcastle's odds to win the Premiership (in advance of yesterday's game at Anfield) also tell a story. Unbackable at 1-8, just before Christmas, Kevin Keegan's men are now available at 8-15, and there are very few takers. They are the 11-8 favourites for tonight's game - and with home form that reads played 13, won 13, they could hardly be anything else - but it is not just in Lancashire that punters will be snapping up the 15-8 about the visitors.

On matches such as this, though, even punters whose heart follows another side entirely tend to be as polarised as the fans at the game. They like to cheer for one team or the other, the draw is often neglected, and the prices reflect this. Indeed, while both sides will of course set out to win this evening, you suspect that all concerned would be satisfied with a point.

For their part, backers should be more than content with the 11-5 on a draw offered by Coral. A 1-1 scoreline seems the most likely outcome, and while first-goalscorer betting is generally to be avoided, Roy Keane has the knack of arriving in the right place at the right time and looks overpriced at around 16-1.

NEWCASTLE V MANCHESTER UNITED (St James' Park tonight): Best odds: 11- 8 Newcastle (Hills); 15-8 Man Utd (Hills, Coral); 11-5 the draw (Coral). First-goalscorer (Hills): 4-1 Ferdinand; 6-1 Cantona, Cole; 7-1 Asprilla; 8-1 Scholes; 10-1 Giggs, Kitson; 12-1 Beardsley; 14-1 Ginola, Lee, Sharpe; 16-1 Albert, Gillespie, Keane; 20-1 Beckham; 25-1 Bar. 7-1 No goal scorer.