Saturday 4 August 2001

August 4th, 2001 | 2001 Journals Ian Carnaby's Sports News

The fact that England looked like pressing Australia all the way (if three days can be all the way) in the Third Test underlined the fact that 7’4 about an Aussie whitewash in the Ashes series was poor value. The way things are going, it is often best to have a bet ‘in running’, because the big bookmakers are falling over themselves to offer prices with the fall of every wicket.

When Australia led by just five runs at Trent Bridge, England looked like taking control but could be backed at 2’1 with Stan James. Sadly for home supporters, the late collapse on Friday night meant that Coral offered England at 9’2 the following morning. This is written before the start of the day’s play, but 200 might actually take some getting on this wicket, and 9’2 is a fair enough offer.

Castleford surprised St. Helens in the Super League on Friday night making it almost certain that either Bradford or Wigan will top the table. London flatter to deceive, and Wigan gave them a comprehensive thrashing the same evening to keep up the pressure ahead of Bradford’s visit to Warrington on Saturday night.

Warrington have had their internal troubles but will be announcing a new head coach before the match. This will not be Shaun Edwards, who spends an increasing amount of time in the capital these days and has family commitments there. The bookmakers are generally agreed in giving Warrington a 24 points’ start on the handicap, but this looks barely enough. The bulls have hit peak form in recent weeks, and should run out easy winners. Opting for a specific margin is always risky, and the 11’2 with Stan James and Surrey about a Bulls superiority of 21–25 is hardly value. I would prefer to look at the spread firms, and am tempted by Cantor’s offer of a Bradford superiority of 24–27. This is quite a bit lower than the other firms, and a small buy at 27 looks the best move.

Despite attending football matches every week, I have always found the three-month break in summer more than welcome. Others may disagree, and the Racing Post is already full of prices and offers for the forthcoming season.

At this stage – and I propose not making specific recommendations until early August – the teams which interest me are: Wimbledon, Portsmouth, Huddersfield and the two Bristol clubs.

Wimbledon are no longer the ‘get it into the box at all costs’ outfit of a year or two ago, and Terry Burton had them playing some very attractive football towards the end of last season. I shall be interested in ‘buying’ their points with one of the spread firms.

Some cynics will say that Graham Rix is on borrowed time at Portsmouth, with Harry Redknapp becoming director of football. But the arrangement may work. Harry is keen enough on his outside interests to be happy enough with a back-seat role, especially if the team starts well. There is money available at Fratton Park, with two expensive new players arriving already, and Pompey could be a major buy if the spread bookmakers quote their total points at around a relegation mark. I see them as mid-table, at least.

Lou Macari made quite an impression when taking over at Huddersfield, but the team simply committed hari-kiri in the closing weeks, losing their place in Division One on the final day. They would be my each-way nap in Division Two this time, with Bristol City one of the main dangers. Reading have strengthened their left flank, the weakness costing them dearly in the closing weeks, and are certain to be thereabouts.

Bristol Rovers are nap material in Division Three, with Gerry Francis returning to the club he served so well a decade ago. Rovers have sold too many strikers over the years, but the board will not be making that mistake with Nathan Ellington (Norwich having already flirted with a £900,000 offer), and he should get a hatful of goals at this level. Rovers are available at 6’1, which is worth an early investment.

Ian Carnaby