League One Gameweek 38: Clarke-Harris To Fire For Bristol Rovers?

Graham’s Gasheads grabbing goals

Since Graham Coughlan took the reigns at Bristol Rovers, the club have taken 16 points from 10 league games, averaging 1.6 points per game, in comparison with 1.04 PPG under Darrell Clarke.

In terms of Expected Goals though, they have averaged 1.33 For (xGF) and 1.14 Against (xGA), giving them a Ratio (xGR) of 53.97% – their xGR for whole season though is 52.19%, meaning there has not been a massive disparity in performance levels before and after the manager change.

Instead, perhaps the most significant contrast is the quality of finishing. In Clarke’s 21 league games in charge in 2018-19, only two non-penalty goals were scored by a centre-forward – Gavin Reilly and Stefan Payne got them but otherwise struggled to make an impact.

In Coughlan’s 14 league games in charge, seven non-penalty goals have been scored by a centre-forward – and the team appears to be playing with more confidence in the final third.

That’s partly down to the arrival of Jonson Clarke-Harris, who bagged a hat-trick in the 4-0 demolition of Blackpool.

Clarke-Harris is sufficiently mobile to aid counter-attacks, but also powerful enough to hold the ball up; what’s more, his ability to occupy defenders has allowed the more dimunitive Tom Nichols to play his natural game, which is drifting into pockets and linking play between lines.

Breaking beyond Nichols are normally Ollie Clarke and Liam Sercombe on respectively the right and left of a four-man midfield, with both showing the inclination to break inside due to their schoolings as central midfielders by trade.

At the other end, stalwart Tom Lockyer has formed a very strong centre-back pairing with the experienced Tony Craig, who has won promotion from this level with Millwall.

 

Charlton set for the play-offs

Charlton have spent much of their League One campaign in fifth – and they look likely to finish either there or fourth come May.

They have tended to have a comfortable cushion over teams outside the top six, without possessing the quality to make the prime automatic promotion contenders sweat.

Karlan Grant’s January departure was potentially destabilizing for the Addicks who, at that point, had relied heavily on clinical finishing from him and strike-partner Lyle Taylor. Without Grant, they have not taken their chances as ruthlessly as they had with him.

The Valley Stadium is pictured ahead of the League One football match between Charlton Athletic and Milton Keynes Dons (MK Dons) in London April 4, 2017. Charlton paid tribute to PC Keith Palmer, a long-time supporter and season-ticket holder, who died in attack on the Westminster on March 22. As a tribute to Palmer, Charlton players will wear black armbands and a shirt with his police warrant number, P204752. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the last nine games, the Addicks have averaged 1.38 Expected Goals For (xGF) per game, which is the exact same as their season-long data tally. However, they have only actually scored 10 goals in that sequence, on average 1.11 per game, in comparison with a record of 1.47 goals per game over the whole season.

Although the quality of chance creation has not decreased, with Grant’s first team replacement Igor Vetokele showing good movement at time, the quality of chance conversion has decreased.

To counter-balance this though the Londoners have improved defensively, with on average 0.8 goals conceded per game since Grant’s departure – the experience of Patrick Bauer and the physicality of Naby Sarr has made for a well-balanced centre-back pairing.

And, they produced an excellent performance in front of the nation in a 2-1 win over Portsmouth on Saturday teatime, before beating Burton the following Tuesday by the same scoreline with Joe Aribo staring on the left of the diamond.

 

How will it pan out?

Five of the last 12 League One games involving either Bristol Rovers or Charlton have ended in a 1-1 draw.

Six of the Gasheads’ last seven goals have been scored by Clarke-Harris – by that logic, the former Coventry man to score in a game that ends one apiece looks an attractive long-shot at 15/1.

Tip: Scorecast: Jonson Clarke-Harris, 1-1 draw – 15/1

Read Gabriel’s League 2 preview here.

*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article

Specializing in the EFL as well as the Premier League, Gabriel Sutton has seven years of experience writing for various websites, including his own site The Football Lab, voted 2016's Best New Football Blog at The FBAs.

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