BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Five things we learned from the weekend

1 On-loan Tiger can show Premier quality
Oumar Niasse became a joke figure at Everton, although it was no laughing matter for the Toffees as the striker they barely used had cost them a cool £13.5m from Lokomotiv Moscow.

It's fair to say no tears were shed at Goodison went he was sent on loan to Hull but Niasse has already played his part in some important moments, none more so than the excellent opener which turned the game against their relegation rivals Swansea on Saturday.

Niasse added the second in the 2-1 success and has also scored against Manchester United and Liverpool.

Maybe he isn't quite as useless as was suggested when he was at Everton and the Tigers are glad to have Niasse, unlike the Gwladys Street natives.

2 Royals unlikely to make playoff cut
Reading remain in the Sky Bet Championship playoff spots - a position they have held since the end of October - but the Royals will surely get swallowed up over the next couple of months.

Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Preston continued Reading's run of losing every away game to other sides in the top ten and their possession-based game is all well and good but many other teams around the Royals have much greater attacking penetration.

Top of the list are Fulham. The Cottagers are seventh but their 3-1 win at Newcastle shows they are much more likely playoff candidates and should jump above the Royals soon enough.

Reading have difficult clashes against playoff rivals Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday on the horizon, while Fulham's next three games are all against sides fighting to stay in the division.

3 Robins are in a false position
Under-fire Bristol City manager Lee Johnson called his side's 1-0 win at Wigan "priceless" and the confidence gained from such a huge result should help in their scrap for Championship survival.

The Robins have often been mugged in matches but they have lost only one of their last five matches and recorded two clean sheets in the last three. Since the start of February their only defeats have come against Fulham, Leeds and Aston Villa, which is no disgrace.

4 Argyle are perfect side to back at bigger prices
Plymouth took a pummelling on the match stats in their 2-0 win at Mansfield (Argyle lost the shot count 18-3 and on-target shots 8-2) but two Graham Carey-inspired set-pieces stole the game.

It's not unusual for Argyle to look bad on the shot statistics as their approach often invites pressure, which may help to explain their poor home results recently with defeats to Leyton Orient and Notts County among those short-priced failures.

However, the victory over Mansfield made it nine unbeaten in the league for Plymouth when they have been rated underdogs by bookmakers which is a great sign of their doggedness.

5 Brilliant Boro a team to keep on your side
Only Crawley, Newport and Morecambe started the season at a bigger price than 12-1 Stevenage to gain promotion from Sky Bet League Two but few teams are playing as well as fourth-placed Boro.

Saturday's fine 2-0 win at Luton needed a strong rearguard effort at times and they are defending better than at any other stage of the season.

Boro have kept successive clean sheets for the first time this term, their midfield continues to impress and Matt Gooden is lethal up front.

 

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Match in Focus

19:45 TODAY BT3

Man City v Napoli

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Eight of Napoli’s last nine games have seen over 2.5 goals
Expert verdict
Two free-scoring sides do battle at the Etihad and it’s difficult to see anything but a flurry of goals. The classy Citizens have scored an average of 3.5 goals per game in their ten domestic and European matches this term, while Italian leaders Napoli have notched 17 times in their last seven road games.