The Punter: Baxter’s boys will simply Crues it
Start the new local football season on the right note by lumping on Crusaders to get their Carling Irish Premiership programme off to a winning start.
They are 5-6 to beat Portadown at Seaview and that has to be taken while those who fancy the Ports can have 13-5.
And while you are at it, have a good each-way wager on them at 9-1 with Ladbrokes to take the title for the first time since 1997.
Avoid favourites Linfield as they are poor value at 4-6, generally, to regain the crown they lost last season to Glentoran who are 9-4 with Paddy Power but only 2-1 with ‘Laddies,’ to hold on to the Gibson Cup — something they have not done since 1968.
The Seaview men under Stephen Baxter had a great season last time, finishing third in the league and taking the Irish Cup.
Baxter has a good squad of players led by international Colin Coates, Mark Dickson and David Rainey and with the addition of Ryan McCann and Johnny Magee from Lisburn Distillery the mood down the Shore Road is right to end the Linfield-Glentoran dominance.
Those looking for a double on Saturday should take Glenavon at 11-10 at home to Newry City.
Meanwhile, in the Ladbrokes Championship One, Ards look a decent bet at 10-11 in their opening fixture at Ballymoney United.
Donegal Celtic are 5-4 favourites to win that league and while they will go close, it is on the short side and better value lies with Loughgall at 5-1.
Paddy Power are paying 1/5 the odds the first three which will save the each-way stake if the Armagh boys are in the top three.
IFA Premiership 2009-2010 (Paddy Power): 4-6 Linfield; 9-4 Glentoran; 8-1 Crusaders; 14-1 Portadown; 20-1 Cliftonville; 40-1 Lisburn Distillery; 80-1 Coleraine, Glenavon; 100-1 Ballymena; 250-1 Institute, Newry City; 400-1 Dungannon Swifts.
Paddy Power Co Antrim Shield: 6-4 Linfield; 15-8 Glentoran; 11-2 Crusaders; 8-1 Cliftonville; 14-1 Ballymena Utd, Lisburn Distillery, 25-1 Donegal Celtic, 50-1 Bangor; 100-1 Ards, Carrick Rangers; Dundela, H & W Welders, PSNI, Larne, 125-1 Ballyclare Comrades; 150-1 Ballymoney Utd.
Championship One: 5-4 Donegal Celtic; 5-1 Ards; Loughgall; 6-1 Bangor; 14-1 Ballinamallard, Banbridge Town, Coagh United; 20-1 Ballymoney Utd, Carrick Rangers, Larne; 33-1 Armagh City, Ballyclare Comrades, Limavady Utd; 50-1 Glebe Rangers.
Saturday’s Premier League games: Ballymena v Cliftonville: Ballymena 13-8 Cliftonville 11-8 draw 9-4;
Coleraine v Linfield: Coleraine 11-4 Linfield 4-5 draw 12-5;
Crusaders v Portadown: Crusaders 5-6 Portadown 13-5 draw 12-5;
Glenavon v Newry: Glenavon 11-10, Newry 2-1, draw 9-4;
Institute v Dungannon: Institute Evens, Dungannon 9-4, draw 9-4;
Lisburn Distillery v Glentoran: Lisburn Distillery 9-4, Glentoran evens, draw 9-4.
Don’t allow lower leagues to get away Scot free
Betting bargains can be had in the lower echelons of football, not least in the Scottish divisions.
And for the first time punters have the chance to take a view in who will be the top scorer in the Second and Third Divisions, courtesy of Scottish bookmaker McBookie.com.
This grade of football does have its following in the province and there are shrewdies who are constantly on the lookout for bookmakers’ misjudgements.
Having previously priced up the SPL and the First Division, McBookie.com are now dipping their toe into the lower leagues.
Not an easy market to read but no doubt there will be those who have a sound knowledge of what is going on in such leagues.
Prolific Peterhead striker Martin Bavidge is the 7-2 favourite to take the honours in the Second Division and that is a decent bet for someone who has scored 81 goals for the club.
Forfar’s Chris Templeman, no stranger to top scorer awards after winning the Second Division prize in the 2002/03 season when playing for Brechin City, is the firm’s 3-1 favourite in the Third Division.
The firm’s spokesman Paul Petrie said: “This is the first time that the top scorer markets has been available for all four divisions in Scotland.
“Many lower league fans accuse bookmakers of knowing nothing about this level of football and after looking at our prices they may still feel that, but at least now they can make us pay for any mistakes.
“McBookie promises to continue to make Scottish sport our priority.”
Other runners in the Second Division include John Baird on 9-2 and Rory McAllister at 5-1.
Martin Grehan, David McKenna and Paul McManus, who all finished joint-third last year with 12 goals, are all |10-1 shots.
In the Third Division ex-Raith Rovers hitman Gareth Wardlaw is the 4-1 second favourite.
Top Scorer Second Division: 7-2 M Bavidge (Peterhead); 9-2 J Baird (Airdrie); 5-1 R McAllister (Brechin); 7-1 S Gemmell (Airdrie), D Gribben (Dumbarton); 10-1 M Grehan,(Stirling), D McKenna (Stirling), P McManus (East Fife) R Hunter (Dumbarton); 12-1 S Hislop (Arbroath), I Diak (Stenhousemuir) 16-1 B Linn (East Fife) 16-1 D Ross (Peterhead) 20-1 W Sawyers (Clyde), G Spence (Alloa) B Scott (Arbroath); 25-1 B Carrigan (Alloa), A McFadden (Clyde), K Bradley (Stenhousemuir), 33-1 C King (Brechin)
Top Scorer Third Division: 3-1 C Templeman (Forfar); 4-1 G Wardlaw (Cowdenbeath); 6-1 J Gemmell (Montrose), R Campbell (Forfar), 7-1 A Rodgers (East Stirling); 8-1 I Watt (Queens Park); 10-1 P Walker (Albion); 12-1 M Jack (Stranraer); 12-1 P McQuade (Cowdenbeath); 14-1 S McGuire (East Stirling), A Brazil (Berwick); 16-1 M Daly (Queens Park), M Moore (Stranraer); 18-1 C Gunn (Elgin); 20-1 D Nicol (Montrose), S Anson (Annan) P Storey (Annan); 25-1 M Pollock (Albion) 33-1 C Frizzell (Elgin).
England may be closing in on the Ashes series as they lead 1-0 with only two to go.
Next up is Headingley starting on Friday and the bet that catches the eye is Hill’s 10-11 that England fail to win any of the final two.
And, of course, that can happen and still leave England happy as two draws will be enough to pop the champagne corks.
The Aussies are battlers and retaining the Ashes is certainly not beyond them. A win and a draw will do and their hopes will be boosted if Andrew Flintoff fails to make it.
But with the unpredictable weather forecast for Leeds and the Oval generally producing a flat batting pitch, draws are the current name of the game.
The Aussies hope to have Brett Lee back in harness and Hill’s go 12-1 that he will take five or more wickets in the first innings at Headingley.
Hill’s: How many more Tests will England win?: 10-11 non; 5-4 one; 6-1 two.
Brett Lee wickets in first innings of fourth Test (must bowl at least one ball): 3-1 none; 9-4 one; 5-2 two; 5-1 three; 8-1 four; 12-1 five or more.