The third and final set of play-off fixtures starts on Saturday as League One’s final four play off for the right to play in the Championship.
Barnsley v Walsall
There are probably not two closer ties in the same division anywhere in the Play-Off system, League One’s four sides are really very difficult to separate.
This makes this particular article tough to write, but I’ve tried to dig out some reasons for my tips.
Barnsley have finished sixth and that meant a ten point difference between them and their upcoming opponents, which I think may be quite significant.
The Tykes have fought their way from the relegation zone to the play-offs in around about half a season. That combined with a JPT run that saw them lift the Football League Trophy at Wembley with a win over Oxford.
This is an incredible turn around of form, especially when you consider they lost manager Lee Johnson 24 hours after qualifying for Wembley.
My concern here is that simply, they’re going to be burnt out.
Of the four sides, they’re the lowest in the form table (albeit, 6th) and with all those extra fixtures built in I do wonder if it might be a bit much to overcome a side who have kept the top two on their toes for most of the season.
Walsall get the all important home second tie and keeping the game close until the return leg should be enough to see the Saddlers through.
The midlanders ended their season with a 5-0 thumping of Port Vale, putting them in a great mood ahead of this game, I also consider their 2-0 win at Barnsley earlier in the season an added bonus.
Barnsley’s story this season has been a fantastic one to see and they should be praised to the hill, but the way Walsall are playing is just too good to miss.
It’ll be a battle of the top scorers though as Tom Bradshaw and Sam Winnall lead their respective lines, Bradshaw’s Walsall to take the tie and progress.
Two bets here, Walsall to qualify – 8/11 and Both Bradshaw and Winnall to score in the first leg – 5/1
Bradford vs Milwall.
I think that this tie, much like the other comes down to the strikers.
Bradford could be missing two of theirs for this first match, top scorer James Hanson hasn’t trained all week and Billy Clarke wont be there to take his place – he had surgery on a fractured cheekbone.
That’s asking a lot of the others in the side. No-one else has managed more than 5 goals across all competitions this season.
Both Hanson and Clarke could be back for the second leg and I fear it could be asking too much, especially as the second game takes place in the cauldron of the New Den.
Speaking of Millwall, their goals are far more forthcoming, top scorer Lee Gregory had been side lined but he timed his return to perfection scoring on his comeback last week.
If Gregory isn’t quite at 100% I fear his absence won’t hurt the Lions like Hanson’s will for Bradford.
Steve Morison is hot on the heels of Gregory in the scoring charts and has big game experience at just about every level including international representation for Wales.
Millwall will know that taking any sort of lead back home with them will require an upset of epic proportions – ironically something Bradford know a bit out – but Millwall’s four straight wins, their 73 goals this season (compared to the Bantams lowly 55) give the blues the lead.
… let’s not forget, Byron Webster and Ed Upson know a thing or two about the League One play-offs too.
Two bets for this one as well.
Millwall to win to nil – 7/2
Then head to ‘Player and Goal specials’ and split your second stake between;
“Gregory to score and Millwall to win to nil – 10/1” and
“Morison to score and Millwall to win to nil – 11/1”
Ben’s Final – Millwall v Walsall.
Third against Fourth in the table could meet in the final and these two were separated by just 3 points during the regular season and managed to beat the other one away from home during the two league games.
Clear as mud then.
Walsall will have had an extra day’s prep time as their semi final concludes a day before Millwall’s, I think that may be a boost, but I look at the two squads and can’t help but come back to Millwall’s experience each time.
Walsall do arguably have a more flamboyant and exciting squad, especially if Bradshaw is on fire.
But with Morison’s nous and international history and the previous Wembley experience of Ed Upson, Byron Webster, Tony Craig and Nadjim Abdou they may have the edge.
It’ll be close but if Webster can keep Bradshaw quiet it might be the Lions’ day at Wembley.
Millwall to be promoted – 11/4
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