The Football Season has come to an end for 20 sides in SkyBet League Two but for four of them, the training doesn’t stop with a potential Wembley date on the horizon and promotion via the most exciting method for one of the sides.
Starting tonight, the play-off semi-finals begin with the first of two ties when Portsmouth host Plymouth.
Then on Saturday, it’s the turn of AFC Wimbledon and Accrington.
Portsmouth v Plymouth
I think that these two ties could end up looking like very different types of games with the statistics showing that all those goals come from the same side of the draw.
These two sides have scored a total of 32 goals between them over their last eight fixtures and the two meetings both conjured up three goals with each side winning away from home by a score line of 2-1.
Plymouth have dropped from a relatively secure place in the automatic spots into the play offs and while they do say that falling into that pack is a negative thing, their fate has been decided for some time and they will have been preparing as such.
So, I’m prepared to look beyond their slump since March and consider the 5-0 thumping they gave to Hartlepool on the final day as a better judge of form.
The Pilgrims took the chance to leave their two top scorers, Jake Jervis and Graham Carey on the bench and still ran riot over the Blues from Hartlepool.
Portsmouth had a tougher final day losing to Champions Northampton Town, but they also have a recent win over Hartlepool to stand them in good stead.
Pompey’s problems come in the form of first choice ‘Keeper Paul Jones missing for the run in, back up Brian Murphy will be between the sticks.
Keiron Freeman will also sit out the big games with Plymouth after being sent off on the final day and that’s why I’m backing the Devon side to come through over two legs.
Not only are Plymouth the less distrupted side, they’re also at home second, a big advantage especially if the game is close or goes beyond the 90 minutes.
I suggest two bets for this tie.
Over 2.5 goals (6/5 with SkyBet for the first fixture) in both legs.
Both games will end up being tight, open affairs – but I think Plymouth could get a result at Fratton Park and seal the deal at home.
Plymouth to qualify for the final is 5/4.
AFC Wimbledon vs Accrington
Accrington missed out on automatic promotion by just a single goal on the final day, drawing 0-0 when a 1-0 win would have seen them already on their holidays.
That kind of disappointment is hard to overcome, but Accrington have been overcoming the odds all season.
Stanley finished a full 10 points ahead of the Dons during the regular season and I think they may have too much over the course of 180 minutes.
Both of these teams are relatively low scorers in comparison to the sides from the other tie and that may be crucial.
Having said that, they sit 1st and 2nd in the form table for the last eight games of the season.
Accrington haven’t lost any of those eight, the Dons have lost just once.
Wimbledon have accrued 19 points from eight games scoring just nine goals in the process.
On the flip side, Accrington have won their last five on the road and have a much better home record over the course of the season.
To emphasise just how close these two games may well be, the last time the two sides met it ended in a 0-0 draw.
Wimbledon have less fire power than Accrington scoring fewer and they’ve conceded more as well, and I believe that Stanley’s potential success all boils down to a couple of key players.
Josh Windass and Matt Crooks leave for Scottish Premier League side Rangers this summer and their influence could be vital.
Crooks hasn’t played in a while, but Windass has his partnership with Billy Kee blossoming again and if one doesn’t get you, the other isn’t far behind.
It’s that extra oomph up from that makes a couple of 1-0 Stanley wins tempting in the betting.
My Bet for this game is 1-0 to Accrington at 15/2
The odds on Accrington to qualify are shorter at 8/11 but I do think that’s what will happen.
BEN'S FINAL – PLYMOUTH V ACCRINGTON
My suggestion for the final pits one of the bigger League Two sides against one of the smaller and in truth, I really don’t know which way this will go.
Plymouth have about as many goals in them and have conceded just two goals less that Accrington all campaign.
Argyle would have had three extra days rest with their semi final second leg taking place on Sunday 18th, while Accrington don’t host Wimbledon until the Wednesday after.
Both sides will be coming off the back of two positive results and in a one off final just about anything can happen.
So, if I can get a little bit romantic, I’m backing the plucky underdogs to write their name in history as one of the smallest sides to ever grace League One.
Josh Windass could give his side the ultimate parting gift with a winner at Wembley before he departs north of the border.
So, at current odds – I think Accrington to be promoted at odds of 3/1 might be the bet to go with.
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