IT’S Northern Final night in the JPT Trophy. Will it be Walsall or Preston heading through to Wembley in the spring? Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look for us.
Walsall v Preston | Tuesday 19:45
Firstly it seems rather odd that this game isn’t on the gogglebox tonight. Why show the first leg live but not the second? If I was a fan of either club and couldn’t get to the game, I’d be heroically pissed off.
But first of all let’s wind back 20 days to January 7th when the first leg of this Area Final took place. Walsall won 2-0 at big odds that night at Deepdale and have very much left Preston with a mountain to climb here on Tuesday night.
With the emphasis firmly on the away side, the betting sees Simon Grayson’s men as 13/8 favourites (Paddy Power) while Walsall are as big as 21/10 with BetVictor. If this was a league match I’d have the sides around the same price.
The big price is one reason to side with Walsall. Another is their tendency to raise their game against sides higher up the table than them. Seven of their eight league wins this season have come against either a current top half side or a team relegated from last season’s Championship. Remember it’s less than a month since they beat MK Dons into a messy pulp via a 3-0 away win. Preston fit that framework.
A third reason to back Walsall is Preston’s patchy form at the moment. No win in five and two of those games defeats, North End have failed to get past lowly Yeovil and Leyton Orient this month. I backed them on Saturday against what I suspected would be a weary and unfocussed Sheffield United side but they couldn’t deliver.
So it all points to Walsall for me, but of course this isn’t a normal match. Preston have to score two to have any chance of reaching Wembley, the emphasis is well and truly on them. How will Walsall approach the fixture? Sit back and soak, or play their own game?
One would imagine Walsall will be able to find space as Preston push forward in a desperate attempt to score goals and the Both Teams To Score bet at Evens with Paddy Power certainly tempts me. But you know what, I’ll go all in on Walsall at a chunky 21/10 to win for all the reasons I’ve stated above.
Wee Walsall have never ever reached Wembley in their history before (aw, bless) so you can imagine there will be a raucous, high-as-a-kite crowd hanging out at the Banks Stadium. Well, it’s not like they can watch it on TV is it?!
Walsall v Preston – Walsall to win (21/10 BetVictor)