MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) eyes up the best bets on offer for the first of League Two’s two play-off semi-final first legs featuring Plymouth and Wycombe.
Plymouth Argyle v Wycombe Wanderers | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
It’s not quite Beauty and the Beast but there are certain elements of the Disney classic that ring true when paralleling the kids film with Saturday night’s League Two play-off offering.
The fourth tier’s grinding beast meets the aesthetically pleasing temptress that’s captured many Football League fans hearts over the past nine months. But rather than live happily ever after together, Plymouth and Wycombe will take their clash of styles onto the battlefield with a date at Wembley and promotion the end game.
OK, that was probably a touch harsh on Argyle. John Sheridan’s hosts have made the end-of-season play-offs thanks to back-to-back wins in a faltering campaign. The Pilgrims build their season upon a strong home record and an ability to take points off their top-half rivals, giving the former Irish international real cause for optimism heading into the mini-cup competition.
Argyle W13-D6-L4 at Home Park and will be roared on by 15,000 expectant supporters. Sheridan said he expects the side to go the distance and their return of W9-D6-L7 against top-half teams plus the fact the Pilgrims did the double over second-placed Shrewsbury and held champions Burton at home and away, is enough encouragement to believe this Plymouth side can deliver.
Built from the back (Argyle kept 21 clean sheets in the league), the Devon club have a number of match-winners in their armoury with Bobby Reid, Reuben Reid and Lewis Alessandra all capable of producing. The hosts tend to struggle to create against sides that defend deep but that shouldn’t be an issue on Saturday with Wanderers more adept to playing on the front foot.
Wycombe were written off as relegation fodder before a ball was kicked and their 84-point tally was both a club record and enough to secure automatic promotion in 19 of the past 20 League Two seasons. Nevertheless, manager Gareth Ainsworth has told his players to forget their record-breaking achievements, instead focussing on the positives.
And there are many. The Chairboys, who were in a top-three position from September, have suffered just two defeats on the road (W13-D8-L2) and comfortably took the honour of the best travelling team in the Football League. Sadly, injuries and fitness concerns took there toll on the team in recent weeks and was one of the contributing factors in the battle-weary side slipping out of the automatic promotion spots.
Nine of the 17-man squad at Northampton in Wycombe’s previous game were aged 22 or younger but the youthful group have been bossted by the news that on-loan quartet Alfie Mawson, Fred Onyedinma, Nico Yennaris and Sam Saunders have all been given clearance to play. Goalkeeper Matt Ingrahm remains the only fitness doubt for Ainsworth.
Wanderers, like Argyle, proved resilient when taking on the division’s leading lights, returning W9-D7-L3 against top-half teams and only losing once against their play-off rivals but their failure to score in three of their most recent six outings, as is their tally of three clean sheets in 17 League Two duels.
But hey, this is the play-offs and this is the first leg so it would be remiss of us not to expect a close run battle. In the past 10 years, 11/20 (55%) of League Two play-off semi-final first legs have seen just one or zero goals scored with only five breaking the Over 2.5 Goals line. I do have a slight leaning towards Plymouth and buying into the low-scoring theory, I’m going to have a nibble on the Correct Score Groups with a 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 Argyle victory paying out at 85/40 with BetVictor – the above sample has featured only 3/20 (15%) of draws with 10/20 (50%) matches finishing with the home side winning 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1.
And again, I just can’t resist a wee play on my favourite low-scoring market – Both Halves Under 1.5 Goals with BetBright making it an attractive 19/20 option (especially when you consider Under 2.5 Goals is just 4/7 at Ladbrokes).
Plymouth Argyle v Wycombe Wanderers – Both Halves Under 1.5 Goals (19/20 BetBright)
Plymouth Argyle v Wycombe Wanderers – Plymouth Argyle to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 (85/40 BetVictor)
Is Mark on the right lines? Reckon Wycombe could upset the odds at Home Park?
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