CAN Preston complete the job and progress to Wembley? The hosts hold a 1-0 advantage heading into the League One play-off semi-final second leg. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the betting.
Preston North End v Chesterfield | Sunday 12.15 | Sky Sports 3
Having chosen to watch Sheffield United v Swindon on Thursday night I recorded Preston’s duel with Chesterfield for desert and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The 1-0 scoreline might have been low on goalmouth action but it was an intriguing and bad-tempered battle, perfect for neutrals.
Jermaine Beckford’s early goal at the Proact on Thursday means the Lilywhites are expected to reach Wembley but there’s bound to be plenty of nervous energy around Deepdale following nine successful previous play-off attempts. The hosts are just 8/15 to qualify now with Chesterfield facing a side that’s lost just one home League One game since Christmas 2013.
That 36-match run deserves plenty of plaudits but so does Thursday night’s performance from Simon Grayson’s men. North End only had 35% possession, were forced to defend and sit deep but they did so almost immaculately; rarely getting caught out of position and appearing reasonably solid throughout.
But would I be trusting a team at 8/15 that’s a torturous recent past with the play-offs, has squandered leads in five of their final nine regular season games and froze on the big stage in Football League Trophy finals and a must-win end of season fixture with Colchester? Of course not.
Despite ending up on the losing side, Chesterfield played very well in the first leg. Paul Cook’s charges showed plenty of endeavour, good football but just lacked the X-Factor around the penalty box to unlock a resolute PNE backline. The Spireites need to score on Sunday now and Paul Cook’s promised his team will play with their foot on the accelerator as they bid to bounce back.
Chesterfield only managed 26 goals in their W7-D8-L8 away record and that includes a return of W2-D3-L4 at top-10 team. Stranger things have certainly happened but the 19/5 on the visitors reflects the 20-point gap between the two teams in the final standings as well as Preston’s outstanding home record (W13-D9-L1 this term).
So instead I’m going to put my faith in Cook’s visitors playing their part in a match featuring Both Teams To Score. Betway have made it a 10/11 chance and that holds plenty of appeal. The first leg was result was PNE’s fourth shutout in 11 but they have conceded in five of their six Deepdale meetings with top-seven clubs this season, including three against Chesterfield back in September.
And although the Spireites road record doesn’t fill you with too much confidence, the need to score and play on the offensive should present opportunities to get on the scoresheet. The Derbyshire club did manage to net in all of their trips to top-seven teams this term too.
Preston North End v Chesterfield – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Betway)
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