CAN Accrington overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their League Two play-off semi-final against Wimbledon? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look.
Accrington v Wimbledon | Wednesday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
I was forced to take the girlfriend out for dinner on Saturday night but thanks to the wonders of the modern world, I recorded the first leg encounter and watched it as-live when I’d gotten home later than night.
Well that was an hour-and-a-half of my life I won’t get back and I’m not whinging about the food or company on Saturday night – it was actually a very tasty Mexican, if you’re interested.
Wimbledon’s injury-time winner from Tom Beere has handed the Wombles a slender advantage following a contest that was largely devoid of entertainment or adventure. But it’s only half-time and there’s plenty of reason to believe the second offering will be a much more watchable affair.
A sell-out crowd will be in attendance at the Crown Ground with Accrington supporters hoping to see their side seal a first ever place at Wembley by slashing the one-goal deficit on Wednesday night.
The cash has been coming for the hosts who’ve been installed as 11/10 (Bet365) to take second leg honours – that’s not too surprising considering the Reds were beaten just three times on home soil this season, racking up a league-high 43 goals.
John Coleman criticised the play-off scheduling – Accrington didn’t arrive back in Lancashire until 3am on Sunday morning, hindering recovery for Wednesday – and also slammed the referee after Saturday’s match at Kingsmeadow. The Stanley boss believed the man in black failed to deal with the Dons’ “roughhouse” tactics and missed a dive in the build-up to the winner.
Chuck in the sense of injustice felt around Accrington following their league visit to Wimbledon – a legitimate Stanley goal was ruled out by the referee’s half-time whistle – plus the simmering mood still lingering after the final day of the season agony and the Reds should be ready to serve out a degree of vengeance here.
The weekend defeat was Accy’s first in 13 (W8-D4-L1) but after riding out early pressure, the Lancashire visitors were the better side for large swathes in London. Again the woodwork denied the Reds with Tarique Fosu’s shot hitting the post in the second half and I wholeheartedly agree with Coleman’s claims that Wednesday’s hosts are one of the best in the fourth-tier.
Coleman said, “Everyone knows we’re one of the best teams in this league and I still believe we were good enough to go up automatically. We’re certainly not ‘Little Accy’ any more and if I’ve got any say about it we never will be.”
Accrington have W3-D4-L0 in their most recent seven outings at the Crown Ground but driven on by a capacity crowd and that underdog feeling, I’m backing Stanley to reach the play-off final in the To Qualify market at a rather enticing 9/5 (Netbet).
Accy have recorded eight clean sheets in 15 fixtures this calendar year and have a collection of quality attack-minded players more than capable of clinching the result required to see the minnows progress.
Rangers-bound Josh Windass, Billy Kee, Tarique Fosu-Henry, Sean McConville, Piero Mingoia, Shay McCartan and co will be eager to impress the live television cameras and with the Reds comfortably boasting League Two’s best shots-on-target ratio (64.59%) – their share of the total shots-on-target in matches – I’m hoping the cream rises to the top.
I don’t want to completely dismiss Wimbledon here – I’ve been a keen follower of the Wombles progress since last summer when I held a wee inkling they could upset the odds under Neil Ardley this season and at least have a bash at reaching the top-seven after finding their level in League Two.
The Dons have W3-D1-L0 in their last four against Accy and head into this return leg with only one defeat in their most recent nine matches (W7-D1-L1). The visitors actually scored more goals in games as guests than at home (34 to 30) and have W3-D1-L0 in their last four away days too.
Centre-back Paul Robinson and midfielder Sean Rigg (who required stitches) have both been declared fit after clashes of heads in the first match and with just one goal against in six games, there is plenty going for Wimbledon fans.
But were the celebrations at the final whistle at Kingsmeadow a touch premature? You’d have to say so. An early Accrington goal could blow this tie completely over the pendulum of momentum swinging dramatically in the Reds favour.
As well as Stanley progressing, I’m going to have a wee interest in the hosts to win and Over 2.5 Goals. I fully expect this encounter to open up and with Accy having to attack and scoring in all bar one of their 26 home fixtures across all competitions – keeping only five clean sheets– goals should be on the agenda.
Wimbledon’s hot-streak striker Lyle Taylor has netted five goals in his last four away days, with 14 of his 21 goals coming on the road. With the Wombles netting in all bar five of their 24 travelling trips and a clear trend for ‘overs’ in play-off semi-final second legs, I’m putting my golden eggs in a goal-heavy basket.