FOOTBALL LEAGUE boff Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) runs the rule over the League One play-off semi-final first leg between Charlton and Shrewsbury on Thursday night.
Charlton v Shrewsbury | Thursday 10th May 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
If we were to tell football fans with only a passing interest in the EFL that Shrewsbury finished the League One season three places and 16 points above Charlton, most would expect them to be well-fancied for this play-off semi-final tie.
In fact, the Shrews are 11/4 outsiders for the first leg at the Valley; great value, right?
Before we go any further, we should offer a note of caution. The Shropshire outfit have won one of their last seven games in all competitions, a run of form that has coincided directly with the injury to tenacious midfielder Abu Ogogo, whose absence has hindered the team’s ability to execute their usual pressing game.
Paul Hurst has declined to do interviews in recent weeks, fuelling speculation about a potential move to Ipswich; will that disrupt the harmony of the camp?
We’re going out on a limb though and saying it won’t. If there’s anything we’ve learnt from this season it’s not to underestimated Salop, who have always responded positively to setbacks; if Hurst does leave, every fan would want his last act to be to deliver second-tier football for the first time in three decades.
Since Lee Bowyer took his first ever manager’s job at Charlton on 22nd March, his side have played 10 games and taken 19 points, more than anyone in the play-offs have accrued in the same timeframe (even if Scunthorpe have the same points per-game ratio).
The 41-year-old might not have always appeared destined for management during his colourful playing days, but he has in fact become a calming influence and shown unerring belief in his team.
The Addicks have kept clean sheets in five of Bowyer’s first 10 games in charge, conceding just five in the other five of those encounters.
The return to fitness of key centre-backs Patrick Bauer and Jason Pearce has been vital, while Ben Amos has been excellent between the sticks since Christmas.
The question though is whether they’ll score enough goals, with five in their last six. Six changes were made for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Rochdale, where restoring fitness levels and avoiding injuries appeared the biggest priority, but the weak performance means a big jump in intensity is required.
Bowyer is yet to identify the ideal strike-partner for Josh Magennis with Nicky Ajose and Michal Zyro yet to truly convince, while there’s uncertainty as to who will play out wide.
While Charlton are well-organised, therefore, questions could still be asked of them going forward.
The betting angle
Our line of attack is to side with the visitors whilst respecting the likely tight nature of the contest; we fancy the Shrewsbury draw no bet at 13/8 with PaddyPower.
Alternatively, BetStars’ 31/20 on a 0-0 half-time score looks attractive, given that 12 of the last 24 League One play-off semi-final first legs have been goalless at the break.
Charlton v Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury draw no bet (13/8 PaddyPower)
Charlton v Shrewsbury – 0-0 half-time score (31/20 BetStars)