FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Ross Casey (@RossCasey24) runs the rule over the Championship play-off semi-final first leg between Derby and Fulham on Friday night.
Derby v Fulham | Friday 11th May 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Momentum can count for so much in the play-offs and there is now a big question over how Fulham react to losing their automatic promotion spot to Cardiff on the final weekend of the regular season. Will it play on the minds of players or will it merely fuel their fire even more?
Derby on the other hand fought tooth and nail for weeks to hold onto their top six finish as team after team from the hunting pack fell by the wayside. Unlike Fulham, Derby head into this one on the back of a victory – and a stellar one at that – after defeating and relegating Barnsley with a 4-1 score-line.
Gary Rowett suffered another season of inconsistency much like many Rams managers before him. Since the turn of 2018, Derby have won just six of their 22 matches, with draws becoming a bit of a speciality.
However, four wins and a draw from their last eight games including impressive wins over Cardiff and Preston and a decent away draw at Aston Villa saw them over the line where they now go on to face third placed Fulham.
In recent history, Derby actually have an excellent record against Fulham. The Rams have only lost twice in their last 11 matches against them, but there is a big caveat to that in that Fulham did win at the iPro earlier this year by two goals to one.
Goals are certainly not a problem for Derby – they scored in both of their matches against Fulham in the regular season, in each of their last nine at home and in eight of their last nine combined.
That will give Derby hope, especially at home as Fulham have conceded more away goals than any of the sides in the top six this season.
Fulham's 3-1 loss away at Birmingham was a major surprise, but the performance itself was again full of quality. They had 73% possession, more shots and more corners than their opposition but still managed to lose. That was their first defeat in 24 league games and another defeat seems implausible here in terms of their results as only once all season long have Fulham lost two league games in a row!
Away from home of course they have already beaten Derby this season and before their 3-1 reverse at St Andrews, Fulham were unbeaten in 13 on the road. They are another side that don't have trouble finding the net. In 24 away matches across all competitions this season, they have only failed to score three times.
The betting angle
Despite the fact that there were just five goals scored across four matches in the semi-finals last year, this match feels different and I think goals are on the cards, with Fulham netting in all but three away games this season, and The Rams in each of their last nine at home.
Fulham conceded three last week and over 2.5 goals has landed in three of the last four fixtures between these two sides. So that is my pick at odds against, with the bookies going with a low scoring game, lets take our chances on both attacking sides turning up and at least three goals being scored at 27/25 with Marathon.
Derby v Fulham – Over 2.5 Goals (27/25 Marathon)