FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Ross Casey (@RossCasey24) runs the rule over the Championship play-off semi-final second leg between Fulham and Derby tonight.
Fulham v Derby | Monday 14th May 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Momentum can count for so much in the play-offs and there was a big question over how Fulham would react to losing their automatic promotion spot to Cardiff on the final weekend of the regular season. After losing the final game of the season, they also lost the first leg in Derby and now need to win at home in the second leg tonight to have any chance of reaching Wembley.
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. In a complete opposite to Fulham, Derby head into this one on the back of a two victories – but can they avoid defeat at Craven Cottage?
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 last Friday night in the first leg was again in-spite of similar stats. They had 74% of the ball and had 11 more shots that The Rams, but still came away with nothing.
They are now facing a pressure situation of do or die as nothing but a win will do tonight. They are certainly capable of doing just that as the gulf in class between the two sides was apparent in the first leg and Fulham have won 12 of their last 15 home matches. A mixture of the woodwork, good blocking, poor finishing and excellent saves from Scott Carson kept a clean sheet for Derby last week, but you have to go all they way back to October to find a league game that Fulham have failed to net – a 2-0 home defeat to Bristol City.
Five wins and a draw from their last nine games including impressive wins over Fulham, Cardiff and Preston and a decent away draw at Aston Villa are proof of the quality that Derby can possess and it is a shame for Gary Rowett he couldn't get consistency throughout the season.
In recent history, Derby actually have an excellent record against Fulham. The Rams have only lost twice in their last 12 matches against them, including a win last Friday in the play-offs and a draw at Craven Cottage earlier in the regular season.
Goals are certainly not a problem for Derby – they have scored in all three of their matches against Fulham this season, and in nine of their last 10 games. That will give Derby hope, especially as they have scored in each of their last three visits to Craven Cottage and in Cameron Jerome, have a player in great form with five goals in his last four matches.
The betting angle
Despite the fact that there were just five goals scored across four matches in the semi-finals last year, and both finished 1-0 in the first leg this season, I like the odds of 11/4 on Fulham to win and both teams to score.
Fulham have been terrific at home and will create plenty of chances and have plenty of the ball as always, but Derby did look dangerous on the break on Friday night.
Fulham v Derby – Fulham to win and both teams to score (11/4 William Hill)