Exeter v Northampton | Monday 29th June 2020, 19:30 | Sky Sports
The League Two season will once and for all come to an official conclusion on Monday night at an empty Wembley when Northampton and Exeter battle it out for a spot in League One. Both clubs did it the hard way considering they lost the first-leg of their respective play-off semi-final first-legs, but ultimately overcome those setbacks to book a spot in the showpiece event.
In the case of Northampton, they were the first team since 2007 to overcome a two-goal deficit for the first tie to make it to the final. The club in question was Yeovil away at Nottingham Forest (what a game that was by the way!). Exeter, on the other hand, are making another appearance at Wembley, which has become a second home in recent times. Monday will be their third play-off final in four seasons.
The two earlier season head-to-head meetings saw one win a piece as Northampton won 2-0 at home in February, whilst Matt Taylor’s side won a 3-2 thriller all the way back in December. Whilst both have ultimately made the final, just purely looking at their run of results neither have been in great shape, although of course there was the small matter of a three-month break!
Beating Colchester saw Exeter end a six-match winless streak, with all four losses coming away from home. Cobblers have won only three times in 10, a run which started with defeat to Derby in an FA Cup replay, whilst five of the seven losses within that run came only by a one-goal margin.
It could again be a case of fine margins determining this contest at Wembley. 1-0, 3-1, 2-1, 2-0, 1-1 and 1-0 have been the scores across the past six League Two play-off finals after 90 minutes.
These play-off finals aren’t necessarily a ‘go big or go home’ type of occasion, so I’m wary of going down the goals route, even more so considering the bizarre circumstances we find ourselves in. I called most of the semi-finals wrong on the goals front, so I’ll go down a different route this time around!
High corner counts
Having done a bit of research on those recent play-off finals, the amounts of corners was something which did somewhat interest me. The last six in total has produced an average of 11.17 corners per-game.
Across the regulation league season, Exeter and Northampton were both in above 10 in relation to average corners per-game, with Exeter actually having the second-highest average for corners awarded.
You’d think at least one team will be having a real go near the end to either win or take this into extra time, so I’m leaning towards Over 11.5 Corners at 4/5 (Sky Bet). These are two attack-minded teams and they will have their spells of control and pressure.
Exeter ace to play prominent role
Our final two plays will focus on the goalscorer and card markets, and firstly I’m more than happy to jump onto the 2/1 (Bet365) on offer for Ryan Bowman to score anytime.
The Exeter number 12 is having by far his best EFL campaign as a player, having mostly proved himself as an out-and-out goalscorer at a lower level, but he is very much Taylor’s go-to guy this season. Only Eoin Doyle and Nicky Maynard managed more L2 goals than the 28-year-old, and he’ll be on a real high having netted the extra-time winner in the semi-final second-leg triumph over Colchester.
2/1 isn’t a bad price for Bowman to score at some stage in 90 minutes.
This is a bit of a Bowman love-in as he is the focus of the final recommendation, and that is Ryan Bowman To Be Carded at 14/5 (William Hill). He not only has 14 league goals, but he does have nine yellow-cards as well, the most recent coming against Colchester last week. In his last three appearances he has two goals and two bookings.
Bowman leads the league in terms of number of challenges, almost 300 more than the man in second! Most will come from aerial duels, so perhaps a stray elbow could attract the referee’s attention once more.
Exeter v Northampton – Over 11.5 Corners (4/5 Sky Bet)
Exeter v Northampton – Ryan Bowman Anytime Scorer (2/1 Bet365)
Exeter v Northampton – Ryan Bowman to be carded (14/5 William Hill)