The League Two play offs were the first of the three English leagues to get underway on Thursday night, and Portsmouth and Plymouth played out an entertaining 2-2 draw on the south coast. Jamille Matt was the hero for the visiting side, scoring twice including a spectacular overhead kick, to put them 2-1 ahead. Pompey fought back in the second half and were rewarded with a 51st minute penalty that Gary Roberts duly tucked away. The game was a stalemate from then on in, but it sets up a tense encounter for the second leg at Home Park in Plymouth on Sunday.
The other play off semi final features AFC Wimbledon and Accrington, who will contest the first leg on Saturday evening. Wimbledon finished 7th in the table but were a full ten points behind 3rd place Accrington, who missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Stevenage on the final day. That paved the way for Bristol City to snatch the final automatic promotion spot, and left Accrington the arduous task of doing it all again via the play offs.
Plymouth v Portsmouth
We’ve already highlighted our outright tips for each of the play off competitions, one of which was the Pilgrims, and we see no reason to abandon them now.
Plymouth hold the 5th best home record in the division and although they’ve suffered a handful of home defeats recently, those reverses came after they were already virtually assured of a place in the play offs. They fell short of automatic promotion by five points, but showed what they are capable of on home soil in the 5-0 rout of Hartlepool on the last day of the season. After battling to a draw in the first leg they will feel that they have one foot in the Wembley final and can get over the line with the support of their own fans at Home Park.
Portsmouth completed one of English football’s biggest falls from grace in recent years, making their way down from the Premier League to England’s third tier in the space of a few seasons. They were among the favourites for promotion at the start of the campaign, but haven’t been consistent enough to challenge at the top. They finished the regular season on 78 points, three behind Plymouth and seven behind the top three promoted teams. Away form has generally been good against the leagues lesser lights, but a record of just six road wins in the last 15 games doesn’t inspire confidence. It might just be back to the drawing board for Pompey after Sunday’s match.
AFC Wimbledon v Accrington
The other tie sees 7th placed Wimbledon host 4th placedAccrington in the first leg, and the draw appeals at +240 with Bet365
Accrington missed out on automatic promotion in the cruellest fashion last weekend and it is often difficult to predict how a side will react to that disappointment. It was in their own hands on the final day when a win at home over Stevenage would have guaranteed promotion, but despite hitting the woodwork three times they failed to find the breakthrough and were held to a 0-0 draw. That proved to be crucial as Bristol Rovers grabbed a last-gasp winner to beat Dagenham and Redbridge 2-1 and leapfrog Accrington to claim the third promotion place.
Wimbledon were 7th with 75 points, ten behind Accrington, and although home form has been good they will be up against a very good side here. It’s four wins from the last five home games for Wimbledon, but Accrington have won five consecutive away matches and it promises to be a cagey first leg encounter. The corresponding league fixture ended in a 0-0 draw back in March – in stark contrast to Wimbledon’s 4-3 win at Accrington in October.
With away goals not counting for anything extra in the play offs, Accrington need not chase this game and they would most likely be happy to return to home soil all square. They hold the third best home record in the division behind Northampton and Bristol Rovers, losing just three times on their own patch from 23 games. With that in mind the draw looks the most viable result from the first leg.
Plymouth to beat Porstmouth
Sunday 15th May, 18:00 GMT
AFC Wimbledon and Accrington to Draw
Saturday 14th May, 19:30