The League One play off semi finals get underway on Thursday night, and we’ve already highlighted our selection for the ultimate prize of promotion to the Championship. Now we turn our attention to individual match betting, and both semi final first legs present decent betting opportunities.
Bradford start their play off campaign with a home tie against the over-achieving Fleetwood, and with an unbeaten home record all season, the Bantams will fancy their chances of taking the early initiative in the semi final. However, memories of a 3-1 home defeat to Millwall at this stage last season will temper any over-confidence. Fleetwood manager Uwe Rosler was quick to point out that his staff and players deserve credit for amassing 31 more points this season than last, and has encouraged his charges to go out and enjoy these matches. That may be clever man-management by removing the pressure, and the team with the most League One clean sheets this year will be hard to break down.
The other tie sees a clash between last season’s beaten finalist, Millwall, and this season’s third placed side Scunthorpe. The Iron will be pleased to know that the team finishing 3rd has, statistically, the best chance of going up in the play offs, but they travel to a ground where they lost 3-1 at the start of April. A better performance will probably be needed in the Lion’s Den if Scunthorpe are to keep their chances alive for the second leg on Sunday.
Bradford v Fleetwood
They are unbeaten at valley Parade this season – perhaps the only chink in their armour is the number of games they have drawn on home soil. From 23 home games they’ve won 11 and drawn 12, but they’ve beaten Fleetwood 2-1 on each of their last two visits. The most recent of which saw the Bantams come from behind to earn three points back at the start of the season. Stuart McCall’s men have also won the last five on the trot in front of their own fans, conceding just one goal in the process.
Fleetwood’s league-high of 20 clean sheets has in part been due to the form of Cian Bolger. The centre-back only made his first appearance at the end of November, but has been a rock at the heart of the defences and scooped supporters’ and players’ player of the year at the club’s recent awards ceremony. Rosler may well opt to take a pragmatic approach to this game, with the second leg to come at home on Sunday, and a conservative game plan would not be a surprise. However, his side have been beaten just once in the last 16 away matches and will feel confident of coming away and still being well in the tie.
This could be a very tight match with Bradford on the front foot and Fleetwood happy to soak up pressure and hit on the counter. With that in mind Bradford are a decent bet, and can take a slender lead into Sunday’s second leg.
Millwall v Scunthorpe
While semi finals of any ilk are often cagey and competitive, odds of -112 with 188Bet about both teams scoring at the Den make plenty of appeal.
Scunthorpe have scored more goals than anyone in the division except champions Sheffield United, and Millwall have the worst defensive record in the top six. The sides met at the Den at the start of April, with Millwall three goals to the good before Scunthorpe snatched a late consolation.
The Lions have kept their fair share of clean sheets, particularly at home where they’ve conceded just 17 compared to 40 on the road. That fragility on their travels might play a part in Thursday’s first leg, as Millwall will be gunning for a big result on home soil to protect when they visit the Iron on Sunday. Unfortunately they come up against a side which tends to score in most matches.
Both teams have found the net in 8 of Scunny’s last 10 matches, and it’s been 12 consecutive away games since they failed to rustle the onion bag. However, they’ve only kept one clean sheet in that sequence of away games, and only two shut outs in ten overall.
Bradford to beat Fleetwood
Thursday 5th May, 19:45 GMT
Millwall v Scunthorpe – Both teams to score
Thursday 5th May, 19:45 GMT