Wigan and Burton Albion will both be playing Championship football next term after finishing in the top two of League One. The former won the title and are back on the up after two quick-fire relegations, while the latter are promoted to the second flight after an incredible journey from non-league football.
They were Conference Premier Champions in 2008-09, and Nigel Clough is the manager who has led them to an historic achievement just seven years later. There are four clubs in the play offs who will aim to emulate that achievement and earn Championship football of their own. Wallsall are the unlucky ones who missed out to Burton by a single point and they will face 6th placed Barnsley in the play off semi final. The other tie will be between Millwall – looking to return to the Championship – and Bradford, another side that graced the top flight not so long ago.
The first legs of the two semis take place this weekend, and there are some tasty prices on offer in two matches that are very finely balanced.
Bradford v Millwall
The Bantams have been in fine fettle this term and hold the divisions second-best home record after title-winners Wigan. They’ve won 14 of 23 League One home games and have been beaten just four times on their own patch. They also beat Millwall 1-0 back on the 26th of March and will know that their best chance of progression is by taking a lead into the second leg in the Lion’s Den.
They made it seven successive home wins with the 2-0 defeat of Chesterfield last weekend, and are a tempting price to rack up another home victory.
Millwall finished a single point above Bradford after a a winning penalty in the 8th minute of stoppage time last week at Gillingham gave them a 2-1 victory. That goal could prove to be priceless in the grand scheme of things as it gave the Lion’s the advantage of playing the second leg of this semi final at home. They may need to rely on that home form to make it to Wembley, because they’ve been average on their travels of late. They’ve won the last two away games at Bury and Gillingham, but prior to that were winless in five road trips including the 1-0 reverse here just six or so weeks ago.
At a decent price Bradford are worth backing to make it eight home wins in a row, even if they will have their work cut out to protect the lead in the second leg.
Barnsley v Wallsall
The Saddlers could easily have been one of the top two to earn automatic promotion but for a disastrous managerial change which saw them drop away from the upper reaches. Interim boss Jon Whitney has done a great job to steady the ship, and they finished 3rd in the league with 84 points, 10 points clear of opponents Barnsley. They signed off the season in style with a 5-0 away win at Port Vale, and are fancied to snatch another away victory here. They beat Barnsley the last time they visited, earning a 2-0 win in the league game back in October, and can put themselves in the driving seat in the tie.
Barnsley certainly won’t make it easy for them but home form hasn’t been imperious this season for the Tykes by any stretch. They’re 12th in the divisional ‘home’ table, having lost 8 of 23 games in front of their own fans. By contrast Wallsall are the division’s best away team having amassed 13 wins from 23 games, tasting defeat just four times on their travels.
The Tykes will come into this game on a high after clinching the final play off spot on the final game of the season, but that may not be enough to carry them through. They had to beat Wigan away on the last day, but were undoubtedly helped by the fact that the Latics were already crowned Champions. The 4-1 win was impressive nonetheless and kept them above Scunthorpe by virtue of goal difference.
At the prices though, Wallsall are worth siding with as they are the better team and great performers on their travels.
Bradford to beat Millwall
Sunday 15th May, 12:15 GMT
Wallsall to beat Barnsley
Saturday 14th May, 17:30 GMT
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