The League Two play off semi finals will be completed on Thursday night, and if the second legs are anything like the first legs, we’re in for a treat. No less than 11 goals were scored in the two matches on Sunday night, with Carlisle and Exeter drawing 3-3 in a six-goal thriller, and Blackpool earning a slender 3-2 advantage over Luton.
It was former Hatter Mark Cullen who came back to haunt his old club with a hat-trick for the Tangerines as they came back from 2-1 down at half time to run out 3-2 winners. Luton manager Nathan Jones lamented his sides’ naive defending, but pointed to their seasonal defensive record in optimism for the second leg. Luton finished 4th in the table, just outside the automatic promotion slots, but had the second-best defence in the league after champions Portsmouth. Blackpool squeezed into 7th to take the final play off spot, but after back-to-back relegations in the last two years were among the favourites to bounce back up. They will look to protect their one-goal lead at Kenilworth Road, but have been beaten by a single goal on each of their last two visits.
Exeter were singled out by our rags to riches column as a value bet away from home in the first leg, and at 3-1 up they looked well on the way to landing the odds. Two second half goals in two minutes brought Carlisle right back into it, and it’s finely balanced for the second leg in Devon. Carlisle boss Keith Curle praised his players attitude, and will be pleased to note that despite trailing in all three games against Exeter this season, his team are yet to lose to the Grecians. Paul Tisdale believed his team deserved to win the game, but it will be cause for concern that Exeter are yet to beat any of their play off rivals this season.
Luton v Blackpool
Luton are supported at +115 with Bet365 to win the game in 90 minutes.
With Blackpool leading 3-2 a Luton win could still lead to extra time, and the Tangerines certainly wouldn’t be throwing caution to the wind if they fell behind. That makes a punt on the Hatters a decent bet, and they have solid enough home form to back it up.
Luton’s record in 23 home League Two games reads 11-7-5, and they’ve lost just two of the last twelve in front of their own fans. They beat Blackpool when they last made the trip south, winning 1-0 back at the start of April courtesy of Palmer’s 90th minute goal.
The Tangerines have moved into slight favouritism for promotion after the first legs, but their lead is a precarious one. Away from home over the course of the regular season, they were 10th best with a record of 8-7-8 from 23 games. That form is neatly reflected in the last ten away games, where Blackpool have a record of 4-2-4 on recent travels.
In the prevailing circumstances a Luton win could still lead to extra time, and the sensible bet is to back the Hatters to land a victory on home soil – even if they have to endure an extra 30 minutes thereafter.
Exeter v Carlisle
These two sides should be sick of the sight of each other after this week. Not only are they contesting these two legs, but they also met on the last day of the regular season. It may be foolish to read too much into that fixture at Exeter’s St James Park, but Carlisle again came from behind to earn a result. The talk of Exeter being happy to lose in order to avoid Blackpool in the play offs probably wrote Keith Curle’s team talk for him, and his Cumbrians fought back with two second half goals to snatch a 3-2 win and all three points. However, it was an academic result since both had already qualified for the play offs, and as such should be treated with caution.
Exeter will have to do something they haven’t managed all season, which is beat one of the other teams contesting the play offs. Manager Paul Tisdale bemoaned his side’s luck in that first leg, but the fact remains that his players have conceded six goals in two games to the Cumbrians. More goals are probably on the cards in this second leg, but the value has to be with Carlisle managing at least a draw over the course of 90 minutes.
Luton to beat Blackpool
Thursday 18th May, 19:45 GMT
Carlisle or draw
Thursday 18th May, 19:45 GMT