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There is one place in next season’s English Football League up for grabs and one thinks that the outsider of the four teams competing for it represents the best futures bet.
Grimsby, which fell out of the English Football League in 2010, is one of the English National League’s biggest names and that is the only reason why the Mariners are the hot favourites to win the play-offs. In effect, Grimsby is the English National League play-offs third seed having ended the regular season fourth on the ladder, limping there with just one victory from its last six matches. The weight of expectation on Grimsby is greater than that on Braintree, Dover and Forest Green combined and the Mariners have a history of cracking under pressure. Furthermore, Grimsby failed to beat Braintree in their English National League meetings – the Mariners lost 0-1 at home and drew 0-0 away.
Braintree, which is competing in the English National League for just the fifth term in its history, is available at odds of 11/2 6.50 +550 5.50 5.50 -0.18 with SkyBet to accompany title winner Cheltenham into English League Two next season. Braintree’s players are not full-time professionals unlike those of its English National League play-offs opponent Grimsby and, obviously, the Iron are not as well known as the Mariners given their respective backgrounds. Braintree may struggle to make the leap from the English National League to English League Two but that does not mean that it should be trading at odds of 11/2 6.50 +550 5.50 5.50 -0.18 to get the better of Grimsby and either Dover or Forest Green over the next couple of weeks. One could make a case for Braintree being close to the English National League play-offs favourite rather than the despised outsider.
Dover should be the outsider to win the English National League play-offs. Dover had the worst English National League record of the four play-offs sides, including a terribly bad 0-2-4 against Braintree, Forest Green and Grimsby. Dover won only one of its last four English National League games during the regular season and just once in its last eight matches did it score more than one goal. Dover lost both of its English National League games versus Forest Green during the 46 rounds and, consequently, it is hard to build an argument for Athletic progressing.
The English National League ladder says that Forest Green should be the play-offs favourite because Rovers finished eight points ahead of Braintree and they accrued 11 points from their six matches against their play-offs foes – both Braintree and Grimsby collected nine points, while Dover picked up two points. However, Forest Green’s form tailed off towards the end of the English National League regular season, Rovers appearing to disintegrate before and after their local rivals, Cheltenham, clinched the championship and automatic promotion to English League Two. Forest Green celebrated victory in only one of its last eight English National League games, including losing at home to the subsequently relegated Halifax in the penultimate round.
Braintree is the clear English National League play-offs value at odds of 11/2 6.50 +550 5.50 5.50 -0.18 . Just top-of-the-ladder Cheltenham conceded fewer goals during the regular season than Braintree and the Iron’s 21 clean sheets had no equal. Defences win titles is one of football’s many cliches but, when the pressure is on in play-offs action, one would prefer to be on the team that does not beat itself. The negatives regarding Dover, Forest Green and Grimsby are greater than those concerning Braintree so take a punt on the Iron completing their climb to the English Football League 33 years after adopting their current name.
Braintree to win the National League Play Offs
Semi Finals Begin 4th May 2016
Odds: 11/2 6.50 +550 5.50 5.50 -0.18
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