Preston and Swindon will fight it out in the League One Play Offs final on Sunday evening, with Championship football awaiting the winner. Preston will look to put to bed their terrible record in the Play Offs with success for the first time, while Swindon have already made history with the remarkable 5-5 draw with Sheffield United in the semi-final. It promises to be an enthralling match, and one which also looks good from a betting perspective.
Preston have a shocking history with the play offs, having lost in each of the nine seasons they’ve qualified. They’ve reached the final on three occasions and lost each time, and prior to the two victories over Chesterfield, they’d only won three of twenty-one play offs games. That’s a tough record to look past, but Preston beat Chesterfield home and away in the semi-final, and that was after the disappointment of missing out on automatic qualification. If the historical record suggest a club that chokes, this Preston team appears to made of sterner stuff.
Road to the Final
The Lilywhites were in pole position for that automatic spot going into the last game of the season, but they lost at Colchester and allowed MK Dons to squeeze past and relegate them to the play offs. They quickly got over it though, and beat Chesterfield 1-0 away from home in the first leg of the semi-final thanks to Beckford’s 6th minute goal. The second leg saw Beckford on the scoresheet again twice along with leading scorer Joe Garner, as Preston ran out comfortable 3-0 winners on the night, and 4-0 winners on aggregate.
Swindon had a ding-dong battle with Sheffield United, which ended 7-6 on aggregate. They took an unexpected lead at Brammall Lane, coming from behind to win the first leg 2-1, but no one saw what was coming in the second leg. It ended in a 5-5 thriller as Swindon continually put their noses in front and Sheffield United continually pegged them back. Swindon manager Mark Cooper described the game as ‘ridiculous’, and the result set a record for the most goals in a Play Offs semi-final.
Preston finished ten points ahead of Swindon in the league, and they are the clear favourites to win at Wembley. Here are the latest odds for the final:
Despite Preston’s awful Play Offs record, they can be backed to get the better of Swindon and make their way back into the Championship. As stated they were ten points superior to Swindon over the course of 46 games, and although league form matters little in a Wembley final, Preston’s defensive record might. The Lilywhites had the best defence in the entire league, except for champions Bristol City, conceding just 40 goals in their 46 matches. That defensive solidarity will serve them well in a big Wembley final, and it may prove to be the difference between the two sides. They come here in good form apart from that final day defeat to Colchester, winning the other four of their last five games, including the two Chesterfield victories. They’ve only conceded two goals in that period, scoring ten, and perhaps tellingly, one of the wins was a 3-0 victory over Swindon on home ground just a few weeks ago.
Swindon have little to lose as the underdogs in this game, and that can often serve teams well. They will take hope from the fact that they beat Preston 1-0 in the reverse fixture on home ground, and will take their chance on neutral soil. They are an attacking side, but their form has deserted them towards the end of the season and they’ve been shipping a lot of goals. The 5-5 draw with Sheffield United in the semi-final was a one-off result, caused by one team committing several men forward in chase of the game; but in Swindon’s previous five games they conceded 11 goals. They also scored eight, but they’ll have difficulty out-scoring a defensive side like Preston, and those five games only garnered one win along with three draws and a defeat.
First Goalscorer Betting
Jermaine Beckford – 13/27.50+6506.506.50-0.15 with Boylesports
It’s always nice to have a little flutter on some side bets in these big TV games, with first goalscorer and correct score betting among the most popular. We’ll recommend a couple of small stakes bets, and we’re backing the man of the moment in the goalscoring market. Jermaine Beckford scored three of Preston’s four goals in the semi-final against Chesterfield, and although the club’s leading scorer Joe Garner will be a popular bet in this market, the man in form represents a decent bit of value at a bigger price.
These finals can often be cagey affairs and it often takes a mistake or a bit of magic to break the deadlock. It wasn’t so long ago that Beckford was playing in the Premier League, and he showed that he still retains that little bit of quality with his superb long-range effort in the semi-final.
Correct Score Betting
1-0 Preston – 15/28.50+7507.507.50-0.13 with Unibet
For a correct score bet a 1-0 Preston win makes plenty of appeal in a game that could be dominated by their defence. Their record of conceding just twice in the last five games is very good and if they get their noses in front here, they could easily shut up shop. The players will be well aware of Preston’s terrible record in the Play Offs and they’ll be determined not to slip up again. That could lead to a defensive mindset which relies on Beckford or Garner to produce a bit of magic at the other end, while the team concentrate on keeping Swindon out. They’ll know if they keep a clean sheet half the battle will be won, and with Swindon’s leaky defence, they’re bound to get chances.
League One Play Offs Final, Sunday 24th May, 5.30pm
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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