Many English Football League punters think that the highest ranked play-offs qualifiers do not have the good record but the reality is somewhat different to the general perception.
The English Football League introduced the play-offs in the 1986-1987 season. Teams from different divisions took part in the first two terms and it was not until the 1989-1990 season that Wembley Stadium hosted one-off finals. One has crunched the English Football League play-offs numbers and found that being the highest ranked qualifier is far from the disadvantage that many punters think it is. Indeed, if one was betting blind on the English Football League play-offs than one should be backing the top seeds.
The theory goes that the highest ranked qualifiers for the English Football League play-offs are worth opposing because they struggle to get over the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion, often by the finest of margins. But that theory does not stand up to close examination. There have been 29 seasons of English Football League play-offs, meaning that there have been 87 winners. The highest ranked qualifier has taken out 34 of the 87 English Football League play-offs, which equates to a strike rate of 39.08 per cent. The second highest ranked qualifier has won 20 of the 87 English Football League play-offs (22.99%), with the third highest qualifier accounting for 15 winners (17.24%) and the fourth highest qualifier providing 18 winners (20.69%).
Brighton is the highest ranked qualifier for the English Championship play-offs and one rates the Seagulls as being worthy of a wager at odds of +250 with several bookmakers, including Betfred, Marathonbet and Totesport. No English Championship side lost fewer matches than Brighton (five) during the 46-round regular term and the Seagulls ended up six points ahead of Hull, 11 points in front of Derby and 15 points above Sheffield Wednesday. Brighton did experience a letdown on the final day of the English Championship season but the Seagulls knew that they were the underdogs away to Middlesbrough so their failure to leapfrog Boro was what everyone, including their fans, expected. Brighton did not lose any of its six English Championship games against Derby, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday and it surprises one that the Seagulls are not the clear play-offs favourites.
One is holding a fancy ticket about the highest ranked qualifier for the English League One play-offs, Walsall, after highlighting the value in supporting the Saddlers at odds of +500 in late March. Walsall would have accompanied Wigan into the English Championship had it not appointed Sean O’Driscoll to succeed Dean Smith, quite possibly as English League One’s champion team. Jon Whitney has got Walsall back on the straight and narrow and the Saddlers were very impressive in their recent English League One thrashings of Fleetwood (3-1) and Port Vale (5-0).
One likes collateral form but one is not going to read too much into the English League One data because Walsall was a different side under O’Driscoll than the one that will line up under Whitney in the play-offs. O’Driscoll may struggle to gain another decent management job after his atrocious spell leading the Saddlers from December to March. Wallsall are still available at +260 with SkyBet.
Portsmouth makes the English League Two play-offs market because, yet again, bookmakers are paying too much respect to Pompey. Portsmouth is the third highest ranked qualifier for the English League Two play-offs and the pressure under which Pompey will compete is much greater than that which Accrington, Plymouth and Wimbledon will experience.
One thinks that the highest ranked qualifier for the English League Two play-offs, Accrington, may be worth swerving in light of the manner in which Stanley missed out on promotion on the final day of the regular term. If any of the highest ranked qualifiers is going to experience a hangover than it is Accrington moreso than either Brighton or Walsall.
Plymouth is one’s idea of the English League Two play-offs bet at odds of +400 with William Hill. Plymouth does not have a losing head-to-head record versus Accrington, Portsmouth or Wimbledon so the Pilgrims are overpriced.
Brighton to win the Championship Play Offs
Beginning Friday 13th May
Wallsall to win the League One Play Offs
Beginning Saturday 14th May
Plymouth to win the League Two Play Offs
Beginning Thursday 12th May