Southend and Wycombe will take to the famous Wembley pitch on Saturday 23rd May for the League Two Play Offs Final. The two sides finished fourth and fifth in the table, both just missing out on promotion by a single point, and it’s fitting that the two best sides outside of the automatic slots will compete in the final.
Play Offs Semi-Finals
Southend overcame Stevenage in their semi-final, but they were pushed all the way and it took two extra-time strikes in the second leg at Roots Hall to see them through. The first leg at Stevenage had ended all-square at 1-1, and they looked set to qualify after taking a 55th minute lead in the second leg. Southend pulled it back though to make it 1-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate, with Ryan Leonard’s 67th minute equalizer. The Shrimpers then had a gilt-edged chance to win it with a penalty deep into stoppage time, only for leading scorer Barry Corr to chip onto the bar. That took the game into extra time, and goals from Stephen McLaughlin and Michael Timlin took Southend to Wembley. Timlin was playing in the game with a protective skullcap after a clash of heads in the first leg saw him need 15 stitches to a head wound, and manager Phil Brown hailed his performance as the bravest he’d ever seen from an individual player in his managerial career.
Wycombe made hard work of beating Plymouth in their semi-final, having raced into a 3-0 first leg lead away from home they conceded two goals in the last five minutes to leave the tie wide open. They made no such mistakes in the second leg at home, and quickly went 2-0 up in the first half to lead 5-2 on aggregate overall. Plymouth fought back and grabbed a consolation goal on 71 minutes, but it proved to be too little too late, and the Chairboys were on the way to Wembley.
It promises to be a fascinating final, so let’s take a look at some of the odds available:
The two teams were almost inseparable after a 46-game season which saw them finish equal on 84 points. They were both just a point behind Bury, who claimed the third automatic spot, and Southend in particular would have been disappointed to have missed out after being in the box seat going into the final day fixtures. Wycombe claimed fourth place above Southend by virtue of a a +6 better goal difference, but that just goes to show how close these two teams are in terms of ability. They’ve met twice in the league this season, with Wycombe running out 4-1 winners against ten-man Southend at home in December, and the reverse fixture at Southend ending all-square in a 2-2 draw.
These Wembley Play Offs finals are one-off events, and often form goes out of the window with the atmosphere and the occasion affecting teams in very different ways. Certainly it’s difficult to imagine that this match will feature as many goals as the league meetings, and it’s more likely to be a tense, cagey affair. The thought of making a mistake and being the reason your team lost is a debilitating factor for many players in Wembley finals, and that inevitably leads to players taking less risks and adopting a safety-first approach.
Recent form offers little in the way of pointers anyway, with both teams in good shape over the last couple of months, and both coming here in good form. The tension will be incredibly high on Saturday, and with that in mind, the draw looks by far the best value call over 90 minutes. The psychology of Cup Finals is incredibly interesting, and despite the football world being in general agreement about the ‘lottery of penalties’, to a player on the pitch a shootout is infinitely better than making a career-defining mistake. If the game is level at the 60-70 minute mark, it’s reasonable to expect both teams to go back into their shells a little bit to ensure they don’t lose, rather than going all out to win. Equally, if one side is ahead, they will be prepared to sit back and defend their lead with the other side searching for an equalizer. The draw is the most likely scenario and may also present us with a cash out opportunity deep into the second half.
First Goalscorer Betting
We’re also going to recommend some small stakes bets on other markets for the match, as it always makes a live game much more interesting to watch if you have a few bets running. The first goalscorer market is always a popular one, and Wycombe top scorer, Paul Hayes, is our pick for the first goal of the afternoon.
Hayes has notched 15 goals for his club this season, and was first off the mark in both semi-final games against Plymouth. Wycombe tend to start matches quickly, and as a team they’ve opened the scoring in five of their last seven games (they failed to score in the other two, which ended 0-0 and 0-1).
Correct Score Betting
One of the other most popular markets is correct score betting, and we’re tipping a 1-1 scoreline at the end of 90 minutes. This is working on the basis that the match will be a tight game, and the most likely outcome if it ends all-square is a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. The two teams shared a 2-2 draw when they last met, and that could be a possibility, but Wembley finals rarely see four goals, and one suspects that this game will be settled by the finest of margins – either a one-goal victory, but more likely a win in extra-time or on penalties.
Correct Score – 1-1 – 6/17.00+6006.006.00-0.17 with Betvictor
League Two Play Offs Final, Saturday 23rd 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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