BLUE SQUARE BET PREMIER PLAY-OFFS SEMI-FINAL MATCH PREVIEWS
Tuesday May 1, 2012
BY ALAN ALGER FROM BLUE SQUARE
WEDNESDAY 7.30pm - YORK CITY v MANSFIELD TOWN
York City meet third placed Mansfield Town in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off semi-finals and it promises to be a close affair. The two sides were inseparable in two regular season games which both resulted in draws. Mansfield as the form team in the division over the last few months have moved into a position as favourites to join champions Fleetwood Town in League 2. Blue Square are quoting them at 9/4 with City as 11/4 shots just ahead of old foes Luton Town who, unusually for them, find themselves as 10/3 outsiders. York are 6/5 favourites to make home advantage count in the first leg, with Mansfield as 15/8 outsiders, a very probable draw is priced at 12/5.
As for who will prevail after the two-legs - Blue Square quote Mansfield as the 4/5 favourites, with York ever so slightly behind them at 10/11 to reach Wembley for a second time this season. The similar chance of each club can also be illustrated by the odds for the first goalscorer at Bootham Crescent on Wednesday evening. Jason Walker and Matt Green are the 11/2 joint favourites. Green is just 7/2 to get on the scoresheet in a victory for the away side.
Matty Blair has had a fantastic season for The Minstermen and he features in a number of exclusive Blue Square player specials on the game. Blair is 12/1 to score from outside the box and 13/2 to get York's first goal on the night. York's home record for the season is only the 8th best in the division despite their finish in 4th. They've only won two games at home to their fellow top 10 sides. In contrast Mansfield have been beaten just three times when visiting teams in the top half of the final table. The Stags have won five of their last six away games including a comprehensive 3-0 victory away at Kidderminster Harriers on the final day. An incredible 10 matches during Mansfield's season have finished with a 1-1 scoreline, that's nearly a quarter of their games - the price for that outcome in the first leg is 13/2. York have drawn five games by that 1-1 scoreline too, so it could be the best correct score bet on what is likely to be a very cagey night.
THURSDAY 7.30pm - LUTON TOWN v WREXHAM
With 17 points separating them in the regular table some might see Luton's Blue Square Bet Premier play-off semi-final clash with Wrexham as a tough task for the Hatters.
Pre-season turmoil at The Racecourse Ground lengthened Wrexham's promotion odds to 14/1, whilst Luton were once again amongst the favourites to gain a place back in the Football League. A lot has changed since then, including in the managerial hot-seat at both clubs. Andy Morrell stepping up to the plate when Dean Saunders left for Doncaster Rovers and more recently Paul Buckle replacing Gary Brabin at Kenilworth Road.
Buckle remains unbeaten as Luton manager as he hauled his side into the play-offs after it looked as though they would miss out. The odds for Luton to achieve promotion went as high as 9/1 before settling as the 100/30 outsiders of the four play-off teams following Saturday's all-important win at champions Fleetwood Town.
Luton are the 13/10 favourites to gain a first leg advantage over their semi-final opponents, something they achieved in spectacular fashion last year albeit away from home. A repeat of that 3-0 scoreline is offered at 20/1. Blue Square make Wrexham the 8/11 favourites to go through after the two games, with Luton quoted at Evens. Andre Gray has been in fantastic form since signing from Hinckley and he is 13/8 to score at any time in the first leg. Stuart Fleetwood is the 11/2 favourite to be first goalscorer on Thursday night in front of the Premier Sports TV cameras.
Robbie Willmott scored one of the most important goals of the season when netting in the 1-0 home win over Kidderminster and he is 5/1 to score in any Luton victory on Blue Square's exclusive Score/Win double market.
Wrexham not only showed their superiority to Luton in the final league table but also in their two regular season meetings too. The Red Dragons ran out 1-0 winners at Kenilworth Road back in October and then completed a double with a 2-0 home win in early March which started the run which ultimately ended Gary Brabin's reign.
Wrexham are 13/2 to record another 1-0 win in Bedfordshire to give themselves a first leg advantage. Jake Speight and Mathias Pogba are both 13/2 to score the first goal on the night although it's unlikely both will start. Adrian Cieslewicz has scored some important goals for his team during the course of the season and is 3/1 to score at any time on Thursday night.
Despite both clubs having the best defensive records in the division, a 2-2 draw looks like a value bet at 14/1 on a night when goals could flow.