BLUE SQUARE BET PREMIER PROMOTION FINAL BETTING PREVIEW
Tuesday May 15, 2012
BY ALAN ALGER FROM BLUE SQUARE
LUTON TOWN v YORK CITY - Sunday, May 20th, kick-off 3pm
ALTHOUGH the tension, drama and ultimate prize of a place in the Football League makes them unmissable, it's entirely fair to say that during the first four seasons of our sponsorship of the Football Conference we have not been blessed with a genuine classic Promotion Final.
Since Morecambe's thrilling comeback against Exeter City, the season before Blue Square became sponsors, the finals have been tense affairs in which some sides have just not ‘turned up' on the day! Exeter City of course came back from that disappointment in 2007 to win the 2008 version - complete with new Blue Square branding.
Luton Town will be aiming to become the second side to complete that 12-month turnaround after losing out to AFC Wimbledon in a penalty shoot-out last year. With York City losing to Oxford United two years ago this final features the last two sides to lose in this game.
The prices for Sunday's match suggest we are in for another game that could go ‘all the way'. We cannot split the two teams and we quote 5/6 for each to earn promotion. The 90-minute match prices are also in line with that expectation. Both sides are 8/5 to win the game whilst the draw is on offer at 11/5. We of course like to cover all the eventualities and either team can be backed to win in extra-time at 9/1 or via a penalty shoot-out at 11/1.
This will be the tenth Conference Premier Promotion Final and only 21 goals have been scored in normal time in the previous nine. That's an average of just 2.33 per 90-minute game, which is in sharp contrast to an overall figure of just over 2.8 per game in regular season matches.
A stat which makes the Blue Square Bet Premier the highest scoring professional division in the whole country. It's natural to expect that figure to drop off for such an important game though. We make ‘Under 2.5 Goals' the 8/11 favourite on our ‘Total Goals' market for Sunday's final. A repeat of last year's goalless game is offered at 8/1 on our ‘Correct Score' prices.
Four of the last eight teams to be in this final have failed to score in the game. Our popular ‘Both Teams To Score' special is priced at 4/6, but has recent history up against it. Last Sunday Gainsborough Trinity felt the full force of an historical jinx - which has never seen the winner of the Blue Square Bet North Promotion Final come from the semi-final contested by the 3rd and 4th placed teams.
That's now 8 years where either the 2nd or 5th placed team have earned a place in the Premier. Luton Town have a similar hoodoo to bury as no team that has finished 5th in the final table has gone on to win this final since that second promotion spot was added in the 2002-03 season.
It's very tight at the top of the market for the ‘First Goalscorer' at Wembley and Luton's Stuart Fleetwood is just edging favouritism at a price of 13/2. We then have four players at 7/1 including teammate Andre Gray and former Hatter Jason Walker - who played in last season's final and missed a penalty in the shoot-out.
George Pilkington stung Blue Square with his penalty at Wrexham as he had been well-backed to get the first goal at 33/1 at the Racecourse. We're not being as generous for the final BUT... if he does still have the role from 12yards then 20/1 might still be a value bet.
Matty Blair has scored some important goals for York this season but none more so than the one which took them to this final in extra-time at Mansfield. Blair is 8/1 to score in any York City victory in normal time. A full list of ‘Player Specials' are available on the Blue Square site - including players to score, hit the woodwork, get booked - you name it we've got it.
York City have met Luton six times in the division over the last three years and also in a two-legged FA Trophy semi-final tie during this campaign.
Luton have been victorious just once, when a nine-man York team were thrashed 5-0 at Kenilworth Road after losing goalkeeper Michael Ingham early on in the game, back in the middle of the 2010/11 season.
The Minstermen didn't have a goalkeeper on their bench and will feel that the result was harsh on them and their makeshift stopper Chris Smith. That aside they do hold a recent advantage over the Hatters with three wins and a draw in this season's meetings between the two.
That includes a 3-0 win at Bootham Crescent earlier in the campaign. The clubs were only separated by two points in the final table so any real advantage could be minimal. City completed their FA Trophy journey with a victory here at Wembley last Saturday and aim to become the first team to win both finals in the same season which would be an incredible achievement for Gary Mills' side.
Opposite number Paul Buckle saw his unbeaten run as Luton manager ended at Wrexham in the play-off semi-finals but that 2nd leg defeat was not the worst way to lose his first game since arriving at the club as the ultimate aim of a place in this final was achieved on aggregate. It was a hectic start for the former Torquay boss but he will have had the luxury of 12 days without a game to get his squad in the right frame of mind to perform on the day. He, of course, knows what the occasion is all about having won here with the Gulls in 2009.
ALAN'S VERDICT - Overall our prices against the general market do favour York City, but only because we are calling this a level game, in contrast to the majority of the market who have Luton as clear favourites.
I feel this looks far closer to call so it looks as though we are in for a great final. I can see Luton Town scoring first in the game but then being pegged back to a draw in the second-half.
I think the match will end 1-1. I can also see a goal for each team in Extra-Time and the match requiring a Penalty Shoot-Out. I'd advise backing both teams to win on spot-kicks and at the end of Extra-Time you will be on a winning bet either way - much the same as last year's advice. I feel both teams know how to defend well and at crucial stages this could be the deciding factor that takes this beyond 120 minutes with neither team wanting to make a mistake.
ALAN'S BEST BETS FOR THE BLUE SQUARE BET PREMIER PROMOTION FINAL
DRAW - Luton Town v York City
1-1 DRAW - Correct Score
LUTON/YORK TO WIN PROMOTION ON PENALTY SHOOT-OUT - (Combined) Method of Victory
The Blue Square Bet Premier Promotion Final is live on Premier Sports TV from 2.30pm on Sunday 20th May (kick-off 3pm) - visit www.premiersports.tv for subscription details.
You can play your part in the commentary for this huge game! Contact commentators Steve Bower and Ian Snodin during the action to give your thoughts - email: firstname.lastname@example.org OR Twitter: @steveandsnods.
You can follow me on Twitter - @AlanBlueSquare