NEWPORT COUNTY v WREXHAM, BSBP PROMOTION FINAL

NEWPORT COUNTY v WREXHAM, BSBP PROMOTION FINAL

Saturday May 4, 2013

LIVE ON PREMIER SPORTS, SUNDAY, MAY 5th, 3pm

By Alan Alger of Blue Square

Although the tension, drama and ultimate prize of a place in the Football League makes it a ‘must-see' game, it's entirely fair to say that during 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 Bet became sponsors, the finals have been tense affairs in which some sides have just not ‘turned up' on the day! Exeter of course came back from that disappointment in 2007 to win the 2008 version - complete with new Blue Square branding.
Torquay United, Oxford United, AFC Wimbledon and York City have since joined them in League 2. With the last five winners contesting that section last season.
In fact only one of the previous ten winners of this game played outside of the Football League in 2012/13, Hereford United who were one place away from making these play-offs.
Most bookmakers make Wrexham narrow favourites for the game with a best price of 13/8 available. Newport County are trading as big as 15/8, with the draw offered at 12/5.

This will be the eleventh Conference Premier Promotion Final and only 24 goals have been scored in normal time in the previous ten. That's an average of just 2.40 per 90-minute game, which is in sharp contrast to an overall figure of 2.90 per game in regular season matches - a figure which makes the Blue Square Bet Premier the highest scoring professional division in the whole country.
It's natural to expect that number to drop off for such an important game though. ‘Under 2.5 Goals' is the 4/5 favourite on the ‘Total Goals' market for this final. A repeat of last year's game where ‘Over 2.5 Goals' came in is offered at 10/11. The ‘Correct Score' market lists 1-0 wins priced at around 8/1 for either team. Four of the last ten teams to be in this final have failed to score in the game.
The popular ‘Both Teams To Score' special is priced at 4/6, but has recent history up against it. Last season Luton Town continued the historical jinx - which has never seen the winner of the Blue Square Bet Premier Promotion Final come from 5th place in the table. Wrexham aim to be the first to do that since a second promotion spot was added in the 2002-03 season. Although after a regular season where a number of historical stats and records have gone flying out of the window, I'm sure it won't concern them.

The finalists have met six times in the division over the last three seasons and Newport are yet to beat their fellow countrymen. Wrexham have three wins to their name, with the other three matches ending in draws. Newport have only scored two goals across the 540 minutes of league football against the Red Dragons since the start of the 2010/11 campaign.
Although Wrexham haven't exactly bulged the opposite net, with an average of just one goal per game in those six fixtures. That also points to a low scoring game. Wrexham only won six of their 22 regular season matches against their fellow ‘top half' teams, although they shook off that stat in fantastic style with a comprehensive 5-2 aggregate victory over Kidderminster in the semi-finals. In the other tie Newport managed to shut out Grimsby twice and progress with two 1-0 wins. The Exiles with an incredible eight clean-sheets in their last 12 matches ahead of this final. Keeper Lenny Pidgeley is 5/2 to keep another clean-sheet at Wembley.

Wrexham striker Brett Ormerod is already on the scoresheet at this stadium with a vitally important goal for former club Blackpool as they earned promotion to the Barclays Premier League. Promotion to League 2 will be just as important for his current side and he is in the kind of form that might tempt people to invest in him for ‘First Goalscorer' at 13/2.
Newport's Christian Jolley features at 6/1 just ahead of Ormerod in the market but in similar scintillating form. At bigger prices it pays to look at the penalty takers in both teams and the fact that they are defenders by trade. Wrexham's Neil Ashton could get on the scoresheet at 13/2 to ‘Score Anytime' and counterpart Andy Sandell, who has slightly more freedom to get forward, is a consideration at 11/4 on the same market. All kinds of options are available on the Special Markets for the game and it's 8/1 for either team to win in Extra-Time and 11/1 for each to win by a penalty shoot-out

VERDICT:
It's the sixth time in 11 seasons the 3rd and 5th placed teams in the final table will meet for a place in League 2. The five previous occasions have resulted in the 3rd place team gaining promotion and I think Newport County can just about continue that trend here.
The 5th placed team has never been promoted, but they have a fantastic record of ousting the runners-up in the semi-final - as Wrexham did by an incredible 5-2 aggregate scoreline against in-form Kidderminster.
That two-legged victory was the seventh time that a side from 5th in the division has beaten the runners-up, but that effort obviously makes an impact once we get to the final.
It's worth speculating that it might hinder Wrexham on the day, although this is a team that consistently bounce back when written off (particularly by me).
That said, the sensible bet on the game has to be a low margin Newport County victory. Yes Wrexham do relish being written off and confounding their critics, but the market has actually moved in the last few days to make them favourites and that could work against them. Newport as slight underdogs is a bet far too good to miss based on their recent form.

BEST BETS
Newport to beat Wrexham
Newport to win by exactly one goal - Margin of victory
Neil Ashton - Goalscorer - First (each-way) or Anytime.

 
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