The 2012/13 League One Play-Offs get underway on Friday night with Sheffield United playing host to Yeovil Town, while Brentford travel to Swindon on Saturday. Will the Bees recover from their heartbreaking end to the season? Can the Blades banish memories of last year’s penalty shoot-out farce? Here’s our take on this year’s fight for promotion to the Championship.
League One Play-Off Dates
Friday 3rd May 2013, 19:45
Sheffield Utd V Yeovil Town
Saturday 4th May 2013, 12:30
Swindon Town V Brentford
Monday 6th May 2013, 13:30
Yeovil Town V Sheffield Utd
Monday 6th May 2013, 16:30
Brentford V Swindon Town
Sunday 19th May 2013, 13:30
League One Play-Off Final (Wembley Stadium)
Best Price: 3.50 (5/2) with Stan James
Position in League One: 3rd, 79 points
Key Player: Bradley Wright-Phillips
Pundits may question whether the Bees have the stomach for the 2013 League One Play-Offs, having missed out on automatic promotion in the cruelest of fashion, but the fact is they are the best team in the contest. Not all of the bookmakers agree, with a few marginally preferring Sheffield United, but just look at the facts and figures.
Brentford outscored every other League One side, including the two that went up automatically, and they did this despite only having one player feature in the top ten goalscorers (Clayton Donaldson, in fifth place) – there are goals everywhere. They also have the fourth best defensive record this 2012/13 campaign and they play attractive football that mixes pace and power, as Chelsea found out when they were held to a draw earlier this season in the FA Cup.
The Bees are probably the paciest of the four teams involved in the League One Play-Offs this season and we should expect the likes of Donaldson and the in-form Bradley Wright-Phillips to wreak havoc in the coming weeks.
Verdict: Brentford against Swindon is a tough one to call, but I expect Brentford to show their class over two legs and edge a close contest. Coral‘s 1.91 about Brentford to qualify for the League One Play-Off Final looks tempting.
Best Price: 5.00 (4/1) with SportingBet
Position in League One: 4th, 77 points
Key Player: Paddy Madden
Despite finishing fourth in League One and with the third highest tally of goals scored (just five behind Bournemouth), Yeovil are ranked as outsiders by the bookmakers. And yet they are the team in the best form, with four wins from their last eight games. They have suffered two defeats in their last three games, but these have essentially been nothing games, as Yeovil have known their spot in the League One Play-Offs is secured, while the division’s top scorer also happens to be Yeovil player of the season Paddy Madden.
They face Sheffield United in the Semi-Finals which is a tough prospect over two legs, and perhaps this explains why they are clear underdogs for promotion, but they have nothing to fear. They have already tasted victory at Bramall Lane once this season (one of just four sides to do so) and they aren’t alone in getting a positive result there either – United’s home record is essentially the reason they failed to go up automatically, with just eight victories and eleven draws. That’s a total of 15 out of 23 teams coming away from Bramall Lane with points. Additionally, a further two goals on the road would have seen Yeovil as joint-top scorers away from home this League One campaign.
In the home encounter, the Glovers lost 1-0 but they were hardly disgraced. The Blades did a job; they kept it tight, they nicked a goal from a corner and offered very little else. That was a hallmark Danny Wilson performance, but since his departure, they look shaky. Yeovil can be very optimistic about their chances in both legs and I fancy them to surprise a few people and make the League One Play-Off finals.
Verdict: I think the bookmakers are really underestimating the Glovers and I think they can make the final. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a draw at Bramall Lane followed by a narrow win at Huish Park, but the best bet is probably Yeovil to qualify for the League One Play-Off final at best odds of 2.38 with BetVictor.
Best Price: 3.75 (11/4) with Bet365
Position in League One: 5th, 75 points
Key Player: Kevin McDonald
Although none of the teams are in good form, Sheffield United’s is worst of all. A run of eight games with just a single victory put paid to their chances of automatic promotion and after the bizarre departure of manager Danny Wilson with five games left of the regular season, one of the tightest defences in the division has begun to leak goals. The Blades also had a terrific away record under Wilson, but have lost both of their games on the road under caretaker boss Chris Morgan, including a 3-0 humiliation at Portsmouth.
That said, United do have a great record in Play-Off Semi-Finals. Since the competition has followed its current format, the Blades have been involved in five campaigns and made four finals. But interestingly, they have never won a Play-Off Semi-Final leg away from home (Lost 1, Drawn 4) and in each of their four finals, they have failed to score a goal; Blades fans could be forgiven for their apparent lack of enthusiasm for Play-Off campaigns.
If United are to perform well in the League One Play-Offs, then Kevin McDonald is going to have to re-discover his best form and start creating chances for the strikers, who have scored a meagre 9 goals in their last 14 matches
Verdict: The Blades look set to continue their miserable record in the Play-Offs, but I don’t see them getting beaten at Bramall Lane. Play-Off Semi-Final first legs are always close and cagey, and Yeovil will not need to go all out in the first leg. Judged on the last few months, the Blades could go all out and still not score many, so I quite fancy a low scoring draw. The current best odds of 7.50 (BetVictor) about a 1-1 draw in the first leg look tempting.
Best Price: 3.75 (11/4) with BetVictor
Position in League One: 6th, 74 points
Key Player: Wes Foderingham
Swindon are a strange and inconsistent side. No League One outfit has scored more goals on their own soil than Swindon, plus they have the best home defence by a clear five goals, conceding just 15 times at the County Ground; despite these impressive stats, they won just 10 of their 23 home games drawing 11. Bizarre!
Officially the best defence during the 2012/13 League One campaign, having conceded just 39 goals in 46 matches, Swindon are going to have to keep it tight during their Play-Off Semi-Final as they have been paired with the best attacking side in the League, Brentford. But they are capable of doing so, especially with League One’s goalkeeper of the season Wes Foderingham between the sticks.
Brentford won both League One meetings between the sides during the regular season, both by a single goal. This should be another close contest and I fully understand why the bookmakers cannot decide which team should be favourite to qualify.
Verdict: Both legs of this League One Play-Off contest are sure to be tight, but with Swindon’s home record (and defensive record in general) I fancy the first leg to be especially close. I initially considered backing Under 2.5 Goals but the best price of 1.73 with Stan James is hardly a tempting price. Perhaps the Will Both Teams Score? market could be the way to play, with “No” being priced at 2.00 by the same firm.
As with many Play-Off campaigns, the 2013 League One Play-Offs look set to be closely fought. For me the real value lies with Yeovil, who at current odds of 5.00 (4/1) with SportingBet are clearly being underrated by the bookies.
As previously mentioned, they have a lot going for them in their Semi-Final and if they do make the Final, they could realistically be facing a Brentford side that they have already put six goals past this League One campaign (winning 1-3 away and 3-0 at home).