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Playoffs Preview

Playoffs Preview
john2hughes
Thursday,May 12,2016
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Last season Championship football broke my heart. The climax to this Championship season saw said broken heart in my mouth for a huge proportion of the game. Boro may have done it the hard way, but they did it nonetheless. However, that means I get to watch the play-offs as a neutral in jubilation. As such here’s my assessment of what’s going to happen.

 

 

Championship

Brighton were very unlucky not to get promoted automatically, but must recover quickly to avoid being the bridesmaid twice this season. In truth, the omens are not good. Whilst Knockaert may have caught the headlines in the second half of the season, Dale Stephens and Lewis Dunk are vital to Brighton’s chances. Dunk will certainly miss the first leg and Stephens could miss the entire play-offs if his debatable red card isn’t rescinded. 

 

 

What’s more worrying is Brighton’s head-to-head record with Sheffield Wednesday. The Seagulls haven’t beaten them since 2012 and from 31 games have recorded just five wins. This season both games were boring nil-nils.  What does favour Brighton is that you have to go back to 2010 for the last time the 3rd place team didn’t win the semi-final, when Blackpool beat Nottm Forest 6-4 on aggregate. Since then, three of the five teams finishing in 3rd place have gone on to be promoted. The overall average of success is 35% and so I expect a statistical reversion to the mean, and for Sheff Wed to overcome Brighton.

 


The other semi-final features two sides who at various points in the season looked like they might go up automatically. Hull imploded in March, but still boast a very solid defence and some of the best midfielders in the league. Their problem has been scoring goals, which are usually required to settle games against similar calibre opposition.

 


Derby’s season may boil down to a number of “what ifs”. What if Will Hughes had been fit all season? What if George Thorne hadn’t broken his leg against Ipswich? What if Darren Wassall had been in charge all season? It’s obvious that Hughes’s quality has been missed this season and his presence in the play-offs will be a massive lift. That said, Derby enter the play-offs without a win in their last three games.

 

 

Derby have had the Indian sign over Hull this season, having won 2-0 at the KC Stadium and 4-0 most recently at Pride Park. Such a strong head-to-head record shouldn’t be ignored and as such I’ll be taking Derby to make the final at Wembley.

 

 

League One

Having just missed out on automatic promotion, Walsall, like Brighton, will be looking to make amends. Much like Brighton, Walsall’s record against the teams around them in the play-offs is fairly mediocre. However, with the firepower that Tom Bradshaw brings they should have enough to see off Barnsley. It is worth noting that both Millwall and Bradford have beaten Walsall heavily in the last two months. Getting up is going to be quite tough!

 


Barnsley required a last day win to secure their play-off place, which in itself makes them a dangerous proposition. They have absolutely nothing to lose. They will fancy their chances against a Walsall side that they beat 3-1. The 4-1 win away at champions Wigan on the last day suggests they are more than capable of turning over the Saddlers again.

 


Millwall and Bradford will duke it out for a place at Wembley and come into their semi-final clash in decent form. Millwall won their last four games of the season and Bradford won their last three. Bradford hold the advantage over Millwall having beaten them 1-0 at Valley Parade at the end of March. A Yorkshire derby at Wembley it is then?

 

 


League Two

The third side required to overcome their disappointment is Accrington, having hit the bar three times in their last day clash with Stevenage, when all they required was a goal. The Accrington budget pales in comparison to that of fellow contenders Portsmouth, but they face AFC Wimbledon in the semi-finals. Wimbledon beat Stanley 4-3 at the beginning of the season, so they should hold no fear. Accrington’s Josh Windass will hope that play-off supremacy is hereditary, but he would be 17 years younger than his father Dean was when he scored the winner for Hull in 2008.

 


The other semi-final sees Plymouth take on Portsmouth over two legs. A club like Portsmouth are too big to be languishing in League Two for a fourth successive year and will no doubt feel the pressure to make this play-off place count. Plymouth will be a tough nut to crack over two legs and will hope that former Celtic winger Graham Carey can prove to be the difference.

 

 


Predictions

Sheff Wed v Derby Final

Walsall v Bradford Final

Accrington v Portsmouth Final

 
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