Football League play-off finals: Barnsley can better Millwall, Plymouth to defeat Dons
Holly Thackeray | May 27, 2016
The thrilling Football League play-off sagas continue, with two more Wembley dates in the diary to finally decide which ambitious clubs will clinch promotion.
League One picks up where the Championship play-off will leave off, with a mid-afternoon Sunday scuffle featuring Barnsley and Millwall, while League Two’s representatives Wimbledon and Plymouth Argyle take to the hallowed turf on Bank Holiday Monday.
Which teams will be left standing and which players can propel their clubs up a tier? Coral present punters with the best bets for this weekend filled with Wembley wagers…
Barnsley v Millwall
Tykes to continue fairytale term
From propping up the League One table before Christmas to a last gasp grab for the final play-off place, seeing off Scunthorpe United due to goal difference on the concluding day of term, Barnsley (8/5 with Coral for a Wembley win in 90 mins) look destined to be on this path to promotion that appeared so unlikely in December.
Having made far too easy work of semi-final opponents Walsall, scoring a stylish six and conceding just once to book their slot here, the Tykes’ story seems far from over yet.
The Football League Trophy has already made for a happy Wembley memory this campaign, with caretaker coach Paul Heckingbottom delivering cup title triumph to the Oakwell outfit, and now the Barnsley-born boss and former Tykes defender is odds-on at 5/6 to see his hometown club win this play-off outright.
Manchester United academy graduate Heckingbottom told press: “I do think having been there once already will help, especially as it was in the not too distant past. We know what the venue is like and what to expect. We will be more than ready for it. Definitely.”
Manager Heckingbottom has stepped up to a meatier role like a duck to water and, as Yorkshire hopes Barnsley boast not only a superior historical head-to-head over the Lions, but bettered their London rivals twice this term already on regular league duty, they look prime for promotion success.
On both those occasions, the Tykes outdid Millwall in the scoring stakes but still conceded, making odds of 19/4 for a victory in normal time with both teams bagging highly appealing.
Striker Sam Winnall has been the one filling his boots for Barnsley, has already struck twice against Millwall this term and also bagged a brace to help sink Walsall, so look great value at 4/1 to be first on the scoresheet. While, on-loan Man Utd-owned forward Ashley Fletcher also played his part against the Saddlers and is 7/4 to strike again anytime.
Lions pride looks vulnerable away from The Den
Without doubt, Millwall have been the more consistent side of the two over the League One campaign, with Neil Harris seemingly set on leading his Lions straight back to the Championship, which explains why the capital club are very slight 7/4 favourites to triumph in normal time.
There are also odds of 11/5 should punters fancy this match to end in a draw and force extra-time, but Millwall do have five failed play-off attempts trailing behind them before they bucked the trend back in 2010.
The Lions have also emerged from just one of their last six battles with Barnsley with a win, but do posses players that can change a game in Sheffield-born striker Lee Gregory, who unleashed his venom in both semi-final legs and is a tempting 4/1 to be on target last, or even-money anytime. While, partner in crime Steve Morison is 5/4 shout in the same market.
Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle
Pilgrims on path to promotion
Few fancied Plymouth Argyle to make it past fellow coastal club Portsmouth, in a semi-final stage dubbed the ‘Dockyard Derby’, but secure safe passage they did and with a spoonful of panache to support their promotion cause.
Plucky Plymouth now face a different conundrum entirely, however, as Coral have the Pilgrims priced as 8/5 favourites to win this Wembley wrangle within normal time, with Wimbledon (unfancied at 15/8) now the underdogs.
Having already surpassed their finish to last season, where they fell in the final four to Wycombe Wanderers, can dugout hero Derek Adams take his team one step further?
Argyle have run out victors in all three of their frays with the Dons this campaign in all competitions, and have not lost to these opponents in five. Two of their triumphs against Wimbledon this term were by a one goal margin, which punters can plump for again to occur at a generous 3/1.
Midfield sensation Graham Carey, recently named PFA Fans’ League Two Player of the Season, is 2/1 to add to his tally of 12 in all competitions anytime, with scorer of that sublime semi-final overhead kick Jamille Matt is 5/1 for the opener.
Wombles to rely on rearguard
As Plymouth have plenty of potency, Wimbledon will be looking to restrict opportunities for their rivals, as they know they can count on their defence to be stout at Wembley.
The Wombles kept clean sheets in all but one of their last six regular League Two tussles, so are 21/10 for another shut-out here having seen off Accrington Stanley.
Yet, in an unfortunate omen, it was Argyle who last pierced Neal Ardley’s backline, subjecting them to their only loss in their last eight league games before the play-offs.
Goals have been relatively hard to come by of late, but Montserrat international marksman Lyle Taylor (even-money anytime scorer) and cult former Swansea City striker Adebayo Akinfenwa (2/1), also known as ‘the Beast’, are decent shouts to dent Plymouth.