Grayson playing down Preston tag as League One play-off favourites
It’s a footballing cliché, but there are no favourites in the play-offs. That has been Preston North End boss Simon Grayson’s message to the media this week, but Coral make his side 5/2 joint-favourites to be promoted from League One, alongside opponents Rotherham United.
That suggests the winners of their semi-final should be playing Championship football next term, with Peterborough United (14/5) meeting Leyton Orient (3/1) for the other place at Wembley.
Steve Evans’ Millers are equal 10/11 chances with their first leg hosts to make the final. Rotherham have only one victory in six against Preston, and meetings during the regular campaign were drawn. It’s 11/5 on the scores being level again.
North End, who have lost just twice at home in the league all season, are 13/10 favourites to take a lead into the second leg. The Millers, meanwhile, have the second best away record and only champions Wolves scored more goals in the third-tier, so are worth considering at 11/5 to pull off a win in Lancashire.
Both sides kept the same number of clean sheets (16) during the normal 46-match slog, so don’t rule out more shut-outs (Preston 11/5, Rotherham 3/1) or a victory to nil (16/5 and 5/1 respectively).
Grayson and Evans can both call on plenty of firepower for this fixture. Hosts North End, who won all three of their home games – yet lost both away trips – during their run in, will once again be looking to attacking trio Craig Davies, Paul Gallagher and top scorer Joe Garner for goals. They all netted in the 3 3 against the Millers at Deepdale back in February.
Wales international Davies has three in four when previously facing Rotherham and, like Scottish winger Gallagher (two in two when paired with this opposition), recently hit a hat-trick. The pair are 7/4 shots in the anytime scorer market. Garner, meanwhile, is 9/2 to net the opener.
South Yorkshire side Rotherham will rely once again on leading marksman Kieran Agard, who has four in four (including a treble of his own), and he is an 8/1 shot for two goals or more here. Evans may want to keep former Bournemouth frontman Wes Thomas in attack with him, because he has never suffered defeated when playing Preston.
Midfielder Lee Frecklington bagged a brace on the Millers’ last visit to North End. A repeat performance is remote at 33/1, but a 5/1 on price on him scoring anytime is worth considering.
As Rotherham let in as many goals as they managed to net during their run-in (9) and travel to a Preston side that let in just six, while registering 15 at the right end, a 2-1 home victory looks decent value at 17/2.