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Two betting plays for this evening's League One play-off semi-finals

Wycombe are eyeing up a debut season in the Championship
Wycombe are eyeing up a debut season in the Championship

Now that the League Two play-offs have been finalised - congratulations in order to Northampton, who will be joining Plymouth, Swindon and Crewe in League One next season after thrashing Exeter 4-0 at Wembley - focus can switch to the third-tier and which side will obtain Championship status for the upcoming 2020-21 campaign. 

The first legs of the League One play-offs kick-off this evening, with Oxford making the short trip down to the south coast to take on Portsmouth, and Fleetwood welcoming Wycombe Wanderers to Highbury. 

The return legs will be played on Monday 6 July, before the final at Wembley on Monday 13 July. Below, we’ve taken a look at each of the sides competing in the play-offs, and picked out a betting play for both of Friday’s first leg matches.

These two sides have arguably been the most impressive outside of the top-three this season. Oxford finished the campaign with 61 goals to their name - second only behind Peterborough in terms of goals scored - while Portsmouth finished as the division’s fourth-highest scoring side having found the net 53 times in 35 games. 

This is largely thanks to the form of Us striker Matty Taylor, who has netted 14 league goals this season and was on the scoresheet the last time these two sides met back in November, rescuing a point for Oxford right at the death after a Gareth Evans penalty looked to have stolen the spoils at Fratton Park. 

The 30-year-old was also on the scoresheet when the pair locked horns in the EFL Trophy back in October, though ended up on the losing side as Portsmouth edged the encounter after extra-time. 

Taylor is undoubtedly Oxford’s key man here, and certainly one to watch this evening. After such a lengthy layoff, the Bristol City loanee will be desperate to hit the ground running and give his side the advantage ahead of the return leg next Monday, and given his track record against Pompey, could be a worthwhile consideration for your betting selection.

Winger James Henry is also a huge threat for the visitors. The 31-year-old scored 12 goals in League One this term whilst providing a further nine assists; alongside Taylor the two have an extremely strong relationship on the pitch and one which could prove to harm Portsmouth tonight. 

Portsmouth’s key man is winger Ronan Curtis, who has contributed 11 goals five assists in 33 league outings this season. The 24-year-old is an extremely tricky winger who is very direct and likes to take players on before supplying crosses to the likes of the eight-goal John Marquis in the middle, who has impressed leading the line for the Blues this season and is another player to keep an eye on here. 

League One Promotion Odds

Curtis could prove difficult to handle this evening, and is another appealing prospect worth consideration when assessing the shots on target betting markets for this game, as he has averaged three shots on goal per game this season. 

Recent form would suggest that Oxford will edge this encounter. Prior to the break Karl Robinson’s side had won their last five consecutive matches, while Pompey took just seven points from a potential 15 in theirs. Indeed, with the form book essentially being thrown out after such a big break, an even playing field has now been restored. 

The bookies have hosts Portsmouth priced up as favourites with their odds of 11/10 - an implied 47% chance of victory, while the visitors are being given a 27% chance of winning by bookmaker Betfair with their betting odds of 5/2.

For me, though, I can see this game being a very tight affair with little to separate the two sides. They finished the campaign side by side in the table and quality-wise they are perfectly matched. With this in mind, my bet for this evening's clash is a full-time draw and Matty Taylor to score anytime for the visitors, priced at odds of 12/1 with bet365.  

Portsmouth v Oxford United Tip
Matty Taylor to score anytime & full-time draw
  • Taylor is Oxford's leading goalscorer this season with 14 goals
  • The game is expected to be a very cagey affair
Odds correct as of 2020-07-03 09:50 Odds subject to change.

Joey Barton’s Fleetwood will be looking to gain a foothold in this tie on home soil before travelling south for the reverse fixture on Monday evening. Fleetwood have never in their history managed to reach the dizzy heights of the Championship, rising through the ranks of non-league football before earning promotion to the Football League in 2013. 

League One has also been the limit of Wycombe’s success throughout their 133-year history, so if either of these two sides win the play-offs it will be a first.

It must be said that the visitors for this fixture have been the more impressive this season. Gareth Ainsworth’s side finished just one space outside of the automatic promotion spaces and looked as if they would be contenders for the league title during many parts of the campaign, while Fleetwood were somewhat lucky to creep into the play-offs in sixth on points-per-game considering they were level on points with both Peterborough (7th) and Sunderland (8th).

A familiar name has been pivotal to the Chairboys success this term. Veteran front man Adebayo Akinfenwa may now be just two years away from turning 40, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down and has scored 10 league goals whilst laying off a further five assists. 

Football Tips

The experienced EFL hitman is absolutely deadly in the air, with five of his goals this season coming courtesy of his head, and he is priced at odds of 15/2 (William Hill) to score another header here against Fleetwood, for those who prefer a bigger-priced betting play. 

Fleetwood’s main attacking threat is undoubtedly Paddy Madden. The Irishman is second only to Peterborough’s 24-goal Ivan Toney in the League One top scorer chart having notched 15 goals and three assists for the Fishermen this time out, and provided the deciding goal when Fleetwood came away from Adams Park with a narrow 1-0 win back in February.

The 30-year-old is a proven goalscorer at this level, and will be relied upon heavily for Fleetwood in this clash. His price to score anytime is fairly short at odds of just 7/5, though Madden is a much more appealing 4/1 to open the scoring at Highbury with bet365 - something which does appeal to me given the fact that nine of his 15 goals came on home soil this season.

Games between these two sides do typically tend to be a low-scoring affair, with under 2.5 goals landing in the last nine meetings between the pair. With that in mind, and given the naturally-cagey manner in which play-off first legs tend to transpire, I’m inclined to back this once again, with William Hill’s price of 4/6 certainly capturing my attention (3/5 with Coral).

I do also like the look of Madden to score anytime, though, so will throw this all together in a double with under's. Overall I’m happy with the 5/1 bet365 are offering for this bet as it is 9/2 with Paddy Power & Betfair, and I wish you the very best of luck if you decide to back it too.

Fleetwood v Wycombe Tip
Paddy Madden to score anytime & under 2.5 match goals
  • The last nine games between these two have resulted in under 2.5 goals
  • Paddy Madden has scored 15 goals this season, nine of which have come at Highbury
Odds correct as of 2020-07-03 09:50 Odds subject to change.

League One Promotion Odds

Oxford United
Fleetwood Town
Odds correct as of 2023-02-07 17:31 Odds subject to change.
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