Home sweet home for QPR
Craig Chisnall previews the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second-legs with Derby and QPR expected to progress.
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Derby look in a fantastic position to move within 90 minutes of a return to the Premier League and I just can't see them slipping up in the second leg against Brighton.
Even when they went a goal down to a Jesse Lingard strike on Thursday night the Rams still exuded confidence and promptly turned the score on its head before the break.
Steve McClaren has done a magnificent job at Pride Park since taking the reins from Nigel Clough and they seem to have such belief in themselves that was missing in recent years.
- 1pt draw/Derby in HT/FT betting at 9/2 (BetVictor) - should be tight early before Derby assert their superiority on the counter
- 1pt Chris Martin to score first v Brighton at 5/1 (Ladbrokes) - in-form striker is in fine form and looks a big price
- 1pt Charlie Austin to score and QPR to beat Wigan at 11/5 (Boylesports) - Austin key to QPR who are hard to beat at home
And they will go into this game having finished the season with five straight home wins. They are odds-on to win the game, too skinny for me in a play-off semi final, but the draw half-time/Derby full-time price of 9/2 with BetVictor looks great value.
With just one goal in the tie there are unlikely to be chances galore from the off and Brighton have kept things extremely tight on their travels.
But they will have to open up after the break and that will leave gaps for the pacy Jamie Ward and Johnny Russell as well as goal machine Chris Martin to exploit.
Martin has been a revelation since he made his loan move from Norwich permanent last summer and is an eye-catching 5/1 with Ladbrokes to score first.
The 25-year-old's equalising penalty at the Amex was his 24th goal of a fine season with the Rams and he's a major reason why they've done so well.
He rarely outpaces defenders to score spectacular goals but he's been a predator in the box and is in the form of his life at the moment with six goals in his last eight.
The former Canaries youngster has come of age as the focal point of Derby's 4-3-3 system and has laid on countless other goals with his hold up play and touch.
He's also been deadly from the spot and considering his recent record that price offered by Ladbrokes is well worth considering.
While Brighton and Derby served up a thrilling starter to the play-offs, the first leg between Wigan and QPR was dire.
There was little drama and virtually no chances in the 90 minutes and I can't see it being vastly different at Loftus Road.
But Rangers have had a wonderful home record this term, losing just twice, and I fancy them to edge the second leg.
Key to their 15 home wins was a brilliant defensive record - they conceded just 18 goals in 23 - as well as the goals of star striker Charlie Austin.
The former Burnley hitman scored 12 of his 18 goals at Loftus Road and without his form Rangers might not have even made the top six as their next highest scorer is Ravel Morrison with just six.
Harry Redknapp's men will have to come out of their shells from the first leg and with Wigan's side looking a little weary from all of the FA Cup and Europa League exertions this term the home win and Austin scoring double looks the value at 11/5 with Boylesports.