Side with Shrimpers in return

  • By: Craig Chisnall
  • Last Updated: May 15 2014, 15:39 BST

Southend's strong defensive record makes them a strong bet for this weekend's Sky Bet League 2 play-off semi-final second legs, according to our Craig Chisnall.

Ian Sharps will be missed by Burton at Southend
Ian Sharps will be missed by Burton at Southend

It's fair to say the first legs of the play-offs will not live long in the memory after two tight encounters saw Burton and Fleetwood take a single-goal advantage.

The deluge that forced the postponement of Saturday's scheduled match at York seemed to set the tone and I can't see it changing in the second legs.

One man definitely worth monitoring though is Fleetwood's Antoni Sarcevic, who has enjoyed a fine first season at Highbury.

A clutch of clubs wanted Sarcevic last summer but it was the Cod Army who won the race for his services from Chester.

The 22-year-old has proved the hype was worth it by scoring 14 goals, laying on countless others and being named in the divisional team of the year by his peers.

Sarcevic has been given a licence to get forward by boss Graham Alexander and that's when he's been at his best.

He's gone three games without a goal after scoring in six of the previous eight but with a viscous shot from distance he won't be afraid to try his luck.

Sarcevic is a best of 14/5 to score at anytime in Friday night's game and that looks attractive to me.

Both home teams, Fleetwood and Southend, are skinny to back on their own but I will going with them in a double.

With the Cod Army having a one-goal lead, the onus is on York and that could play into hands of Alexander's men.

They looked dangerous on the break in the first leg with striker David Ball missing a great chance to double their lead after a pacy counter-attack.

York have had a phenomenal second half to the season but that's been built on a rock-solid defence and they have struggled for goals.

I also fancy the Shrimpers, who trail to Adam McGurk's goal, to at least level the tie at Roots Hall by winning the return on Saturday lunchtime.

There was very little between them in the first leg and everything points to that being the same in Essex.

These two have beaten each other 1-0 in the last fortnight - Southend taking the honours on the final day of the season- and will be sick of the sight of each other after this fourth meeting of the season.

The harsh sending off of Brewers defender Ian Sharps could well prove crucial as he's been a highly-influential figure this term.

At a packed-out Roots Hall his experience would have been invaluable as Gary Rowett's side try to protect their lead, something I don't believe they will do.

The home double, which pays around 7/2, is well worth investing in.

I'm also going to back that up with Southend to win to nil, which is offered at 12/5.

Phil Brown has built their success this season on their defensive record and they conceded just 16 goals in 23 home games.

Promising goalkeeper Daniel Bentley has been a rock, while captain John White at right-back has done a brilliant job along with Ben Coker on the opposite side. Loan arrivals John Egan and Jakub Sokolik have proved just as reliable.

With that home form and defensive record, this could well be the bet of the play-offs so far and I will be investing.

  • Posted at 1225 BST on 15/05/2014.

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