Pick Preston in first leg

  • By: Craig Chisnall
  • Last Updated: May 10 2014, 17:14 BST

Craig Chisnall previews the Sky Bet League 1 and League 2 play-off semi-finals with Dean Cox fancied to score for Leyton Orient.

Preston can celebrate victory
Preston can celebrate victory

Out of three divisions of the Sky Bet Football League I believe the League 1 play-offs are the hardest to call.

Leyton Orient, Preston and Rotherham have all had fine seasons while Peterborough can go from the sublime to the ridiculous at times and should not be discounted.

I will be investing in Preston to take a lead across to South Yorkshire when they welcome Rotherham to Deepdale.

North End's automatic promotion challenge was hampered by too many draws on their own patch in the first half of the season but they've put that right in fine style in recent weeks.

Simon Grayson's men have won their last five home games and plundered 18 goals in the process and with Paul Gallagher, Stuart Beavon, Joe Garner, Kevin Davies and namesake Craig in their squad they will always be a threat.

Grayson was far from happy with their performance at Crewe last weekend and I'm expecting a response in front of a bumper home crowd.

Rotherham have saved their best form for on the road and these two teams played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in Lancashire earlier this season but I'm going with Preston to have the edge at 13-10.

I'm also backing York to make the most of home advantage when they kick off the League 2 play-offs against Fleetwood on Saturday evening.

The Minstermen have been a revelation in the second half of the season, swapping what looked likely to be a survival battle for a promotion push.

The last time they tasted defeat was back in January, 2-0 to champions Chesterfield, and they are unbeaten in 17 games in all.

Their stunning defensive record which has seen them keep seven clean sheets in their last nine games at Bootham Crescent, has been key to the incredible turnaround.

Nigel Worthington's men kick-started their season with a 2-1 success at Fleetwood on February 1. If they can take a lead back across the Pennines they will take some stopping.

With the money invested and strength of the Fleetwood squad they must be a little underwhelmed to be in the play-offs and that could play into York's hands. Get on City at a juicy 13/8.

In the final play-off game of the weekend I'd give serious consideration to Southend's Barry Corr scoring first at 13/2 with Paddy Power.

The Irishman got the only goal as the Shrimpers beat Burton in a dress rehearsal for the semi-final at Roots Hall last weekend.

And target-man Corr heads into the play-offs in fine form with five goals in his last six taking his tally for the season to 13.

Corr's form has also helped Phil Brown's men finish with three wins in four and keep clean sheets in all of those wins.

Southend, for whom goalkeeper Daniel Bentley has really impressed, don't concede many either and I expect this match to be tight.

With that in mind it might take a striker in great nick to get the scoring under way so go with Corr.