The first of the three Sky Bet EFL play-off finals takes place on Monday and Tom Carnduff picks out two best bets for Northampton v Exeter.
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Northampton v Exeter
- 19:30 BST on Sky Sports Football
The first of the three divisional play-off finals takes place on Monday as Northampton face Exeter in the Sky Bet League Two edition at what will be a very different Wembley Stadium.
Of course, no fans are permitted but both teams will still get the luxury of playing at the national stadium; that's something Exeter have done on multiple occasions across recent seasons.
For Northampton, they'll be hoping to upset the odds as they did in their semi-final against Cheltenham. Despite losing the first leg 2-0, Keith Curle's side demonstrated the desire required to secure promotion; aided by some rather questionable Cheltenham defending. Given how that game was played just seven days before the final, any momentum gained there will surely be on display at Wembley.
Exeter also overturned a first leg deficit as they beat Colchester. Like Northampton, the performances were a contrast across the two fixtures and that showing in the second leg will give their supporters confidence that they can secure promotion to the third tier of English football.
The circumstances surrounding this play-offs have made it an incredibly tough one to call. Both teams go into Monday priced at 5/6 to be promoted, although Exeter hold the slight edge in 90 minutes, but it does demonstrate how difficult it can be to identify a winner.
This game has gone under the radar somewhat but the importance of it hasn't changed, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. A place in Sky Bet League One is there and both will be desperate to grab it.
The best bet in this game comes from backing Northampton to rack up the booking points. They sit top of the discipline charts in League Two with 84 yellows and four reds.
Michael Salisbury's appointment as referee for this one also indicates that we could see cards. He dished out ten yellows and a red in Reading's 3-0 victory over Derby while there were three red cards in Bradford's meeting with Exeter back in November.
Northampton didn't tally up a huge card count across their two semi-finals but the significance of this game could see them hit previous heights. The allowance of five substitutes also gives the managers more freedom to remove players on cards; there is no issue with committing to tackles and worrying about further minutes walking the tightrope.
Sky Bet's 7/2 on 40+ Northampton booking points is worth a play here. The likes of Jordan Turnbull, Sam Hoskins and Alan McCormack have been regulars in the referee's book and they will be individual players to consider when the market opens.
Little separates these two sides and there's every chance this contest goes beyond 90 minutes. The weather forecast is quite moderate for Monday; a significant factor in football at this time of year given what we saw in the Premier League last week. The first goal isn't as crucial as it would have been in another heatwave.
Both teams are capable of finding the net, as demonstrated in the semi-finals, and sitting on the fence is the best course of action when deciding the outright result. A best price of 12/5 says extra-time is needed.
The lack of quality Premier League action will drive viewers to this game but it must be acknowledged how entertaining the second leg of the semi-finals were. Exeter set the tone with their comeback against Colchester but even the biggest of Northampton fans would haven't have expected a final appearance after the first leg.
The momentum will be with Northampton but Exeter are a solid outfit and will make a game out of it themselves. A different scenario hasn't changed the drama that the play-offs bring and the same can be said here if extra-time and the dreaded penalties are required.
Score prediction: Northampton 1-1 Exeter (Sky Bet odds: 5/1)
Best bet: 40+ Northampton booking points at 7/2
Best bet: Match to be a draw in 90 minutes at 12/5
Odds correct at 1430 BST (26/06/20)
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