The League One play-offs kick-off on Saturday with games spread over two days. Tom Carnduff takes a look at the betting.
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Sunderland v Portsmouth
Two sides who many expected would secure automatic promotion meet in what is one of the eye-catching ties of the entire play-offs.
We've already seen three games between Sunderland and Portsmouth this season with Pompey edging the head-to-head with a win alongside two draws in 90 minutes.
Kenny Jackett's side were successful over the Black Cats at Wembley, but required penalties in a game where little separated the teams.
Neither can really boast the form advantage given past showings, although Sunderland come into it on the back of consecutive defeats. Portsmouth are without a win in three, although their away form has been exceptional.
They have lost just four of their 23 on the road, with four of their last five being victories. It was a draw when these two met at the Stadium of Light at the end of April and the value is there in backing a similar outcome here.
Sunderland's season has been an odd one given the fact they have picked up points in 41 of their 46 games, yet ended up finishing fifth with draws holding them back throughout the campaign.
Jack Ross' men have only lost one at home in the league though, that being a 5-4 defeat to Coventry, and they'll need to draw confidence from that in a game against a team like Portsmouth.
Pompey do look good value though given that fantastic run on the road. They're shown they have little issue in playing away from Fratton Park and a first leg victory would be huge for their chances of reaching the final.
At a price of 9/4, it's worth backing the visitors to upset the odds and put the pressure on the side that many have down as favourites to secure promotion.
Score prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Portsmouth (Sky Bet odds: 11/1)
Best bet: Portsmouth to beat Sunderland at 9/4
- This will be Sunderland’s first appearance in the play-offs at any level since 2004, when they were eliminated from the semi-finals of the second-tier play-offs on penalties by Crystal Palace.
- Portsmouth are appearing in the Football League play-offs for a third time; they have now featured in the play-offs in the second, third and fourth tiers of English football, becoming the 11th club to do so (Tranmere Rovers the 10th this season also).
- The side finishing 5th has been promoted via the third-tier play-offs on fewer occasions than any other position (five times), with Barnsley the last side to do so in 2006.
- The team that finished 4th has been promoted in five of the last eight League One play-off campaigns, including Rotherham last season.
- This will be the fourth meeting between Sunderland and Portsmouth in all competitions this season; both teams have scored in each of the previous three, with Pompey winning one and the other two finishing level, including a 2-2 draw in the EFL Trophy final in March which Sunderland lost on penalties.
- Sunderland are without a win in nine contests against Portsmouth across all competitions (D4 L5) since a 2-0 Premier League triumph in January 2008.
- Sunderland have lost just one of their last 24 home matches in league competition (including play-offs), winning 13 and drawing 10, losing the other 4-5 to Coventry in April.
- Portsmouth forward Jamal Lowe has been directly involved in eight goals in his last ten appearances in all competitions (five goals, three assists), including two goals in two games against Sunderland during this run.
Doncaster v Charlton
These two sides can view this season as a success whatever happens, with Charlton achieving a third-placed finish and Doncaster reaching the play-offs on final day.
Charlton are the side that Sporting Life fancy to secure promotion and they'll be keen to avoid defeat in order to put themselves in pole position heading into the second leg.
It's set up to be a contest that can go either way though at the Keepmoat. Doncaster have won four of their last five in front of their own supporters, while Charlton have secured victory in three of their last four away.
While play-off encounters can be cagey affairs, we can expect to see at least a couple of goals here given the fact that both sides scored over 72 goals each during the course of the regular season.
The concern for the home side will be the 58 goals conceded, which is the highest out of any of the sides in the top-six. Their 45 scored at home though is more than the likes of Portsmouth, Barnsley and Sunday's opponents Charlton.
That is why the even money available on both teams to score looks decent value. Both sides are equipped to be able to find the net, while keeping teams out has proven to be problematic at times.
The real value lies in backing Mallik Wilks to net anytime here. Spread Ex offer the best odds at 13/5, but the value is still there with most other firms offering 11/5, 9/4 or 5/2.
Wilks, who is on a season-long loan from Leeds, has netted 16 goals in all competitions this season, providing a further ten assists. He recently went on a scoring run of three goals in a run, but he has failed to find the net in their last five outings.
Five games is far too long for a player of his quality and his form in the second-half of the season shows how a goal is due. He's established himself as a player who is a starter in this side and will look to build upon the two assists posted in their final two games.
Score prediction: Doncaster 1-1 Charlton (Sky Bet odds: 9/2)
Best bet: Mallik Wilks to score anytime at 13/5
- Doncaster are appearing in the play-offs for a second time in the Football League, earning promotion in their first, which was also in League One in 2007-08.
- Charlton have reached the League One promotion play-offs for a second consecutive campaign; they were eliminated by Shrewsbury in the 2017-18 semi-finals.
- The 6th-placed side has earned promotion from League One in two of the last three seasons (Barnsley in 2016, Millwall in 2017); only two of the last 18 third-tier play-off winners had finished 6th before this.
- Whilst 3rd-placed clubs have won promotion from the third-tier play-offs more than any other position (11 times), just one of the last eight League One play-off winners have been the side that finished 3rd – Preston in 2014-15.
- Doncaster are unbeaten in their last three home meetings with Charlton in all competitions (W1 D2), last losing to them on home soil in the Championship in 2008-09 (0-1).
- Since the start of last season, Charlton have only lost once in five clashes with Doncaster in all competitions, winning two and drawing two, including a 1-1 stalemate in their last visit to the Keepmoat in March.
- Doncaster have only lost once in their last 15 games in league competition (including play-offs) at the Keepmoat Stadium (W10 D4), a 1-2 loss to Accrington in April.
- Only Luton Town’s James Collins (25) scored more goals in League One this season than Doncaster’s John Marquis and Charlton’s Lyle Taylor (both 21).