Luton fans, you can continue celebrating your historic win against our second string if you want. What follows isn’t going to be of any interest to you. We’re talking the League Two playoffs; that period of the season where four sides get an extra couple of games added to their fixture list. And that period where four sides scramble for the last space aboard the helicopter lifting off for League One.
One of these fantastic four will be joining Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, Shrewsbury Town and Bury, lifted higher and higher. Stevenage are one, otherwise we wouldn’t be wasting our time on this blog. The other three are Plymouth Argyle, the team you might know as High Wycombe Wanderers and the world famous, end-of-the-really-long-pier show that is Southend United.
Southend have most to lose from this adventure, we reckon. After going into the final day of what’s called the regular season in that third and final automatic promotion spot, the Shrimpers choked at Morecambe and slipped to fifth. That paired them with Boro’. Meanwhile, and somewhat predictably, that pits fourth-placed Wycombe against seventh-placed Plymouth Argyle.
The promotion odds across the board, though, don’t reflect that at the moment. Southend lead the pack, it seems, though you’ll still be able to get 5/2 if you act quick. Plymouth, meanwhile, have done little of note recently but run in behind the Essex club; sharing 3s in some places with Wycombe Wanderers. Stevenage look to be 7/2 in most places, but can be found priced at 4s.
Look at the respective form of each playoff candidates and it’s an interesting story. Wycombe have a fine away record in the division but their home record isn’t as good as 10 others. Argyle are decent at home, but bang average on their travels. Mind you, our away ranking is still bearing the scars of a poor first half of the season, with only nine clubs faring worse on the road.
League Two playoffs: Who are favourites?
Southend, in case you were wondering, have shown form that fits the position they ended in. Does that make them favourites?
Digging a little deeper and we find that Southend and Plymouth both seem to be much better at keeping goals out than scoring them, while we’re the opposite and Wycombe Wanderers are generally handy at both. That means the semi-finals could well be boring affairs, with no side giving much away. It also means that some good records will count for nowt come the end of it all.
If you boil down all the results into a little mini-league, Wycombe will be going up with three wins and only one defeat against their fellow playoff participants. Or will they? That one loss came at home to Plymouth Argyle by two goals, with the return leg at Home Park ending in a one-goal win for the Wanderers. If that repeats itself, the Chairboys will be staying put. Ruddy hell!
In short: Woah now!
The battle for that fourth promotion space is going to be a real tight affair. And we don’t even think we’ll be any more the wiser even after both first legs have been completed next weekend. This is the fifth set of playoffs involving Boro’; the pattern alternating between reaching the final and, well, not. Maybe you can guess which one it’s due to be this time round?
You’ll get your Southend United preview later this week