Bet Here

Three of the four teams in the League Two Play-Offs also featured two years ago – but will we see the same teams in the Final and the same winners? EFL pundit Gab Sutton has his say in his League Two Play-Offs Betting Preview

Hear more from Gabriel Sutton in our EFL Playoffs Preview Podcast.


Why they will win it

In our 2020-21 League Two Season Preview, we said about Morecambe that “Progress is likely – just how much will depend on whether the supremely talented Carlos Mendes Gomes can go from being one of the division’s most exciting wide forwards to one of the most productive.”

That is exactly what “CMG” has done, with the Spaniard adding substance to style by scoring 15 goals this season and laying off another five.

Strong and reasonably quick, the 22-year-old has the agility to threaten goal with awkward, speculative and tight-angled efforts, whilst also proving an excellent technician.

Mendes Gomes loves to cut inside from the left channel, just beyond the half-way line and curl an inch-perfect, looping through ball in behind for an onrushing forward, converting a stagnant passage of play into a clear cut chance.

On top of this, the former Atletico Madrid youngster is tactically disciplined, sufficiently so to sacrifice his own creative freedom for the common goal in a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Cheltenham, where he operated wide left in a compact diamond.

While Morecambe’s remarkable success story owes much to the collective, Mendes Gomes is the jewel in their crown.

Why they might not

The more dedicated EFL followers will remember when Shrewsbury Town narrowly missed out on promotion from League One in 2017-18.

The Shrews were in the automatic hunt all season and pluckily missed out to Wigan and Blackburn, before manager Paul Hurst was secretly courted by Ipswich ahead of the Play-Offs.

Hurst likely had his mind partly on the move from Shropshire to Suffolk and, though his side beat Charlton in the Semi-Final, there was something not quite right about Salop’s performance in defeat to Rotherham at Wembley.

When interviewed about the situation a year later, he did not deny the rumour that he had cleared his desk before the Final.

The worry for Morecambe, therefore, is that they could face similar challenges regarding their current manager, Derek Adams, who has been linked with Bradford by various credible journalists.

Newport County

Why they will win it

The Exiles’ home form can be divided into three segments: 25 points from the first nine games between September and early December, six from the next seven up to late-February, then 10 from five Spring encounters.

An additional two games – defeat to Leyton Orient and victory over Bradford – were played at a neutral venue, the Cardiff City Stadium, because Newport wanted to play on a smoother surface that fits this season’s floor-based style.

Given that Newport share Rodney Parade with two rugby teams, the pitch is never going to be in perfect condition, but the above segments show they perform drastically better outside the winter periods.

Michael Flynn’s side played on a proverbial mud bath in February’s home defeat to a Southend side that went on to get relegated, yet they beat future champions Cheltenham in May’s kinder conditions.

In short, the version of Newport we see is often dictated by the surface, so given that they will be playing on an improved Rodney Parade pitch, an artificial lawn at Forest Green and, they hope, the metaphorical carpet under the arch, we could see some excellent approach play.

Flynn has, this season, converted midfielder Matt Dolan into a half-back who moves forward from the centre of a three-man defence as play progresses, completing on average one key pass per 90 minutes – more than anyone in his position in the division.

Dolan’s ability to dictate from deeper positions means technicians such as Anthony Hartigan, a recruit from Wimbledon and long-serving Josh Sheehan can influence the game high up the pitch.

Why they might not

In the Semi-Final, Newport will face Forest Green forwards in Josh Davison and Aaron Collins who will likely have the energy to press them and make it difficult to play out from the back, meaning defenders will look for a reference point.

Persistent poacher Padraig Amond, though, looks set to be paired with livewire Lewis Collins in attack in Flynn’s 3-5-2 and, 5’11” and 5’8” respectively, neither will win many aerial duels, so if the Exiles are forced into long balls they will almost certainly lose possession.

If Flynn swaps Amond or Collins for target man Ryan Taylor, though, he will be sacrificing either goalscoring potential or pace in behind, so no attacking combination will be ideal, unless Newport can beat the press by playing their own way.

Forest Green Rovers

Why they will win it

Having been prime promotion contenders for so much of the season, Forest Green risked dropping out of the top seven towards the end of Mark Cooper’s reign.

It may be that Cooper, known to be a confrontational character at times, had encountered troubles connecting with his players at the time of the poor form, so chairman Dale Vince sought a new voice.

Under-18s boss Jimmy Ball, son of 1966 World Cup winner Alan, took the gig until the end of the season and stabilized the Nailsworth outfit in the Play-Off places, with the hope that his more personable man management qualities will bring the squad together for these crunch games.

When motivated, this Forest Green squad possesses players with promotion potential: Udoka Godwin-Malife is an athletic, right-sided defender who will win most footraces, Birmingham loanee Odin Bailey brings energy and a sharp left-foot in his attacking midfield role while Aaron Collins, who bagged a brace at Oldham last time out, brings plenty of pace up top.

They thought it was all over, but Forest Green’s League One hopes remain alive.

Why they might not

No settled XI.

In their final game of the league season, the Green Devils started with a right-back at centre-back, a centre-back at left-back, an attacking midfielder on the right-wing, a right-back on the left-wing and a forward as well as a centre-back in midfield.

Granted, that XI won 3-0 with an excellent second half display, but against a defensively vulnerable Oldham side who have long known their divisional fate.

The pressure of the Play-Offs, alone, will be a lot to handle, so it would help players to face that stress whilst at least knowing what their tactical roles will be: Forest Green do not have that advantage.


Why they will win it

Mark and Nicola Palios made the brave decision to dismiss manager Keith Hill nine days before the Play-Offs, fearing that candid comments about his side in prior weeks pointed to dressing room discomfort.

The good news for the Palios’ is that Ian Dawes and Andy Parkinson have proved reliable caretakers, having overseen three consecutive victories just before Hill’s November arrival, with 10 goals scored in that sequence.

Rovers possess arguably the best ball-winner in the division in Jay Spearing, who has thrived in the division above with Bolton and Blackpool, a right wing-back with quality in Otis Khan and searing pace in attack in Corey Blackett-Taylor.

Rovers had struggled without a focal point in the absence of James Vaughan, but the veteran striker managed 28 minutes from the bench against Colchester and, if he starts against Morecambe, could make the difference.

Why they might not

No clear identity.

Tranmere have used 32 different players in all competitions this season and, including caretakers, had four different managerial stints with 11 different formations.

That has not been problematic when Vaughan’s clinical finishing has given them the momentum to put together a winning streak but, when confidence has dropped, Rovers have not had a clear plan with which to re-centre themselves.

Plus, the Wirral outfit have posted midtable data all season, averaging 1.21 Expected Goals For per game (xGF) and 1.15 Against (xGA), giving them a Ratio (xGR) of 51.25%, only the 10th-best in the division.

The shot stopping ability of Scott Davies, who will miss the Play-Offs due to injury, carried Tranmere through at times – since the stalwart was replaced by Joe Murphy, the team has taken 10 points from nine games.

The Verdict

Morecambe, made marvellous by Mendes Gomes magic, would have been a popular shout a week ago but concerns over the future of Derek Adams makes them less appealing as favourites.

Forest Green and Tranmere, meanwhile, have dismissed their respective managers in hope of resolving any dressing room unrest, but those moves bring their own risk.

Jimmy Ball and Ian Dawes might be popular figures at their clubs, but have none of their predecessor’s promotion-winning experience and both find themselves in unchartered territory.

Newport County to win the Play-Offs at 5/2, therefore, represents excellent value, given their record outside the winter period.

Read Gab’s Championship Play-Offs Betting Preview here.

Read Gab’s League One Play-Offs Betting Preview here.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion