These games are a bit of a law unto themselves and do not follow the usual stats patterns and that’s simply because of “cup final” nerves.
I’ve had a scan of both play-off matches being played today and will start with the game at Brammall Lane.
SHEFF UTD V NOTTINGHAM FOREST
Getting out of the Championship is a feat for those sides not having come down from the Premiership with a squad that is already superior to most in the division, and having a parachute payment with which to keep them and so no shock at all to see Fulham and Bournemouth keeping up the tradition of yo-yo clubs.
it is great to see Forest where they are given they were in the relegation zone in October. A change of manager, Cooper coming in for Hughton, and some good signing in January, have seen them flying up the table with a top four finish, one place ahead of today’s opponents Sheffield United.
United also changed their manager in November and certainly haven’t suffered for it.
These two sides have a history of drawing with both games this season ending 1-1. they’ve met 13 times previously and it’s currently six games drawn, four wins to Utd, three to Forest so very little between them.
defensively, Forest has the best defence of the four sides looking to go up and they are seriously strong up front, too. Sam Surridge has netted five in his last six appearances and Brennan Johnson got his 16th of the season at Hull last weekend.
Their manager, Steve Cooper, has a cracking good record with play-off sides, taking Swansea all the way to the final last season and this is his third successive year in the Championship play-offs. he knows what to expect and how to get his players to manage it.
Sheffield Utd have a very poor record with play-off games. they have been in this position on eight previous occasions and bottled it every time. The problem I think they have is that they have had injuries to key players and been using midfielders as strikers. they both netted against Fulham last time out but as Fulham were already up and away with the fairies, my feeling is it will be much different against Forest’s defence this afternoon.
Given the sheer volume of drawn matches and that at the very least forest will want to go back to their place at least on level terms, I’ll say this ends a draw.
MANSFIELD V NORTHAMPTON
Funny old game, as someone once said. A Forest old boy, Nigel Clough, is in charge of the home side tonight but they face a team here that will be gutted they were not promoted automatically.
Northampton had third place sewn up, unless Bristol Rovers could score seven against relegated Scunthorpe and didn’t they just go and do that!
Mansfield managed to hold onto seventh place by a single point from Sutton United, grabbing a drawn in their final game against Champions Forest Green.
They are unbeaten in their last three games on home soil, and have only failed twice all season to score in a home match so Northampton’s defence is going to have to bang on their game today.
They come into this game on a brilliant run of form. Unbeaten in their last six, 13 goals in their last five games, and 13 points from them, too. They are also hot from set pieces and had the best defensive record in the division.
Mansfield don’t go for an all out attacking style of play and 13 of the 22 wins they amassed this season were 1-0.
They beat Northampton 1-0 in April, have a fully fit squad to select from, whilst Northampton’s first choice keeper is suspended. That may well be the difference today as Roberts had the most clean sheets in this division, 21 games out of the 46 and that was some feat.
Just three points separated them at the close of the season and I’m looking for a 1-0 home win tonight.