The first team will book their place at Wembley for the Sky Bet Championship play-off final on Monday night when Huddersfield Town host Luton Town in the second leg of their tantalisingly poised semi-final.
These two drew 1-1 at Kenilworth Road on Friday evening and with away goals not counting double the two teams are basically playing a winner takes all clash for the right to head to Wembley to play for a place in the Premier League. The stakes couldn’t be bigger here.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Football channel with the build-up to the clash beginning at 7.30pm and kick off at the John Smith’s Stadium at 7.45pm.
While I would imagine the Terriers would have happily signed for a draw at Kenilworth Road to get the tie back in front of their home fans with all to play for, I wonder if there will be a tinge of disappointment in their ranks even though they won’t outwardly show that. They scored the opening goal in the match and controlled the second period of the game at Kenilworth Road, albeit without creating a great deal.
They do have the tie where they want it though, although they are now the ones under the pressure of being expected to finish the job off. Huddersfield fans won’t need me to tell them that they have never won the home leg of a semi-final in nine attempts so history isn’t on their side and if the supporters get tense and nervous and that filters down onto the pitch this tie could yet get away from them. The one positive Huddersfield have is they are likely to be the fresher side.
I think it is fair to say Luton would rather have left their home leg in front in the tie but I think there is a lot to be said for the fact they are not behind in it. The one thing about these Luton players is they have tremendous character and they showed that in droves on Friday night, coming from behind to level the tie and taking the game to the opposition in a first period they dominated. They won the xG battle quite convincingly but couldn’t get that second goal.
The downside for Luton was that they picked up more injuries to test this tight squad once again but there is certainly a sense among the Hatters men that they haven’t come this far not to give everything they have got in a bid to move to within a win of arguably the greatest story sport has ever seen. Much has been made of Luton’s away from but only four teams picked up more points than the Hatters on their travels this season. They don’t get beaten easily.
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Huddersfield fans would have been lifted by the return to action of Sorba Thomas in the first leg. He came off the bench for the final five minutes but Carlos Corberan hinted his chief creator could be available for longer in this second leg.
Luton fans are desperately hoping that Elijah Adebayo can be fit to play a part in this contest. It would appear Henri Lansbury will miss out having gone off injured on Friday night although Reece Burke is expected to be fit. Josh Neufville was recalled from his loan at Yeovil on Saturday to join the travelling party.
I mentioned how I was far too emotionally invested to present a balanced case for this tie on Friday night and it is probably even more so here however we won shooting at the value when James Bree had a shot on target in the third minute so I’ll go value hunting again. The first bet to catch my eye is the 11/4 on a penalty being taken in the 90 minutes. That appeals because in the home game at Huddersfield, Luton were awarded a penalty and on Friday night both teams should have had one. This match is going to be nervy, two tired teams will be battling it out thanks to the stupid scheduling of these matches and you get the impression there will be a lot of last-ditch action here. Referee Mr Bankes is actually one of the best in the country so it might need to be clear cut for him to award a spot kick but the finely balanced nature of this tie could lead to a mistake in the box.
I’ll also go with a couple of player bets. Lee Nicholls pushed his luck big time on Friday night and Huddersfield were only winning the match for 18 minutes. Only the referee will know how he didn’t find his way into the notebook but with this second leg being more important from a timekeeping point of view I would be surprised if the Huddersfield stopper, who is renowned for timewasting, doesn’t test the patience of the referee and find his way to a card if the home side lead at any point. I’ll also play the huge 18/1 on Sonny Bradley to score anytime. He scored Luton’s equaliser on Friday night, his sixth goal for the Hatters and his second for them against Huddersfield. He also has an assist against them when a header of his from a set-piece looped up for George Moncur to convert. Five of the six Bradley goals have come in front of the Sky cameras and he’s always a threat at set-pieces, something Luton might rely on in this tie. Tom Lockyer missed a good chance on Friday night too so Luton created chances from set pieces. I’ll pay to see if their captain can convert one here.
Back Penalty to be taken (90 mins) for a 2/10 stake at 3.75 with William Hill
Back L.Nicholls to be booked for a 1/10 stake at 7.00 with William Hill
Back them here:
Back S.Bradley to score anytime for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 with Betfair