Who has the upper hand going into the League Two playoffs?
Exeter City, Colchester United, Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town are all set to square off in the playoffs later today. Normally speaking, the team that plays at home in the second leg has an advantage, but that isn’t always the case. The last five years have thrown up some interesting results.
Once again, Plymouth Argyle found themselves in the playoffs. But this time around they travelled to Portsmouth. They managed a 2-2 draw meaning it was all to play for at Home Park in the second leg. AFC Wimbledon secured a 1-0 win against Accrington Stanley giving them a slight advantage going into the tie away from home. In a cagey affair at Home Park, Plymouth came out eventual winners courtesy of a Peter Hartley header in stoppage time. Again showing that playing at home in the second leg was better. However, at Accrington, AFC Wimbledon were able to hold on to a 2-2 draw, securing them a 3-2 win on aggregate.
YouTube: Plymouth Argyle vs Portsmouth – Peter Hartley Goal – Titanic Music
In 2017, a Cullen hattrick gave Blackpool a 3-2 win at Bloomfield Road against Luton Town. Exeter City made the long trip up north to Carlisle for a goal-fest. The game finished 3-3 with Exeter in a strong position going into the second leg. In the second legs, it was Luton and Blackpool’s turn to draw 3-3 at Kenilworth Road. A 95th-minute own goal to draw the game level saw Blackpool progress 6-5 on aggregate. Meanwhile, at St James’ Park, A 95th-minute winner saw Exeter win the game and win 6-5 on aggregate.
YouTube: Exeter City 3 Carlisle United 2 (18/5/17) EFL L2 Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg
In a nervy affair at Sincil Bank, Lincoln City were held to a bore draw by Exeter City, putting Exeter firmly in the driving seat going into the second leg. An 87th-minute penalty drew Coventry City level at the Ricoh Arena against Notts County, with that game at 1-1 going into the reverse fixture. Exeter were too strong for Lincoln at home and came out 3-1 winners, sending them to Wembley for the second year running. Things were different at Meadow Lane. Despite being away from home, Coventry made light work of County, winning 4-1 away from home. This certainly showed that it doesn’t matter where you play if you are the better team you will win the game.
Newport County and Mansfield Town squared of Rodney Parade. A late goal from Amond rescued a draw for Newport leaving it all to play for in the second leg. Tranmere Rovers hosted Forest Green in the other tie. A goal midway through the first half gave Tranmere a 1-0 win. The return tie at Field Mill between Mansfield and Newport went all the way to penalties following a 0-0 draw. Newport kept their cool from the spot winning 5-3. Despite being away from home, Tranmere held Forest Green to a draw, their victory in the first tie meant they went through 2-1 on aggregate.
This Year’s Verdict
Colchester United and Northampton have home advantage first in their ties against Exeter City and Cheltenham respectively. Exeter will be looking to use their experience in the playoffs to progress past Colchester in the second leg at St James’ Park. The game between Northampton and Cheltenham could be closer. Cheltenham were on a great run of form prior to the season ending, whilst Northampton will be full of confidence after just sneaking into the playoffs.
The absence of fans in stadiums is also sure to have a big impact on the outcome of proceedings. What is certain is that we are set for four fantastic games of League Two football over the next five days.