Fresh from securing four out of four winning bets for the second leg semi-finals, Alan Dudman now looks to the League One playoff final at Wembley on Saturday, and feels backing the draw is the way to go...
"Added to the fact that both games during the regular season between the pair ended 1-1, it is no surprise the draw is a touch shorter than we are used to."
Bradford City [2.86] v Millwall [2.82], the draw [3.30]
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Manager Stuart McCall has no new injury concerns ahead of Saturday's final, the only doubt remains which formation the Scot will go with. The Bantams' boss is fairly flexible in terms of how he sets up, and they are certainly the more fluid of the two teams with good individual talent on the ball. Forward Alex Jones' return to full fitness is a plus, as he offers plenty of pace.
This will be City's third Wembley date in four years, and they reached the showpiece thanks to a pair of very tight legs in the semi-final against Fleetwood. Bradford nicked the crucial goal at Valley Parade in the home game - and that was enough to see them through. The return leg at Highbury was a tedious encounter where defences dominated. McCall's men showed their resolve in a real war of attrition, and Fleetwood could barely muster a shot in anger.
It must be said, Bradford's opponents in the semi had an average age of 24, Millwall are far tougher in terms of know-how and experience.
Bradford finished fifth in League One, and the last side to finish in that position to reach the playoff final was Swindon in 2010 (who lost to Millwall in the final 1-0). They were also the promotion favourites beforehand at [2.80], with the Lions available to back before the semis at around [3.50].
The Lions could face a poser at right-back, as defender Shaun Cummings failed to train in the early part of this week after sustaining a hamstring injury in the first leg of the semi-final against Scunthorpe. Millwall boss Neil Harris mentioned that he has an outside chance of making the game - although in Mahlon Romeo they have a decent replacement.
Millwall are something of a playoff specialist, and they know how to play the big games. The Londoners have now reached the final in each of their last four playoff campaigns - although were losers at Wembley to Barnsley in 2016.
Having scraped into the playoff semis courtesy of a dramatic final day victory against Bristol Rovers, the Lions sealed their Wembley spot with a brilliant 3-2 victory at Scunthorpe after a 0-0 first leg. Harris has often spoke about the need to be "aggressive in defensive shape", and I think he'll be the one planning the clean sheet and to keep Bradford quiet in attack.
The Yorkshire club are likely to have plenty of the ball. Millwall only had 40% of possession in the 3-2 victory in the semi-final return leg at Scunthorpe. Whilst in the two matches against Bradford this term (both ended 1-1), the Londoners had a mere 39% and 42% - showing that keeping the ball for the sake of it is often overrated.
Harris' men finished sixth, which was the same position Barnsley filled before winning the 2016 League One playoff final at Wembley. There really isn't an awful lot between the sides from third to sixth.
These two met in last term's playoff semi-finals. Millwall were 1-3 winners at Valley Parade which effectively sealed their final spot 12 months ago with the return game ending 1-1. Although I am not so sure we will have plenty of goals here, as the mentality of the two-legged match often presents plenty of problems for the backers or layers and is wholly different for a one-off final.
Opta stats highlight Bradford's excellent record against Saturday's opponents - losing just once in their last nine matches against the men from the Den.
This market is extremely tight with it struggling to separate the two. As a quick appraisal of the two for a short, sharp answer; I would say Bradford are the better footballing team and better to watch, but Millwall are battle-hardened, physical and know how to win matches - as I have said on many occasions in these parts - Bradford draw too many games. Their Achilles heel.
Therefore we have to look at backing The Draw at around [3.30]. City racked up an astonishing 19 draws in 46 league matches this term, and that included a staggering 12 at home (although they were unbeaten at Valley Parade for the whole season - which was some feat). The draw stats however tells me they cannot put teams away.
Added to the fact that both games during the regular season between the pair ended 1-1, it is no surprise the draw is a touch shorter than we are used to.
Millwall's knack for a clean sheet served them well, and at one stage from late January through to the whole of February, they had collected a deeply impressive nine successive shutouts. The well-drilled defensive unit is often forgotten about at this level, so Millwall should be roundly applauded. And with Harris speaking about "aggressive defensive shape", I would certainly recommend a punt on the Under 2.5 Goals.
The Londoners kept 16 clean sheets in all, although their tally of shipping 57 in the regular season was the worst of the top six. This is a somewhat misleading figure which doesn't really do them justice. They let in just 17 at the Den but 40 on the road, whilst 22 of their 48 matches (including the playoffs) ended hitting the Unders.
Stuart McCall's side fared better with the Under 2.5 Goals. 30 of their 48 hit the target for that bet, and with an 'against' record of 43 - they had the joint-second best record defensively in the league.
Focusing on a low-scoring affair, the Correct Score trades appeal at 1-1 and 0-0. Bradford found the former scoreline 11 times this season, although Millwall helped themselves to seven 0-0 results.
The dynamic duo of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory came to Millwall's rescue in the 3-2 victory at Scunthorpe, which took their joint total of goals to 36 this term. It's a brilliant partnership of a quick and zippy finisher in Gregory, whilst Morison is the leader and the target.
According to Opta, Gregory has scored in each of his last three matches in all competitions against Bradford. He can backed at around the [2.70] mark.
League One Playoff Final Recommended Bets
Alan Dudman's P&L 2016/17
League One: +2.43pts
FA Cup: +8.05pts