Carlisle v Exeter: Back Grecians to take first leg lead

Paul Tisdale might have to earn promotion to keep some of his young stars
Paul Tisdale might have to earn promotion to keep some of his young stars
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There could be quite a few goals in Cumbria as Exeter, strong away, take on Carlisle for the second time in as many weeks, this time with no excuses for being lacklustre as they seek an advantage in the League Two play-offs, writes Ian Lamont...

"Carlisle have fallen from second, while Exeter started the season so badly that they were in the bottom three for a long time and Paul Tisdale’s tenure as the Football League’s longest serving manager (10 years) looked in danger of coming to a sudden end."

Carlisle 2.56/4 v Exeter 3.02/1; the draw 3.711/4
League Two play-off semi-final, first leg
Sunday, 18:30

Statistically, teams finishing in the top two play-off spots have a 20% better chance of going up. Don't tell the teams in League One this year that, though, or AFC Wimbledon (seventh) who beat Plymouth in last year's final.

In this match up, Exeter ought to progress based on recent form, but that and everything else goes out of the window at this stage.

Carlisle slid from second at the turn of the year - with a multitude of draws keeping them that high a long while before that. Keith Curle might blame injuries for a demise which nearly saw them fall out of the top seven, but Charlie Wyke's sale in January doubtless played a huge part. The striker had 14 goals. Jamie Proctor, one of two replacements, has finally started to find the goals, with two in the past three games.

Exeter, in reverse, started the season so badly (especially at home) that they were in the bottom three for a long time and Paul Tisdale's tenure as the Football League's longest serving manager (10 years) looked in danger of coming to a sudden end.

Opta state that Carlisle have never progressed past a play-off semi-final, while Exeter have never been in one in the Football League. Mind you, they returned to the Football League in 2007-08 via the National Conference play-off final at Wembley.

Match Odds

These two teams only played each other last week - Carlisle winning from behind for the second time this season, emphasise Opta. Anything else than a victory would have seen them slip to at least eighth and ended their season.

By all accounts Exeter were unhappy with both penalties awarded to Carlisle last Saturday, winger David Wheeler - among others - claiming that they should have had a "shirt tug" one of their own, if the Cumbrians were awarded one.

It gave Danny Grainger the chance to end an 18-game scoreless run, which can't be bad for the captain whose presence is often key to the U's success.

One can't help feel, though, that the Grecians would have been feeling a touch under-motivated because no result would have affected their fifth placed finish - and certainly at 2-1 up they would probably have thought their victory was assured.

Plus, as Opta emphasise, they have League Two's second best away record (42 points). Now, I know that I said the season counts for nothing at this point, but when you have a habit of winning away, that counts for an awful lot in what is effectively cup football. On that basis, the odds of 3.02/1 look too big, despite Carlisle's tails being up because of a few games unbeaten.

With Leeds and Bristol City circling around Ollie Watkins - and others bounds to be watching teenager Ethan Ampadu - Tisdale has the task of keeping his squad together this summer. The best way to guarantee that is to win promotion.

Under/Over 3.5 goals

I was thinking this might be a more cagey affair - goalless at least until half-time - than last Saturday's Exeter v Carlisle match.

However, looking at Exeter's recent run in three of their last five games, at least two goals have been scored in the first half - and, in a fourth, one goal. That's total goals, not just goals for. So, unless their defence gets tighter we should be in for a few goals. Over/under 2.5 goals is always a bit of a tight bet, just over evens one way or the other (in this case 2.111/10 for under 2.5 goals).

My preferred attack in the goals markets is over 3.5 goals, which is often bigger odds than it really should be. Here it is 3.185/40. Exeter have plenty of capable scorers, including Reuben Reid who has three in his last two games against Carlisle, state Opta. In Carlisle's last six games, neither side has kept a clean sheet.

First goalscorer

It's no surprise to see Jabo Ibehre at the top of the list to be first goalscorer at 5.85/1. He has scored in five of Carlisle's last six games. He has been consistent, in that he has scored his side's first goal each time.

But will he shake off an injury which resulted in his early exit from Saturday's match at Exeter?

It will be worth waiting until kick off to see if he starts, as he is the most consistent scorer at present from the two teams, while recent form makes it odd to find Ollie Watkins at the top of Exeter's possibles at 6.05/1 with winger Wheeler and Reid, who top scored for Plymouth for two seasons before his summer move. Boy how he would like to get promotion having watched the Pilgrims progress!

Jordan Moore-Taylor has notched three times in five games and is long at 30.029/1 and Carlisle's Jamie Proctor has to be in the mix at 6.05/1.

Recommended Bets

Back Exeter to win at 3.02/1
Back over 3.5 goals @ 3.185/40
Back Jabo Ibehre as first goalscorer @ 5.85/1 if he starts

P/L 2016-17

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