The League One Playoffs start on Thursday and our third tier expert Alan Dudman is backing the draw between Charlton and Shrewsbury at The Valley...
"Eight of Charlton's last ten matches have hit the Under 2.5 target, with five of those on the Under 1.5. Shrewsbury only scored 20 on their travels all season and had the second-best away defence - so it certainly points to a low-scoring one."
Charlton Athletic v Shrewsbury Town
Thursday 10th May, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports
Fifth time lucky for Shrews?
Shrewsbury will be making their fourth appearance in the EFL playoffs, but are yet to win promotion via this route, whilst Charlton venture into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Addicks can call on history, though, and many still remember their 1998 7-6 penalty shoot-out triumph against Sunderland to earn their place in the Premier League.
The Londoners are second favourites in the Promotion market at [3.85], with Rotherham at [3.40] installed as the favourites. Shrewsbury are a bigger price, and probably the better value call at [4.40] considering they went toe-to-toe with Blackburn and Wigan for much of the campaign.
Bowyer appointment has worked
The Londoners appeared to be going nowhere under Karl Robinson, but turned to Lee Bowyer back in March and the decision to make the change proved a correct one. The caretaker boss has engineered something that Robinson appeared never to have - a team spirit. The results under his ten-game tenure include victories against Blackburn, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Rotherham. They also beat Shrewsbury 2-0 at the Meadow.
With six wins out of ten, Bowyer probably earns an eight-and-a-half mark. They have a better mentality now, and certainly more confidence.
Have the Shrews run out of gas?
It's trickier to assess Shrewsbury coming into the playoffs, as their last four games have virtually been played like pre-season friendlies. Their playoff position was secured anyway with a healthy points tally - and Shrews' boss Paul Hurst was able to rest and change his players, which is always a help at this stage.
Hurst would earn a full ten out ten for his season. I didn't give Shrewsbury a chance, and not many did. They had an FA Cup run and a trip to Wembley in the Checkatrade, and those went against the backdrop of having a shot at the title. With all that and 87 points, it's been a fine (and surprising) campaign.
They couldn't quite get over the line, but Hurst is an excellent manager. He has an exceptional record in reaching the playoffs too; this will be his seventh shot in ten seasons as a boss.
Home win too short to back
Charlton are one of those teams that tend to be priced a little shorter than they should be. The odds of [2.12] for a home victory look a little on the skinny side for me, but I suppose that price was to be expected with Bowyer's impact and home advantage for the first leg. Their record at The Valley reads solid enough at W11 D6 L6, and they are most certainly a better side now than during the Robinson days.
The 'Blue and Amber' had the second-best defence in League One over the course of the regular season; conceding just 39 goals, with 12 of those goals coming in the first-half (a league low).
Shrewsbury are around the [3.70] mark for an away win, which is big considering they finished 16 points ahead of Charlton. And as I often say in my previews; anyone can beat anyone in this division, so never be put off by the odds. On the flip side, the team that has finished sixth in the division has gone on to win the playoff final in each of the last two seasons in League One.
However, the visitors are more than good enough here to gain a point to set up the return leg.
If you are looking to trade on the Correct Score market; these two played out a pair of 2-0 games from the regular campaign. Shrewsbury won 0-2 at The Valley with goals from Omar Beckles and Alex Rodman, but they lost the reverse fixture at home by the same scoreline last month and created virtually nothing up front.
Shots on target watchers weren't exactly busy over the course of the two matches between the pair. In total, the tally had Charlton in front with a 4-8 record in 180 minutes of football. Not the stuff of the the 1988 Dutch team.
Shrewsbury carried quite a threat out wide with their wingers in the game at The Valley in February, and Carlton Morris caused plenty of problems for the Addicks with his aerial ability. Hurst lined up a 4-1-4-1 on that occasion, and they can play a 4-4-1-1.
The Londoners had plenty of energy with their victory at the Meadow, with captain Jason Pearce scoring with a header from a set-piece, and that's an area they could get some joy from. Bowyer has tightened up the defence, but the 4-4-2 works better now, rather than the one up front that Robinson used at times.
Unders a confident selection
My approach to the first game over the two legs is to go with a tight encounter for the first 90 minutes, and traditionally that has been my way with these playoff matches. Bowyer's work on the defence has clearly had a massive impact, with the Addicks recording five clean sheets from his ten matches in charge as caretaker. They haven't conceded more than once in any of those games either, so we should expect a low-scoring affair considering Shrewsbury are hardly likely to come out and play too open.
Eight of Charlton's last ten matches have hit the Under 2.5 target, with five of those on the Under 1.5. Shrewsbury only scored 20 on their travels all season and had the second-best away defence - so it certainly points to a low-scoring one.
And considering chances were in very short supply in their recent fixture against each other in April, the play here is certainly the Under 2.5 bet.
Addicks skipper the first goalscorer value
With a 4/1 the field market on the Sportsbook on Tuesday evening, that tells us there are no standouts here. Shrewsbury's Carlton Morris might start as a lone forward ahead of Stefan Payne, and Morris has just nine goals this season. Alex Rodman scored a wonder goal against the Londoners earlier in the season at The Valley, and expect odds of around [6.0] and [9.0] respectively for those two.
However, I could be tempted with a little punt on Charlton captain Jason Pearce. I mentioned earlier he scored with a header in the match at Salop, and Charlton looked a real threat from set-pieces then. The skipper is priced at around [29.0], and he makes a little more appeal than the shorter odds of Josh Magennis [5.0] and Nicky Ajose [7.0].
Back The Draw @ [3.40]
Back Under 2.5 Goals @ [1.85]