Coventry v Notts County: Expect goals to rock Ricoh in League Two playoff

Coventry City manager Mark Robins
Mark Robins is unlikely to be holding another trophy at the end of the month, suggest the statistics
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Statistics, it seems, are against sixth-placed sides winning the playoffs, but Ian Lamont is having none of it, certainly for the first leg of the League Two playoff where he expects the Sky Blues to be firing on all cylinders...

"County's Jorge Grant, on loan from Nottingham Forest, has shown tremendous promise with 15 goals, but the visitors lack a slice of consistent firepower in the McNulty mould."

Coventry City v Notts County
Saturday 12th May
19:30, live Sky Sports

Coventry look to avoid the curse of sixth

After several years of decline on the field and now a wrangle in court over the future of the Ricoh Arena delayed until late June, Coventry fans will be delighted to still be feeling positive. They've had a pretty good season with a great FA Cup run, beating Stoke, but there would be nothing like promotion.

Mark Robins has rallied them, asking for a full house against the Magpies, knowing his side will to be at their best, not least after the local media paid heed to a "curse" that sixth placed finishers in League Two rarely succeed in going up!

Isn't it great to be a news doom monger?

Sadly for the Sky Blues, Opta confirm that just one team has gone up after finishing sixth in the past 10 years.

No matter, I'm sure striker Marc McNulty won't take any notice and will happily add to his 26 league and cup goals if the chances come his way.

It feels a bit like Coventry have been latecomers to the party in League Two, but then established themselves as a force - and a talking horse.

The dressing room has probably joined the dots and spoken about Robins once playing at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson, but they won't need to draw on that kind of emotion for an incentive.

Kevin Nolan has turned things around

Opta don't rate the chances of promotion to sides finishing fifth, either, with just one in eight years. But one of these two has to at least progress to Wembley.

Kevin Nolan has always had the backing of chairman/owner Alan Hardy to the extent that he moaned about having to pay out too much in bonuses when Notts County kept winning and were top of League Two.

It seemed like the Magpies would have automatic promotion done and dusted at Christmas, the way they steamed to the top of the division. But did the players begin to think that way too? An FA Cup run, with a televised but disastrous replay at Swansea in the Fourth Round, proved too long a distraction from the main aim of going up.

Last season, don't forget, they spent a fair few weeks looking over their shoulders at the other end of the table.

As with sixth placed teams, Opta don't rate the chances of fifth placed teams winning the play-offs, with just one win in eight years. Which is difficult to square with the fact that both teams have 10 points from their past six games - quite a strong run-in.

McNulty well supported for goals

Coventry, a relatively slim price at [2.1] in the match odds market, have won 13 times at the Ricoh, while the visitors have won seven, drawn seven and lost nine on their travels - with Opta adding that the visitors have won just twice in 11 away games (drawing three). No wonder County are [4.2] to win. The draw is [3.4].

As well as McNulty, Tom Bayliss has scored three of his five games from midfield in the run-in, while Maxime Biamou and Jordan Ponticelli have been chipping in, too.

If Coventry showed cup pedigree by getting Robins' former Manchester United team-mate Mark Hughes sacked when beating Stoke in January on the way to the Fifth Round, Notts County reached the Fourth Round, taking Swansea to a replay.

County's Jorge Grant, on loan from Nottingham Forest, has shown tremendous promise with 15 goals, but one wonders if the visitors lack a slice of consistent firepower in the McNulty mould, with Jon Stead, Jonathan Forte, Lewis Alessandra and Shola Ameobi all failing to hit double figures this term.

Coventry's recent matches have been high scoring

The Sky Blues have seen goals recently. Before Saturday's goalless draw with Morecambe, who needed a point to stay up, they'd scored 21 goals in eight games and conceded 16.

We'll forgive Notts County's 0-0 draw on Saturday against Luton. Their four games before that had all finished over 2.5 goals.

With Coventry able to score but quite happy to concede at times, I think they will have the edge and ability to push the over 2.5 overs into being a successful bet at [2.3].

Take a chance on a strong home win

I'm also tempted to take a [16.0] shot on a 3-1 home win in the correct score market, believing that McNulty, 25, will show Grant (aged 23 - whom Nolan admits has a "swagger") a thing or two about how to score goals in the process.

Ref Watch

Gavin Ward has issued under three yellow cards per game, on average, this season (122 from 44), and six red, including two as Swindon beat Accrington 3-0 on the final day. At the start of the season, as if Kenilworth Road wasn't spell bound enough by an 8-2 win for Luton over Yeovil, the Surrey official issued six yellow cards, the most he ended up showing in a single game in 2017-18, in which he spent the entire year refereeing in League Two. I might just go 45pts and over just in case, in play.

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