Exeter [2.06] v Carlisle [3.9]; the draw [3.8]
League Two play-off semi-final, second leg
Thursday May 18, kick off 19:45
It seems increasingly likely that Ollie Watkins, 21, will not be an Exeter City player next season, whether they win promotion or not. Several sages have him as the outstanding performer - Opta say he has eight assists this season, more than any other Exeter player.
The least he can do is ensure the Devon club wins promotion. He'll probably make a two division jump to play in the Championship anyway.
Given the way Carlisle came back - yet again - from behind on Saturday, it could be a bit of a tall order even to reach Wembley for the Grecians, who have conceded in each of their last 10 matches, state Opta.
Paul Tisdale's side might live to regret two disallowed goals - one at least that seemed perfectly good - for offside in the first leg.
They will likely attack again, which will suit Carlisle, who are now unbeaten in six games, just as well. Another fine performance by Craig Woodman, who returned from a broken leg for his first game since March to curtail Reggie Lambe, will be key to Exeter's chances.
Tactics will be key. Exeter conceded twice at 3-1 up in the first leg after a switch to three at the back when Woodman was replaced by striker Reuben Reid. How does Tisdale shore up the defence? Will Ethan Ampadu make the squad this time, having been used so successfully this season?
Most likely, attacking instincts will take over, even if Reid might start from the bench again. Winger David Wheeler and Joel Grant, who played a part in all three goals in the first leg say Opta (creating two and scoring one), will be supplying a lot of chances.
Nicky Adams says he has found "home" at Carlisle, but the five-time winner at the club's annual awards, could be another player in demand elsewhere if his side don't earn promotion. Much quite possibly depends on whether Jabo Ibehre, who has returned to training, is fit enough to play.
However, Keith Curle's men don't have to worry about other people than one person finding goals: they left it to their substitutes John O'Sullivan and Shaun Miller to striker on Sunday, while Jamie Proctor had also scored recently.
O'Sullivan says the team thought they could come from 10-0 down and "we just believe we have something over Exeter".
The hosts are [1.6] to qualify and will seriously regret not beating Carlisle on the final day of the season (which would have knocked them out of the top seven) if they don't win here. However their price has been steadily shortening to [2.06] which means they are opposable, at kick-off anyway.
In their last five games (in that unbeaten run of six), Carlisle have conceded the first goal, at least, but ended up drawing, winning or leading at some point after that. They just don't seem to know when they are beaten.
In contrast, Exeter often score first but don't always hold on. So it might be worth chancing the hosts to be leading at half-time at [3.0].
But what happens after that is practically anyone's guess, given the scoring abilities of both sides. (In fact, when one play-off fixture finishes 3-2 and the other 3-3, you'd find it difficult to get a fag paper between all four League Two play-off teams.) You can get [50.0] on Exeter to be leading at half-time and Carlisle at 90 minutes, which makes as much sense as several other options at much shorter prices given the recent records of both teams!
I don't think Carlisle will be leading at the break so will discount those three options, but if it goes to penalties then Danny Grainger (scored of two at St James Park 11 days ago) can surely be relied upon to inspire his team-mates to take the Cumbrians to Wembley. The price on that in the qualifying method is [8.0].
Over [3.5] goals
Carlisle's ability to score from behind and via their substitutes, combined with Exeter's inability to keep a clean sheet, would seem to make over 3.5 goals highly likely at [2.7]. It's certainly a shorter price than for normal matches, which is about [3.0] or above.
However, that is not surprising since Exeter lost 3-2 to Carlisle at home and then the side drew 3-3 at Brunton Park. Exeter have scored three times in three of their last four games, and twice in the other. Scorers have ranged from Liam McAlinden (2) to Wheeler (3), Reid (2), Grant (1) and Jordan Moore-Taylor (2). Let's not forget Ryan Harley's contribution either.
Match betting League Two