Even if Forest Green come out fighting like temporary boss Jimmy Ball says they will, Michael Flynn's men can withstand the pressure and reach the League Two play-off final says Ian Lamont...
"It seems completely conceivable that Forest Green will lead at half time, a price of [11-5] on Sportsbook. They could even lead 2-0, and Newport claw a goal back to progress as the hosts press for a third to win."
League Two play-off semi-final second leg
After the first leg, it is slightly hard to know who is the happier manager. Michael Flynn wasn't happy that his Newport side didn't run up a cricket score in the first leg. He has warned his side against complacency, knowing that Cheltenham led Northampton 2-0 after the first leg last season and lost on aggregate 3-2. His opposite number Jimmy Ball has promised both barrels in a do-or-die match that sounds like all out attack, at home. (However the hosts are 7.06/1 "to qualify" for the final and 15.014/1 for promotion, indicating the layers don't believe in consecutive season fairytales.)
What's more, Rovers will have the advantage this time of fans present - and Ball promises Jamille Matt, a surprise inclusion at Rodney Parade, will play "some part". The striker, who has 16 goals this season, is not yet at full match fitness, so might well be used from the bench. However, if Ball wants that first goal he talked about after the first leg to put the tie back in the balance, the experienced play-off campaigner must surely start.
The eagerness of Forest Green chairman Dale Vince to accentuate the issue of replacing the manager is a distraction. Ball appears to have little chance of gaining the position, given there are now five shortlisted. And a female manager from the Women's Super League - according to Vince - would have been interviewed had she been the one to have submitted her CV. Someone else put her CV in? You couldn't make it up! But it can't be helping morale that Vince is making these headlines.
Hosts must attack so could well lead
Given the fighting talk and the need to score to be back in the tie, it's not wonder Forest Green are match favourites at 2.68/5, but it's not the biggest of margins against the away win at 3.211/5.
If there is to be an early avalanche of attacks on Tom King's goal, Newport have the sixth-fewest away goals conceded in League Two. They also have the third best defensive record in the division, conceding 42 goals. All the other play-off contenders have let in 50+. However, the Exiles have collected fewer away points (29) than their play-off rivals. Forest Green, meanwhile, have marginally the worst home points record of the four, and the narrowest goal difference of +4.
Newport's Lewis Collins, a scorer in the first leg, has already put one over on his big brother, Aaron, who would be Forest Green's most valuable player - for goals and assists - if Matt doesn't start. If Ball starts with Jake Young or Josh Davison as well as another up front - probably Collins - they will have a much better chance of scoring than if they pack the midfield. They packed the attack for the 3-0 win at Oldham on the final day. Their home form of late is a little mixed: they beat hapless Scunthorpe, drew with Exeter, lost to Barrow and in the penultimate game of the season defeated Tranmere.
Opta add that only two of the 29 teams to lose the first leg in the fourth tier play-offs have gone on to win promotion - and it looks a tall order for Forest Green. Also, Rovers have yet to win a play-off match in the Football League, failing to score in three of them. Newport, however, have bucked their stats in that sense, winning a play-off game for the first time (D2 L1), add Opta.
Forest Green need goals
If Forest Green are to press, then over 2.5 goals looks likely at 2.466/4 with Newport still likely to attack to try to kill the tie after missing a glut of chances to do so in the first leg. Matty Dolan, who scored a 25-yarder in the first leg for the Exiles, thinks they can finish the job.
As discussed ahead of the first leg, both sides' defences have been tight going into the play-offs, but this is crunch time. Forest Green have to score twice in the 90 minutes to have any chance of progressing (via extra time or penalties) while a goal at any time puts Newport further up the mountain they need to be on to resist their hosts.
Newport to take the tie but not the win
While I can't expect to repeat the +16.5pt return from the first leg, it seems completely conceivable that Forest Green will lead at half time, a price of 11/5 on Sportsbook. They could even lead 2-0, and Newport claw a goal back to progress as the hosts press for a third to win. The visitors could easily lose the match but win the tie, with a match result of 2-1 to the hosts at about 12.011/1 in the correct score market.
Big-game man Amond to score at any time
While Dolan is 16/1 to repeat the trick of scoring first, and Lewis Collins is 13/2, brother Aaron is 11/2 to do what he couldn't in the first leg. Dolan, Opta say, has had his best season in terms of goals, scoring seven.
With only Matt, not guaranteed to start, of his Forest Green colleagues ahead of him in the market, it seems a fair price. But this also seems a chance for Padraig Amond, prominent in so many of Newport's FA Cup tie wins, to show his big-game status by scoring for the visitors, at any time , again on Sportsbook, at 5/2. Risk him at 5/1 if you think my theory of Newport scoring last will come true.
League Two -13.39pt
FA Cup +13.86pt
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