Morecambe should capitalise on home advantage to reach the League Two play-off final, says Ian Lamont, with Ian Dawes' men having history against them...
"Yann Songo’o is 4/1 to score at any time. The defender never seems to net first in a game but in the final six matches he netted three of his six goals this season. Many of them came in the final 30 minutes."
League Two play-off semi-final second leg
Sunday, May 23 Kick-off 12.30pm
One set of statistics I read in the build-up to this tie was that the team that finished fourth in League Two (ie the top play-off place) had a poor return when it came to gaining promotion in the past seven years. Opta say only four have gone up from that spot in 13 seasons. That's well above 25% then, which in itself would be a fair share. There was a time - when the play-offs were introduced - when that fourth place pretty much guaranteed promotion.
The theory of the "recent years" prediction was that Morecambe come from a long list of teams who are deflated at just missing out on promotion. The Shrimps, however, have never had any real pressure to succeed, or been in the top three much at all. They are not dispirited having "just missed out" on promotion when they were tipped for relegation. The fact they have seven shots to Tranmere's 17 in the first leg speaks more volumes about their chances: they make the most of them.
More teams seem interested in Morecambe boss Derek Adams, who has worked wonders, but also strikers Cole Stockton and other members of the squad. It's odd that of the four play-off teams, one manager seems highly coveted and likely to be poached while another, at Forest Green, is very much temporary, while Tranmere sacked their boss. Management is very precarious!
Dawes' visitors fighting statistics history
Opta point out that Tranmere have never won an away Football League play-off game, in seven attempts, drawing four. And only three times previously have a team who have won away not progressed to the final. The statistics, then, are against Ian Dawes' men winning, which is priced 3.211/5 accordingly.
The home team's price of 2.6413/8 remains generous then, with layers noting that the Shrimps scored against the run of play in the first leg and knowing that Tranmere must attack to have any chance of progressing. Quite how open Dawes can afford to be however is a moot point, with not only Stockton but the livewire Carlos Mendes Gomes poised to pounce on any gaps in defence. Dawes was disappointed with set play defences and says the players are confident and positive about the second leg.
But is James Vaughan really fit enough to lead the visitors' line? Would Kaiyne Woolery be a better option, or even a good foil alongside him up front? What does it say about the visitors when a defender - Peter Clarke, 39 - scores their only goal? And, as Opta add, that he had six shots in the game, one fewer than Morecambe's entire team?
My original thoughts about this tie would be that the first leg would be drawn and Morecambe would take the second leg 2-0. They have won four of their last five at home. Tranmere are hard to break down away, losing just six times over the regular season, and still have that spur of being demoted on average points per game last season because of Covid. The decision still rankles with many, including chairman Mark Palios.
Morecambe can score twice to put tie to bed
I'm going to stick with the theory of a home win - although the draw tempts at 3.211/5. And the 2-0 correct score still has a nice ring about it, too at 12.011/1. As the Shrimps averaged 2.5 goals in their final six fixtures and also scored twice in the first leg, I think they can score twice.
Whether their defence, led by Nathanial Knight-Percival and Sam Lavelle, can hold out, is the question. Other scorelines such as 1-0 and 1-1 are shortest, both at around 8.07/1, but I think with the home advantage of a crowd the hosts should be able to ram home their lead.
Songo'o to score at anytime - late
So who should we look to for doing the honours of netting first? None of the fancied few scored in the first leg, with Liam McAlinden finding the net for the second game running and Knight-Percival bagging one for Morecambe. Opta were quick to jump on McAlinden's strikes and point out that he's never scored in three consecutive games.
Stockton and Mendes Gomes are not the most frequent scorers, but one of them will surely be on the scoresheet this time. They are 4/1 and 5/1 respectively on Sportsbook to score first, with opponents Vaughan 9/2 and Woolery 11/2. Interestingly, McAlinden is 6/1 but most intriguingly, Yann Songo'o is 4/1 to score at any time. The defender never seems to net first in a game but in the final six matches netted three of his six goals this season. Many of them came in the final 30 minutes.
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