News and Views from the Football League – Play-off drama set to continue

The play-offs are now in full swing with the final for the Championship already confirmed, as Ian Holloway’s Blackpool will meet Dave Jones’ Cardiff City side. The race to reach the Championship and League One, however, is proving too tight to call with all to play for still as the second legs are contested this week.

In League One, Millwall will feel disappointed to have left Huddersfield with just a draw, having had two penalty appeals waved away by the official. Tuesday night’s return leg will no doubt be a keenly contested affair at the New Den and will be very tough to call. Millwall have only suffered defeat once at home in a league fixture this season, that coming against a spirited Wycombe side in November, and indeed they brushed aside Huddersfield in the early stages of the campaign. The Terriers meanwhile have not travelled so well this season, having been beaten 11 times away from home. Indeed it has been their home form that has seen them march into the play-off positions in relatively comfortable fashion in the end, and so failing to take the advantage into the second leg could prove costly. Only time will tell of course but the tie is certainly finely poised.

Swindon and Charlton will meet again tonight to decide who will make the final at Wembley. Danny Wilson’s Swindon team hold a slender advantage from the first leg, with goals from Danny Ward and the man-of-the-moment, Charlie Austin, handing them a 2-1 lead going into tonight’s contest. There has been little to choose between the two teams this campaign, with two draws having already been played out during the regular season. Phil Parkinson’s men have been strong at home however, losing on just three occasions at the Valley. Swindon meanwhile have been strong away from home and will no doubt head into the fixture full of confidence. Hit-man Billy Paynter remains a doubt as he battles against a hamstring injury, but with goals still coming in his absence, there is no need for fear as far as the Robins are concerned. This tie is so close to call that it could easily come down to an individual mistake or a moment of magic, but it will certainly be an entertaining encounter.

The League Two semi-finals couldn’t be any further from each other, with one tie set for a nail-biting second leg, and the other seemingly over already. Sunday saw Morecambe make the long trip to Dagenham for the first leg of their contest, only to return to the north-west with their tails between their legs having been thumped 6-0 by John Still’s side. Few could have seen such a result coming, and although there is the slim chance that Sammy McIlroy’s men can turn things around, it seems unlikely. What a shame it would be for a season that looked so promising and indeed saw Morecambe finish just outside the automatic places, end in such catastrophe. Although the Daggers will try not to count their chickens just yet, it looks as if they have one foot in the final and can look forward to a winner takes all tie at Wembley against either Rotherham or Aldershot. As unlikely as it is, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see Morecambe battle back and make a real fight of the second leg on Thursday? Stranger things have happened in our beautiful game.

As mentioned above, the other tie in League Two is currently in the balance, with Ronnie Moore’s Rotherham holding a slender lead over the Shots thanks to a well taken Adam Le Fondre goal following a poor back pass from Aaron Brown. Wednesday night’s reverse fixture at the Don Valley Stadium should be an enthralling encounter, one that should spark a bit more excitement than the first leg, which was played in a relatively sluggish manner. With a winner needed on the night however, and only one goal separating the two sides, there is still all to play for and neither of these sides will be making their Wembley plans just yet.

And so the play-offs for the Football League are still in the balance and the second legs should prove to be enticing matches. On the theme of the play-offs, the Blue Square Premier final on Sunday proved to be an entertaining affair and a fantastic advert for non-league football. In the battle of two former league sides, it was Oxford who triumphed in the rain at Wembley, with on-loan Peterborough midfielder Alfie Potter securing promotion with a late goal to ensure a 3-1 victory over York City. And so Chris Wilder’s men can look forward to a return to the Football League after so many near misses over the last few seasons. Only time will tell who will remain in League Two with them and who will escape as the play-offs reach their dramatic conclusions.

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