Crystal Palace are the most successful team in Championship play-off history, with the last of their three final wins coming against West Ham United in 2005, yet despite possessing such a pedigree – along with a gaffer with play-off experience – they’re 2/1 outsiders to beat Watford in normal time.
Palace are steeped in play-off folklore, having made a total of seven appearances in the end of season jousts since their introduction to the promotion equation back in 1987. Furthermore, they’ve reached the final on four of those occasions, prizing the golden ticket from the grasp of their fellow finalists in all but one decider.
Events at Manchester United this week will remind fans of the benefits of believing in your own folklore and the Palace players will no doubt draw strength from their illustrious history in the play-offs over the course of the next fortnight.
They will also be able to draw strength and understanding from manager Ian Holloway’s experience of squiring Blackpool through the end of season knockouts. The passionate Bristolian tasted both success and failure in Wembley finals with the Tangerines and will be wiser – and wilier – for the experience.
His opposite number Gianfranco Zola, for all his genius as a player and increasing reputation as a coach, has a single, as yet incomplete, high-achieving season under his pint-sized belt.
Despite having yet to beat the Hornets in two meetings this term, Palace held a Watford side at the crest of the wave of the form that has brought them within a sniff of promotion to a draw at Vicarage Road in February.
2-0 down at half-time, a Holloway tactical switch precipitated a dominant Eagles fightback which saw them unlucky not to win the match and such insight will stand his men in good stead, just as it did when they upset play-off form team Brighton in their own back yard in the semis.
Those more conservative punters might wish to take the 11/10 about the Eagles to win the play-off by any means possible, but given just four of the 23 single-legged play-off deciders to date – none since 2002 – have gone to extra time; it may be worth chancing the bigger price about a 90-minute win.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.