Aidy Boothroyd’s Northampton team have rather stumbled into the play-offs, as opposed to muscling aside their rivals in a desperate attempt to get through the door as if it had just been opened on the Next sale.
Home advantage makes them favourites to win this first-leg which is understandable given their utter dominance at Fortress Sixfields this season. Of the previous 12 visitors, 11 of them have left empty-handed; a 2-0 loss to York proving the only anomaly in this sequence.
These overwhelming figures make a price of 6/5 for the home win look rather appetising though, much like when you’ve sunk one too many Sherries of a Friday night, looks can be deceiving.
Prior to beating, and subsequently relegating, Barnet on the final day of the season, the Cobblers had failed to win any of their previous five games and hadn’t scored in four of them. This is not the form of a team about to get the better of opponents with three wins and four clean sheets from their final five outings of the season.
Mark Yates’ Robins have found a formula to keep the ball out of their net and it’s set to serve them well in the play-offs. They can be backed at 9/4 to claim what be some massive spoils ahead of their home leg, though they’d be equally content with the draw at 23/10.
To supplement their strong end to the campaign, Cheltenham can also fall back on the league double they completed over their next adversaries if they want to draw on another source of confidence. Having gone 2-0 down at the Sixfields, they recovered to win 3-2 and then beat them 1-0 in the return fixture.
The statistics supporting some away-day joy are mounting and the chances of a goal-filled encounter are also above average.
Despite Northampton’s issues in the final third and Cheltenham’s expertise in their own third, five of their previous eight outings have seen the 2.5-goal barrier smashed. A repeat dose is available at 21/20 which definitely tempts.
Across the same period of time, only two of the meetings between the pair have seen clean sheets, with both instances yielding 1-0 wins for the Gloucestershire outfit.
Both teams to score is on offer at 4/5, while the result that the recent history books suggest is most likely if this punt doesn’t cop – 1-0 Cheltenham – can be backed at a princely 15/2.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date