nPower League 2 Playoff Final
Northampton v Bradford is the finale of the League Two season in England, as the two will contest the Play Off Final on May 18th. Northampton Town struck two 1-0 victories over Cheltenham in their play off semi final, a good return as they had finished two points behind the Robins in the league standings. Northampton had also suffered two defeats at the hands of Cheltenham during the regular League Two season. However, with Northampton just having the edge up front, in terms of scoring more goals than their semi final opponents over the duration of the regular season, a stunning away goal from Luke Guttridge in the second leg was enough to ensure the progress of the Cobblers. They will now look for the guidance of manager Aidy Boothroyd, who took Watford to the Premier League through the 2006 playoffs.
As for Bradford City, they had to battle their way in a thrilling semi final match up with Burton Albion, who were favourites for the playoffs after finishing fourth in the league. Bradford had squeezed into the final play off spot by just a couple of points ahead of Chesterfield, and the goal scoring power of Burton was expected to win through on the day. It looked as if it might all play out to form after the closing of the first leg, which Burton won 3-2 away from home. That may well have given them an advantage but it was the Bantams strikers who took control in the second leg, as James Hansen and Nakhi Wells fired Bradford through to the play off final. The two were very impressive in the second leg, almost unplayable and recorded a great fight back from the first leg deficit to win 3-1 at the Pirelli Stadium and 5-4 overall on aggregate.
Bradford will now play their 64th match of the season after having gone all the way to the League Cup Final, losing at Wembley against Premier League side Swansea. So it has been a tiring season for Phil Parkinson’s side but they keep on plugging away. It could be a welcome return for success from Bradford, who have been on a continuous slide since dropping out of the Premier League back in 2000. The last time that they were in a play off final, was back in 1996 when Chris Kamara led them into the second tier of English football. After their goal scoring efforts against Burton, Bradford are now favourites to go up, as bookmakers have them as 11/8 favourites to win the League Two play off final. Northampton are priced at 2/1 to win the match.
In the two League Two meetings during the season, Bradford won both games 1-0. They finished with similar records for the season, Northampton finishing four points ahead of the Bantams, scoring just one more goal than their play off final opponents, and conceding three more. So little to choose between the two, but will Bradford’s experience at Wembley already this season get them through?