Exeter City v Colchester United: Bowman the key for Grecians
Matt Taylor's men have to forget a lacklustre first leg and use their home goal difference well in their League Two play-off semi-final second leg, says Ian Lamont...
Exeter City (0) v Colchester United (1) League Two play-off semi-final second leg Monday, 22nd June, kick off 17:15 Sky Sports
Both managers have reasons to be pleased
Exeter's away form was always the weaker link in their League Two season (seven defeats, four draws and eight wins from 19 matches). It might not look hugely different to the other top seven teams, but the defeats were on the high side. It was the goal difference that gave matters away - minus six. They lost four of their final five away games, colliding with their dip in form before the season was curtailed. It wouldn't bode well for a Wembley visit if they can now achieve a victory.
Manager Matt Taylor will be relieved to return to St James Park, therefore, not too distantly behind in this tie. Devon is where they have not been beaten in quite a while - once this season, by Grimsby last September.
His opposite number John McGreal will be equally pleased - to have earned a lead from the most tepid of matches. There were just two shots on target in the game. Both came from Cohen Bramall, who doubled the competitive games goal tally from his entire career by scoring from one of them. An eerie, sterile atmosphere, said one reviewer.
We must get used to this for now. It was edgy, said Colchester's manager. You could tell the players had been without a competitive game for 12 weeks, he said.
Exeter must make most of attacking strengths
So what's next? Exeter, it doesn't take much to figure, must attack, meaning the short 2.40 price on a home win. They could be cautious to start, but they were that at Colchester. If they don't score, they are out. They have seven home draws - the largest among the top seven clubs and 10 home wins is on the low side. The draw for this game is priced 3.40 and Colchester to win is 3.60.
Taylor was disappointed with the quality of his side's attacking. The Grecians' main threats will still come from Ryan Bowman, who had headed chances, via Randell Williams' right wing efforts and Jack Sparkes' crosses from the left. Then there are the intricacies of being supplied by Lee Martin playing just behind Bowman.
They still have to find a way past Tom Eastman, a long-time servant at Colchester, and Luke Prosser and Ryan Jackson, the latter two who have been told their contracts will not be renewed. Promotion could change that of course.
At the other end, visiting striker Frank Nouble, another on the exit list, and Luke Norris seemed to work the channels in determined fashion when balls were played through. They will look to force the errors again, which resulted in an unnecessary free kick that Taylor was deeply frustrated to concede.
Focal point Bowman is the choice
Could lightning strike twice and Bramall score first again? The Sportsbook price is14.00. One might think of a headed goal from a corner being the more likely route for a defender to score. Jackson (2), Eastman (2) and Prosser (3) have all netted this season for the U's and are all at least [33.0].
Meanwhile for the hosts, defenders Dean Moxey, Aaron Martin, Pierce Sweeney all have two (as does Tom Parkes, another regular at the back who could conceivably be mixed in) and they are all 18.00 or bigger. Midfielders Nicky Law and Lee Martin have seven and six and are priced 8.00 and 7.00. Bowman heads the scorers markets this time at 5.00, his 13 goals including nine at home. He has only scored twice on one occasion, so I'd want bigger than the 11.00 offered on him scoring "two or more", even if he is the focal point.
Theo Robinson, a substitute on Thursday priced [6.5] to score first, will be itching for a start and hoping that Nouble's and Norris's ineffectiveness last Thursday will mean he receives one.
Nouble has experience in the Premier League with West Ham, but what extra that counts for here is questionable. He will want to play somewhere next season though - and this is a chance to impress.
Expect a faster pace as the urgency heats up. Given the slight rustiness from Thursday, expect legs to start tiring, space to open up in midfield and mistakes to creep in. This could create chances for Law and Martin but also Colchester's Harry Pell to drive forward. Kwame Poku also has a good return of five goals, which indicates he attacks and must be considered if not at 11.00 for first scorer then 6.00 to score at any time.
Expect goals to nudge above 2.5
While the two games in the regular season were tight between these sides, both ending level, we should expect over 2.5 goals this time at 2.50. Exeter's record at home of 31-15 goals is just over 2.5 per game. Colchester's away record is 24-20, just above 1-1. They should have enough firepower between them to net three, with Exeter having to press and most likely to score first on home soil.
Grecians to make home record count
Exeter can't afford the 1-1 result (the shortest correct score market price at 7.00 jointly with 1-0) that Colchester's away record implies. If it gets to that score they still have to go forward. A score of 2-1 to the hosts is about 12.00 and 2-1 to the visitors 14.00. I'm going for the hosts to pinch the 90 minute win.