Wycombe won’t be sitting back
Winning away from home in the first leg should always be lauded, but the manner in which Wycombe Wanderers let 0-3 at Plymouth Argyle slip to 2-3 in the last five minutes means they host the Greens tonight with perhaps less confidence than they would have had they just won 0-1 at Home Park last week. The Chairboys would be unwise to sit back and hold their slender lead, even with the Adams Park crowd behind them, as heads would almost certainly drop were Argyle to get on the scoresheet. Gareth Ainsworth will be sure to try and stop the visitors continuing their late first leg momentum, so expect Wycombe to look to outgun Argyle as they did last weekend until the closing stages.
Busy physios at Roots Hall
Anyone that saw the first leg of Stevenage and Southend United’s semi-final will still be trying to remove the image of Michael Timlin and Bira Dembele’s head collision from their minds (and if we’ve just brought it back for you, apologies). The incident led to both players ultimately having to be substituted, and we’re expecting more hard work for the clubs’ respective physio teams this evening. At this late stage of a physically and mentally gruelling season, both sides already have a number of injury doubts in addition to Timlin and Dembele – Ronnie Henry for Stevenage and John White, Ryan Leonard and Will Atkinson for Southend – and with so much at stake those players left will be putting everything on the line. In what is effectively a straight shoot-out for the play-off final place, there will be blood, sweat and tears poured in Essex this evening.
Plymouth aren’t worrying about a thing
Having avoided an embarrassing scoreline with their late goals in the first leg, John Sheridan will be doing what he can pre-match to ensure his Argyle team takes to the Wycombe pitch in the mood they finished the last fixture. The home crowd were in fine voice at 0-3 down, with a loud rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ appearing to be the catalyst for their side to claw their way back into the tie. It is the visitors who have all the work to do, and given their league record this season – the second-best defensive record in the division, but only Southend have scored fewer in the top seven – it may not come natural for Argyle to play with any form of reckless abandon. With the travelling Green Army sure to be in fine voice, however, Marley will be ringing in Adams Park as they look to get behind the side with their adopted anthem.
A nation gripped for big Beasant
Of the many aforementioned injuries at Broadhall Way on Saturday, there was one that actually had some of us relishing a player departure. Not that anyone has a particular dislike to Stevenage goalkeeper Chris Day, but when he required treatment it looked as if an incredible story was about to unfold, for the club’s substitute stopper on the bench was none other than 56 year-old Dave Beasant. Goalkeeping coach Dave’s son Sam is on Stevenage’s books but was absent with injury, so Beasant Snr had to put his kit on just in case (not for the first time, having also done so last year). In the end, Day was ok to carry on but Beasant looks set to be among the substitutes again this evening and anyone outside of Stevenage’s fans will be watching in the faint hope that Day is sent off and Beasant has to come on and repeat his 1989 FA Cup Final penalty heroics.
Brown feeling the strain
Of the four play-off sides, three should generally be quite pleased with how their season has gone regardless of this evening’s outcome. Wycombe may have missed out on automatic promotion on the final day, but that’s a marked improvement on last season when they avoided relegation to non-league in the final minutes. Stevenage are hoping to return to League One at the first attempt, but fans will appreciate the relative recovery from the disastrous last campaign and acknowledge this is still one of the best performing league positions in the club’s history. John Sheridan will be relieved at leading Plymouth to the play-offs after four years of lower to mid-table mediocrity post-administration, although if he doesn’t succeed in promotion next year patience might wear thin. Southend United, however, have now finished in the play-offs in three of the last four seasons and if Phil Brown fails to get the Shrimpers through this time around, especially having let slip automatic promotion on the last day, the perma-tanned coach may be on his way. Whether that will do-or-die scenario will energise Brown remains to be seen, but it will be he who is feeling the pressure the most this evening.