Championship and League Two Playoff Finals – Match Previews and Expert Betting Tips
It’s a big weekend of EFL football as the Championship and League Two campaigns both draw to a close with the final of the playoffs. As usual, it’s been a real scrap to get there for all teams involved, with the battle for the top six going down to the wire in both divisions.
But Huddersfield Town, Nottingham Forest, Mansfield Town and Port Vale can be incredibly proud of the fact they’ve prevailed, with the final test now awaiting all of them and the ultimate prize within sight.
A place in the Premier League would mean the world to Forest and the Terriers, plus the financial reward would do wonders for either team. Likewise for Mansfield and Port Vale, securing League One football next season is a huge step up for the pair and in relative terms is just as big a reward.
Read on to see who we’re backing to do the business at Wembley this weekend…
Huddersfield Town vs Nottingham Forest
For both clubs, this is their biggest game in some time. Nottingham Forest have had a tough run for the last two decades or so. Since being relegated from the Premier League all the way back in 1998/99 they’ve floundered, to say the least. They reached the playoffs in 2002/03 but failed to beat Sheffield United in the semi-finals.
Then catastrophe as the club fell into League One a few years later, managing to claw their way out three seasons later. Back to back playoff campaigns came in 2009/10 and 2010/11 but both ended in semi-final defeat again. Since then, Forest have been nowhere near a return to a decision they were once a staple of. Until now.
Steve Cooper has done a magnificent job since taking over in September, with the former England youth and Swansea boss improving Forest’s attacking play, plus adding the much needed mental resilience required to make the playoff final. If he gets them over the line, it promises to be a historic day for a club that has waited over 20 years to get back to the top flight – arguably where they belong.
Huddersfield meanwhile have defied the odds this season, with many tipping them to struggle after 18th and 20th place finishes in the last two years and their relegation to the Championship. But full credit has to go to the clubs’ hierarchy who successfully stuck by their man, Carlos Corberán, which has proved the right decision.
Town of course have been here recently, winning the 2016/17 final against Reading on penalties under the stewardship of David Wagner. The German coach did wonders for the Terriers, keeping them in the Premier League during their debut season. But a second proved too much, with Huddersfield unable to compete financially with the other teams and ultimately finishing bottom the following campaign.
However, that experience will stand them in good stead going into this game with a couple of players still at the club from that era, like Jonathan Hogg who has been invaluable at the back this year.
It’s Forest though who enter this huge occasion as bookies favourites, with odds of 20/23 for them to record a historic win at Wembley on Sunday. Huddersfield are the outsiders at 12/5, but as we know, anything can happen in a playoff final under the arch.
We’re backing a tight game and with both sides having close semi-finals, we see another close match unfolding this weekend. Therefore, a bet of penalties as the method of victory for either side at 9/1 is our pick.
Mansfield Town vs Port Vale
What an end to the season in League Two! The most talked-about moment was Bristol Rovers securing the final automatic promotion spot on goal difference by winning 7-0. But Port Vale’s victory meant they snatched a playoff place on the last day, while Mansfield’s draw with table toppers Forest Green was enough for them to secure the last available spot.
Vale have been somewhat of a yo-yo club in the last decade or so, bouncing between League One and Two. But it’s been five-seasons since they came back down from the third tier, and they’ve really struggled to get anywhere near promotion during that time.
However, this season they have been able to find the consistency needed in Darrell Clarke’s first full season in charge. He watched from the stands (after being sent off for an altercation with Swindon defender Dion Conroy) as his side won the two-legged affair on penalties.
Clarke’s side face Nigel Clough’s Mansfield Town, where the former Burton Albion boss has turned the ship around since taking charge in 2020. They’ve not been in the playoffs since 2018/19 losing to Newport County in the semi-finals on penalties. Two lower half finishes followed (one with Clough at the helm) but he got them to within one game of League One in his first full season in charge.
Clough is a lower league veteran at this point, working miracles with Burton to get them to the Championship. Town fans will be hoping he can use the same magic formula on their team and get them to the third tier, where they’ve not set foot for some time.
There isn’t much to separate the two sides going into this one, with the bookies giving odds of 9/5 for a Mansfield win, while Port Vale are priced at 17/10 – a minimal difference. Throughout the season, both sides scored the same amount of goals (67) but Clough’s side conceded six more than their opponents, so all the stats point to another tight game.
Fancy a bet on this weekend’s playoff action? Sign up with Bet365, stake £10 and get £50 in free bets once it settles.