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League Two

Sky Bet League Two: Play-Off Semi-Final first leg preview

17 June 2020

Four teams in Sky Bet League Two are vying for the chance to join Swindon Town, Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle in League One next season.

With only seven points separating the sides in the regular season, all teams involved are evenly matched, and with no competitive football for the last three months, it would be fair to say that the results are completely unpredictable.

Colchester United v Exeter City (Thursday 18 June, 17:15) 
The first of the Semi-Finals in League Two takes place at the JobServe Community Stadium as Colchester United welcome Exeter City. The hosts finished the regular season in sixth spot on 58 points and have been impressive all season under manager John McGreal, most notably in the Carabao Cup where they saw off Premier League teams Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur to reach the Quarter-Finals for the first time in 45 years. 
The U’s were one of the few teams in the division to record a double over champions Swindon Town this season, beating them 3-0 away from home back in September, and then again on home soil towards the end of January, performances they’ll be looking to replicate in the Play-Off campaign. 
This will be Colchester United’s first Play-Off campaign since the 1997/98 season, in which they were subsequently promoted from the fourth-tier, courtesy of a 1-0 in the Final. Prior to 1998, the U’s had failed to win promotion in two previous Play-Off attempts (1986/87 and 1995/96). 
Striker Theo Robinson, currently on loan from Southend United, has proved a threat throughout the season for Colchester, and will be one to watch in the upcoming Semi-Finals, having scored 11 goals this campaign. The striker has also been directly involved in more goals in all competitions this season than any other Colchester United player, including netting in the 2-2 draw at home to Exeter in December.
There has been nothing to separate the two sides in previous meetings, with both fixtures ending in a draw earlier this season. 
Exeter City are competing in the League Two Play-Offs for the third time in the last four campaigns, losing both previous Finals in 2016/17 and 2017/18. 
This season however, with 65 points from 37 games, Matt Taylor’s side have been the best of the rest, recording some impressive results in league action, including a memorable victory over Plymouth Argyle in the Devon derby back in October. 
A highlight for the Grecians this season will most certainly be their impressive run in the Trophy where, after getting past Ipswich Town and Oxford United, they reached the Semi-Finals, only to be stopped in dramatic fashion by League One promotion hopefuls and current EFL Trophy holders, Portsmouth. 
One player the U’s will need to keep a close eye on if they wish to take an advantage into the second leg is Randell Williams. The winger has been one of the Grecians’ standout players this season, registering 14 assists - more than any other League Two player this campaign, as well as five goals - both career season-highs. 
Northampton Town v Cheltenham Town (Thursday 18 June, 19:45) 
Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town will meet each other in the Play-Offs for only the second time in their history – with the Cobblers winning both Semi-Final legs in the 2012/13 League Two edition before falling short in the Final to Bradford City. Keith Curle’s side will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself this time around as they look to return to third tier after two seasons in League Two. 
Thursday night’s game will be the third time that the two Clubs have faced each other this season, the first coming back in December at Sixfield’s where neither side could be separated in a 1-1 draw. The Robins however were victorious on home soil in February with Luke Varney netting an 85th minute winner at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium. 
When it comes to the Play-Offs, the Cobblers are no strangers to the occasion, this being the sixth time that Northampton have competed in the Play-Offs, five of which have come in the fourth their of English football. However, the Cobblers’ only promotion via this route came in the 1996/97 season when Ian Atkins guided them to a 1-0 win over now-Sky Bet Championship side Swansea City. 
A player that will no doubt be firmly on Cheltenham manager Micheal Duff’s radar, is playmaker Nicky Adams who, since the start of the 2015/16 campaign has provided 59 assists in League Two - 26 more than any other player in the competition in this period. The 33-year-old has registered 12 assists for the Cobblers this campaign too, and will be no doubt be key to Keith Curle’s tactics.  
Points-per-game saw the Robins finish the season in fourth place, and prior to the break had won six of their last eight games in Sky Bet League Two, marking them as one of the most in-form teams across the EFL currently. Michael Duff’s side are also looking to win three consecutive away games for the first time since 2011, and will be chomping at the bit to finish what they started back in August. 
Cheltenham have never kept an away clean sheet against Northampton in all competitions, conceding 28 goals in 17 games, but Thursday evening would be the perfect opportunity to right that wrong, and in-turn leave them in a strong position heading into the return leg. 
Only once in the last 11 season has the team finishing in fourth place in League Two gone on to achieve promotion, Fleetwood Town the holders of that record after seeing off Burton Albion back in the 2013/14 campaign. 
You can watch the Sky Bet League Two Play-Offs live on Sky Sports Football from 17:00 on Thursday or follow all the action via @SkyBetLeagueTwo on Twitter. 

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