National League Play-Off Semi-Final First Legs: Preview and Betting Tips

Updated Friday 5th May 2017, 12:56 PM

Following another exhilarating season of non-league action, the National League play-offs are set to get underway as Tranmere Rovers, Forest Green Rovers, Dagenham & Redbridge and Aldershot Town all fight to join Lincoln City in League Two next season. All four sides must slog it out in an end of season lottery where reputation means nothing and teams are forced to rely on a fine blend of luck and determination in order to succeed. So, which teams will seize the advantage in this week’s semi-final first legs?

The Play-Offs

Aldershot Town v Tranmere Rovers (Wednesday 19:00)

  • Winner: Tranmere Rovers 5/4, Aldershot Town 23/10, Draw 23/10 - BetVictor
  • First Scorer: Andy Cook (TRA) 7/2, James Norwood (TRA) 9/2, Cole Stockton (TRA) 13/2 - Bet365
  • Correct Score: Draw 1-1 6/1, Tranmere 1-0 7/1, Tranmere 2-1 8/1 - William Hill

Following their relegation to the National League in 2015, Tranmere Rovers missed out on last season’s play-offs by two points as they endured a frustrating campaign. This year, the Merseysiders improved dramatically as they pushed Lincoln City all the way; however, their efforts were in vain as the team from Prenton Park finished four points shy of the eventual champions. Getting over this disappointment will be the players’ first major hurdle.

First up is a trip to Aldershot Town, a team who finished a full 13 points adrift of Rovers in the final standings, and with Andy Cook leading the line, the visiting fans will be optimistic of securing an early advantage. The 26-year-old enjoyed a superb season in which he finished as one of the league’s highest scorers, netting 23 of Tranmere’s 79 goals. The former Barrow forward will have his work cut out against the division’s meanest defense though, but a goal at any point in the match looks tempting at 5/4 with Sky Bet. However, Cook’s presence could be a bad omen, as the striker has twice played in National League play-off semis before, losing on both occasions with previous club Grimsby Town.

On paper, Micky Mellon’s men stand head and shoulders above their opponents in terms of club size, but his squad will need to maintain their impressive league form if they are to prosper. The division’s runners-up are 11/4 with Sky Bet to win this game to nil and 1/3 with BoyleSports to qualify for the final at Wembley later this month.

Tranmere’s route to the national stadium is blocked by a team who last graced the Football League in 2013. Aldershot Town enjoyed five seasons in League Two and even reached the play-offs in 2010, before flirting with administration a couple of years later in a move that ultimately saw them re-enter non-league football. Gary Waddock, who was in the hot seat at the Recreation Ground the last time the club secured promotion, will now be charged with guiding the Hampshire club to the League once again, an outcome that William Hill have priced at 5/1.

Finding the back of the net hasn’t been Aldershot’s forte this season, with the club managing just 66 goals in 46 outings. However, the Shots have been rock solid at the back, keeping 23 clean sheets and limiting their opposition to a combined total of just 37 goals. Even more encouraging for the Aldershot faithful is that their team avoided defeat in both their meetings with Tranmere this season, recording a 3-1 home win, before drawing 2-2 in April. Much like the sides’ last encounter, this semi-final first leg could be a tight affair with little to separate the teams ahead of the return leg on Merseyside this Saturday.           

  • Top Tip: 1-1 Draw - 6/1 with William Hill


Dagenham & Redbridge v Forest Green Rovers (Thursday 19:00)

  • Winner: Forest Green 6/4, Dag & Red 7/4/, Draw 12/5 - William Hill
  • First Scorer: Christian Doidge (FGR) 9/2, Keanu Marsh-Brown (FGR) 5/1, Jordan Maguire-Drew (D&R) 11/2 - Bet365  
  • Correct Score: Draw 1-1 5/1, Forest Green 2-1 17/2, Forest Green 1-0 8/1 - Sky Bet

Just six years ago, Dagenham & Redbridge were fighting to stay in League One, taking on the likes of Bournemouth, Brighton and Southampton. Now, the Daggers face a very different battle in the form of the National League play-offs as they aim to bounce back to the Football League after succumbing to the drop 12 months ago. The London-based outfit, who finished fourth in what turned out to be a particularly close-run race for promotion, will remain hopeful that top scorer Oliver Hawkins (6/1 with Betfred to score first) can add to his 18 league goals this season, while fans will be keen for Corey Whitely (5/1) to chip in too.

The Daggers may be in the play-offs, but they have lost an alarming 14 times this season, just four less than relegated York City. However, if there is one man to lead the club from the capital to promotion, it’s manager John Still. The 67-year-old has overseen the rise of Barnet, Luton and Dagenham during his well-travelled career, making him the only boss to gain promotion from the National League with three separate clubs. Still is 9/2 to repeat the feat this season and 6/4 to start his play-off journey with a win.

Standing in the Daggers’ way are last year’s beaten play-off finalists Forest Green Rovers. The team from Gloucestershire have just completed their 19th consecutive season in the National League and, having twice avoided the drop thanks to the financial collapse of other teams, have steadily built themselves into a force to be reckoned with. Fans, players and management alike are desperate to secure league football for the first time in the club’s 128-year history.

Proudly boasting the division’s most potent attack, The Green will be confident of spearing their opponents in the first leg in an effort to make life as easy as possible when the two sides meet at The New Lawn on Sunday. Former Daggers frontman Christian Doidge will be key to Rovers unlocking the opposition’s defensive line and is 9/2 to strike first. Mark Cooper’s men drew 1-1 with their non-league counterparts back in October, before suffering a 2-1 defeat in March. The travelling fans will be hoping to avoid similar heartache this time around, with an away win looking more than feasible at 6/4 with William Hill.         

  • Top Tip: Christian Doidge to score first - 9/2 with Bet365

*Please note, odds may fluctuate.

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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2017 12:56:35+00:00
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