Play-Off preview: The second legs
Thrills and spills, ups and downs, joy and despair, and it’s far from over yet!
Six more huge games are on the way in the Sky Bet EFL Play-Offs, but who will #StepUp? Here’s our guide to the second legs…
Leeds United (1) v Derby County (0) (Wednesday 15 May, 7:45pm)
State of play: It’s advantage Leeds going into the second leg, thanks to Kemar Roofe’s goal at Pride Park on Saturday evening. The striker scored home and away against the Rams during the regular season and has put in a good claim to keep his place here, with Patrick Bamford available again after suspension. Marcelo Bielsa’s side controlled the first leg and will be favourites to progress, though Derby are far from out of it – the first goal at Elland Road could prove crucial.
Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds manager: “Every game is a new situation, and I don’t think the three wins [over Derby this season] guarantee anything in the second leg. It was painful for us to miss out on the top two, but we took the Play-Offs as an important opportunity. We should value the opportunity of having a new possibility.”
Frank Lampard, Derby manager: “We started well, but they’re the favourites because they are full of experience at this level and finished third in the table for a reason. I would rather go out playing the way we play and sometimes we turned away from that in the first leg, which I didn’t like. I don’t want anyone thinking this tie is over.”
West Bromwich Albion (1) v Aston Villa (2) (Tuesday 14 May, 8pm)
State of play: If the second leg is anything like the first, we’re in for a treat. Saturday’s clash at Villa Park was full of drama, including three goals and a red card for Albion’s Dwight Gayle. Like all of the upcoming second-legs, it’s all to play for in this West Midlands derby, and we can be sure of a fantastic atmosphere too. These two sides are full of goals, but who will step up to fire their team to Wembley?
James Shan, West Brom caretaker manager: “The boys took on the game plan and executed it very well, but we’ve been done by a strike from distance and a penalty. I was highly frustrated with the nature of the two goals we conceded in the first leg, but within that there’s a compliment in to our game plan.”
Dean Smith, Aston Villa manager: It was a great turnaround, we had loads of possession. Albion came to get men behind the ball and frustrate us, and we found it tough to get through them first half. I said before that the tie couldn’t be won in the first leg. We’ve given ourselves an advantage, but that’s all it is.”
Portsmouth (0) v Sunderland (1) (Thursday 16 May, 7:45pm)
State of play: If this season has taught us anything, it’s that there’s little to separate Portsmouth and Sunderland. While the Black Cats’ 1-0 win in the first leg – secured by a stunning goal from Chris Maguire – won’t make up for the disappointment of their Checkatrade Final defeat to Pompey, it does mean they’re on course for a trip back to Wembley. Portsmouth are a different animal on home soil though, and will hope to turn this tie around under the lights at a sold-out Fratton Park.
Kenny Jackett, Portsmouth manager: “We’re 1-0 down at half-time, but with the second leg to come, I don’t think that’s too much of a disaster on the balance of it. We have to make sure the chances we do create, we’re more clinical with. I thought we were pretty solid up to half-time, but they scored a great goal which our goalkeeper had no chance with.”
Jack Ross, Sunderland manager: “You would take any sort of advantage before the game going into the second leg, and particularly with how the game panned out, we are pleased.”
Charlton Athletic (2) v Doncaster Rovers (1) (Friday 17 May, 7:45pm)
State of play: The dynamic of this second leg changed in the dying minutes of the first. With Charlton 2-0 up after a pair of quick-fire strikes, Doncaster pulled one back to keep things well and truly in the balance going into Friday’s reverse. While Rovers still have a job on their hands at the Valley, where Charlton are very strong, they have set up an intriguing second leg here.
Lee Bowyer, Charlton manager:“If you’d have said to me that we’re going to be going back to The Valley with a one goal lead then I would have bitten your hand off. My lads gave me everything and put their bodies on the line. It’s disappointing to concede at the end after all the hard work the lads had put in but the positive is that we’re going back home with a one goal lead.”
Grant McCann, Doncaster manager: “We’re right in this tie now and we know what we’ve got to do at The Valley on Friday. Maybe we lacked a cutting edge at times, but we played our game and I felt we could or should have had a couple more goals.”
Mansfield Town v Newport County
State of play: Newport County became the first team in the EFL to book their place in a Play-Off Final this season, beating Mansfield on penalties after extra-time at the One Call Stadium. The sides drew 1-1 on Thursday and 0-0 on Sunday, despite a host of chances, and it was the side from South Wales that kept their nerve in the shoot-out to secure a spot at Wembley and a chance to win promotion to Sky Bet League One.
David Flitcroft, Mansfield manager: “We’ll have a mourning process and a grieving process. We felt that after we didn’t go up [against MK Dons]. The passion and the commitment was there. In those big moments, we just didn’t seal the deal. It must have been one hell of a game to watch because the two teams left everything out there.”
Michael Flynn, Newport manager: “It is a fantastic achievement. What an amazing thing these players have gone and done. I thought we were excellent, absolutely superb, and we should have gone three or four up in the first half. I just said to the players – here is your challenge. In 13 days time do we want to be Newport County AFC in League One?”
Forest Green Rovers (0) Tranmere Rovers (1) (Monday 13 May, 7:45pm)
State of play: Forest Green are still in this tie, despite going down to 10 men within quarter of an hour of the first leg at Prenton Park, a game settled by a fantastic strike from Ollie Banks. It means that a spot at Wembley is still up for grabs for both sides, ahead of what promises to be an excellent second leg. Can Tranmere hold onto their lead, or will Forest Green produce a comeback?
Mark Cooper, Forest Green manager: “I thought the players were magnificent and with 10 men we still created some really good chances. I’m so proud of them. I asked them to be heroes at half-time and they surpassed that. They were superheroes. Everything’s to play for.”
Micky Mellon, Tranmere manager: “We had to make sure that we went in to the second leg hoping that we had some kind of advantage whether that be the home or away first leg probably to come away with something. We got that goal, a fantastic goal from Ollie Banks, against a team that decided they were going to play with 5-3 and the one up top, who made it very difficult for us.”