The Football League Divisional Play-Offs

The football season has ended for most teams from the Championship, League 1 and League 2, but for twelve teams there will be three victorious as they seek to grab the final promotion place available from their division.

The divisional playoffs have been around for quarter of a century, well this is the 27th year to be exact, and although I’m not a great fan of them as I’m old school and believe a season worth of games is the fairest way to decide who are the best teams, there’s no denying that they do offer up excitement, especially to those involved.

The second legs and final are decided without replays. If the scores are level, the games move into extra time and then penalties if still tied at the end of 120 minutes.

The Championship play-off final benefits both teams financially. The winner will receive over 90 million via TV revenue that’s paid out to the Premier League teams whilst the losing finalist receives the ‘net’ gate receipts.

The team finishing third in the division has won promotion on nine occasions. The fourth placed team has won promotion on five occasions, while the fifth and sixth placed finisher have both been successful six times.

The playoffs start with a two legged tie and in the Championship they have followed a similar pattern.

The first leg is usually a tight close game as neither team want to be out of the playoffs after the first game. The second leg tie’s are polar opposite, very open as it comes down to win and move on, lose and hit the golf course!

The first leg games have seen goals hard to come. Since 2008, the first leg game results have been; 1-2, 0-2, 1-1, 1-0, 0-1, 2-1, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-2, 1-0, 1-2, 0-0

Backing ‘under’ 2.5 goals in the first leg has been profitable eleven out of fourteen games, and ‘under’ 1.5 goals has been successful eight times over those same 14 games.

The 2nd leg as I said, is a much more open game. Again, since 2008 the scores have been (after 90 mins) 1-0, 4-1, 0-2, 1-0, 3-4, 2-3, 3-1, 0-3, 3-0, 2-2, 3-1; 0-2, 1-1, 4-1

Betting ‘over’ 2.5 goals has won 9 out of 14 times including a more recent 8 from the last 10 games have produced three or more goals.

The League 1 play-off first leg games follow a similar pattern, being tight and low scoring. Betting ‘under’ 2.5 goals been successful eight times in the last five years.

The 2nd leg games have been more open and produced more goals than the first leg games, betting ‘over’ 2.5 goals would have only landed six winning bets since 2009.

The League 2 play-offs are not quite so reliable. Two stats jump out from this division, the first being that the fourth placed finisher in the league and supposedly the best of the four playoff teams have struggled. Since 2008, Fleetwood Town (last season) have been the only fourth placed finisher in the League to make the final (and lost) and you have to go way back to 2005, the year Swindon Town won to find the last fourth placed league finisher to win the playoff final.

No surprises again to find that the first leg is a tight affair and ‘under’ 2.5 goals has been the result in ten of the twelve games. No guessing how the 2nd leg games are played out, but probably not as pronounced as the other two divisions as six games (from 12) finished with three or more goals scored. The second stat that sums this division up is that the home team has failed to win in 90 minutes in the 2nd leg encounters.

Championship recommended bets:
Back ‘under’ 2.5 goals in the first leg.Back ‘over’ 2.5 goals in the 2nd leg games.

League 1 recommended bets:
Back ‘under’ 2.5 goals in the first leg games.

League 2 Recommended bets:
Back ‘under’ 2.5 goals in the first leg games.Lay the home team in the 2nd legs.



Brentford v. Middlesbrough, 1st leg Friday May 8th

Ipswich v. Norwich, 1st leg Saturday May 9th

Middlesbrough v. Brentford, 2nd Leg Friday May 15th

Norwich v. Ipswich, 2nd Leg Saturday May 16th

League 1

Chesterfield v. Preston, 1st leg Thursday May 7th

Sheffield United v. Swindon, 1st leg Thursday May 7th

Preston v. Chesterfield, 2nd Leg Sunday May 10th

Swindon v. Sheffield United, 2nd Leg Monday May 11th

League 2

Plymouth v. Wycombe, 1st leg Saturday May 9th

Stevenage v. Southend, 1st leg Sunday May 10th

Southend v. Stevenage, 2nd Leg Thursday May 14th

Wycombe v. Plymouth, 2nd Leg Thursday May 14th

Derek Sheppard

Left school at 16 and went into my first employment as a mechanical technical engineer. Those first five years of employment were perhaps my most enjoyable and I finished my apprenticeship having gained a degree, as well as the usual ONC, OND, HNC and HND. The company I worked for moved away from England, across the Atlantic to America whilst I was in my fourth year. I never did join up with them and head my own team as I had not long before hand got engaged, and my roots were in England and I'm one of those patriotic people. I went from one job to another, never really settling and being under paid as Company's were feeling the pinch under a Tory government led by Mrs T. Some thirty years later I decided it was the time I started out betting for my living. My interest in racing and betting first started out when I wrote a piece about 'probability' for Maths during my second year of my apprenticeship. This was later than my first bets, and as with most people, this started out as a child with a bet on the National. My interest grew and I read as many books as I could on betting, no internet back in those days. What was written then and still holds true today is that you can't win every day, you will by the very nature have more losing days than winning days. If anyone wants to be a winner, then they will have to accept this. I have seen so many people go 'on tilt' because they can't accept they are going to have a losing day. I started to get interested in racing systems after reading Clive Holt's Fineform publication 'Profitable Betting Strategies'. I still have this and a number of his other publications today and I still re-read them. I have now become a successful bettor of horses (and sports) in as much as I make a comfortable living. I'm restricted by many bookmakers and most of my betting is now done through the exchanges.


  1. I would strongly recommend Michael and all other football betting avoidists to give it a go. After a lifetime
    of following the gees gees (my passion) and still hardly breaking even, just a few months of dabbling on the football markets and my bankroll has stabilised and steadily increased beyond my wildest expectations.
    Now my expectations are pretty low i admit and I have no real interest in football either, but the opportunities for successful statistical based betting must be of goldmine proportions if I can make it work at my age and
    whilst operating in a sense of suspended disbelief……maybe pride before the fall….and the debtor’s prison lies ahead……But at least at the present it is rewarding.

    1. Thanks for the comment Josephine. Pleased to hear that you’re football betting is still going well and I hope that Derek’s articles will help to make it even more 🙂

  2. It was not the greatest of starts to the playoffs with only 3 from 6 first leg games seeing two or less goals resulting in a loss of around 3/4 (0.75) points to prices generally available, although it’s less than a half point loss getting the best available prices half hour before kick-offs via UK bookmakers or off shore bookmakers that are trustworthy and reliable.

    It could have been a small profit but for a late strike (3 mins into the 5 minutes of time added on) in the Sheffield United v Swindon 1st Leg tie which scuppered the ‘under 2.5 goals’. But that is football and betting in a nutshell.

    The 2nd legs went much the same way as in the past. In League 2, Wycombe won their 2nd leg home tie (@ 13/10), but Southend managed only a draw (@ Evs), so a slight loss of 0.35 points on the exchanges allowing for 5% commission deductions. The Championship saw both games finish with three or more goals in each which gave a nice profit of 2.1 points.

    Overall for something so simple, those that followed would have made a small profit of around 1 point. Not great, but given a bit of luck in the Sheffield United Swindon tie (1st Leg) it could have been much closer to 3 points in the positive side of the ledger.

    Look out for further systems and trends over the coming months. Till then, bye and happy punting.

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