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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Coventry crowd should see lots of goals

Notts County bring plenty to the party

Coventry boss Mark Robins
1 of 1

Sky Bet League Two playoff semi-final first leg
Sky Sports Football, 7.30pm Saturday

Playoff rookies Coventry are expected to get the better of Notts County in their Sky Bet League Two semi-final, but inconsistencies in both camps make this tie hard to judge.

Early-season pacesetters County have tailed off since the turn of the year, but they were still in the hunt for automatic promotion three weeks ago.

Coventry’s first season in the bottom tier has been a learning curve and one that has ended with them staring at the possibility of a first promotion since 1967.

But the Sky Blues are an enigma, capable of putting six past Cheltenham but conceding six against Yeovil. Their last 11 matches have produced 44 goals, 19 of which have been against them.

It’s a sequence which includes last week’s mutually beneficial 0-0 draw with Morecambe.

They’ve struggled this season against direct sides and the Magpies like to get the ball from back to front quickly.

County prevailed 2-1 at Meadow Lane last month and just a few weeks later Lincoln, the yardstick by which any long-ball team are measured, won 4-2 at the Ricoh with a typically pummelling performance.

County have lost their way but Kevin Nolan, a former playoff winner as a player, will get his team up for this tie and look to veterans Shola Ameobi and Jon Stead to bring all their experience to bear.

Cov won at Wembley last year in the final of the Football League Trophy so they aren’t fazed by the big occasion and this will be one – a record crowd for a League Two playoff semi-final of around 25,000 is anticipated.

Mark McNulty, a playoff scorer for Portsmouth, is in sizzling nick with 26 goals this term and will pose a massive threat to a County side who struggle to keep clean sheets on the road.

Finishing sixth seems to be unlucky in this section – just twice in the last 22 years has a sixth-placed team gone up – though it’s more than merely historical anomalies that make Coventry uneasy favourites over two legs.

Recent playoff semis at this level have produced goals and more of the same is expected with bags of firepower in both groups.

Over 2.5 goals
1pt 5-4 general

Sky Bet League Two standings

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Team news
Centre-back Jordan Willis return after illness.

Notts County
Club captain Michael O’Connor is pushing for a start after coming back from injury.

Key stat
Notts County have kept a clean sheet in just one of their last 18 away league games. 

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Notts County have kept a clean sheet in just one of their last 18 away league games
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