The Sky Bet League Two season reaches its climax as Northampton Town take on Exeter City in the Play Off Final at Wembley on Monday evening.
Both teams come into the fixture off the back of comeback wins in the semi-final; Northampton became the first team to score more than one goal against Cheltenham Town this season in their 3-0 second leg victory, whilst Exeter turned around a one goal deficit against Colchester United at St James’ Park. A Ryan Bowman goal in extra time was enough to seal their spot in the final.
Exeter finished in fifth position in the Points Per Game League Two table and have been to two of the previous three finals – losing both. Northampton, on the other hand, have snuck into the play-offs in seventh place; after finishing 15th in their maiden League Two season last term following relegation, they have the chance to return to England’s third tier.
The key battle to look out for is Exeter centre back Aaron Martin and Vadaine Oliver, Northampton’s powerful forward. Oliver was unplayable in the second leg of the semi-final against Cheltenham – despite their impressive record this season, Ben Tozer and the likes couldn’t deal with the Sheffield born striker. He scored one early and should have had a second just before the break. It will be interesting to see how Exeter, who line up similarly to Cheltenham with three centre backs, handle both Oliver and Callum Morton.
The two sides managed to play each other home and away before the season was interrupted and then ended prematurely. The most recent meeting was at Northampton, and the home side ran out as 2-0 winners.
Oliver opened the scoring within the first minute, capitalising on a mix up in the Exeter penalty area and firing the Cobblers ahead. Despite having the wealth of possession, Exeter could not find a way through a resolute Northampton defence. The win was wrapped up with nine minutes remaining, when Sam Hoskins converted a late penalty.
Neither team have any fresh injury concerns after the semi-final stage of the play-offs. Northampton have a completely clean bill of health, with both Nigel Atangana and James Olayinka appearing from the bench following injury layoffs.
As for their opponents, midfielder Lee Martin will be hoping to play some sort of role for the Grecians after missing the semi-final second leg with a calf complaint.
Morton proved exactly why he is so highly thought of at parent club West Bromwich Albion on Monday with a man of the match performance that saw him score two goals against a normally solid Cheltenham side. The 20-year-old has been in fantastic scoring form for the Cobblers – in 11 appearances, the former Yeovil Town youngster has helped himself to seven goals. He is a livewire, and alongside Oliver, Northampton have a frontline to put fear into any League Two opponent.
As for Exeter, a lot has been said about exciting wing back Randall Williams, but he has been quiet so far in the play-offs. One man who has been key to both the season and the play-off campaign is goalkeeper Jonny Maxted. His mid-season injury coincided with a drop in form for the Grecians, but a massive one on one stop in the Colchester second leg will fill both him and his defence with confidence moving into the final.
Where to watch
The match will be aired on Sky Sports Main Event on Monday 29th June, with coverage starting at 7pm.
VAVEL will also be providing live minute by minute updates on the game, should you not have access to Sky Sports.