Middlesbrough v Brentford
Play-off semi-final second-leg
Friday 15 May, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1
Aitor Karanka would have been very happy with his side’s performance at Griffin Park and the prospect of taking a 1-1 draw back to the Riverside for the second leg when on-loan Fernando Amorebieta popped up deep into injury-time with a priceless winner.
Boro were impressive in West London, harrying and setting about their task with visible enthusiasm. Their undoubted physical advantage went a long way to stamp out their opponents’ midfield playmakers and they were solid at the back despite conceding after a howler from goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos.
Boro have a strong home record, losing just three times and conceding only 12 goals. They haven’t conceded more than one at the Riverside since the visit of Sheffield Wednesday last August. Karanka will have to decide if Patrick Bamford is fit enough to start – he certainly didn’t look 100% sharp at Griffin Park.
Mark Warburton was defiantly upbeat after the first leg, insisting that the tie isn’t over and his men certainly won’t lack for motivation at the Riverside, feeling that the visitors overdid their post-match celebrations somewhat, given this is still only half-time in the clash.
History is certainly against them though – no team in the Championship play-offs has ever reached the final after losing the first leg at home. Their form against the other top six sides wasn’t great this season either – W2 D1 L7 – although Bees’ fans will take heart from a win at Carrow Road in February when the Canaries were really starting to hit their stride.
Leading scorer Andre Gray didn’t get much joy out of Boro’s physical centre-backs but showed his striker’s instincts to take his chance well when levelling things early in the second-half and will be the visitors’ main threat again here.
Middlesbrough have now beaten Brentford three times this season, which would suggest they are the superior of these two sides and they look a tempting price at just shy of evens [1.97] to win this game – Karanka’s men clearly had an advantage in the physicality stakes in the first game and there’s no reason why it will be any different here.
If we cast our minds back 12 months, Derby went to Brighton and after coming from behind to win 2-1, won the second leg comfortably (4-1) to book their place at Wembley, highlighting their superiority.
The Bees do have some decent away form to their name this season but being a goal down here will surely play into Boro’s hands. The home side like nothing better than to soak up the pressure and then press forwards with real intent as and when the opportunity presents itself.
Prior to the draw with Brighton on the final day of the season, Karanka’s men had won six on the spin in front of their own fans. The Riverside has sometimes been accused of lacking atmosphere when only half-full but that won’t be the case here with a full-house under lights and the home crowd can play their part, which all points to a home win and a trip to Wembley eight days later – that’s my recommended best bet.
Half With Most Goals
I’m looking at a side market for the second recommended bet and Half With Most Goals is the one which looks worth dipping into. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tentative opening – Boro don’t need to force the issue and the visitors know that if they concede first they will have a mountain to climb.
However, after the break if the Londoners are still behind on aggregate they will have to start throwing men forward and taking chances at the back. This could lead to chances at either end and a late flurry of goals as happened at the iPro in that game last season referred to above, which makes this a nice bet.
Back Middlesbrough to win at [1.97] *Best bet
Back second half in Half With Most Goals at best available price
Staked: 146 pts
Returned: 140.41 pts
P/L: – 5.05 pts
*2pts best bet if stated
1pt other recommended bets