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“I am hurting and never want to feel like this again. There is regret and hurt in the dressing room.”

That was how Mansfield manager David Flitcroft summed up the mood following the conclusion of the regular League Two season on Saturday.

The Stags were beaten 1-0 away to MK Dons, meaning they surrendered the final automatic promotion spot as the two sides swapped places.

Despite that devastating result and poor form, they come into the play-offs as favourites.

There is a lot to like about the fourth-placed side, who boast 26-goal striker Tyler Walker on loan from Nottingham Forest and only lost just one of their first 26 league games.

But, having ended the season with nine defeats in their final 20, including all of the last three, they look far too skinny to take on.

They face Newport in the semi-final, who secured their play-off spot with to a 1-1 draw at Morecambe in their final game.

The Exiles’ turnaround under manager Mike Flynn has been remarkable, having only avoided relegation on the final day of the 2016/17 season thanks to an 89th-minute winner against Notts County.

Not that they are making up the numbers. Newport are coming into the play-offs hot,  finishing the season with a 10-match unbeaten run in which they earned 22 points – more than any other League Two side.

They should benefit from playing the first leg at Rodney Parade, too.

County had the second-best home record in the division, winning 48 points from 23 games – the same as second-placed Bury.

They have also been impressive in knock-out football, beating both Leicester and Middlesbrough at Rodney Parade on the way to the FA Cup fifth round.

The seventh-placed side has qualified for the final in seven of the last 10 seasons. Back Newport to continue that trend at .

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The other semi-final is between Forest Green and Tranmere , who have previous after contesting the 2017 National League play-off final, which was won by the former.

The two finished just one point apart this season and their semi-final is likely to be as tight as their respective prices for promotion suggest.

Tranmere, though, are justifiable outsiders to progress to Wembley at .

Micky Mellon’s side timed their end-of-season promotion push just too early, winning seven matches on the spin between mid-February and the end of March.

But they managed just one victory from their remaining seven games – five of which were against top-seven sides – and come into the play-offs with the worst form.

The scoring rate of Golden Boot winner James Norwood, who has netted 31 goals in all competitions, has also slowed.

Norwood scored in both of his side’s final two games of the season, but had previously gone five without a goal – his most fallow spell of the season.

For that reason, it is hard to back them with much confidence.

Forest Green, meanwhile, look a more enticing bet to make it to Wembley at .

Mark Cooper’s side completed a league double over Tranmere this season and won four of their final six league games, including a 1-0 victory at Prenton Park last month.

They posted the second-best away record (bettered only by champions Lincoln) over the course of the season, taking 41 points from 23 games – eight more than they managed at home.

The Green are available at to take a lead back to The New Lawn.

With key men Christian Doidge and Reece Brown in form, netting a combined total of 11 goals in their last nine matches, that price looks generous.

Backing them to make the final looks a smart bet, while their promotion odds could easily tumble after the first leg.

A Wembley meeting with Newport, who they took four points off this season, will see them begin as heavy favourites.

The forecast is currently available at .

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