National League play-off tips: Best bets for AFC Fylde v Salford
Our non-league expert Alan Alger gives his best football tips for Saturday's final, featuring few goals and a surprise win for the underdogs.
Salford City started this season as the shortest-priced title favourites in the betting history of the fifth tier of English football. Plagued with inconsistency and poor results, especially midway through the campaign, they never looked like justifying those quotes just shy of 2/1.
They take on an AFC Fylde side looking for a Wembley double, with a return next week in the FA Trophy final.
There's no question as to which game is the biggest, since the winning team this Saturday will be a new entry into 'the 92'.
Spring improvement from Salford gave eventual champions Leyton Orient enough cause to look over their shoulders with a degree of concern, but the damage of a run that saw them go into 2019 off the back of three straight defeats had already proved their undoing.
Their vast resources and links with Manchester United’s 'Class of ‘92' ensured headlines followed them to each and every game, certainly as the team everyone wanted to beat.
Even the bookmakers were slow to cotton on to them being heavily overrated as extreme odds-on favourites in circumstances that weren't warranted.
Some pointed to manager Graham Alexander and his lack of experience in the division. Alexander had only ever played or managed above the reaches of the non-league game, which students of that sector pinpointed as a weakness early on.
An amalgam of recent title-winning managers in the division would hit an almost unique sweet-spot of: 1) top-flight playing experience without superstar billing, 2) hard graft within non-league circles and coaching and, possibly most importantly, 3) a previous job in the division.
Opposite number Dave Challinor will welcome the lack of media focus on his side in the run up to the game, and could also be clever enough to turn that to his advantage as he asks his players for one last push.
They failed in the knock-out phase of last season's play-offs but, for a first attempt, it was a relatively good season.
Matches between the two sides in this campaign have seen the spoils shared, with the visitors victorious in both fixtures. Both were low-scoring and both only featured goals from the winning team.
It would therefore be extremely tempting to throw in a mixture of 'BTTS - no' or 'under 2.5 goals' in any bets we were to have on the Vanarama showpiece.
Other things to consider are a potentially record low crowd for this fixture, featuring two sides with a relatively small fanbase. The 90,000 capacity could become an echo chamber for player shouts.
Having watched many of these finals, often from the privileged position of between the benches, the prize at stake can often play havoc with normally strong players and experienced staff.
Most people would concede that we've not seen a final where both teams turned up in a very long while in this contest. The last time that occurred is possibly the 2006 final between Halifax and Hereford (a 3-2 extra time win for the Bulls following a 2-2 thriller).
I strongly believe there’s not as much between the two sides as the prices suggest, so I’m happy to oppose Salford at such a short price.
The extra media scrutiny and circus around their ownership will increase the pressure on their squad.
I’m also happy to suggest a range of bets incorporating a low-scoring AFC Fylde victory.
Under 2.5 goals
AFC Fylde to lift the trophy
AFC Fylde to win 1-0
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