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League 1 play-offs see Chesterfield take on Preston and Sheffield United face Swindon

 

The play-offs may be exciting for the neutral punter, but one man who won't relish them is Preston boss, Simon Grayson.

Grayson admitted the defeat to Colchester on Sunday - which cost his side automatic promotion, was a low point in his career.

According to www.­footyinsider.­co.­uk North End were as short as 1/4 to gain promotion before the match but a lack lustre showing saw them lose to the relegation threatened Essex side. This slip allowed MK Dons to grab second spot behind Bristol City.

That was a huge blow and the players looked visibly shocked after the game. It will take a big effort to get back mentally from that and the 15/8 best price about promotion doesn't look great value despite North End finishing well clear of fourth place Swindon and 20 odd points clear of Chesterfield who they meet in the play-off semis.

The pressure is all on Grayson's men again given their form credentials. The likes of Jermaine Beckford, Paul Gallagher, and leading scorer Joe Garner could all grace the Championship. But it didn't help on Sunday that they had the best squad.

Preston are one of the best paid squads, funded by multi-millionairre Trveor hemmings. Hemmings, who earlier in the year saw his horse Many Clouds win the Grand National will not want to see his side fail in the play-offs again as they did last season - when they lost to Rotherham.

The other factor is that Preston have the worst play-off record of any side - they have contested nine so far reaching three finals but winning none. Records - even bad ones are there to be broken but it weighs heavily on the mind for some.

On form Preston should walk this, but history suggests they are poor value at 15/8.

Mean­whi­leT­here seems to be a collective love in for Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough. But he will come under scrutiny if his team fail to make the Championship for a second year running under his charge.

Last year a good cup run was blamed for the failure to even make the play-offs (albeit Clough only took over part way through the season) but excuses are wearing thin.

Joe Ross of footyinsider: 'Another good cup run dowsn't really excuse the fact that one of the highest earning squads faied to even look like automatic promotion candidates.

'Sheffield's cup pedigree has seen many pundits assume this will help in the play-offs - but that is doing Swindon no favours.

'Swindon for most of the season looked like they could go up with Bristol City and once their chance had gone, Mark Cooper has rested his squad over the past four or five games and that may be a good plan.

'Swindon finshed well above United and but for the squad rotation would have been much closer to Preston in the final table.

'Of the four contestants they look the most value to deliver - no excuses as they come fresh having known their fate for some weeks.'

The pressure is all on big spenders Preston and Sheffield United but it might be the smaller club that prevail.

JR

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