EFL WEEKEND: With the Championship playoff final already decided between Luton Town and Coventry City, there’s still semi-final action across League One and League Two to attend to before next week’s all-important finals are in writing.
Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers – Friday 20:00
Barnsley took a 1-1 result back to Yorkshire with them after last weekend’s draw, a game that the Tykes actually went 1-0 up in just after the hour mark only for the hosts to level four minutes later. The result means Michael Duff’s side are winless in four fixtures including the conclusion of their League One campaign and they’ll need to muster up a suitable performance here if they are to go head-to-head with a fired-up Sheffield Wednesday side at Wembley next week.
Bolton are certainly the more in-form of the two teams here, with last week’s draw meaning they have lost just once in their last ten games, conceding only seven goals in the process. Ian Evatt’s side will fancy their chances against a Barnsley side who they are now unbeaten against in all three games this season, drawing two and thumping the Yorkshire side 3-0 in their own back yard in January.
Barnsley are the firm favourites for this one on home soil, but we like the look of Bolton’s price here. Their recent head-to-head record against the Tykes will give them a mental advantage over their opponents, and they seem to be peaking just at the right time. Backing the away side at 4.3 is the selection.
Stockport v Salford City – Saturday 12:30
Stockport will have to overturn a 1-0 deficit in their Saturday lunchtime kick-off if they are to participate in next week’s League Two playoff final, with Matt Smith’s first half goal enough to see Salford City take a narrow advantage from the first leg in this Manchester derby. The result was Stockport’s first defeat since February – a run of 13 games in which they incredibly only conceded six goals – and Dave Challinor’s side will need his front line to hold their side of the bargain if they are to reach Wembley.
Salford City’s win last week cast aside doubts about their recent home form and has put them in a good position to meet either Bradford or Carlisle in next week’s showdown. Their away form remains magnificent – winning four of their last five on the road and scoring 13 in the process – although the only game they failed to win in that run happened to be against Saturday’s opponents.
Stockport are unbeaten at home since before the World Cup break and will be incredibly difficult to break down in front of their home fans. It’ll be a tight affair between two evenly-contested sides, but we’re backing Stockport at 1.79 to win the match in 90 minutes – anything that happens afterwards is fair game!
Carlisle v Bradford City – Saturday 15:00
A first-half Jamie Walker strike was enough to condemn Carlisle to a first leg defeat last week, though they will take confidence from still being in the tie after a evenly-matched fixture at Valley Parade. What may concern fans of the Cumbrians is the fact that they’ve now won just one of their last seven fixtures since beating Tranmere 2-0 back in early April – hardly the kind of form that instils confidence that Paul Simpson’s side can turn it around.
Bradford likewise had a patchy end to their domestic campaign but will arguably be portrayed as the in-form side going into this one. Their away record since the turn of the year isn’t bad at all – losing just twice on the road in 2024, although both of those losses came in their most recent three games against Crewe Alexandra and Swindon Town.
Carlisle won this fixture 1-0 on Boxing Day earlier in the season and would love to replicate such a scoreline here, but this Bradford side seem more confident and compact now than when they were going through their December slide in form. A draw will be enough to see the Yorkshire side through to Wembley next week and we think they’ll have enough to achieve that, so laying Carlisle at 2.39 is the play.