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Football | Friday, May 17, 2024 12:39 PM

The Cards Column Tips: Final-day drama?

The Cards Column Tips: Final-day drama?
Andrew Orchard sports photography / Alamy Stock Photo: Elliott Nevitt

Sunday sees the curtain call on another entertaining Premier League season, even if it is the inevitable outcome of another Man City title. Matt Kirby is on hand to look at the top flight, as well as the League One and Two play-off finals for his favourite cards and bookings tips.

Odds via bet365 as of 21:30, May 16th. Odds may now differ.

Referee Appointments in the Premier League, Championship, League One and Two: Play-off finals for Barrott & Toner

John Brooks is the man in the middle as Man City look set to be crowned champions against West Ham, in David Moyes’ final game in charge of the Hammers. Michael Oliver is at the Emirates, in case Arsenal can pinch the title.

Graham Scott could be one hanging up his whistle. He’s at Turf Moor for Burnley against Nottingham Forest. While Luton need a miracle to survive. Matt Donohue has his second Premier League outing for that one.

Here’s a look at the League One and Two play-off finals:

  • L1: Bolton v Oxford: Sam Barrott – 37 matches, 13 of them have seen 4+ cards, showing 2+ to each team in eight.
  • L2: Crawley v Crewe: Ben Toner – 30 matches, 24 of them have seen 4+ cards, showing 2+ to each team in 20.

Sheffield Utd vs Spurs: Cup final ref to keep his powder dry

England, Premier League, Sunday, May 19th, 16:00 (UK)

Final-day games can be played at a testimonial or friendly pace, especially when teams have nothing to play for. 

The ever-excellent Mark O’Haire posted some data on Twitter (X) about the last 10 seasons, where games average 29.15 booking points with 77% seeing under 4.5 cards.

Bearing that in mind, you need two teams with nothing to play for and a referee who tends to stay out of the limelight. That takes me to Bramall Lane as already-relegated Sheffield Utd host Spurs, who have a European spot in the bag.

This did go off when they met in north London with a card-happy Peter Bankes at the whistle. But this time, we’ve got FA Cup final Andy Madley who’ll want a hassle-free 90 minutes before his trip to Wembley.

The Yorkshire whistler has had a busy 2024 but his card counts have been quite low. To prove the point, here are the numbers in league and cup competitions: 1/2/3/1/1/2/4/5/5/1/4/2/0/1/3/4. 

That’s nine times in 16 towards the business end of the season that he’s shown less than three cards. Those numbers are lower than what he was producing at the start of the campaign, so he’s mellowed somewhat, which makes this angle backable.

The Blades card count has been somewhat up and down. Their match at Newcastle saw no cards, while Mason Holgate was the only one booked against Man Utd. Even their basement battle with Burnley only saw one card. So, that’s three in their last five that have gone low on the card count.

This game could have the end-of-season feel, with only pride – if you’re in a red and white shirt – to play for. With that in mind, I’ll take the under 2.5 card option at 1.91 and will find some shrapnel for the 12.0 for the ‘no bookings’ – that’s found under 1st player booked on bet365.

  • Selection: Under 2.5 cards (TRACKED BET)
  • Best Odds: 1.91
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 7/10

Elliott Nevitt To Be Booked: Railwayman Nevitt to go steaming in 

England, League Two, Sunday, May 19th, 13:00 (UK)

Crawley make their first trip to Wembley in Sunday’s League Two play-off final. Tipped by many for relegation, Scott Lindsey’s side have proved the doubters wrong with an exciting and entertaining style of football, if the two legs against MK Dons were anything to go by.

They’ll face a Crewe side who had a rollercoaster ride at Doncaster. After losing the first leg 2-0 at home, Alex quickly drew level on aggregate inside 16 minutes. It went all the way to penalties with keeper Max Stryjek the hero.

Lee Bell’s side will welcome the extra 24 hours of rest and recovery. It’s something they’ll need, having had the end of the season impacted with injuries to key players, as fatigue set in. 

One of those who looked out on his feet in extra time was forward Elliott Nevitt. He’s Alex’s most-booked player this season with 13 yellows in the league. 

The 27-year-old was the first player cautioned in their semi-final second leg at Doncaster, which came in the 23rd minute. So, he’s usually eager to get amongst things. 

Plus, the forward found his way into the referee’s notebook in a 20-minute cameo off the bench against Crawley in October’s meeting. It was an eventful few minutes. He scored Crewe’s fourth, then was booked a couple of minutes later for a tangle with Jay Williams. 

With the way Crawley play, they could take a chance at the back. So, with Nevitt leading the Crewe press, expect him to leave his foot in or put himself about to unsettle the Red Devils players. 

Bet365 have priced him up at 4.50 for a card, which I’m more than willing to take. Plus, it’s worth noting that on six occasions he’s seen yellow, he’s also scored, including that aforementioned game at Broadfield Stadium. That’s a chunky 16.2.

I reckon it’ll be Crewe collecting a few cards as they try to keep Crawley at bay. Combative, no-nonsense defender Mickey Demetriou was also on my radar. That’s more based on how Crawley could enjoy the big Wembley pitch and he could find himself pulled out of position into the channels. 

In their semi-final, MK Dons left-sided centre-back Dan Harvie was booked in both legs. Jack Tucker was another who saw yellow in the second leg. That does draw me to Demetriou as another option. 

  • Selection: Elliott Nevitt to be booked
  • Best Odds: 4.50
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 10/10

Bolton vs Oxford: U’s to see early yellow

England, League One, Saturday, May 18th, 16:15 (UK)

The League One play-off final is between the teams that finished third and fifth. Bolton will go off favourites for this one after their higher finish and their 5-4 aggregate win over Barnsley. 

Now I’m looking forward to seeing Oxford and their ‘reverse mullet’ – as christened by Ali Maxwell on the NTT20 pod – but one thing caught my eye when looking at their record against some of the top six.

That’s how Oxford seem to collect an early card, although they only average 1.7 per 90 across the campaign. They’re 1.91 to see a first-half card, which looks worth a play based on their numbers.

Let’s start with their regular season games against Bolton. The U’s picked up five cards in total, with the home game seeing both sides see two each in the first half.

When Buckingham took his side to Fratton Park to face champions Portsmouth, his players picked up two yellows before the break with 30th and 42nd-minute cards. 

Having watched them during the play-off semi-finals, it was no surprise that trend continued against Peterborough. The first leg saw 30th and 43rd-minute cautions. While the second saw Oxford players receive 30th and 40th-minute cards.

That’s four first-half cards across the two legs, and it’s fair to say that they were possibly fortunate that referee Andrew Kitchen didn’t reach into his pocket earlier than he did in the second leg. 

Now this link is a stretch, but Oxford’s last visit to Wembley for the League One play-off final in 2020 saw their sole yellow come in the 27th minute in defeat to Wycombe.

Bolton drew an early card from Barnsley in their semi-final at Oakwell as well. The Tykes saw a yellow inside 18 minutes. 

Sam Barrott isn’t the best referee for cards. He’s one of the lower issuers but averages 1.3 per first half. Last Sunday, he had the first leg of West Brom v Southampton in the Championship and produced a 36th-minute card.

Neither side will want to be out of this too soon, so I expect this to see a competitive start, which can only lead to tempers flaring as the game heads towards half-time. If that’s the case, the U’s could well see another early card.

  • Selection: Over 0.5 Oxford first-half cards (TRACKED BET)
  • Best Odds: 1.91
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 5/10

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