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Exeter value punt to beat Coventry at Wembley

Sky Bet League Two playoff final
Sky Sports Football, 3pm Monday


Coventry have not been promoted since 1967 and their long wait could be extended by a defeat to Exeter in the Sky Bet League Two playoff final.

The Wembley experience is familiar for Exeter manager Paul Tisdale, who has steered the Devonians to three playoff finals, winning one and losing two.

Exeter lost 2-1 to Blackpool in last season's League Two playoff final but at least the majority of their players will know what the occasion is all about.

They go into the match as underdogs but they were also outsiders for their playoff semi-final against Lincoln before registering a well-deserved 3-1 aggregate victory.

The Grecians put in a couple of mature performances to get past the Imps.

Tisdale's side were resolute in the face of an aerial barrage when drawing 0-0 at Sincil Bank, and they showed the attacking side to their game in the return match in Devon. They opened up a three-goal lead inside 69 minutes before holding on for a fairly comfortable 3-1 success.

Exeter have stepped up their performances in time for the playoffs and are benefiting from the recent return from injury of two key players - captain and central defender Jordan Moore-Taylor and classy midfielder Ryan Harley.

Both returned to the starting line-up for the 1-0 success at home to Colchester on the final day of the regular season and their availability has been a huge boost for Tisdale, who prefers to operate with a fairly small squad.

Exeter collected five more points than Coventry in the league and it could be argued that they, rather than the Sky Blues, should be favourites.

Coventry have the advantage in the stands with around 40,000 Sky Blues fans expected to attend and the extra vocal backing may partially explain why they have been so popular in the markets.

Mark Robins has built an exciting young team including talented wide midfielders Tom Bayliss and Jordan Shipley, who could go on to forge a career at a higher level than League Two.

Coventry are spearheaded by a prolific striker in Marc McNulty who has netted ten goals in his last 11 appearances. And they came through their semi-final against Notts County the hard way, falling behind in the home leg before winning 5-2 on aggregate.

However, the final score does not come close to telling the story of a tie influenced by three crucial refereeing decisions, all in Coventry's favour.

Coventry showed their attacking quality in the closing stages of the 4-1 win at County but they also looked defensively vulnerable when they were put under pressure earlier in the game.

They have kept just one clean sheet in the last ten matches -  a mutually beneficial 0-0 draw with Morecambe on the last day of the regular season - and their shaky defending could cost them on a day when fine margins are likely to dictate the outcome.

Exeter are defending more solidly, keeping two clean sheets in three games, and they have an X-factor up front in 19-goal striker Jayden Stockley, who may prove to be their match-winner.

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Expert verdict
The early kick-off on Saturday sees Javi Gracia’s Watford travel to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham. The Hornets suffered their first league defeat at home to Manchester United last weekend. Jose Mourinho’s men exposed Watford’s weaknesses at set pieces which could be where they come unstuck again.