Weblog: The football punter

Bayliss could prove a playoff star for Coventry

Sky Bet League Two playoff semi-final second leg
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm

Notts County finished just two points above Coventry in Sky Bet League Two and bookmakers anticipate a close contest in the second leg of their playoff semi-final which starts with the teams level at 1-1.

There was a controversial conclusion to the first leg at the Ricoh Arena with Coventry striker Mark McNulty slamming home an 87th- minute penalty after Magpies' defender Matt Tootle had been harshly adjudged to have fouled Tom Bayliss.

It was tough on County, who had weathered an early storm and forged ahead with a well-taken Jonathan Forte goal.

But Coventry had contributed plenty to an entertaining spectacle which could have featured more goals.

Another lively encounter is expected in Nottingham with both teams to score priced up at odds-on.

Despite the controversy over McNulty's penalty, County will feel they are in a strong position.

They have sustained just two home league defeats this season, the fewest in the division, and won 2-1 at home to Coventry in last month's league meeting.

One of County's main problems has been the lack of a reliable goalscorer.

On-loan Nottingham Forest midfielder Jorge Grant leads their league scoring charts with 15 goals but has gone off the boil, netting only once in his last 21 appearances.

Veteran striker Jon Stead can be a handful for defenders but has never been prolific and has bagged just nine league goals.

County possess a strong, settled defence and that is just as well because Coventry have more potential matchwinners.

McNulty finished joint-second on the League Two scoring charts with 23 and is the favourite to score first.

However, he may be eclipsed by a rising star, 19-year-old midfielder Bayliss, who is attracting plenty of attention from higher-division scouts.

Bayliss has netted five goals in his first EFL campaign but two of those came in the last four matches and he looks overpriced to score the first goal of the second leg.

Defensively, Coventry must adjust to the loss of centre-back Tom Davies, who starts a three-game ban.

Davies was retrospectively punished after footage showed him treading on County defender Richard Duffy's ankle in the first leg.

However, central defence is an area of strength for the Sky Blues with Jordan Willis (35 league games this season) and Rod McDonald (37 games) vying to come into the side.

T Bayliss first scorer

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Match in Focus


Ireland v N Ireland

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Key stats
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Expert verdict
This will be a friendly in name only and looks set to conjure up goals in the first Irish derby since 2011. Both sides are out of form and bottom of their Nations League groups but will be motivated to perform under the lights of the Aviva Stadium. The return of Kyle Lafferty should be a big boost for the visitors.