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Thursday, May 27, 2010

League Two Play Off Final: Preview

League Two Play Off Final
Dagenham & Rebridge vs. Rotherham United
Sunday May 30, 15:00, Wembley

Hands up who predicted these two would contest the League Two play-off final all the way back in August? No, I didn't think so.

That's the beauty of the unpredictable nature of football, I suppose. However, here it is - rank outsiders Dagenham against a Rotherham side most people expected to be already promoted. One will be playing in League One next term.

I'd be lying if I said I was a complete neutral on this one. The Daggers are old rivals of the Skyrockets. I can't pretend that I'd be over the moon to see a club no bigger than us competing in the third tier next year.

However, it'd be churlish of me not to recognise what an immense job the wily old John Still has pulled off this season with Dagenham. They came so close to the top seven last season that you felt they'd missed their chance. Not so.

Having said that, you think his greatest concern in training this week would have been whether the Wembley roof will be closed on Sunday. Daggers play the kind of route one game that would make even Sam Allardyce blush.

In some ways, I think it's kind of appropriate. They're from the unfashionable East End of London. This is Steptoe and Son in footballing terms. Jellied Eels replace the half time oranges and the players get into the zone pre-match with a chorus of 'Knees Up Mother Brown.'

Indeed, if Del Boy and Rodney were playing football then you'd fully expect them to be running around like headless chickens waiting to see where the ball would bounce after being launched into space from the back. That's the Dagenham way.

To be fair, it's been the majority of League Two that's been left to look like plonkers though - particularly Morecambe who were thrashed 6-0 in the first leg the semi final.

They've already massively overachieved on their resources and crowds to get here. A squad of young, hungry Non League gems and a smattering of League experience has taken them to the brink of games against Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday next term.

Ironically, their only other play-off campaign - in 2003's Conference - started with a semi final against Morecambe and ended with defeat to a South Yorkshire side - Doncaster - in the final.

Rotherham did the double over Dagenham & Redbridge during the regular season

This time, it's Rotherham United who will provide the Yorkshire opposition. For the Millers, this is their chance to make up for slipping out of the automatic promotion race they expected to triumph in.

It's been a strange campaign for Rotherham. It began with Mark Robins at the helm and expectations high after recovering so well from starting on -17 points the previous campaign.

Those expectations looked likely to be fulfilled after a good start but Robins was poached by neighbours Barnsley. So, United turned to the past for their future.

Back came the popular Ronnie Moore - who took them into the Championship in 2001. To a certain extent though, he's struggled to reach the same heights in his second coming.

However, after they came off the rails towards the end of the regular season, they firmly got back on track in the play-off semis against Aldershot. Clinical and efficient, they won both legs without conceding.

That gives them confidence ahead of what is really a game they will be expected to win. Millers fans should comfortably outnumber their Dagenham counterparts, and Rotherham did the double over Dagenham this year.

For those hoping that one side will be able to provide them with some entertaining football, then they're in for a disappointment. Moore's teams have always put substance before style.

They don't quite reach the same levels - quite literally - as Dagenham's long-ball style, but those celebrating come full time can expect a sore neck as well as a sore head the following morning.

Who will be celebrating though? You get the feeling that one team will just be happy to be there, whereas the other know they simply have to win.

There's also a trend of sides punching above their weight playing a long-ball style in League Two but finding the final a game too far. It's happened to Lincoln, Grimsby, and Shrewsbury in recent years.

All which doesn't bode well for the Daggers. Rotherham also seemed to raise their game against Aldershot and perhaps just have the experience to take this one.

Nobes' Prediction: Dagenham & Redbridge 0 Rotherham United 2

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