The League One playoffs kick off on Friday night with Fleetwood Town visiting Wycombe Wanderers. The League One season was abandoned with nine matchdays left to play due to the coronavirus with the table frozen in place. Wycombe Wanderers did not even finish in the top six of League One, but due to playing one less game, their points were averaged and jumped from eighth place into the top six to make the playoffs. It was harsh on sixth-place finishers Peterborough, but now manager Gareth Ainsworth’s team will hope to make the most of their incredible promotion opportunity.
Fleetwood Town finished the season on 60 points which left them level on points with both Oxford United and Portsmouth. They posted a 16W-12D-7L season record with a +13-goal difference. The Fishermen lost just once at home this season under the management of former controversial Newcastle United player Joey Barton.
Wycombe Wanderers were poor on the road during the campaign. They took just 17 points from 48 available. Just one of their last six games in League One ended in a victory. Wycombe Wanderers were winless against Fleetwood Town during the League One season drawing at Highbury Stadium and losing at home. Now, with two games to go to reach the League One final, can Wycombe Wanderers play their best football of the season?
Fleetwood Town recorded 36 points from a possible 54 at home. They will feel confident of gaining an upper hand in the first leg despite Wycombe Wanderers having home-field advantage in the second match. The Fishermen scored 25 times at home while conceding just 13 times on their own turf.
Their home fixture against Wycombe Wanderers finished 1-1 with Fleetwood Town second best for much of the fixture. Wycombe Wanderers scored the opener in the 57th minute through Adebayo Akinfenwa after a scoreless first half. Fleetwood Town scored an equaliser in the 90th minute courtesy of Patrick Madden. The reverse fixture at Adams Park saw another scoreless first half. Fleetwood Town’s Madden once again scored in the second period. His goal gave the Fishermen the win.
These teams have met nine times in all competitions since 2011. Just three of those nine meetings were won by Fleetwood Town while Wycombe Wanderers posted three wins of their own. It is important to note that two of those Wycombe Wanderers wins came when the two clubs met in League Two during the 2012-13 campaign.
Barton will be sure to deploy top scorer Patrick Madden. The forward scored 15 goals in the regular season accounting for 29% of the team’s scoring. Madden scored in both games against Wycombe Wanderers during the season.
The manager has quietly – or as quietly as Barton can – turned Fleetwood Town into a top lower league team. Barton is in his second season and building something special at the club. Fleetwood Town finished 11th in 2018-19 but managed to get to sixth this term. Had the campaign continued, Fleetwood Town may have made it all the way into the top two and gained automatic promotion. If Fleetwood Town gain promotion through the playoffs, it could lead to Barton receiving offers elsewhere. However, Barton’s history as a controversial figure may keep him at the club for the foreseeable future.
Wycombe Wanderers are just lucky to be in the playoffs. They finished outside the top six but qualified based on an average of points due to playing fewer games. Thirty-eight-year-old striker Akinfenwa could play a big part in the match. He was co-leading scorer alongside Joe Jacobson with 10 strikes. On a funny side note, Akinfenwa was fined last weekend for wearing a Liverpool shirt at training. The striker is a lifelong Liverpool supporter and soaked up the team’s title win.
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When these teams met at Highbury Stadium earlier this season in League One, the match finished 1-1 with Fleetwood Town coming from behind to grab an equaliser in the dying moments of the fixture. Three of the last six matches between the teams in all competitions finished in draws. Fleetwood Town tallied the third-most draws in League One this season with 12. Wycombe Wanderers tallied eight draws and with both teams could find the back of the net and finish level in the first leg.
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Both matches between Fleetwood Town and Wycombe Wanderers saw a late goal scored. Patrick Madden scored both of those late goals for the Fishermen. The first fixture between the sides finished 1-1 at Highbury thanks to Madden’s 90th-minute goal while his 75th-minute strike in the second fixture settled the match. The second fixture saw Fleetwood Town play a man down for much of the second half after Ched Evans was sent off.
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Thirty-year-old Irishman Madden has been fantastic this season for the Fishermen. He scored in both matches versus Wycombe Wanderers and bagged a total of 15 goals in 35 league matches. He is the team’s most serious goal threat and will be dangerous against Wycombe Wanderers.
The away side are lucky just to be in the playoffs due to not finishing in the top six when the season was suspended. The Fishermen will be happy with the draw to play Wycombe Wanderers more than the other two playoff teams Portsmouth and Oxford United.
The last nine matches in all competitions between the two teams ended in 3W-3D-3L but Wycombe Wanderers haven’t had much success recently. Two of their three wins came in League Two during the 2012-13 season. Fleetwood Town should come away with a win or draw to take to Adams Park Stadium. Barton’s team were unbeaten in their last two games against Wycombe Wanderers and should continue their undefeated trend.
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The game will be played at Park Ave.
The game will kick-off at 19:30 on Friday 3rd July