Simpson's Shrews to finally fulfil promise
The League 2 play-offs start on Thursday with both first legs starting at 19:45 and both are live on Sky Sports. Final day drama in League 2 saw Bury and Shrewsbury confirm their places in the end-of-season lottery, but with differing emotions.
Bury would have finished in the third and final automatic promotion spot, ahead of Wycombe, if they had won 2-0 against Accrington rather than just 1-0. Bury therefore have to console themselves with a play-off place.
On the other hand Shrewsbury faced a winner-takes-all match on the last day of the season away at Dagenham & Redbridge. The Shrews were 2-1 victors which meant they sealed seventh place and now face Bury in the play-offs.
In the other semi-final, League 2 play-off regulars Rochdale will once again battle to try and gain promotion from the basement division. Dale's opponents are Gillingham who are seeking to bounce back to League 1 at the first attempt.
The sides met on the final day of the season in which Gillingham won 1-0 at Spotland, but both sides rested some key players in preparation for the play-offs.
In the outright betting Bury are rated as favourites at 9/4. The Shakers' Greater Manchester neighbours Rochdale are 11/4 second favs with Gillingham 5/2 shots and Shrewsbury are the outsiders at 11/4.
The Shrews look the value pick as they will have been boosted by their final day heroics which saw them win just their third away league match of the season. In pre-season Shrewsbury were a big gamble for the League 2 title as at the same time Paul Simpson spent big, for League 2 at least.
The ex-Carlisle and Preston manager brought in strikers Grant Holt and Richard Walker as well as defender Graham Coughlan among others to give Salop a real chance of promotion. After the money spent just scraping in the play-offs will be a bit of a disappointment but Shrewsbury can put that all right by going all the way to Wembley and winning the play-off final.
Shrewsbury v Bury
For the semi-final first leg Shrewsbury are 5/4 favourites to take a lead to Gigg Lane for the second leg. Bury are 23/10 shots for an away win while the draw is priced at 11/5. Shrewsbury have a fantastic home record this term winning 14 and losing just three of their 23 league matches at the Prostar Stadium.
The momentum Paul Simpson's side will have gained from their final day success at Dagenham could be too much for Bury to overcome and Alan Knill's side might well have to face another season at least in the fourth tier.
Grant Holt has been the man delivering the goals for the Shrews. The ex-Nottingham Forest striker hit 20 league goals and he can be backed at 5/1 to open the scoring on Thursday. Holt has been ably assisted by midfielder Ben Davies who has chipped in with 12 league goals and he is a 7/2 shot to score against Bury.
For the Shakers Andy Bishop is the obvious goal threat with 16 goals to his name and he is priced at 7/1 to open the scoring. You can watch all the action from Shropshire live on Sky Sports 1.
Rochdale v Gillingham
In the other semi-final, Gillingham again make the trip up to Spotland to face Rochdale. The Gills' 1-0 win on the final day of the season confirmed they would finish above Keith Hill's side in the table and therefore have the advantage of playing the second leg at home.
Rochdale are 5/4 favourites to win the first leg and an away win for Mark Stimson's side is priced at 23/10. But it is the draw that could be the one to back at 11/5.
The league fixture at Priestfield back in November ended 1-1 and a repeat scoreline looks most likely and it can be backed at 5/1.
Simeon Jackson is Gillingham's danger man and he is the preferred choice in the scorer markets. Jackson hit 17 league goals and at prices of 7/1 to score first and 2/1 to score anytime he could be too big to turn down.
At the same time as Shrewsbury against Bury, Rochdale versus Gillingham can be watched live on Sky Sports Interactive via the red button.
Whatever happens the play-off promise to be as exciting as ever as these four sides battle it out for promotion to the third tier. We will have all the action covered via our betlive service with in-play betting available right up until 90th minute.