Carlisle vs Stockport predictions: Hatters may edge nervy affair
Stockport are chasing back-to-back promotions after last season’s National League-winning campaign and the Hatters are warm favourites to seal the deal in their League Two play-off final with Carlisle at Wembley.
Stockport twice came from behind to level up their semi-final tie with Salford before prevailing on penalties, while Carlisle did well to overhaul Bradford 3-2 on aggregate after extra-time of their final-four showdown.
Only three points separated the pair in the regular season with Stockport finishing fourth and Carlisle fifth, so these were the two highest-ranked sides at the start of the play-offs.
It is, therefore, fitting that they get the chance to slog it out for promotion in the capital but Stockport may be feeling the more confident of the duo, having taken four points from their two meetings earlier in the season.
Having played a key part in their push to the League Two play-off final, Carlisle will be gutted that centre-back Ben Barclay is ineligible to face his parent club Stockport at Wembley.
The Cumbrians do at least have Jon Mellish back available for selection after he served a three-game ban.
Stockport remain without leading scorer Kyle Wootton, who netted 14 goals this season, but have been boosted by the return of Will Collar.
Collar was introduced from the bench in last weekend’s success over Salford and will be pushing for a start, having scored 13 goals and provided six assists this season.
Stockport took time to find their feet in League Two this season as they won only three of their opening 13 games.
However, the Hatters finished with a strong late surge to end the season in fourth, collecting 79 points after losing only one of their final 20 matches.
That was the opposite of Carlisle who started the season encouragingly before falling out of automatic promotion contention with only two wins from their final 11 matches.
Stockport took four points from their two meetings with Carlisle in the regular season, winning 2-0 on home soil in October before the pair played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at Brunton Park in mid-April.
Play-off finals tend to be cagey and it would be no surprise was this contest to follow suit given there have been two or fewer goals in 11 of Carlisle’s last 13 games in regulation time.
Stockport also boasted the second best defence in League Two this season with only 37 goals conceded in 46 games, keeping 22 clean sheets.
Stockport were installed as League Two title favourites in pre-season on the back of their National League-winning exploits and they lived up to that promise at the back end of the campaign.
Dave Challinor’s side finished the season as well as anybody, losing only one of their final 20 games, and did take four points from their two meetings with Carlisle.
There is no doubting that the injury to star man Kyle Wootton has done some damage to their promotion chances but having Paddy Madden and Will Collar back from injury during their second-leg win over Salford has helped negate his loss.
It looks sure to be a nervy occasion, with goals set to be in short supply, but Stockport may have the greater quality in forward areas and are taken to edge a tight affair.
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