Most people are expecting one of the cruellest hexes in English football to come to an end this weekend.
Preston North End have a play-off record that would make the most hardened football fan wince, failing to gain promotion via the end-of-season shootout on all nine occasions they’ve tried.
However, they are comfortable 23/20 favourites to break their duck against Swindon, who are 9/4 to claim victory at Wembley.
Most signs point to a Preston triumph, but savvy punters might want to take into account these four reasons to think the Lilywhites’ jinx might be extended for at least one more year.
Preston’s awful play-off record includes three final heartbreaks
No side has participated in the play-offs more than Simon Grayson’s, with this their tenth foray into the late-May gauntlet.
The Lilywhites have already lost three previous finals – to Wycombe in 1994, Bolton in 2001 and West Ham in 2005.
Even Grayson – the manager with more League One promotions to his name than any other, couldn’t end the hex as his Preston side lost to Rotherham in the play-offs last season.
Fourth place is the perfect preparation for promotion
Preston finished ten points clear of Swindon in third, but the Robins’ lower placing could well prove the ideal omen ahead of the final.
All of the past four League One play-off victors finished fourth in the regular season standings.
Furthermore, all those final victories came against the team that ended the term in third.
Swindon are play-off final specialists, winning three out of four
In contrast to their opponents, the Robins have shown admirable nerve in finals past.
They bested Gillingham in 1987, Sunderland in 1990 and Leicester in 1993, with their only loss coming against Millwall in 2010.
Preston have not beaten the Robins in consecutive matches since 1977
The Lilywhites thrashed Swindon 3-0 as recently as April, but while that result was cause to celebrate at the time, it now means they have to break a 38-year run without two wins in a row against the Robins.
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