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Low card count could land us a Riviera touch; KEVIN PULLEIN.

DID you watch the first play-off on Thursday night? Within 60 seconds of referee Mike Dean blowing his whistle to start the Championship semi-final first leg between Nottingham Forest and Swansea he had blown it again to send off the visitors' Neil Taylor.

Typical play-offs, you might say. With so much at stake, players sometimes make challenges that they wouldn't normally make. And this is reflected in the number of red and yellow cards - totals tend to be higher than for regularseason games in the Football League.

Wherever there is a well-known and easily understood trend, however, there is the possibility of a bookmaker overestimating the strength of it. And this might have happened for today's League Two semi-final first leg between Torquay and Shrewsbury in which Hills are quoting 8-5 about a bookings make-up of no higher than 20. In this market each yellow will count as ten and each red as 25.

For most play-off semi-final first legs, 8-5 about a bookings make-up between nought and 20 would not represent value for money. There are two reasons for thinking it might do so today at Plainmoor.

The first is that referee Scott Mathieson has presided over low card counts slightly more often than most of his colleagues in the Football League.

The second is that Shrewsbury's games have provoked fewer yellow and red cards than those of almost any other team in League Two - a fact which seems more significant when you recall that this is the first season the club have been managed by Graham Turner, who was associated with low totals for several campaigns at Hereford.

The best-laid schemes of mice and men, as Robert Burns reminded us, often go awry. All sorts of card counts are possible today on the English Riviera, and almost all of them would involve a bookings make-up higher than 20. However, there do appear to be reasons for thinking that the prospect of a make-up of either 20, ten or nought might be better than the 8-5 dangled by Hills.

Recommendation Under 25 bookings points Torquay v Shrewsbury 0.5pt 8-5 Hills

CAPTION(S):

Shrewsbury midfielder David Davis caresses the ball against Northampton in March
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 14, 2011
Words:365
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