CREWE ALEXANDRA v SOUTHEND UNITED
The npower League 2 Play-Offs get going this weekend and it's first stop is the Alexandra Stadium on Saturday evening when Crewe Alexandra host Southend United.
It's the battle of seventh versus fourth as Steve Davis' Railwaymen take on Paul Sturrock's Shrimpers with Crewe looking for a return to League 1 for the first time since relegation in 2009.
They ended the season with one defeat in the last three months to secure their Play-Off spot and kick-off their bid for a place at Wembley with what will be a big occasion for Manager Davis.
He told www.crewealex.net: "They are all tough matches in the Play-Offs and any of the four teams are capable of doing it. Southend will be the favourites, obviously, because they finished fourth and were unlucky not to win automatic promotion.
"We were not fussed who we got in the end because we were just delighted to be in there. To have got in there has been a great achievement but we still have a job to do.
"I am looking forward to it and the players have a real determination to succeed. We know Southend are a very good side but we think we are a very good side as well and have players who can hurt them.
"They also have good players who can hurt us so it should be a really exciting contest and for it to be screened on television as well is only another stage for our players to show what they can do."
For Southend it's an opportunity to make up for the disappointment of not going up automatically despite enjoying a record-equalling 17-game unbeaten run earlier in the season.
They did their bit on the final day of the season by beating Macclesfield Town 2-0 but that wasn't enough to secure third place as Crawley Town edged them out.
Instead, Southend will take momentum into the Play-Offs having won four of their last five games of 2011/12.
Manager Sturrock told Blues Player: "They [Crewe] are very difficult opposition to play, a youthful team who are exciting going forward, and they've shown a resilience as well so it will be a very difficult game coming up.
"I think people will think we're on a downer [after missing out on automatic promotion] but we're not on a downer. In the last seven years six times 83 points has taken a team up so if you look at what we've done this season, and the momentum we've had coming into this game, we are going in confident.
"They are a dangerous team because you sometimes find the team that sneaks into the back door has the momentum and often teams finishing seventh have won the Play-Offs but we can be dangerous, so it's vitally important we play in the style we we have been doing.
"They haven't got many players who have tasted the Play-Offs and we have got a few that have so hopefully they will be able to have a say, the experienced men."
Southend did the double over Crewe during 2011/12, winning 3-1 at the Alexandra Stadium back in October before claiming a 1-0 victory at Roots Hall in February.
It's a 5.30pm start on Saturday with the second leg taking place in Essex on Wednesday 16th May, kicking off at 7.45pm.
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CHELTENHAM TOWN v TORQUAY UNITED
The second npower League 2 Play-Off semi-final sees Cheltenham Town take on Torquay United in a game that kicks-off at midday on Sunday.
Both teams looked well set for automatic promotion at various points but seven winless games in March really scuppered Cheltenham's top three hopes and they slid away to sixth, while Torquay went into the final day still in with a shout of finishing third but defeat at relegated Hereford United left them fifth.
Cheltenham were last in League 1 in 2008/09 when they were relegated after a disastrous season but the club has stabilised under boss Mark Yates, who this week signed a new two-year deal to remain in charge at Whaddon Road.
And regarding the Play-Off task, Yates told This Is Gloucestershire: "There is a long way to go and I've said to the players that Wembley is miles away at the moment.
"It's on the horizon and there is no point in thinking or talking about it because we have two really tough games against Torquay and they will be decent footballing encounters as both teams like to play.
"We have to be positive and do what we've done all season and if we do that we have a chance. I don't think previous results count for anything now and our spirit is high.
"Whoever gets to the semi-finals, it's all about two games of football and if you lose in the first game, you don't do anything stupid because it's over 180 minutes.
"Martin Ling is a good manager and we know how good Torquay are. They are strong and defensively sound and they should be entertaining games."
Torquay's failure to win any of their last five League 2 fixtures was probably the key point behind them missing out on automatic promotion, though they were still in contention to finish third on the final day.
Instead they are having to go through the Play-Off route, a path they trod this time last year when beating Shrewsbury over two legs in the semi-final only to suffer heartbreak in going down 1-0 to Stevenage in the final.
And defender Joe Oastler told www.torquayunited.com: "It will be a tough game. We know what Cheltenham are about, having played them a few times already this season and obviously last season as well. We go there with the faith that we can win the game because we believe we can beat anybody on our day.
"We will certainly need that mentality because Cheltenham are very good going forward. They proved that when they came to Plainmoor in the autumn and drew 2-2. The front three are very lively but so are we on our day. We have to match them and make sure we press when we can.
"The psychology of a two-legged affair is obviously different when you get to the second leg, but we will treat this game in the normal way. Once we know the result from Sunday, you can plan accordingly."
Torquay won 1-0 in the League 2 meeting at Whaddon Road earlier in the season and the two sides shared a 2-2 draw at Plainmoor, where Cheltenham also won 2-1 in a Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie back in August.
The second leg of the semi-final takes place on Thursday 17th May with a 7.45pm kick-off.
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