The Easter weekend brings its tests and strains for all 24 teams in Sky Bet League Two, with two games in four days going some way in determining the fate of many sides at the top and bottom of the division.
Russ Wilcox has steered Scunthorpe United to the summit following a draw with Bury last time out, and the man at the helm at Glanford Park knows victory at Morecambe on Good Friday could secure promotion for the Iron. They will fancy their chances at the Globe Arena as well. Jim Bentley’s has seen his side slip just three points clear of the drop having gone seven games without a win, although a 2-2 draw away at Fleetwood last weekend are encouraging signs for the Shrimps in their battle to avoid the drop.
Rochdale’s surprise 3-0 defeat at the hands of Mansfield Town saw them relinquish top spot, but beat sixth place Southend United and Keith Hill’s side could all but secure their place in League One next season. Phil Brown’s Shrimpers saw their three match winning streak end at home to AFC Wimbledon, but they are unbeaten in their last three away games, and will provide a tough test for the home side. Victory for the visitors would keep them in the top seven with just three games to go, but Dale have only lost one home league game this calendar year.
Chesterfield picked up their 20th league win of the season by beating faltering Hartlepool last weekend, and victory over Exeter City at the Proact Stadium would at least maintain that healthy five point gap over fourth. The visitors have picked up just one point from a possible nine and find themselves only two points clear of the bottom two, but it’ll be a tall order to get anything from their trip to Paul Cook’s third place side. The hosts are unbeaten in their last 16 league matches dating back to mid-October, and I can’t see Paul Tisdale’s side ending that remarkable run tomorrow.
Fourth place Fleetwood Town saw their automatic promotion hopes fade after dropping points against Morecambe, but victory over Mark Yates’ Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road will keep the pressure on the top three. The home side have won just once in their last six outings, seeing them fall to just six points above the drop zone. Victory tomorrow would put them within a whisker of safety, but it won’t be easy against Graham Alexander’s side who’ve lost just once in their last ten matches.
There’s a crunch match at the Kassam Stadium where seventh place Oxford United host eighth place York City, with just four goals separating the two sides in the table. The hosts ended a barren run of three defeats on the bounce with an impressive win at Plymouth on Saturday, Gary Waddock’s first in charge at the fourth time of asking, and come up against a side who haven’t tasted defeat since 28 January, 13 games ago. It’ll be a tense game between two sides vying for one of those two play-off places, and you sense defeat for either side is not an option.
Plymouth Argyle’s loss to Oxford leaves them four points off the top seven, so only a victory will do away at eleventh place Bury tomorrow. However, David Flitcroft’s side have turned from relegation candidates to play-off hopefuls in recent weeks, no doubt thanks to a run of just one defeat in ten games. Although the play-offs look a step too far this season, eight points the difference at the moment, you sense the hosts could mount a serious push next season. For the Pilgrims, only a win will suffice.
Four wins in a row has propelled Mansfield Town to just six points off the play-offs, and a fifth successive win away at Accrington Stanley tomorrow would just about keep them in the running for a top seven finish. The home side may have won just two of their last eight games, but they have only lost two in that time as well, with James Beattie’s men a tough side to beat. The four point gap between them and the relegation zone is a bit precarious, but win tomorrow and Stanley could take an enormous step to securing Football League status.
A relegation six-pointer takes place at Adams Park tomorrow, as 22nd place Wycombe Wanderers host 23rd place Northampton Town, with only goal difference and a dotted line separating the two sides in the table. The visitors go into the game on the back of two 1-0 wins against Burton and Accrington, and Chris Wilder would bite your hand off for a third on the spin tomorrow. The home side have only won once in their last eight matches, losing five, and need to at a bare minimum avoid defeat against their closest relegation rivals. It’s a must not lose game for both sides.
Bottom side Torquay United gave themselves one final lifeline by beating Bristol Rovers last weekend, but must back that up with victory over 12th place Dagenham and Redbridge at Plainmoor tomorrow. That 10th victory of the season for Chris Hargreaves’ side closed the gap to seven points between them and Wycombe, although with only 12 points to play for, it’s not looking good for the Gulls. They could be relegated on Saturday if Wycombe and Bristol Rovers win, and Exeter avoid defeat, although victory would at least give themselves a mathematical chance of staying up. The Daggers look set for a mid-table finish following back-to-back defeats.
AFC Wimbledon and Newport County meet at Kingsmeadow with it looking likely that both teams will meet in League Two again next season. They hold a six and seven point gap respectively over the bottom two, and find themselves ten and nine points respectively off of the play-off spots. This is probably the only game of the weekend where neither side has a great deal to play for.
Saturday afternoon sees Burton Albion look to keep the pressure on the top three when they meet an out-of-sorts Hartlepool United, who are falling ever closer to the relegation zone. Five defeats on the spin has seen Colin Cooper’s team fall just three points clear of the bottom two, whilst Gary Rowett’s Brewers are six points behind Chesterfield in third. Victory could secure a play-off spot for the home side, but the visitors simply cannot avoid to lose a sixth game in a row. The other game on Saturday sees Portsmouth host Bristol Rovers, lying 16th and 21st respectively. Pompey’s run of three consecutive wins sees them five points clear of the drop and almost safe, whereas just one win in eight leaves the Pirates just a point clear of danger. It’s a big game for Darrell Clarke’s men, especially with at least one of the sides a point adrift of them guaranteed to get something tomorrow.
We could finally see fates of some teams sealed over the coming days, as Scunthorpe United could be promoted if Fleetwood lose and Burton fail to win, whilst Torquay will go down if they lose and the three teams directly above the bottom two all win. It’s getting tense at both the top and bottom of League Two.