There’s a new name at the top of the League Two following this week’s round of midweek fixtures, and the battle at the bottom became even tighter.
Rochdale elevated themselves to the summit after a comprehensive 3-0 away win at Northampton Town, who remain in the relegation zone. Ian Henderson, formerly of Northampton, netted the opener against his former club after just six minutes, before last weekend’s hero Matty Lund netted a second. He turned, however, from hero to zero, as he was immediately shown a second yellow card for his goal celebration. If the Cobblers sensed an opportunity against the 10 men, this spark was soon extinguished by Joe Bunney, who made it three ten minutes later. Chris Wilder’s men were enjoying an unbeaten run of six games prior to yesterday’s defeat, and will have to pick themselves up for a tricky trip to Morecambe on Saturday. For Keith Hill’s Dale, they are now the team that everyone is chasing down.
The chance for Rochdale to go top came about because Chesterfield went down 2-1 at play-off chasing Plymouth Argyle, who moved into the top seven as a result. Reuben Reid netted twice either side of a Ritchie Humphreys goal to leapfrog Southend, send John Sheridan’s side into a play-off position, which has no doubt come about after six wins in their last nine League matches. Paul Cook’s visitors have now just one win in five League games, and with the teams directly below them all having played a game less, they need to find some form to avoid dropping out of the automatic promotion places.
Undoubtedly, result of the night goes to Accrington Stanley, who brushed aside Morecambe 5-1 at the Store First Stadium, lifting James Beattie’s side all the way up to 15th in the table. Lee Molyneux netted twice, and goals from Kal Naismith, Dean Winnard and Tom Aldred sealed a sensational victory for the hosts, who have now put a six point gap between them and trouble. Padraig Armond scored a late consolation for the visitors but, coinciding with Plymouth’s victory, the result sees their play-off hopes take a severe hit, possibly an unrecoverable hit.
There was also a huge result for bottom-of-the-table Torquay United at Plainmoor, who left it late in beating Bury 2-1, which in turn gives themselves a chance of pulling off the ‘Great Escape’. Lee Mansell headed the home side into the lead after eight minutes, only for Clive Platt to equalise midway through the second half. With the game drawing towards a close, it felt like Torquay’s time in the Football League was also coming to an end, only for Ashley Yeoman to score an invaluable goal to secure the three points for Chris Hargreaves’ side. The defeat means David Flitcroft’s visitors are now winless in their five matches since he won the ‘Manager of the Month Award’ for February; the dreaded curse has struck again, and now they are just four points clear of danger. Torquay’s home form has been pretty dire all season, but that’s now back-to-back victories on their own turf; could this late winner be the catalyst for an end-of-the-season charge to safety?
Wycombe Wanderers secured an important point in their bid to avoid the drop, coming from behind to draw 1-1 at Cheltenham Town. Dean Morgan’s second-half spot-kick cancelled out Bryon Harrison’s strike eleven minutes previous to deny Mark Yates’ side a much-needed win in their late pursuit of the play-offs. They trail seventh-place Plymouth by six points and know only an excellent run of form in their last nine games will give them a chance to break into the top seven. For Wycombe, that point lifts them four points clear of the drop and, with a vastly superior goal difference, know a few more positive results should see them safe.
In Wednesday’s game, Dagenham and Redbridge kept up their slim chances of making the play-offs by beating Newport County 2-1 at Rodney Parade. The visitors took an early lead through Medy Elito after just ten minutes. A crucial moment in the game came eight minutes before the break, when the hosts saw Chris Zebroski’s penalty crash against the crossbar. The Daggers, unbeaten in four prior to this evening, made them pay when Elito netted his second two minutes before half-time. The arrears were halved by Robbie Willmott on the stroke of the interval, but the home side couldn’t find an equaliser in the second half which, compounded with a red card to captain David Pike late on, helped extend their dismal winless run to eight matches. That awful run of form has seen Justin Edinburgh’s side fall a few places in the League table, although they do maintain a healthy seven point advantage over the bottom two. The Daggers, who had manager Wayne Burnett sent off at half-time, are five points off the play-off places, but will need to continue their decent form to stand any chance to climbing into the top seven.
We have new leaders. We have Plymouth in the play-off places. We have about 10 teams trying to avoid the dreaded drop. It’s too close to call in League Two at the moment, and with only nine games to go, it’s set up to be a thrilling climax to another breath-taking season in the fourth tier of English football.