Just one more round of games follows this weekend in Sky Bet League 2, and with nothing mathematically settled at both the top and bottom of the division, it proves to be another tense and exciting few hours on Saturday afternoon.
League leaders Scunthorpe United know a victory away at struggling Exeter City will seal promotion back to League One at the first time of asking, and a win at St James’ Park may enough to secure the League Two title. Russ Wilcox has still yet to lose a league game in the Glanford Park hotseat after taking over the realms in November, but they face a tricky trip to Devon against a side fighting for their lives at the bottom. Paul Tisdale’s side find themselves only two points clear of danger, and haven’t won in five games, although their superior goal difference (-7) may be worth that crucial extra point come the end of the season. Strange things happen at this stage of the season, and the Iron know they still have a job to complete tomorrow.
Sunday afternoon sees Burton Albion and Chesterfield lock horns at the Pirelli Stadium. The visitors, currently second and two points behind Scunthorpe, hold a slender three point gap over Fleetwood in fourth, and the two meet on the final day of the season at the Highbury Stadium. Paul Cook’s side know that destiny will remain in their own hands regardless of the result, and defeat for Fleetwood on Saturday could see the Spireites promoted before that showdown with the Cod Army next week. It’s almost impossible for Burton to make the top three, although with a top seven place now assured, Gary Rowett’s men will want to build momentum going into the play-offs. They will provide a tough test for the visitors.
Third place Rochdale know a positive result against Cheltenham Town, combined with defeat for Fleetwood, would seal their place in League One next season. However, getting over the line seems to be causing its problems for Keith Hill’s side, who have only won one of their last five games, albeit the most recent one against Bristol Rovers. The visitors are in the fortunate position of being mathematically safe from relegation, and with the play-offs very much out of reach, it remains to be seen whether Mark Yates’ men are already thinking of their holidays. Rochdale certainly won’t be planning for League One just yet.
Fleetwood Town will hope to take the automatic promotion race to the final day, although only a victory over Southend United would ensure that is the case. Graham Alexander’s side are unbeaten in six, winning their last two, and haven’t tasted defeat at Highbury since February. However, Phil Brown’s Shrimpers have won five of their last six games, including their last two on the road, and know a point will guarantee their participation in the play-offs. Who knows, this could be a dress rehearsal for the play-off final at Wembley on May 26.
York City can also seal their play-off place tomorrow with victory over Newport County at Bootham Crescent. The home side are unbeaten in 15 league matches, a run stretching back to January, and face a side with very little to play for except pride and league position. The Welsh side will definitely be playing in the fourth tier next season, but Nigel Worthington’s men will be hoping that this is the last time they meet for at least a year.
The only other side in the play-off picture are Oxford United, who face Accrington Stanley knowing that they must do something that they’ve done only once in their last six matches: win. Even this may not be enough to force the race to go down to the last day; they need either Newport to take at least a point off York or Fleetwood to beat Southend to have a mathematical chance of breaking into the top six. The visitors are four points clear of danger and know a victory will guarantee Football League status, which looked under threat at certain times during the season. Both sides have very little form to speak of, but both know the importance of victory on Saturday.
Down at the bottom, Torquay United’s comeback win against Exeter last time out keeps them in with a slim chance of avoiding the drop, although victory against Mansfield Town tomorrow still may not be enough to prevent the seemingly inevitable. However, if results go their way tomorrow, and with Wycombe to play in their final game at Plainmoor, there is still the chance that Chris Hargreaves’ men will pull off the great escape. Mansfield sit 12th in the table, but even after a run of four successive wins preceding their last two games, the play-offs are out of reach for Paul Cox’s side. Torquay need to win, but the hosts will want to finish in the top half, and won’t take their foot of the gas just yet.
Immediately above Torquay are Northampton Town, who travel to Dagenham and Redbridge knowing victory will see them move out of the bottom two. Their recent away form has been impressive, picking up nine points in their unbeaten run of five matches will give cause for optimism for those Cobbler’s fans making to journey to the capital tomorrow. The Daggers, like Mansfield, find themselves in mid table with nothing to play for, but I’m sure manager Wayne Burnett is motivated to finish strongly to maintain their top-half position.
The biggest game of the weekend takes place at Adams Park, as 21st place Wycombe Wanderers face 22nd place Bristol Rovers, in one of those clichéd relegation ‘six-pointers’. Only goal difference separates these two in the table, with three defeats on the bounce plunging Rovers right back into the relegation mire. Gareth Ainsworth’s side have won just once in their last ten matches, but both sides would give everything for three points tomorrow. The home side travel to Torquay on the final day, whilst the Pirates host Mansfield at the Memorial Stadium, but victory for either would see them take a giant stride to securing League Two status for next season.
Morecambe’s recent run of no wins in nine has seen them plummet down the table, and now they hover just three points above the bottom two before their trip to AFC Wimbledon tomorrow. The home side’s tally of 56 points means another season in League Two beckons for Neal Ardley’s men, although backing up Monday’s success over Plymouth could see them into the top half. The visitors need a win to all but guarantee safety; otherwise there could be a few nervous faces in the home end next week against Bury.
Hartlepool United’s recent falter ended with victory over Morecambe last time out, and victory for Colin Cooper’s team away at Plymouth Argyle would end any lingering relegation fears. John Sheridan’s Pilgrims may only be two places off of the play-offs, but five defeats in six and three on the spin have resulted in a nine point gap opening up between them and York in seventh. The other game sees 10th place Bury host Portsmouth, a fixture that will be played again next season in the fourth tier, with Pompey’s five game winning streak dragging them out of the relegation shake-up to mid-table mediocrity.
There is still everything to play for in League Two, the only Football League division without a confirmed promotion or relegation. The stakes are high, and so will be the nerves of those supporters throughout tomorrow afternoon in what will be another tense and unpredictable weekend in Europe’s 15th most watched division.