It was another key weekend in the battle to gain promotion and avoid relegation from Sky Bet League Two, in which we saw another side climb into the top seven to spice up the play-off race even further.
Rochdale made it three wins on the bounce with a 2-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers. Second half strikes from Jamie Allen and Peter Vincenti secured the points for Keith Hill’s side, who open up a healthy nine-point cushion over fourth. It is looking increasingly likely that Spotland will be playing host to third tier football next season. For Gareth Ainsworth’s Chairboys, a third defeat in four matches leaves them just three points clear of danger, and very much in the relegation dog-fight.
Russ Wilcox’s Scunthorpe United leapfrogged Chesterfield into second with a hard-fought 1-0 win over fellow promotion rivals Burton. Paddy Madden’s fantastic volley on the hour mark was enough to overcome Gary Rowett’s side, who now find themselves six points off an automatic promotion place. The win for the Iron increases their remarkable unbeaten run to 22 League games, moving them within two points of top spot.
In Saturday’s early kick-off, Paul Cook’s Chesterfield failed to apply pressure on their promotion rivals, after drawing 0-0 away at Mansfield Town. A win would have seen the Spireites go top, for a few hours at least, but neither side were able to break the deadlock. A second consecutive draw for Paul Cox’s Stags means they lay just five points clear of the relegation zone, whilst just one in six has seen Chesterfield fall from first to third, but still with a decent six point lead over Fleetwood and Burton.
That lead increased as a result of Fleetwood Town’s surprise 3-0 defeat away at struggling Exeter City, who have helped ease their growing relegation worries with this sensational win. Paul Tisdale’s side were winless in seven prior to this victory, whereas the visitors hadn’t lost in their previous five games, so you’d be forgiven for backing Graham Alexander’s side to maintain their automatic promotion push. It wasn’t to be though, as an Eliot Richards second-half brace, after a Jon Parkin own goal midway through the first half, set the hosts on their way to a hugely important victory, lifting them to 17th in the table.
The two games on Friday night only brought one goal, but it was a crucial one as far as Oxford United were concerned, giving them a 1-0 victory over Hartlepool United at the Kassam Stadium. The only goal came twelve minutes before time, with David Connolly heading home to secure a massive three points for out-going caretaker manager Micky Lewis, with Gary Waddock since been appointed the new man at the helm. The win consolidates their top seven position, which looked under threat after a run of no win in six games, whilst the visitors find themselves six points adrift of the play-off positions with just eight games to go.
Bristol Rovers and Southend United played out a 0-0 at the Memorial Stadium, helping neither side in their own season ambitions. Phil Brown’s Shrimpers are now winless in their last 12 League matches, which has seen them drop out of the top seven, whereas the Pirates’ one win in six leaves them just four points clear of danger.
York City’s ascent up the table hit new heights on Saturday, with a 1-0 success at Portsmouth lifting them into the top seven. Nigel Worthington’s side have won their last five League games and haven’t lost since the end of January, and a Michael Coulson goal after just five minutes proved to be enough against a free-falling Pompey side, who are a place and three points clear of the drop-zone. Their winless run stands at five games, and things won’t have been helped after a red card to captain Ben Chorley at the beginning of the second half.
York jumped into the play-off places at the expense of Plymouth Argyle, who were held to a 1-1 draw by James Beattie’s Accrington Stanley. Reuben Reid’s third goal of the week after half an hour set John Sheridan’s side on their way, only to be denied a sixth victory in eight games by Tom Aldred’s 81st minute strike. The point leaves Argyle a point and a place outside of the play-off positions, whilst Stanley have gone some way to ease their relegation worries, lying six points clear of the bottom two.
Northampton Town missed the chance to go within a point of safety after a 1-1 draw away at Morecambe. The visitors took the lead on the stroke of half-time, when Andy Wright inadvertently put through his own net, only for Padraig Amond to equalise fifteen minutes from time to deny Northampton a second win in four games. The Shrimps’ play-off chances are all but over, although a nine point gap over their opponents suggests another season in League Two beckons for Jim Bentley’s men. If only Northampton fans could say the same with such confidence, although they have given themselves every chance after a decent run.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Torquay United will be playing in the Conference next season, after a 1-0 home defeat by Newport County left them six points adrift of safety. With the Welsh side in quite poor form, winless in eight prior to yesterday, Chris Hargreaves would have targeted this game as one in which to pick up points, but those hopes were soon dashed by Chris Zebroski’s eighth minute goal. Things weren’t helped for the basement side just after the half hour mark, when Shamir Goodwin was given his marching orders for elbowing Michael Flynn. A six point gap can certainly be made up, although you can’t help but think that a chance has gone begging for the Gulls.
There was a seven goal thriller at Kingsmeadow, as AFC Wimbledon scored three goals in three minutes to come from behind to beat Cheltenham Town 4-3. Mark Yates’ visitors led thanks to goals from Troy Brown and Jermaine McGlashan, and they looked to be on their way to a win which would keep their play-off ambitions alive. As it happened, three minutes of madness saw the game turn on its head, with Danny Hylton netting twice, a minute either side of Jake Nicholson’s strike, to give the home side a 3-2 lead. There were still more twists and turns to come though. Jason Taylor equalised four minutes later to make it 3-3, only for the away side’s best efforts to be in vain, as Jack Midson netted a 97th minute winner to cap off a quite remarkable game.
The other game in League Two this weekend saw Bury and Dagenham and Redbridge share the spoils at the JD Stadium. Chris Hussey gave the home side the lead on the hour, only for Luke Norris to equalise just seven minutes later. The point leaves David Flitcroft’s side just four points clear of danger, whilst the Daggers remain five points off the play-off places.
There’s not a quick turnaround for these sides, with fixtures taking place on Monday and Tuesday next week. For those that lost, it gives them a good chance to quickly get back to winning ways, whilst those that won will look to build some important momentum going into the final eight games of the season.