After a midweek where many top teams came unstuck against lower league opposition, it was back to a sense of normality at the weekend, as no team in the bottom half won on another crucial weekend in Sky Bet League Two.
League leaders Chesterfield got back to winning ways after a difficult week, as they brushed aside a faltering Oxford United 3-0 at the Proact Stadium. Early goals from Ollie Banks and League Two Player of the Year Gary Roberts, as announced yesterday during the Football League Awards for 2014, set the home side on their way, with Roberts adding a third from the penalty spot late on. The visitors are now winless in six League games, and need to find form quickly or else risk losing their play-off spot.
Scunthorpe United and Rochdale kept up the pressure on Paul Cook’s leaders with victories over Plymouth Argyle and Accrington Stanley respectively. The Iron’s 2-0 win at Home Park was particularly impressive given the Pilgrims’ recent assault on the play-offs, but late goals from Dave Syers and an own goal from Jake Cole secured an important win for Russ Wilcox’s side, who remain second. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Rochdale however, who found themselves behind at home to Accrington with just eighteen minutes left. However, a Matty Lund brace, the second coming in the 90th minute, secured an invaluable 2-1 win over a spirited Stanley side, who remain just a place above the bottom three.
Fleetwood Town leapfrogged Burton into fourth following an impressive 3-1 over Portsmouth, extending their unbeaten run to five matches. Jon Parkin, Antoni Sarcevic and Jamille Matt netted for Graham Alexander’s side, who keep up the pressure on the top three, laying just three points behind Rochdale. As for Portsmouth, their winless run now stands at four games, leaving them just four points clear of danger. Burton dropped down to fifth following a 1-1 draw against AFC Wimbledon, with Darren Jones netting a 95th minute leveller to salvage a point for the visitors, after Billy Kee opened the scoring for the home side midway through the first half.
Southend United cannot buy a win at the moment, and were held to a sixth draw in ten matches by Bury, in turn extending their wretched winless run to 11 matches. A third consecutive draw for the visitors lifts David Flitcroft’s side up to 17th, but still only four points clear of the drop zone. Phil Brown’s Shrimpers remain in the top seven, although only by goal difference of York City, who made it four wins on the bounce by beating Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at Bootham Crescent. Two first half goals from Ryan Bowman and Josh Carson were enough to beat a Wycombe side who lie precariously close to the bottom two, with only three points separating them and Northampton Town. The Cobblers made it six unbeaten with a 1-1 draw at home to Mansfield Town; Darren Carter’s 64th minute penalty cancelled out Oliver Palmer’s first half strike for the visitors. Only York have accumulated more points in the last eight games than Northampton, resulting in Chris Wilder’s men laying just two points from safety, having been six from safety only a few weeks ago.
Bottom side Torquay United now find themselves eight points from safety having been unable to back up a terrific win at Rochdale away at Cheltenham Town. Matt Richards scored the only goal of the game fifteen minutes from time to condemn the visitors to a 19th defeat of the season, and deepen their ever-increasing relegation worries. Things are looking up for Mark Yates’ Cheltenham though, who now find themselves just five points off a play-off place in 11th.
Hartlepool United reignited their play-off push with a resounding 4-0 victory over Bristol Rovers at Victoria Park. Marlon Harewood opened the scoring for the home side, before goals from Bradley Walker, Simon Walton and Jon Franks sealed a comfortable win over a Rovers side that have now lost back-to-back League games, which plunges them right back into the relegation dogfight.
Morecambe’s skipper Mark Hughes netted a late equaliser to salvage a point at fellow mid-tablers Dagenham and Redbridge. Medy Elito’s penalty seven minutes into the second half looked to be enough to secure all three points, only for captain Hughes to rescue a point a minute from time. This result does neither side any favours for their late play-off charge, but maintains their healthy cushion over the bottom two.
Sunday afternoon saw a meeting of two out-of-form sides in Newport County and Exeter City, with a 1-1 draw helping neither side snap out of their current rots. The visitors have been dragged into the relegation mire after a run of no wins in six, but took the lead through a Harry Worley own goal six minutes into the second half. However, their lead lasted barely a minute, with Lee Minshull poking home for the hosts, leaving the Welsh side 14th, and the Grecians just three points clear of the dreaded drop zone in 21st.
The top of the table has opened up a fraction following wins for the top three sides, whereas it’s looking increasingly likely that Torquay will suffer the heartbreak of relegation. However, there are still a number of points to play for, and with every team playing for something, it should be a cracking final ten or so games in League Two.