A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
After last week’s unprecedented gambling success I’m almost too nervous to commit myself again – I certainly won’t be sticking money down this time around, or indeed for a while. Hopefully my predictive abilities haven’t peaked too soon though, as I still enjoy being right even when there’s no cash riding on it! Without further ado, please see below predictions for this weekend’s League 2 fixtures – apologies as it’s a monster post:
Southend 1-0 Bury
Southend may be losing £100k a month but they have now scored in each of their last 10 matches – a feat currently shared with both Morecambe and Barnet. However they’ve taken just a single point from their last 3 home games, albeit against decent opposition. Their home record is fairly poor (just 3 wins all season) and they don’t score a lot of goals at Roots Hall. However, they put in a fine performance to defeat high-flying Rotherham last weekend.
Bury’s promotion push is now stuttering after 5 games without a win, and while they tend to fare markedly better on their travels (scoring a fair few goals in the process), their last 3 away matches have ended in defeat with no goals scored.
In summary then, a difficult one to call – a game that could go either way, in all likelihood to the team that can snap out of their recent malaise more effectively. Southend to edge a nervy affair.
Accrington 2-2 Hereford
Stanley’s fine recent run was halted by a resurgent Shrewsbury side in midweek, but they’ve still managed to find the net in each of their last 10 home games. Their scoring record at home is impressive, although they tend to leak a few as well. They’re also the division’s draw specialists, registering a stalemate in 10 of their 24 matches – interestingly all but one of their score draws resulted from them failing to hold on to a winning position.
The Bulls have started 2011 with a bang and are gradually lifting themselves off the bottom of the division. Their new talisman is striker Mathieu Manset, who boasts 6 goals in 6 games since Boxing Day.
I reckon this one will be an entertaining draw, with Hereford to come from behind to claim a point as they did against Torquay on New Year’s Day.
Aldershot 0-2 Crewe
Aldershot have an insipid record at home this season: their slender midweek triumph represented only their third win and ninth goal. That victory was their first in 5 attempts and you’d struggle to see them bucking the trend further against one of the division’s form teams. In their defence, their … er … defence is relatively stable; shipping a respectable 14 goals.
Crewe have scored in every away league game this season and have won 4 of their last 5 matches on the road, as well as being League 2’s joint top scorers with a return of just over 2 goals per game.
I can see Alex adding to their impressive scoring tally here – new manager Dean Holdsworth has steadied the Shots’ ship but I doubt he’s had sufficient impact to derail the Crewe express.
Bradford 0-0 Burton
The maddeningly inconsistent Bantams aren’t overly prolific at home and have registered just 1 league draw at Valley Parade. Their midweek reverse at Aldershot was their third defeat on the trot and they look bereft of a cutting edge at the moment.
Burton’s attempt to pick up what would be only their second away win of the season has been rendered tougher by the departure of mercurial striker Shaun Harrad to Northampton. They’ve struggled for goals on the road, and when you consider that Harrad has netted 7 of their 9 away strikes the outlook for an away goal, never mind a win, looks bleak. The pressure will be on new loan signing Calvin Zola to hit the ground running.
I can’t see the Brewers bothering the back line of even as inconsistent a side as Bradford. The home side are hardly in rampant form and I can see both sides’ defences holding firm in a game offering little attacking verve (cue a 6-6 thriller).
Macclesfield 1-1 Barnet
Macclesfield didn’t play last weekend; their match was understandably postponed following the tragic death of Richard Butcher. They’ve now gone 5 games since their last win, 4 of which ended in defeat, and don’t tend to score a lot at home.
Despite their lowly position, Barnet have scored in each of their last 8 away games, although they’ve only registered 1 away win all season. The culprit is their defence, which has conceded more away goals than any other team in the division. They’ve also kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 12 league matches.
It’s hard to separate these two sides so I won’t bother – a point each seems a reasonable expectation.
Northampton 1-2 Oxford
The Cobblers have a decent home record and are unbeaten in 5 league matches at Sixfields. Exciting new signing Shaun Harrad already has 10 league goals under his belt this season and represents an astute purchase given his new employers’ low-scoring ways.
Oxford come into this match in a rich vein of form, having won 3 matches in succession and 6 of their last 7. They boast a respectable away record and have found the net in their last 4 outings away from the Kassam Stadium.
I’ll wager that Harrad will nab a debut strike but that it won’t be enough to see off their irrepressible visitors.
Port Vale 1-1 Cheltenham
Vale Park is a fortress – the occupants have triumphed in 4 of their last 5 home fixtures and have only tasted defeat there once this season when Torquay turned them over back in August. Their 9 home games have seen just 6 goals conceded but a mere 12 scored. It’s Vale’s away form which is cause for concern – 4 straight defeats, albeit all against robust opponents.
Cheltenham usually have no problem scoring on the road, having achieved this in each of their last 8 attempts and haven’t lost in their last 6 away league ties, although there weren’t too many tricky encounters in that run and their overall away record is pretty even: 4 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats.
Jim Gannon is still settling in and has taken over during a dip in form, so this is a good time for Cheltenham to make one of their toughest trips of the season. I’m backing them to grind out a point.
Shrewsbury 0-2 Chesterfield
Shrewsbury hadn’t won in 5 games before their midweek triumph over in-form Accrington, so it’s hard to tell whether they’re turning a corner. They’re certainly still in a playoff place but the impressive home record which has helped to keep them in the reckoning could be under threat: they’ve only won once at the Greenhous Meadow in their last 5 attempts.
Current league leaders Chesterfield are undefeated in 6 away games and have scored in their last 9 matches overall. They know how to keep it tight on their travels; they’ve lost just once and only 2 sides have conceded less away goals.
While they aren’t invincible, 4 wins and a draw in their last 5 says that the Spireites will squash the Shrews’ renaissance, although I’m peeved at them for cancelling Martin Gritton’s contract.
Stevenage 1-2 Morecambe
Stevenage are the League 2 neutral’s enemy; while they’ve dazzled with their cup exploits, their league matches have featured the least goals of any side in the division this season. Although they’re marginally more effective on their own turf, they’ve drawn over half of their home matches and won just 1 of their last 5.
Morecambe were fortunate to get anything from Torquay last week, let alone all 3 points thanks to our inadvertent generosity in conceding 2 late penalties. They have been in good form however, winning 4 of their last 5 matches and finding the net in each of their last 10.
I’m inclined to back Morecambe here – they’ve had no trouble finding the net this season and have tricky wingers. I fancy Stevenage to score though, hopefully through ex-Gull Tim Sills, but they’re likely to have an eye on next weekend’s FA Cup match against Reading, with high-flying Rotherham awaiting in midweek.
Stockport 1-2 Lincoln
Stockport have the worst defence in the division by quite some distance, having conceded 57 goals. Surprisingly the majority (34) of these have been at Edgeley Park, where it’s been 7 games since their solitary home win. They join Macclesfield and Bury in an infamous triumvirate of sides who are winless in their last 5 league matches.
The Imps are hardly pace-setters themselves: they sit bottom of the pile having tasted defeat 4 times in a row and managing a limp return of just 2 wins and 8 goals on the road this season. However they have quite a few games in hand and have been able to bring in some new players this month, including promising Sunderland keeper Trevor Carson, so there’s hope for them yet.
Possibly the hardest fixture to call this weekend with both sides struggling to stay in the Football League. I had to pick a winner and am thinking that Lincoln might just have the edge.
Torquay 3-1 Gillingham
The Gulls continue to hover tantalisingly between the playoff zone and mid-table after an indifferent start to 2011 which has been borne of both an inability to close out games and a pinch of bad luck. Although we’ve only won 1 game in our last 5, we’ve scored in each of our last 5 home fixtures and continue to play some ambitious passing football.
Gillingham have won 4 of their last 5 matches, both away and overall; and are on a strong run that’s brought them within touching distance of the playoffs. Interestingly their away games have seen twice as many goals as their home ties this season.
I’m backing Torquay to banish the memories of last weekend’s late horror show by putting in another legendary first half passing performance that will prove too much for Gillingham. I know this one runs against the form book, but then again so did Accrington v Shrewsbury on Tuesday!
Wycombe 2-1 Rotherham
Wycombe have a tendency to edge their way unspectacularly past weaker sides but seem to struggle against anyone capable of taking the game to them. Nevertheless they’re second in the table, having scored in their last 10 home games and winning the most recent 3.
Rotherham hardly count as a weaker side: they’ve got a strong, if modest-scoring, away record and are unbeaten in their last 3 outings, Not that they’re goal-shy: it’s been 10 games since they last failed to score. They’ve been faltering of late though: a flat defeat at home to Southend last week was preceded by a gutsy late comeback to salvage a point against the division’s whipping boys Stockport.
So we end with a tasty top-of-the-table clash as 2nd face 3rd at home. With the Millers stuttering of late I’ll side with the Chairboys here, perhaps with a bit of Ainsworth magic being the difference between the two.
Phew – well done and heartfelt thanks to anyone who’s made it this far! It’s a much tougher batch of fixtures to call this week and I realise that there are very few home wins in there.