A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
You may have noticed that I’ve recently been attempting to predict the outcomes of League 2 matches to test (and expand) my knowledge of the division. After a resounding success in week one, week two was disappointing in equal measure; however we have potential redemption in a ‘week 2.5’ of 8 midweek games which I will try to foresee below:
Cheltenham 2-1 Lincoln
Cheltenham have shone sporadically this season, but despite their inconsistencies only goal difference currently prevents them occupying a play-off position. While the Robins have scored in their last 6 games, they aren’t overly prolific at Whaddon Road and only boast 1 win from their last 5 home fixtures. Their shock weekend victory over Port Vale owed much to the first half dismissal of Vale’s captain, although they will surely find this contest more straightforward.
Despite still propping up the division, Lincoln have been reasonably impressive in front of goal and have found the net in each of their last 4 away matches. However their recent form has been abject, with a four match run of defeats only halted by Saturday’s 4-3 win at whipping boys Stockport. While the Imps will be encouraged by their games in hand over the teams above them, this certainly isn’t one they would expect to take much from, particularly as they look set to miss the services of several players through injury, including ex-Torquay winger Mustapha Carayol.
In summary, I can see a spirited Lincoln breaching the home defence but Cheltenham will have just a bit too much for them over the 90 minutes.
Crewe 3-0 Bradford
Even though they haven’t been involved in that many goal-fests of late, Alex are still banging them in at an average of over 2 goals per game; it’s been 8 matches since anyone’s kept them out. They’re more than just entertainers though – their defensive record at home is the 3rd best in the division, a record they share with their visitors. Although they’ve won their last 3 home ties, 2 of their last 3 games have ended in defeat and they may line up without their first choice goalkeeper if his red card from the weekend is upheld.
Bradford may be the best-supported club in the division but they continue to frustrate under the defiant Peter Taylor, losing 4 of their last 5 matches and all of their last 3 away from Valley Parade. Bantams fans’ pessimism will be reinforced by an embarrassing 8 goals scored on the road this season: the lowest in the division.
Crewe should win this at a canter with their visitors enduring such a woeful patch of form.
Gillingham 1-1 Chesterfield
Despite the heroics of Scott Bevan, a late deflection earned Gillingham a deserved point at Plainmoor on Saturday. While they’re the 3rd highest away scorers in the division, their home games are notoriously low-scoring affairs, although they tend not to concede many either. Gills have won their last 3 at Priestfield and currently find themselves in a rich vein of form which has seen them rise to within touching distance of the play-offs.
League leaders Chesterfield were disappointing away at Shrewsbury at the weekend and have the opposite problem to their hosts: rampant at home but relatively meek in front of goal away from the impressive B2net Stadium. However the Spireites are unbeaten in 7 away matches, although 3 of their last 5 have been draws.
It’s hard to look beyond a low-scoring draw here, with the visitors giving more encouragement to the chasing pack at the division’s summit.
Hereford 1-2 Morecambe
The Bulls go into their first match since the departure of top scorer Mathieu Manset to Reading. Young striker Jake Jervis has been drafted in from Birmingham to replace him; his loan spell at Hereford last season will surely help him settle quickly into the side and at 6’3″ tall he shouldn’t be too anonymous up front. Despite having a solitary home win to their name, Hereford have managed to find the net in each of their last 8 home fixtures and haven’t lost at Edgar Street for 6 matches.
Morecambe have only drawn one away match this season and have won a respectable 6. Their 2-0 reverse at Stevenage followed 3 successive wins for the Shrimps, who may find it difficult adjusting to life without the incisive dribbling of winger Mark Duffy. Scunthorpe-bound Duffy won his side a remarkable 3 penalties over 2 games earlier this month.
I have a feeling that Hereford will take a few games to adjust to the departure of the talismanic Manset, which coupled with the distraction of their cup appearance at the weekend will allow Morecambe to grind out a narrow victory.
Oxford 1-1 Shrewsbury
A narrow defeat at Northampton on Saturday ended a 3 match winning run for Oxford, whose symmetrical home record of 6 wins, a single draw and 6 defeats tells you something about their season so far. After a woeful start to their campaign, the Us are presently enjoying a league position more befitting a club of their size after a fine recent run.
Their guests Shrewsbury arrive at the Kassam Stadium unbeaten in their last 5 away matches and will be feeling that they could have easily beaten leaders Chesterfield at the weekend. Young Villa loanee James Collins (no, not that one) looks set to retain his place up front after spearheading the Shrews’ 3-1 win at Accrington this time last week.
Oxford were unfortunate to lose at the weekend and look good value to take at least a point from their high-flying visitors, who have only won once in their last 7 games.
Port Vale 2-0 Barnet
Vale have lost 4 of their last 5 and despite their still-lofty position have scored just 29 goals this season. The top half of the table is so competitive that they could find themselves outside of the play-off zone on Wednesday morning unless new boss Jim Gannon can take this opportunity to arrest their slide. The loan signing of Exodus Geohaghon should add solidity to an already miserly defence which has leaked just 7 goals at home this season, although one half of the Richards-Richards striking axis is still absent through injury.
The home side will surely be encouraged that they’re facing Barnet, who have just one away triumph to their name and have seen 8 of their 12 away matches end in defeat. This is quite surprising given that the Bees have scored in each of their last 11 away games, a feat matched only by Southend.
I can’t see Barnet making it 12 at Vale Park; despite missing several first team players, their hosts will see this as an unmissable opportunity to reignite their promotion challenge.
Southend 1-1 Macclesfield
As alluded to above, the division’s other Shrimp-themed side have scored in 11 consecutive away games, despite actually scoring fewer goals than lowly Barnet overall. They’ve had less joy at home, with only 3 wins so far this season and having not tasted victory at Roots Hall in their last 4 fixtures there.
Macclesfield turn up having not won in their last 6 league matches, although they were unfortunate not to end that run against Barnet on Saturday having bossed the game. The Silkmen have however scored in each of their last 4 away games and triumphed on penalties after a 2-2 draw when these sides met here in the FA Cup back in November.
I can see Southend failing to exact revenge for their cup defeat, but without the lottery of penalties this one will end in stalemate.
Stevenage 0-0 Rotherham
The other League 2 side left in the FA Cup after their scalping of Newcastle, Stevenage boast the division’s best defence with only 20 league goals conceded. However their lowly position betrays a corresponding ineptness at the other end, with only 3 sides scoring fewer.
Rotherham find themselves winless in 3 despite giving Wycombe a run for their money on Saturday. Only their hosts have a better away defensive record than the Millers, who have shipped just 10 goals on their travels.
Despite the potential distraction of the cup, I have a feeling that Stevenage’s defence will hold firm against a stuttering Rotherham side.