A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
Apologies for the interruption in service; my house-moving antics and an unusually intense work schedule have been accounting for my evenings of late. The outcome of the former activity will result in me no longer living in Greenwich, but as I can’t think of a better name I’ll chance falling foul of the Trade Descriptions Act. Anyway, on with the questionably accurate previewing:
Bury 2-0 Burton
Following a disappointing run which threatened to undo an impressive season, Bury are now unbeaten in 4 games. They’re not massive scorers at home and their victory over fellow promotion-chasers Shrewsbury last Friday was their first in the league since October. The Shrews themselves made short work of Bury’s visitors Burton in midweek and the Shakers won’t have many easier home ties this season. While only goal difference is keeping the Brewers off the bottom spot, their lowly position is slightly artificial: they’ve played between 3 and 7 games less than every other side in the division. However, they have only clocked up 1 win and 3 draws from their 10 away matches so far, scoring just 9 goals in the process despite the presence of departed goal machine Shaun Harrad, and I can’t see Bury giving them any quarter here.
Chesterfield 3-1 Aldershot
The Spireites are still sitting pretty at the top of the pile: they’ve not lost in 9 games and boast significantly the best goal difference in the division. Their home record in particular is formidable – they always score and are averaging over 2.5 goals per game at their shiny new stadium. Dean Holdsworth has rejuvenated Aldershot and they’ve now scored in each of their last 7 matches, but I can’t see them having enough to cause a shock here.
Gillingham 1-1 Oxford
Despite only being outside the playoffs on goal difference, the Gills have the third-lowest home scoring rate in the division. While their overall form is patchy, they’ve won 4 of their last 5 at Priestfield. Oxford’s fine run has stuttered lately, although they’ve had some tough fixtures and like the Shots they’ve found the net in each of their last 7 games. I expect a close contest with some positive play from both sides, but with neither able to strike the killer blow.
Hereford 2-2 Lincoln
Back in December this would have been a relegation six-pointer, but these days it’s a tussle between two upwardly mobile sides making up for lost time. Jamie Pitman has transformed the Bulls into a respectable force who look far too good to go down, and I’m not just saying that because they’ve taken 4 points from Torquay this season. Hereford have now won 4 games in a row and haven’t tasted defeat at Edgar Street in 7 games, finding the net in their last 9. Their visitors and long-time fellow relegation fodder Lincoln have risen with them: still level on points and also having won their last 4 matches. The Imps’ away record is also eerily similar to their hosts, with both sides having 5 wins and a draw from their travels. 3 of Lincoln’s recent wins have come on the road and it’s been 7 matches since a home side last kept them out, so this should be a fascinating contest.
Macclesfield 1-0 Bradford
The Silkmen haven’t had much to be happy about lately and their current winless run of 8 matches is matched only by basement club Stockport. Bradford have hardly been imperious themselves: winless in 6 with Peter Taylor feeling the pressure. The Bantams’ 9 away defeats this season is unmatched in the division and they’ve only managed 11 goals away from Valley Parade, so Macclesfield will get few better chances to arrest their slide. I’m going to let sentiment rule and predict a solitary goal giving some cheer to the Moss Rose faithful.
Morecambe 0-2 Cheltenham
It’s been 7 games since the Morecambe have failed to score at home, but their visitors Cheltenham have an even more impressive record: scoring 10 consecutive away matches. The Shrimps are clearly missing the invention of winger Mark Duffy since his departure to Scunthorpe, which I think will give the visitors the edge here.
Northampton 3-1 Barnet
The Cobblers are great at home: currently 7 games unbeaten and clearly lifted by their new signings if their 6-2 demolition of an admittedly out-of-sorts Crewe is anything to go by. Shaun Harrad looks like being an excellent acquisition and I can see Northampton mounting a late play-off challenge if they can find the required consistency. Barnet have slipped into the relegation zone thanks in no small part to an awful away record, although they usually score on their travels. It’d be a shock if the Bees took any points at Sixfields if these two sides stick to the script.
Rotherham 2-0 Crewe
The Millers will be relieved to have clung on to Adam Le Fondre – arguably the division’s most highly-rated striker – given how many other sides were stripped of their prized striking assets during January. While Crewe have scored in every away game this season, they go into one of their toughest fixtures of the campaign without their two first-choice strikers, who between them have scored over half of Alex’s impressive haul of goals this season. Rotherham have only lost 2 games at home this season and should prove too much for their blunted opponents.
Southend 1-1 Shrewsbury
What a run the Shrimpers are on! They’ve scored in each of their last 14 games and are on a 5-match unbeaten streak which has taken them to the cusp of the playoffs. A win over their visitors would see the sides draw level on points, and such a result is far from unlikely given Shrewsbury’s poor record of just 1 win in their last 6 away from home. The Shrews are no pushovers though and won’t be giving up their spot in the playoff zone easily – they’ve also bolstered their midfield with the signing of Nicky Wroe from Torquay.
Stevenage 2-1 Accrington
The division’s two draw specialists meet at Broadhall Way, with the hosts boasting 7 home stalemates and the away side with an eerily symmetrical 7 on their travels. Only 3 points separate them and both are having no trouble finding the net lately. However, Stevenage’s recent results look more impressive on paper and they’ve only lost twice at home, while in a further coincidence this is exactly how many victories Stanley have achieved on the road.
Torquay 2-1 Stockport
It’s not been much fun for Torquay fans of late. After letting the entire footballing world down by failing to beat despicable Crawley, they’re now facing a potential points deduction for accidentally fielding an ineligible player. Fortunately, on paper this match represents the most winnable contest of the season for the Gulls, with Stockport on an 8 match winless run and having leaked a startling 66 goals this season. This match is unlikely to be a one-sided affair as Torquay are still adjusting to the departure of 2 of their starting XI, most significantly top scorer Elliot Benyon. However, I think they’ll have just too much quality for the Hatters, despite the visitors’ creditable midweek draw at home to leaders Chesterfield.
Wycombe 1-0 Port Vale
Until their narrow 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Rotherham in midweek, Port Vale had won just 1 league match in 8, including their 5 most recent away ties. The rot had set in before Micky Adams’ departure to Sheffield United and it remains to be seen whether Jim Gannon can stop Vale from slipping out of the playoffs. By contrast, Wycombe are flying high in the automatic promotion places, have won each of their last 5 home matches and scored in their last 12 at Adams Park. Not prolific at the best of times, Vale have been toothless even by their own standards of late: they’ve managed to find the net just twice in their last 5 games.