A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
This weekend saw the promotion race develop further, with the 4th-13th placed teams all now separated by no more than a single point. While Chesterfield continue to run away with the title, neither of the other 2 occupants of the automatic promotion slots were able to win: Bury lost at home again and Wycombe were gifted a point at Shrewsbury by some awful officiating (see below). At the other end of the table, Barnet and Stockport continue to look doomed after slipping to narrow defeats. Unfortunately for them, nobody else looks terrible enough to surrender their current points advantage over the bottom two.
Accrington 3-0 Port Vale
Erstwhile leaders Port Vale continue to stumble down the table, exiting the playoff zone with another frustrating performance to make it 3 games without a victory. They failed to muster a single shot on target here, although their cause wasn’t helped by being reduced to 10 men early in the 2nd half. After losing manager Micky Adams to Sheffield United, their season has been further destabilised by injuries to key players and the recent managerial row on the team bus. To their credit, Accrington have been formidable at home and their games in hand make them serious contenders for a playoff place, assuming that they can start to pick up more points on the road.
Aldershot 1-0 Stockport
10-man Stockport were seconds away from claiming a precious and deserved away point in their struggle against the drop, but a cruel stoppage time winner gave the Shots their 3rd win in a row. Ray Mathias’ side now find themselves 5 points adrift with 8 games to play: a predicament made worse by the two teams directly above the relegation zone having played 3 and 5 games less than the Hatters. Frankly, they’ll need a miracle to stay up.
Barnet 1-2 Morecambe
Stockport’s fellow strugglers Barnet took the lead in this relegation six-pointer at Underhill, but they were unable to keep Morecambe out in this entertaining encounter. Both sides had plenty of chances in an open contest which culminated in a massive win for the Shrimps, who are now 9 points clear of danger and are surely safe barring an utter collapse. Barnet however remain in dire trouble and their survival is looking increasingly improbable.
Bradford 1-1 Northampton
Two of the division’s underachievers shared the spoils in a tempestuous encounter, with 10 players booked, 1 dismissed and both goals coming from the penalty spot. While Bradford seem safe from relegation, Northampton have now gone 11 games without a win and new boss Gary Johnson will be desperate to end this terrible run before they’re sucked into a survival battle. However, he was encouraged by his side’s positive display here and claims to be seeing a continual improvement in their performances.
Burton 1-1 Gillingham
The Brewers’ poor away form has seen them fritter away some of their games in hand, although they’ve still played 4 games less than Barnet in 23rd. The two sides meet in a fortnight in what may well prove to be a crucial determinant in both sides’ campaigns. However, Burton should be pleased with a point against high-flying Gillingham, who can’t stop drawing away matches: this was their 7th stalemate in a row on the road. The Gills may come to regret some of these draws: their current run of 12 games unbeaten comprises 8 such results. However, their relatively tame run-in may see this sequence continue for a while longer: only 2 of their remaining fixtures are against teams currently in the top half.
Bury 2-3 Cheltenham
The Shakers lost their 2nd home match in a row, but rather than succumbing to a late fightback as in midweek, they found themselves 2 goals down after 7 minutes here. Agonisingly, their own dogged recovery saw them level the scores for less than a minute, with Cheltenham netting the winner almost straight from the kickoff after the equaliser. The hosts enjoyed a Barcelona-esque 72% of the possession in this match and a profligate 14 of their 23 shots were off target, so this feels like a blip: they should still be targeting automatic promotion based on their excellent goal difference and strong away record.
Chesterfield 5-0 Rotherham
The Spireites demonstrated why they’re too good for the division with a dominant performance against an admittedly out of sorts Rotherham, who haven’t won in 5 and like Port Vale have failed to capitalise on their strong early showing this season. Veteran striker Jack Lester in particular shone for the home side with an accomplished hat trick – his second of the season. Chesterfield now have 17 points between themselves and 4th place, meaning that they’ll probably still go up even if they don’t win another match this season. Amusingly, Ronnie Moore declared that if he’d had a gun he’d have shot his team after this lacklustre display.
Macclesfield 3-3 Torquay
Torquay’s second spirited fightback in a row saw them sidle into the playoff zone thanks to Port Vale’s continuing malaise; Guy Branston scoring his first goal for four years with a deftly flicked header in stoppage time to secure a last-gasp point. Macclesfield’s defending at home has often proved their undoing – only the bottom two concede more goals per game on their own turf – but they should be safe from relegation.
Oxford 2-1 Crewe
Crewe made it 8 away defeats in a row, crashing back down to earth after 2 home wins without conceding, including an impressive 2-0 victory over Chesterfield. While their home form is easily good enough to sustain a promotion challenge, their away record is undermining their progress. Oxford leapfrogged them in the table following this result, with both sides remaining capable of a playoff push.
Shrewsbury 1-1 Wycombe
While a draw was a fair result given the balance of play, Wycombe were gifted their point by a bizarre decision to award them a goal when the ball had clearly not crossed the line. While Shrewsbury will be frustrated at not being able to gain ground on their visitors in the tussle for automatic promotion, there will be a sense of relief at the team’s robust response to their 5-0 drubbing by Torquay last weekend.
Southend 4-0 Hereford
The Bulls’ fine run of 5 away wins in a row came to an abrupt end against a Southend side who themselves hadn’t won in 5 games. The result keeps Southend’s playoff hopes alive and prolongs Hereford’s relegation worries, although their 2 games in hand over Barnet in 23rd provide some insurance. Boss Jamie Pitman bemoaned his side’s defensive errors, and he’ll be mindful of his side’s tough run-in: their next 8 fixtures are all against top half sides, including 4 of the top 7.
Stevenage 2-1 Lincoln
Stevenage are another side peaking at the right time, racking up their 3rd win in a row to gain ground on the playoff places. While Lincoln scored for the 12th away game in a row, more impressive given that it was against the division’s tightest defence, they came away with nothing for the 5th successive away match. However, having languished in the basement for the first half of the season, they look to have racked up enough points to ensure safety.