League Two 2019/20: Five key talking points from Matchday 15/16

The 2019/20 League Two campaign is starting to take shape after the conclusion of a three-game week. There were Derby-day thrashings, postponements and even a managerial departure as the complexion of the table changed at both ends. Let’s have a look at the biggest talking points from this doubleheader special!

Plymouth humiliated by Devon rivals

Going into the 107th Devon Derby, Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City were at opposite ends of the form guide. The Grecians suffered consecutive away defeats including a 3-1 loss at Scunthorpe United which saw them slip out of the automatic promotion places. Argyle had successive home wins, including a 4-0 demolition of Leyton Orient.

Form goes out of the window when Derby Day comes along, and that was apparent in the latest instalment at St James’ Park. A sold-out crowd including over 1,000 away fans saw the Grecians awarded a penalty on 42 minutes when Lee Martin was tripped by Josh Grant. The spot-kick was converted by Nicky Law and the hosts never looked back.

Exeter doubled their lead less than 10 minutes into the second half after a powerful header from Tom Parkes. The visitors were again punished for their defensive mistakes on 67 minutes when Williams was able to lob the ball over Alex Palmer.

Plymouth rarely tested the Exeter defence, and the with the game effectively over prompted many members of the ‘Green Army’ began to make their way home. There was still enough time for Law add his second of the game on 83 minutes. A thunderous effort from captain Jake Taylor crashed against the post, giving Law an easy rebound to complete a memorable day for the Grecians.

The heaviest defeat to their Devon rivals since 1925 was met with loud boos from the travelling Plymouth fans towards their players after the final whistle. The superb result for Exeter sees them move back into the automatic promotion places.

The Grecians will be full of confidence when they travel to fellow promotion chasers Bradford City. Plymouth will be looking to put this result behind them when they host Grimsby Town.

Jim Bentley resigns as Morecambe Manager

It appeared as if Morecambe’s form had turned a corner after their surprise 1-0 win away at Colchester United. A week can be a long time in football, and the Shrimps have suffered consecutive defeats and are now without a manager.

It was announced yesterday that Jim Bentley had resigned as Morecambe manager after eight years, the longest reign in the EFL. Including his association with the club as a player, this ends an 18-year association with the Shrimps. The longest-serving manager in the EFL is now Gareth Ainsworth, who has overseen Wycombe Wanderers for just over seven years.

Bentley’s penultimate game in charge was a 2-0 loss at home to Forest Green Rovers. A game of few chances was decided with two late goals from Jack Aitchison and Liam Shephard. The hosts were reduced to 10-men when Lewis Alessandra was shown a second yellow card in added time for a soft challenge to add further misery.

The final game of Bentley’s reign was a crucial relegation six-pointer against bottom of the table Stevenage. Both sides created chances without either goalkeeper being tested, although Morecambe’s Cole Stockton did have a goal harshly ruled out for offside. That decision proved to be critical in the outcome of the game.

The winning goal came on 82 minutes when Stevenage defender Scott Cuthbert’s header deflected off Jordan Cranston. The victory sees them move off the bottom of League Two, with Morecambe now taking their place.

While Morecambe will be looking for a new manager ahead of their next game at home to Leyton Orient, Bentley has taken the hot-seat at National League AFC Fylde just hours after leaving the Shrimps.

Walsall’s woeful form shows no sign of improving

A 3-2 victory away at Crawley Town on 28th September was Walsall’s third consecutive win. That was also the last time they tasted success. Since then the Saddlers have lost five consecutive league games, a worrying drop of form which has seen them slide back into relegation trouble.

After a 2-1 defeat at home to Cheltenham Town, there was no change in fortune for Walsall as they lost 2-0 away to Oldham Athletic. The visitors were reduced to 10-men on 52 minutes when Matt Sadler deliberately handled the ball just as Oldham were looking to break. The Latics made the most of the numerical advantage less than three minutes later with Scott Wilson’s powerful, close-range shot. Desire Segbe-Azankpo made sure of the victory on 69 minutes with a low finish.

Walsall would fall to their third defeat of the week, and the fifth in succession at home to Mansfield Town. Striker Andy Cook came back to haunt his former club by giving the visitors the lead after 30 minutes with a close-range header. The hosts responded well and were level in added time after Elijah Adebayo nodded the ball past goalkeeper Conrad Logan. The winning goal came courtesy of Mansfield winger Alex MacDonald’s powerful drive from six yards midway through the second half.

The defeat sees Walsall slip to 21st having scored only 11 goals all season, the lowest in the division. The Saddlers face a tough task this Saturday when they travel to in-form Swindon Town.

Postponements affect front-runners; Swindon take advantage

The stormy conditions on Saturday certainly had an effect on sport across the country, and League Two was no exception. There were three games postponed with high-flying Crewe Alexandra, Cheltenham Town, Forest Green Rovers and Bradford City all affected. This allowed Newport County and Swindon Town the chance to get back into the mix. The Robins were able to make the most of their opportunity, even more-so with Newport losing at Colchester.

Swindon secured their first win in four games with a last gasp goal at home to Stevenage in midweek. On Saturday away at Crawley, the Robins made it clear that they were back in the promotion hunt with a convincing 4-0 victory.

Eoin Doyle is becoming a popular figure during his loan spell at Swindon, and his hat-trick made it 13 goals in 13 games. He opened the scoring inside five minutes with a simple tap-in before doubling Swindon’s lead just before half-time with a powerful header. Doyle completed his hat-trick on the hour mark with a cool finish after being played through by Keshi Anderson.

Swindon were ruthless in attack and they added a fourth late on through Jerry Yates. The victory sees the Robins move into fifth place having played a game more than most of the teams around them. They could move into the automatic promotion places if they beat Walsall at home on Saturday.

Three straight wins sees Northampton within touching distance of Playoffs

The only team with a perfect record from this past three-game week was Northampton Town. A 2-0 win at home to Salford City last Saturday was their first in four games. Northampton have since managed to build on from that victory with wins against Carlisle United and Cambridge United.

The Cobblers took advantage of the hosts poor run of form with a comfortable 2-0 victory in midweek. The visitors broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half after Scott Pollock fired the ball into the roof of the net. Despite controlling the second half, Northampton were made to wait until added time to seal their victory courtesy of Sam Hoskins.

The Cobblers would replicate the same score against Cambridge United at Sixfields. Both goals came in the first half, with Harry Smith opening the scoring after 26 minutes with a composed finish. Smith played a key role in the second goal as his cross was diverted into his own net by George Taft in first-half injury time.

Three consecutive victories means that Northampton have moved from mid-table to eighth place in the space of a week, and just three points from the playoffs. The Cobblers will be looking to continue their fine form when they travel to Oldham Athletic.

Matchday 15 results:

Bradford City 1-2 Port Vale

Cambridge United 0-0 Grimsby Town

Carlisle United 0-2 Northampton Town

Cheltenham Town 3-0 Macclesfield Town

Crewe Alexandra 0-0 Colchester United

Mansfield Town 1-2 Salford City

Morecambe 0-2 Forest Green Rovers

Newport County 1-1 Crawley Town

Oldham Athletic 2-0 Walsall

Plymouth Argyle 4-0 Leyton Orient

Scunthorpe United 3-1 Exeter City

Swindon Town 1-0 Stevenage

Matchday 16 results:

Colchester United 3-1 Newport County

Crawley Town 0-4 Swindon Town

Exeter City 4-0 Plymouth Argyle

Forest Green Rovers P-P Crewe Alexandra

Grimsby Town P-P Cheltenham Town

Leyton Orient 1-1 Carlisle United

Macclesfield Town P-P Bradford City

Northampton Town 2-0 Cambridge United

Port Vale 0-0 Oldham Athletic

Salford City 1-1 Scunthorpe United

Stevenage 1-0 Morecambe

Walsall 1-2 Mansfield Town