League Two 2019/20: Five key talking points from Matchday 17

Another weekend of exciting League Two action has come and gone with many talking points. Which two teams lost long-standing home records, and who are the new leaders of the division? Let’s find out!

Forest Green Rovers soar to top of League Two after Derby win

The big game of the weekend saw Cheltenham Town host local rivals Forest Green Rovers. An added incentive going was that both teams had the potential to move to the top of League Two with goal difference separating them.

The visitors would effectively claim all three points in the first half. Jack Aitchison played a one-two with Liam Shephard before tucking the ball neatly into the bottom corner on 15 minutes. The game was sealed five minutes before half-time when Ebou Adams curled an inch-perfect pass to Elliott Frear who slotted home.

The visitors did a solid job at sitting back and preventing Cheltenham from having any clear-cut chances in the second half. However, they did reduce the deficit on 65 minutes when Chris Clements’ low free-kick was spilled directly to Luke Varney who headed into an empty net. Rovers managed to hold on in a nervy finish to take the spoils against their local rivals.

Forest Green are now top of League Two after Crewe’s 1-0 defeat at home to Port Vale. The result is also significant as it ends Cheltenham’s 17-game unbeaten run at home in League Two dating back to a 3-1 defeat against Tranmere Rovers in January. Defeat sees the Robins slip to sixth in the table, but still in the hunt for automatic promotion.

The attention next week shifts to the first round of the FA Cup with Cheltenham hosting promotion rivals Swindon Town. Rovers have a more favourable tie as they host Billericay Town of the National League South.

Newport lose at home in League Two for the first time since February

Newport County were another promotion-chasing side that could boast a long unbeaten home record. The Exiles were 16 games unbeaten at home in League Two since a 2-1 loss against Milton Keynes Dons in February, but that came to an end against Salford City.

Set pieces proved to be the cause of Newport’s demise as they were the source of both Salford goals. The Ammies opened the scoring late in the first half when Newport failed to deal with Craig Conway’s corner allowing Cameron Burgess to nod in at the far post. The hosts were level in first-half injury time when Nathan Pond spectacularly headed into his own net.

Salford’s midfielder Lois Maynard scored the winning goal on 54 minutes when he thundered his header in off the inside of the crossbar. Josh Sheehan hit the post for Newport before Richie Towell gave away an 80th-minute penalty. Goalkeeper Mark Howard proved to be the hero for the visitors as he saved Tristan Abrahams spot-kick.

The result was Salford’s third consecutive away win and they’ve now only lost once in their last six league games. Newport are without a win in three games and fall to seventh place, just three points ahead of Salford in 11th.

This weekend’s FA Cup action sees Salford host League One Burton Albion while Newport travel to fellow League Two side Grimsby Town.

Exeter reduced to nine-men as Bradford move into second

Another big game involving promotion rivals saw sixth place Bradford City host second-place Exeter City. The Grecians were looking to end their recent away day woes after consecutive defeats on their travels. An important game with high stakes for both teams, but it ended up being a bad-tempered affair that had more red cards than goals.

Bradford took the lead on the half-hour mark when Pierce Sweeney headed Zeli Ismail’s cross into his own net. The hosts added a second in first-half injury time after James Vaughan capitalised on some poor defending to fire home from close-range.

The second half was too physical for the referees liking, with three red cards handed out. Exeter captain Jake Taylor was the first recipient on 60 minutes for a reckless challenge on Connor Wood. Bradford midfielder Callum Cooke was then shown a second yellow card less than three minutes later after fouling Nicky Law. Tom Parkes was then given his marching orders for being the last man back when he tripped Dylan Connolly.

A feisty game but the result sees Bradford move ahead of Exeter into second place after just one defeat in their last seven games. The Grecians have lost three of their last four games – all away from home – and have now dropped to fifth.

Exeter return to the scene where their recent away troubles started when they visit Cambridge United in the FA Cup. Bradford begin their cup campaign away at League One Shrewsbury Town.

Colchester’s cup run shows no signs of affecting their league form

It’s been a week to savour for Colchester United. A 3-1 win over Crawley Town saw United reach the Carabao Cup Quarter Finals for only the second time in their history. The draw then revealed a mouth-watering trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. Despite their cup heroics, the focus is still gaining promotion to League One.

Colchester were ninth going into their trip to Mansfield Town, but they knew that a win could edge them closer to the playoff places. In a high scoring encounter, the U’s got an important victory to put their name in the promotion picture.

The U’s opened the scoring on 8 minutes when Brandon Comley unleashed a thunderous 30-yard drive into the top corner. The hosts levelled in first-half injury time when a slip from Dean Gerken allowed Ryan Sweeney to tap in from close-range.

A missed penalty early in the second half didn’t deter Colchester as they finally retook the lead on 74 minutes. Courtney Senior used his pace and trickery to beat two Mansfield defenders before slotting the ball past Conrad Logan. An 87th-minute rebound from Luke Gambin sealed the win for the U’s despite a late consolation from Omari Sterling-James.

The defeat leaves Mansfield remaining at 14th as their campaign continues to be below their pre-season expectations. Colchester move up to eighth and are only a point behind Newport after their loss to Salford.

Colchester will be looking at more cup heroics when they host League One Coventry City in the FA Cup. Mansfield Town will hope to put their poor home form behind them when they host National League strugglers Chorley.

Morecambe off to winning start in post-Bentley era

The resignation of Jim Bentley last week came as a surprise to everyone despite Morecambe’s poor start to the season. With Barry Roche and Kevin Ellison as caretaker managers, the Shrimps hosted Leyton Orient. Their first task was to end a barren run which has seen them without a win at the Globe Arena since April.

The hosts had the best chances of the first half, with Andrew Tutte curling a 20-yard effort the wrong side of the post. Tutte came close again with another long-range effort, this time tipped over by Dean Brill. Orient created very few chances and the game was destined for a goalless draw until one moment of brilliance saw Morecambe take all three points.

With 74 minutes on the clock, AJ Leitch-Smith got the ball just outside the penalty box at an angle. Leitch-Smith cut across slightly onto his right foot and curled in a beautiful finish high into Brill’s far corner. The Shrimps held on for their first home win of the season, and just the third overall.

Despite the victory, Morecambe remain bottom of the EFL after Stevenage’s goalless draw away at Scunthorpe United. Orient drop to 16th and are still yet to win under Fletcher in his first three games in charge.

Attention for Morecambe now switches to the short trip to Blackpool in the FA Cup while Leyton Orient host Maldon & Tiptree of the Isthmian League North Division.

Matchday 17 results:

Bradford City 2-0 Exeter City

Cambridge United 2-1 Crawley Town

Carlisle United 2-1 Macclesfield Town

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Forest Green Rovers

Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Port Vale

Mansfield Town 2-3 Colchester United

Morecambe 1-0 Leyton Orient

Newport County 1-2 Salford City

Oldham Athletic 2-2 Northampton Town

Plymouth Argyle P-P Grimsby Town

Scunthorpe United 0-0 Stevenage

Swindon Town 2-1 Walsall

Game postponed due to stadium damage caused by strong winds.