Attention switched back to League Two action as the season races towards the half-way point. The build-up to this weekend’s fixtures saw Crawley Town part company with manager Gabrielle Cioffi, while player strikes at Macclesfield resulted in their game with Crewe Alexandra being postponed.
On-the-pitch, it was another exciting weekend with surprise results and last gasp goals. Let’s have a look at the key talking points from matchday 20.
Alleged racist abuse temporarily stops game between Forest Green & Scunthorpe
Unfortunately racism has once again become a talking point, this time involving Forest Green Rovers and Scunthorpe United. The game, which the visitors won 2-0, was briefly stopped by referee John Busby whilst he spoke to both managers.
Rovers have said that a “single fan” was being investigated for comments made towards Scunthorpe defender Jordan Clarke. However, the abuse was heard only by the fourth official rather than the player himself.
On the pitch, the Iron produced a resolute display to earn their third consecutive league victory. The first half saw few chances with the hosts coming close on 19 minutes after Farrend Rawson’s strike was cleared off the line.
Forest Green were left to rue their missed opportunities as Matty Stevens had an early second half penalty saved by Jake Eastwood. That miss would prove costly as long-range efforts from Alex Gilliead and Abou Eisa sealed the win for the visitors. The only negative from Scunthorpe’s performance was defender Levi Sutton being shown a second yellow card deep into added time.
Rovers travel to Carlisle United in an FA Cup replay before a tough trip away at Northampton Town next weekend. Scunthorpe’s next game is at home to playoff chasing Colchester United.
Doyle scores again as Swindon tighten their grip on top spot
Two teams heading in the opposite directions met at Blundell Park as Grimsby Town hosted league leaders Swindon Town. The game went with the form guide as the Robins would coast to a 3-0 victory thanks to their front-two partnership of Eoin Doyle and Jerry Yates.
Doyle is having a fantastic loan-spell at Swindon, with rumours circulating that Bradford City are looking to recall him in January. The 31-year-old scored for the eighth consecutive game – his 18th goal of the season – with a looping header inside 10 minutes. Swindon’s lead was doubled less than 15 minutes later as Yates cut across from the left before his effort deflected past James McKeown.
The second half saw the contest end within seven minutes after Yates fired the ball past McKeown from a tight angle. The hosts rarely tested goalkeeper Steven Benda in what was a comfortable afternoon for the in-form league leaders.
Swindon’s sixth consecutive victory in League Two sees them extend their lead over the chasing pack to three points. The Mariners drop to 20th place and are now without a win in eight league games as their search for Michael Jolley’s replacement continues.
The Robins look cement their status as league leaders when they host struggling Oldham Athletic. Grimsby find themselves in a six-pointer at home to Carlisle United with both teams struggling for form.
Grecians edge past Cobblers in five-goal thriller
The big game going into the latest round of fixtures was promotion rivals Exeter City and Northampton Town facing off at St James’ Park. As expected, the game delivered as the Grecians narrowly took all three points in an exciting 3-2 victory.
Northampton opened the scoring on 34 minutes courtesy of a powerful strike from captain Charlie Goode. Their lead lasted less than five minutes as Exeter winger Randell Williams cut across to fire a low effort from 20 yards.
The high intensity continued after the interval with two quick-fire goals proving to be the deciding factor. Williams became the provider as his cross from a short corner was headed in by Aaron Martin on 64 minutes. The Cobblers struggled with a similar routine three minutes later, and it lead to Jack Sparkes’ cross being headed in by Alex Fisher. Sam Hoskins scored a brilliant individual goal for Northampton on 79 minutes to set up a tense finale, but the Grecians held on.
The result sees Northampton’s six-game unbeaten run come to an end as they drop to seventh place. Consecutive league wins for the Grecians lifts them into second and three points behind league leaders Swindon Town.
Exeter visit Hartlepool United in an FA Cup replay followed by another long away trip to Salford City. The Cobblers will be looking to bounce back against another promotion rival when they host Forest Green Rovers.
Cheltenham’s promotion ambitions back on track as pressure mounts on Dempster
Mansfield manager John Dempster was already under pressure as his underachieving side hosted Cheltenham Town at Field Mill. The Robins bounced back after a recent drop in form in convincing fashion to send Mansfield closer to a relegation battle.
The Robins took the lead on 32 minutes after Jonte Smith rose highest to head home Jake Doyle-Hayes’ curling cross. Mansfield failed to register a shot on target, with Nicky Maynard coming closest before the interval, but his effort flashed wide.
Cheltenham doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half after a diving header from defender Will Boyle. The hosts struggled and fell further behind as Alex Addai’s low finish on 86 minutes sealed a comfortable win.
Victory for Cheltenham ends their run of three consecutive draws and moves them up to fourth in the table. The defeat sees Mansfield’s winless run extend to five games as they drop to 18th.
Mansfield’s next game is a tough visit to high-flying Crewe Alexandra. The Robins will host Cambridge United who are four points off a playoff place.
Last gasp winner lifts Colchester into playoff picture
Colchester United and Salford City faced off with both teams looking to mount a playoff challenge, but the result was late heartbreak for the visitors.
Cohen Bramall’s 25-yard free-kick was the best opportunity for the hosts in the first half. Salford’s best chance was a deflected effort from Lois Maynard in a lacklustre half of football.
Salford had a goal disallowed midway through the second half, after Luke Armstrong’s rebound was ruled offside. The game was heading towards a goalless draw but Harry Pell’s low header deep into added time gave the U’s all three points.
The result moves Colchester up to eighth place and a single point behind Northampton Town. A second defeat in three games sees the Ammies remain in mid-table.
Colchester’s next game sees them travel to in-form Scunthorpe United while Salford host promotion-chasing Exeter City.
Matchday 20 results:
Bradford City 1-0 Newport County
Cambridge United 1-0 Plymouth Argyle
Colchester United 1-0 Salford City
Exeter City 3-2 Northampton Town
Forest Green Rovers 0-2 Scunthorpe United
Grimsby Town 0-3 Swindon Town
Macclesfield Town P-P Crewe Alexandra
Postponed due to impending player strikes at Macclesfield over unpaid wages.
Mansfield Town 0-3 Cheltenham Town
Morecambe 1-1 Carlisle United
Oldham Athletic 1-1 Leyton Orient
Port Vale 0-1 Walsall
Stevenage 0-0 Crawley Town