League Two Talking Points

This week saw Macclesfield Town dominate the headlines for the wrong reasons. They were given a six-point deduction for failing to fulfil their fixture against Crewe Alexandra, but the problems continued. Their fixture against Plymouth Argyle was postponed by the EFL on Friday after Moss Rose failed a stadium safety test.

Away from the controversial news, and this weekend’s matches saw new managers, goals galore, comebacks and Eoin Doyle scoring again. Let’s have a look at how it all unfolded.

Exeter come from 3-0 down to share points in Christmas cracker

Exeter City have one of the strongest defences, while Walsall have been struggling to score goals. Many would’ve expected a routine home win, but the fans at St James’ Park were instead treated to a six-goal thriller.

Walsall will be frustrated to leave with a point as they raced into a 3-0 lead inside 30 minutes. Pierce Sweeney diverted Dan Scarr’s cross into his own net after 13 minutes before Caolan Lavery capitalised on a defensive error five minutes later. Josh Gordon seemingly put the game beyond doubt with a glancing header.

The Grecians immediately responded as Ryan Bowman tapped in from close-range after Tom Parkes’ header crashed off the post. The momentum suddenly shifted and Bowman doubled his tally to set-up an enthralling second half. Exeter equalised on 64 minutes through Lee Martin’s deflected effort but neither team could grab the winning goal in an end-to-end contest.

Exeter missed the opportunity to close the gap on league leaders Swindon Town as they remain three points behind. Walsall move up to 16th and are unbeaten in five games as they pull further away from the relegation zone.

Exeter host Newport County on Boxing Day before travelling to Colchester United three days later. Walsall’s festive period sees them travel to Scunthorpe United and host struggling Carlisle United.

Doyle scores once again but league leaders squander two-goal lead

Eoin Doyle scored for the tenth consecutive league game for Swindon Town, but it wasn’t enough as Forest Green Rovers came from 2-0 to salvage a point.

Doyle broke the deadlock for the visitors on 16 minutes after meeting Rob Hunt’s cross with a low finish. The 31-year-old scored his 20th league goal of the season later in the first half after he beat the offside trap before curling the ball past goalkeeper Adam Smith.

Rovers halved the deficit on 55 minutes after Zak Mills tapped in Liam Shephard’s deflected cross. Doyle nearly claimed his hat-trick but his looping effort was cleared off the line by Shephard. Swindon were made to pay for missing chances as Mills added his second of the game with a powerful strike in the six-yard box deep into injury time.

The late equaliser ends Swindon’s seven-game winning streak but they remain three points clear of Exeter City at the top of League Two. Forest Green stay sixth but are without a win in four league games.

Forest Green face relegation contenders in their next two games, with a trip to Stevenage on Boxing Day before they host Macclesfield Town three days later. The Robins will be hoping to extend their lead over the festive period with games at home to Cambridge United and away to Port Vale.

Westley’s fourth spell begins with heavy defeat to Crewe

Graham Westley’s fourth spell as Stevenage manager started with defeat at home to high-flying Crewe Alexandra.

Two goals in three minutes midway through the first half effectively ended the contest. Both goals came courtesy of close-range finishes from Chuma Anene and Oliver Finney.

The second half saw Crewe continue their domination over their struggling hosts. Daniel Powell fired the ball past Paul Farman on 57 minutes before Anene doubled his tally eight minutes later. Stevenage defender Scott Cuthbert managed to score at both ends as Westley’s fourth stint started with a convincing 5-1 defeat.

The victory moves Crewe back into the automatic promotion places and extends their unbeaten run to four league games. Stevenage slip to the bottom of League Two following Morecambe’s victory over Newport County.

Westley will be hoping for his first win as a belated Christmas present when Stevenage entertain Forest Green Rovers and partake in a trip to Devon against Plymouth Argyle. Crewe face mid-table opposition during the Christmas period as they travel to Salford City before hosting Scunthorpe United.

Newport’s slide continues as struggling Shrimps produce spirited comeback

Morecambe came from behind to beat Newport County and move out of the relegation zone.

The visitors took the lead on 14 minutes after Joss Labadie’s powerful strike hit the inside of the crossbar and went in. Newport couldn’t add to their advantage despite being in complete control of the first half, and they’d be punished after the interval.

Morecambe deservedly equalised on 68 minutes after Cole Stockton did well to turn and fire the ball past Nick Townsend. The hosts completed the comeback 12 minutes later after a neat build-up resulted in a curling finish from John O’Sullivan.

The victory sees Morecambe go level on points with Macclesfield Town following their points deduction. Newport have picked up just two points from their last seven leagues as they slip into the bottom half of the table.

Morecambe will be hoping for consecutive victories for the first time this season in upcoming games against Oldham Athletic and Cambridge United. Newport’s festive fixtures see them travel to Exeter City on Boxing Day and host Leyton Orient.

Coughlan begins reign as Stags boss with draw against Northampton

Graham Coughlan dropped down a division this week as he left Bristol Rovers to become Mansfield Town manager. His reign started with a 1-1 draw at home to promotion-chasing Northampton Town.

Northampton nearly took the lead inside 15 seconds after Sam Hoskins’ effort rattled off the crossbar. That was as close as either team came to breaking the deadlock in a hard-fought first half.

Both teams created chances in the second half with neither goalkeeper being forced to make a save until the final 15 minutes. Mansfield broke the deadlock on 74 minutes courtesy of Andy Cook’s driven effort from 25 yards. Coughlan would have to settle for a draw as Harry Smith equalised 10 minutes later with a looping header.

Northampton remain in the playoff places and have lost just once in their last nine league games. The Stags move up to 17th but are without a win in six league games.

Coughlan will be looking for his first victory in the festive double-bill when Mansfield host Port Vale before visiting Bradford City. The Cobblers entertain fellow promotion chasers Cheltenham Town three days after visiting Crawley Town.

Matchday 22 results:

Grimsby Town 0-1 Scunthorpe United

Bradford City 1-1 Salford City

Cambridge United 2-3 Leyton Orient

Colchester United 3-0 Carlisle United

Exeter City 3-3 Walsall

Forest Green Rovers 2-2 Swindon Town

Macclesfield Town P-P Plymouth Argyle

Mansfield Town 1-1 Northampton Town

Morecambe 2-1 Newport County

Oldham Athletic 2-1 Crawley Town

Port Vale 1-1 Cheltenham Town

Stevenage 1-5 Crewe Alexandra