The January transfer window is open, and clubs in League Two have made signings in the hopes to improve fortunes at both ends of the table. The biggest news of the week was a recall, with Eoin Doyle returning to Bradford City after a successful loan spell at league leaders Swindon Town. Did the Robins win without their talisman? Did the Bantams claim all three points with Doyle at the heart of their attack? Let’s find out along with everything else that unfolded in another exciting weekend in League Two.
Forest Green strike late to snatch points in seven-goal thriller
The game of the weekend in League Two took place at Field Mill as Aaron Collins’ injury-time winner gave Forest Green Rovers the three points in a seven-goal thriller. Mansfield will be left frustrated having squandered a 2-0 lead in an enthralling encounter.
The Stags raced into an early lead against their promotion-chasing visitors. CJ Hamilton capitalised on a goalkeeping error after just three minutes before Danny Rose doubled their lead before the interval. Mansfield had chances to extend their lead but Farrend Rawson reduced the deficit in first-half injury time.
It proved to be the catalyst for Rovers to take full control in the early stages of the second half. Rawson added his second on 52 minutes with a near-post header before Carl Winchester fired the visitors into lead eight minutes later. Nicky Maynard thought he earned Mansfield a point only for Collins’ strike to give Rovers the three points in the 96th minute.
The victory keeps Rovers in the playoffs and level on points with third-placed Cheltenham Town. Mansfield remain 18th and have won just two games at home all season.
Rovers have a chance to move into the top three when they host Salford City. Meanwhile, the Stags face a tough task when they visit in-form Plymouth Argyle.
Bradford bring back Doyle from loan, but slip to defeat at Crawley
Bradford City exercised a clause to recall Eoin Doyle from his season-long loan at Swindon Town. The 31-year-old scored 23 goals for the Robins and was thrown into the Bradford starting line-up away at Crawley Town.
Despite Doyle’s inclusion, it was Crawley’s Ollie Palmer that proved to be the difference as he scored a first-half brace. Palmer broke the deadlock on 21 minutes after he outmuscled the Bradford defence before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell. Crawley’s number-nine doubled his tally five minutes before half-time with a close-range tap-in.
Palmer nearly completed his hat-trick after the interval only for O’Donnell to superbly tip his effort over the crossbar. Aramide Oteh’s scrappy finish on 84 minutes resulted in a nervy finish for the hosts, but they held on for the deserved win.
The defeat sees Bradford drop to sixth and also level on points with third-placed Cheltenham. Crawley move into 13th and extend their unbeaten run to five games under new manager John Yems.
Bradford will be hoping for Doyle’s first goals to come at home to Scunthorpe United while Crawley visit mid-table Walsall.
Robins continue to march on despite Doyle’s recall
With Doyle returning to Bradford, many believed that this would mark the beginning of Swindon’s decline from the top of the division. However, the Robins didn’t let Doyle’s departure affect them as they impressively beat promotion rivals Crewe Alexandra.
The first half was an evenly contested affair between the two highest-scoring teams in the division. Crewe started the brighter with Callum Ainley’s low drive on 12 minutes well saved by Robins goalkeeper Steven Benda. Swindon grew into the game and took the lead on 32 minutes thanks to Rob Hunt’s deflected long-range effort.
Chuma Anene equalised for Crewe on 61 minutes with a close-range effort, but two goals in three minutes changed the momentum of the game. Hunt was the provider on 69 minutes as his cross was met by a powerful strike from Jerry Yates. Danny Rose soon added a third with a powerful half-volley to seal an important win for the league leaders.
Swindon’s victory keeps them three points ahead of Exeter at the top of League Two, and nine points clear of the playoffs. Crewe drop to fourth and are one of the many teams in the promotion battle locked on 44 points.
The tough games continue for Crewe as they host the team that replaced them in the automatic promotion places, Cheltenham Town. The league leaders travel to Newport County and can potentially pull even further clear of the chasing pack.
Jephcott scores another brace as Argyle continue fine form
Before 2020 started, Luke Jephcott was on-loan at Truro City playing in the seventh tier of English football. Last week he scored his first professional goals for Plymouth Argyle against Scunthorpe United, 24 hours after being recalled. This week, the 19-year-old would repeat that feat at Carlisle United in a comfortable 3-0 win.
Argyle controlled the first half despite the awful weather conditions in Cumbria. Jephcott opened the scoring on 33 minutes after meeting Byron Moore’s cross with an instinctive strike.
Jephcott was left in acres of space before slotting the ball past Adam Collin to double his tally for the second consecutive game on 49 minutes. Striker Ryan Hardie, on loan from Blackpool, marked his debut by adding Argyle’s third with a tidy finish. Aaron Hayden’s late dismissal for a late challenge on Moore completed a miserable afternoon for the Cumbrians.
Argyle’s fourth win in five games sees them move up to fifth in the table. Carlisle can only dream of being in the same position as they remain in fourth from bottom.
Carlisle host Championship Cardiff City in an FA Cup replay in midweek before visiting fellow strugglers Oldham Athletic on Saturday. Plymouth could move into the top three if they beat Mansfield Town, managed by Pilgrims legend Graham Coughlan, and other results go their way.
Newport finally end long winless run away at Scunthorpe
Newport County looked like promotion contenders in the early stages of the season and were as high as third in October. Since a 2-1 victory over Scunthorpe United on October 19, the Exiles have slipped down the table and haven’t won a league game. Their 10-game winless run would finally come to an end on Saturday courtesy of a 2-1 victory away from home. Their opponents: Scunthorpe United.
The Iron had the first big chance, with Abou Eisa’s effort saved by the feet of goalkeeper Tom King. Ryan Inniss had Newport’s best opportunity of the first half after his header was cleared off the line. Eisa would finally get his goal on 38 minutes with a superb, curling effort from over 25 yards.
The outcome of the game changed with two goals in less than four minutes for the visitors. Goalkeeper Rory Watson parried Tristan Abrahams’ effort on 72 minutes into the path of Jamille Matt who tapped in the rebound to equalise. Padraig Amond completed the comeback for the Exiles less than 60 seconds after Lee Novak’s sending off for the hosts.
Newport’s first victory in 10 league games sees them move back into the top half of the table, overtaking Scunthorpe in the process. A run of just one win in their last five league games have seen the Iron slip to 15th.
Both teams face promotion-chasing opposition in their next games, with Newport hosting league leaders Swindon Town and Scunthorpe visiting Bradford City.
Matchday 27 results:
Carlisle United 0-3 Plymouth Argyle
Cheltenham Town 3-1 Walsall
Crawley Town 2-1 Bradford City
Exeter City 2-0 Cambridge United
Leyton Orient 1-1 Grimsby Town
Macclesfield Town 1-1 Oldham Athletic
Mansfield Town 3-4 Forest Green Rovers
Morecambe 1-1 Colchester United
Salford City 1-2 Northampton Town
Scunthorpe United 1-2 Newport County
Stevenage 0-1 Port Vale
Swindon Town 3-1 Crewe Alexandra