The games keep coming in League Two with another three-game week almost completed. There was certainly the same drama we’ve become accustomed to this season, with red cards, new managers, and last-minute goals dominating the headlines this week. Let’s have a look at the key talking points from another doubleheader special.
McCall makes a steady start in third spell at Bantams
Bradford City parted company with manager Gary Bowyer last week after a run of seven league games without a win that saw them drop out of the playoffs. The Bantams reappointed Stuart McCall for a third spell in charge, with his most recent stint ending in February 2018. His first games in charge would be at home against Grimsby Town and Stevenage.
A bumper crowd of 17,688 against Grimsby were set to witness McCall start with a win after Lee Novak fired Bradford ahead on 80 minutes. However, former Bantams loanee Luke Hendrie would equalise for the visitors deep into added time. The wait for Bradford’s first win since New Years’ Day would continue onto Tuesday night against Stevenage.
An upset was on the cards when Charlie Carter’s powerful effort gave Stevenage the lead after 26 minutes. The momentum of the game changed as a five-minute brace from Shay McCartan gave Bradford the lead early in the second half. Novak completed the scoring in added time to give McCall his first win in charge.
Bradford are currently in eighth place, with the victory over Stevenage ending a run of eight league games without a win.
The Bantams travel next to a resurgent Cambridge United and could end the day as high as fifth if other results go their way.
Consecutive last gasp winners help Crewe close gap to league leaders
Crewe Alexandra needed added-time goals at home to Oldham Athletic and Crawley Town to close the gap to leaders Swindon Town.
Crewe fell behind after 48 minutes following a close-range finish from Jonny Smith. The hosts equalised seven minutes later after Latics goalkeeper Zeus de la Paz fumbled a tame effort from James Jones. Oldham were seconds away from a valuable point, only for Charlie Kirk to slot the ball past de la Paz in the seventh minute of added time.
Three days later and it was another last-gasp victory for the Alex, this time against in-form Crawley Town. Chris Porter’s penalty on 72 minutes gave Crewe the lead before Nathan Ferguson equalised with a spot-kick of his own 12 minutes later. Porter’s header in added time gave the hosts another dramatic victory.
Four consecutive victories for Crewe sees them close the gap to leaders Swindon Town to just two points.
Crewe’s next fixture is away at fourth-place Plymouth Argyle in a potentially season-defining encounter for both teams.
Rampant Exeter move back into automatic promotion places
Exeter City ended their recent dip in form with comfortable wins at home to Stevenage and Oldham Athletic to move back into the top three.
The Grecians secured a 2-1 win against the leagues bottom side, although the narrow margin flattered the visitors. Midfielder Randell Williams broke the deadlock for the hosts with a towering header on 37 minutes. Daniel Kemp fired Stevenage level with 10 minutes remaining only for Matt Jay’s low strike to immediately reclaim Exeter’s lead.
For much of the first half, it looked like Oldham would frustrate their high-flying hosts on Tuesday night. Latics defender David Wheater cancelled out Jayden Richardson’s opener only to be given his marching orders on 42 minutes. Jay converted the subsequent penalty before second-half strikes from Ryan Bowman, Archie Collins and Brennan Dickenson sealed a convincing 5-1 win.
The Grecians overtake Devon rivals, Plymouth Argyle, into third place with the gap at three points. Exeter are only a point behind Crewe and a further two behind Swindon as the promotion battle heats up.
Exeter’s next game sees them visit struggling Macclesfield Town and a win could see them go top of the table.
Forest Green’s playoff ambitions hanging by a thread
Forest Green Rovers were promotion contenders earlier this season, but defeats at home to Walsall and Port Vale see them edging closer to the bottom half of the table.
Walsall rarely threatened before Kevin Dawson’s challenge on Liam Kinsella gave the visitors a penalty on 50 minutes, which was converted by Josh Gordon. Wes McDonald’s solo effort on 72 minutes gave the Saddlers an important win to stop their slide down the table. Aaron Collins reduced the deficit with three minutes remaining, but Rovers couldn’t break through the resilient Walsall defence.
Tuesday night saw Rovers host playoff rivals Port Vale in a feisty encounter at the New Lawn. Vale were 3-0 ahead after 70 minutes with goals from Shaun Brisley and a brace from Tom Pope but the game nearly turned on its head in the final 10 minutes. Carl Winchester’s brace wasn’t enough for Rovers despite late dismissals to Pope and Mitchell Clark for Vale.
Forest Green have dropped to tenth having picked up just one point in their last six games. The drop in form for Rovers sees them six points away from the playoff places following their fifth straight home defeat.
Before Rovers think about climbing back into playoff contention, their first target is to end their bad form away at Oldham Athletic.
Four points from six see Shrimps steer clear of relegation zone
Morecambe are slowly heading towards safety after earning four points from two home games against relegation rivals Mansfield Town and Macclesfield Town.
Mansfield defender Joe Riley’s close-range rebound gave the visitors the lead on the hour mark – his first for the club. The difficult weather conditions played into Morecambe’s hands for their equaliser as Mansfield failed to deal with windswept corner allowing Alex Kenyon to tap into an empty goal. Jordan Slew almost completed the comeback for the hosts, but his effort was easily parried by Bobby Olejnik.
Securing all three points against Macclesfield Town on Tuesday night could prove to be the biggest win of Morecambe’s season. The testing conditions were again in Morecambe’s favour as a long throw-in was buried home by Toumani Diagouraga on 18 minutes. The victory was sealed on 35 minutes after Aaron Wildig’s effort took a heavy deflection past goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell.
The Shrimps move to 22nd place for the first time since October following a run of one defeat in five games, overtaking Macclesfield.
Morecambe’s next game sees them face Grimsby Town who will be full of confidence after beating Colchester United in midweek.
Matchday 32 results:
Bradford City 1-1 Grimsby Town
Carlisle United 1-1 Swindon Town
Colchester United 3-0 Plymouth Argyle
Crewe Alexandra 2-1 Oldham Athletic
Exeter City 2-1 Stevenage
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Walsall
Leyton Orient 1-1 Macclesfield Town
Morecambe 1-1 Mansfield Town
Newport County 0-1 Cambridge United
Northampton Town 0-1 Port Vale
Salford City 0-0 Crawley Town
Scunthorpe United 1-0 Cheltenham Town
Matchday 33 results:
Bradford City 3-1 Stevenage
Carlisle United 0-1 Cheltenham Town
Colchester United 2-3 Grimsby Town
Crewe Alexandra 2-1 Crawley Town
Exeter City 5-1 Oldham Athletic
Forest Green Rovers 2-3 Port Vale
Leyton Orient 2-1 Mansfield Town
Morecambe 2-0 Macclesfield Town
Newport County 0-0 Walsall
Northampton Town 0-1 Swindon Town
Salford City 2-3 Plymouth Argyle
Scunthorpe United 0-2 Cambridge United