Storm Dennis dominated the headlines, but surprisingly only one game in League Two fell victim to the treacherous conditions. League leaders Swindon Town had to watch on as two of their closest promotion rivals faced off. There was plenty of late drama across the division aswell, so let’s have a look at the key talking points.
Argyle victorious over promotion rivals in controversial circumstances
The big game of the weekend in League Two saw fourth vs second as Plymouth Argyle hosted Crewe Alexandra. Despite the best efforts of Storm Dennis, the game went ahead following a 1 pm pitch inspection.
The conditions had an impact on the quality of the first half, with neither team having a shot on target. Argyle’s Byron Moore had a close-range effort correctly disallowed for offside in a difficult half for creativity. The big moment of controversy came when Argyle’s Callum McFadzean tripped Stephen Walker in the penalty area only for referee Tom Nield to ignore the protests.
Crewe broke the deadlock seven minutes after the interval courtesy of a superb curling effort from Harry Pickering. The lead only lasted five minutes as a close-range header from Luke Jephcott brought Argyle level, his sixth goal since returning from a loan spell at Truro City in January. Crewe striker Chris Porter was then made to rue his miss-of-the-season contender as Antoni Sarcevic converted from the penalty spot on 71 minutes to give Argyle the three points.
The automatic promotion battle looks like being between four teams as Plymouth move to within a point of Crewe. The Alex slip to third after their first defeat in six league games.
Argyle face a midweek trip to Macclesfield Town in a rearranged fixture before hosting in-form Cambridge United. Crewe then host the Silkmen on Saturday with the strugglers potentially playing a key role in the complexion of the promotion battle.
Bowman’s late strike moves Exeter level with league leaders
Exeter City knew that at least one of the teams directly below them would be dropping points. With Swindon Town’s game at home to Scunthorpe United being postponed, the Grecians also had the chance to go level on points with the leaders. They managed to do so, but only just.
The visitors raced into a two-goal lead by the 17th minute. Nicky Ajose’s tap-in broke the deadlock on 11 minutes before Pierce Sweeney’s powerful strike doubled Exeter’s advantage six minutes later. Despite their dominance, the Grecians gave Macclesfield a lifeline on 40 minutes after Archie Collins’ poor clearance rebounded off Connor Kirby and past goalkeeper Lewis Ward.
The Silkmen were rejuvenated after the interval and deservedly equalised on 63 minutes courtesy of Fiacre Kelleher’s looping header. The reverse fixture on the opening day of the season was decided by a late Ryan Bowman goal, and history would repeat itself on 86 minutes. Randell Williams’ cross was poorly dealt with by goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell allowing Bowman to tap-in his 13th goal of the season.
Exeter’s victory moves them up to second in the table and level on points with Swindon. The Silkmen remain second from bottom but are seven points clear of Stevenage.
The Grecians could move to the top of League Two with a victory away at playoff-chasing Northampton Town. As already mentioned, Macclesfield have two tough games this week against Plymouth and Crewe.
Vale run riot over Colchester to overtake them in playoff hunt
Colchester United were unbeaten in 17-league games before losing at Cambridge United two weeks ago. Since then, a run of three defeats in four games leaves them barely hanging on to a playoff place following a 3-0 defeat at Port Vale.
Vale are in great form and it showed when Tom Conlon gave them the lead after 14 minutes. Despite not having Tom Pope available through suspension, Vale dominated the first-half with Leon Legge’s effort cleared off the line.
The hosts doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second-half after Mark Cullen slotted the ball over goalkeeper Dean Gerken. Cullen added his second on 72 minutes with a low, curling effort to give Vale the deserved victory.
Vale’s fourth win in their last five league games moves them above Colchester into sixth place. The “U”s slip to seventh and only goal difference is keeping them in the playoffs ahead of Northampton Town.
Both teams next face mid-table opposition away from home with Vale facing Walsall and Colchester visiting Salford City.
Saddlers complete remarkable comeback to stun Cobblers
Northampton Town are another team heading in the wrong direction in the hunt for a playoff place. The Cobblers looked set for their first victory in three by half-time at Walsall, however, the hosts would show that 2-0 is the most dangerous score in football.
Northampton were comfortably ahead at the interval courtesy of Callum Morton’s brace. His close-range effort on 21 minutes and volley late in the first-half seemingly put the game to bed, but Walsall had other ideas.
The Saddlers halved the deficit 10 minutes into the second-half courtesy of a powerful header from Josh Gordon. Northampton created chances to restore their two-goal lead, only for Danny Guthrie to equalise on 77 minutes with a curling free-kick that evaded everyone. There was also a slice of luck in Walsall’s winner after Rory Holden’s deflected effort in injury-time looped over goalkeeper David Cornell.
Seven points in three league games have fired Walsall back up the table with the Saddlers now 13th. Northampton’s third consecutive league defeat drops them out of the playoff places on goal difference behind Colchester.
The Cobblers next host second-place Exeter City while Walsall face Port Vale.
Resurgent Cambridge make it four wins in a row at Bradford’s expense
When Cambridge United sacked Colin Calderwood in January, the club were in 18th place. Four games later, United are in the top half of the table with a 100% record under caretaker manager Mark Bonner after a 2-1 victory over Bradford City.
Jake Reeves’ deflected effort on 17 minutes gave Bradford the lead in a first half light on attempts on goal.
Cambridge dominated after the break, although Lee Novak came close to doubling the visitors’ lead with his effort being parried away. Bradford would be made to pay as Harry Darling equalised on 84 minutes with a powerful first-time finish. Harvey Knibbs tapped in the winning goal for Cambridge in added time just as the game looked set to finish all-square.
Cambridge move into the top half of the table after their fourth consecutive win under Bonner. A poor run of two wins in 2020 sees the Bantams drop to ninth, but crucially only a point behind seventh-place Colchester.
It’s a battle of in-form teams on Saturday as Cambridge make the long trip down to Devon to face Plymouth Argyle. Bradford’s next game sees them face another team out of form in Newport County.
Matchday 34 results:
Cambridge United 2-1 Bradford City
Cheltenham Town 2-1 Leyton Orient
Crawley Town 0-0 Carlisle United
Grimsby Town 2-1 Morecambe
Macclesfield Town 2-3 Exeter City
Mansfield Town 1-0 Newport County
Oldham Athletic 1-1 Forest Green Rovers
Plymouth Argyle 2-1 Crewe Alexandra
Port Vale 3-0 Colchester United
Stevenage 0-1 Salford City
Swindon Town P-P Scunthorpe United – postponed due to waterlogged pitch.
Walsall 3-2 Northampton Town