The League Two season has entered the final 10 games, and the promotion race is going right to the wire. Leaders Swindon Town were once again victims of adverse weather, with their game at Mansfield Town postponed. Would their promotion rivals take advantage? Let’s have a look at the key talking points from this weekend’s games.
Crewe denied top-spot by struggling Morecambe
Crewe Alexandra had the opportunity to replace Swindon at the top of League Two when they visited Morecambe. The Shrimps are fighting for their lives at the opposite end of the table and would force Crewe to settle for a point.
The reverse fixture finished 5-0 to the Railwaymen, but this encounter was evenly contested throughout. Morecambe midfielder Aaron Wildig created the first chance of the game after his powerful header was tipped over by Will Jaaskelainen. Crewe had chances on goal from Perry Ng and Charlie Kirk, but it remained goalless at half-time.
The deadlock was broken less than three minutes after the interval with Ng firing into the bottom corner at the second attempt. Wildig equalised 20 minutes later with a powerful left-footed drive into the bottom corner. Despite Adam Phillips being shown a straight red card in added time, the Shrimps held on for a deserved point in an entertaining game.
Crewe will see this as two points dropped as the result keeps them in second with the gap in front at a single point. Every point for Morecambe is crucial as they move 10 points clear of the relegation zone.
The Railwaymen have arguably their biggest game of the season in midweek as they travel to third-placed Exeter City before hosting relegation-threatened Stevenage. The Shrimps next have a trip to mid-table Newport County.
Bradford edge past nine-man Plymouth to move back into playoff contention
Stuart McCall’s third reign in charge of Bradford City has had a slow start, with just one win in four games. Bradford hosted Plymouth Argyle, and although McCall earned his second victory, the game will be remembered for two controversial dismissals.
The Bantams raced into a sixth-minute lead courtesy of Ben Richards-Everton’s header at the far post. Any chance of a Plymouth fightback evaporated in the closing five minutes of the first half. Argyle captain Gary Sawyer was sent off for a rash tackle on Dylan Connolly, his second dismissal of the season meaning he’ll serve a four-game suspension. Connolly then doubled Bradford’s lead in added time with a superb curling finish.
The hosts created chances to further extend their lead after the break with Connolly, Lee Novak, and Clayton Donaldson all coming close. Connolly played a part in Argyle’s second dismissal, after midfielder Antoni Sarcevic’s challenge warranted a second-yellow on 84 minutes. Despite the glaring numerical disadvantage, Ryan Hardie managed to reduce the deficit for the visitors, but Bradford held on for the vital three points.
Bradford stay in ninth but more importantly just two points off the last playoff place. Argyle are now winless in three games and have dropped to fifth.
Argyle have an important home double-header this week, with games against Grimsby Town and Macclesfield Town. A victory away at Salford City on Saturday could send Bradford back into the playoff places.
Cheltenham within touching distance of top-three after impressive win at Colchester
Cheltenham Town continue to be the surprise package of the season. After a dip in form at the turn of the year, many thought they would settle for a playoff place. However, the Robins are now on the heels of an automatic promotion place after a 2-0 win away at Colchester United.
Both teams cancelled each other out in the first half with Ben Stevenson’s parried effort the best opportunity for the hosts. Cheltenham striker Alfie May beat the offside trap before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Dean Gerken to break the deadlock on 39 minutes.
Colchester had plenty of possession in the second half but created few chances to equalise. The Robins sealed the victory on 79 minutes courtesy of Chris Hussey’s inswinging free-kick evading everyone including Gerken. Omar Sowunmi’s dismissal for a handball in added time compounded Colchester’s misery.
The Robins are the in-form team in the division, and their fifth consecutive win moves them above Plymouth and a point behind fellow Westcountry rivals Exeter City. Meanwhile, Colchester’s third defeat in four games sees them drop out of the playoffs.
Cheltenham’s next game is at home to seventh-place Port Vale. The Us visit Carlisle United and will also be hoping for a favour from the Robins.
Late Dickenson equaliser keeps Grecians third
Exeter City also had the opportunity to become league leaders, although they would’ve needed a 12-goal victory against Crawley Town. In the end, the Grecians had to settle for a point that could still prove to be important in the final run-in.
Ashley Nadesan almost gave Crawley an early lead only for his effort to be saved by an onrushing Lewis Ward. Nadesan eventually opened the scoring on 34 minutes lifting the ball over Ward after a defence-splitting pass. The Grecians thought they equalised just before the interval only for Pierce Sweeney’s shot to crash off the post.
Exeter hit the woodwork again in the second-half after Jake Taylor’s header beat goalkeeper Glenn Morris but not the crossbar. At the other end, Ward pulled off a fantastic save to deny Ricky German from sealing the win for Crawley. The hosts equalised on 82 minutes courtesy of Brennan Dickenson’s powerful strike, with neither team able to find a winner.
The Grecians remain in third and have still only lost once at home all season, that defeat coming against Grimsby in September. Crawley stay in the top half of the table and are unbeaten in three games.
Exeter have a crucial clash with Crewe in midweek followed by a trip to Walsall on Saturday. Crawley’s next game sees them host Oldham Athletic.
Latics put off-field issues aside to thrash Newport
Times are tough at Oldham Athletic with the club given a winding-up order 24 hours before hosting Newport County. With the Latics potentially facing administration and a 12-point deduction, an ongoing dispute between the club, landlord, and council has resulted in the closure of the Joe Royle Stand at Boundary Park. Despite those issues, that didn’t stop Oldham from recording their biggest victory of the season.
The hosts scored two quick goals midway through the first-half, with Danny Rowe opening proceedings on 25 minutes. Zachary Dearnley doubled Oldham’s lead with a well-timed volley. The Latics controlled the first-half and showed no signs of slowing down after the break.
Rowe added his second on 52 minutes with a turn and finish that went through goalkeeper Tom King’s legs. Thomas Hamer scored Oldham’s fourth 10 minutes later, although his strike did take a heavy deflection before looping over King. The fifth and final goal of the game was a low finish from Jonny Smith on 83 minutes on a memorable day for the much-troubled club.
The Latics are currently in 17th place with 41 points but going into administration would drop them down to 23rd and seven points clear of Stevenage. Newport are directly above Oldham in the table having picked up just four points in their last six games.
The next game for Oldham sees them visit Crawley Town, with Latics fans hoping for clarity on the club’s future in the meantime. Newport’s next game is at home to Morecambe.
Matchday 36 results:
Bradford City 2-1 Plymouth Argyle
Cambridge United 1-2 Carlisle United
Colchester United 0-2 Cheltenham Town
Exeter City 1-1 Crawley Town
Forest Green Rovers P-P Leyton Orient – waterlogged pitch
Grimsby Town 0-3 Northampton Town
Macclesfield Town 0-2 Salford City
Mansfield Town P-P Swindon Town – waterlogged pitch
Morecambe 1-1 Crewe Alexandra
Oldham Athletic 5-0 Newport County
Port Vale 2-2 Scunthorpe United
Stevenage P-P Walsall – waterlogged pitch