League Two Weekend Preview: 3rd September 2011

With the International break taking any attention off the top two divisions, Leagues One and Two and the non-league have their chance to grab the national spotlight this weekend. Here’s my preview for the weekend’s action with the spotlight falling on Aldershot and Cheltenham Town.

(Click here for a full preview of the Cobblers’ trip to Southend United)

SPOTLIGHT ON…Aldershot Town v Cheltenham Town…

Last Season: Aldershot 0-2 Cheltenham

There’s usually a surprise package or two in each division come the end of the first month and it’s no different this time around as, along with Morecambe, Cheltenham Town defy the odds of pre-season relegation favourites to take a place in the top seven. Though it might come as a big surprise most League Two fans, there’s always been a small band of Robins fans who were quietly confident about the season before it kicked off.

And following last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Crawley, a club who are backed by bags of riches, there’s a sense that things are really clicking at Whaddon Road. That was Crawley’s first defeat in 34 games and shouldn’t be taken lightly. You can’t put it down to Cheltenham raising their game either as previous wins at Sixfields and at home to another promotion hopeful in Swindon Town raises the theory that it’s not all about splashing out on big name players in this division.

Indeed Wes Thomas, sold by Cheltenham to Crawley this summer, doesn’t appear to be too missed so far with the goals being shared between the likes of Jeff Goulding and Darryl Duffy as Town’s early season form gives their supporters real hope of upsetting the odds more and more as the campaign goes on.

One word of caution would be that after a 4-0 victory against Bradford in the final game of 2010 to move to seventh in the table, the Robin’s form crashed and they would win just five more games all season so early optimism needs to be calmed by Mark Yates. If they can continue to go about their business with the hard work ethic installed so far though then there’s every chance that this time they can go even further in mixing it with the bigger names of the league.

Cheltenham travel to Aldershot this weekend with Dean Holdsworth still looking to find the consistency that was absent in so many patches of last season in his bid to improve the Shot’s fortunes.

His men have been making the headlines in the Carling Cup this season with the First Round win at Upton Park on one of the greatest nights in the clubs’ history followed by another upset against League One Carlisle United on Tuesday night. In between was a fourth point of the league season, at Oxford and indeed all of those points were collection away from the EBB Stadium.

The success on Tuesday was the first win in any competition at home for the Shots since a 3-0 hammering of Shrewsbury Town on 9th April and if they’re to go further than last season’s mid-table obscurity they will need to swiftly turn around the home form. The EBB is a tough place to go and you would certainly expect the Shots to win more than they lose at home but a third straight league defeat there would leave them playing catch up in terms of their greater ambitions.

Elsewhere in League Two…

Swindon Town v Rotherham United (12:15pm)

Last Season: n/a

After the incredible scenes off the pitch at the end of Swindon’s Carling Cup defeat against Southampton that saw Leon Clarke and manager Paolo Di Canio do battle in the tunnel, Clarke was told that he can find a new club and the Robins will be hoping to get back to talking on the pitch in the lunch time kick off. They meet high flying Rotherham who returned to the top spot after a 3-0 hammering of Gillingham last Saturday. The Millers signed striker Alex Revell from Leyton Orient this week in a bid to plug the gap left by Adam Le Fondre’s exit to Reading and come into the game defending the only unbeaten record in the division.

AFC Wimbledon v Port Vale

Last Season: n/a

Wimbledon are yet to win at home in their first season in the Football League and welcome a Port Vale side who suffered their first defeat of the season in last week’s 3-2 home reverse against Southend United. Vale are the joint highest scorers in the division, with Rotherham, after the opening five games.

Barnet v Accrington Stanley

Last Season: Barnet 2-0 Accrington Stanley

Most of Barnet’s points so far have come away from Underhill but the Bees were shot down by Bradford City last weekend so are looking to claim a first home win of the season when Accrington come to town. Stanley have had a steady start to the season and recovered from a 4-1 hammering at Port Vale two weeks ago to record a 2-1 win over Burton last week.

Burton Albion v Plymouth Argyle

Last Season: n/a

Argyle players have planned a strike for this game if their August wages, potentially their tenth month without being fully paid, doesn’t come into their bank accounts before the game. Administrators are still trying to finalise the sale of the club to Bishop International Limited and there’s doubts as to whether the money will be in place in time. So it’s anyone’s guess as to what sort of team appears at Burton tomorrow with the Brewers gunning for a first home win of the campaign.

Crawley Town v Bristol Rovers

Last Season: n/a

A heavyweight clash at the Broadfield Stadium as two big spenders go head to head. Crawley dropped to third place following the 3-1 defeat to Cheltenham last weekend and will be keen to extend a 100% home record in the league in which they are yet to concede a goal. Rovers have told want away striker Jo Kuffour that he can go out on loan when the window opens next week and come into the game on the back of two goalless draws in the league.

Crewe Alexandra v Oxford United

Last Season: n/a

Crewe finally got off the mark last weekend with a first win of the season against fellow strugglers Plymouth. That moved Dario Gradi’s side off the bottom of the table and they go in search of more good news following a JPT penalty shoot-out win over League One Bury in midweek. Oxford could hand a debut to on loan Middlesbrough forward Jonathon Franks who signed this week while James Constable has also come out to say that he wants to stay at the club despite rumours linking him with a move away. A home draw with Aldershot last Saturday meant that United stretched their unbeaten run to four games having last tasted league defeat on the opening day of the season.

Gillingham v Shrewsbury Town

Last Season: Gillingham 2-0 Shrewsbury

Gillingham were flying high up until the 3-0 hammering at the Don Valley Stadium having picked up 10 points from a possible 12 beforehand. Back on familiar ground this week, they host Shrewsbury who are steadily improving since a shaky start to the campaign. This contest between last season’s playoff chasers and playoff semi-finalists could be a belter at the Priestfield.

Hereford United v Dagenham and Redbridge

Last Season: n/a

Hereford dropped into the bottom two last weekend thanks to Crewe’s win at Plymouth but did pull off a decent result by picking up a point at Bristol Rovers. Dagenham are the visitors to Edgar Street and they come into it having picked up seven points from a possible nine in League Two.

Morecambe v Bradford City

Last Season: Morecambe 0-1 Bradford

Bradford have named yet another new manager after Peter Jackson resigned last week. New boss Phil Parkinson saw City beat Barnet 4-2 in a much improved performance to seal a first win of the season but now takes his charges to Morecambe, whose victory at Sixfields lifted them into second place in the table.

Torquay United v Macclesfield Town

Last Season: Torquay 1-3 Macclesfield

Torquay’s good start to the season was halted a couple of weeks ago with a home defeat to Crawly but they at least got a point a week later at Dagenham to set themselves up for a visit from Macclesfield Town. The Silkmen have taken up a place in mid-table after five games but having swept aside AFC Wimbledon last week 4-0, lost star striker Emile Sinclair who joined Peterborough United on deadline day.

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