After the Cobblers and Crawley Town kick off the weekend’s action in League Two, there’s plenty more exciting games to stick around and watch Soccer Saturday/Final Score for with my main focus this week falling on a big one at the Globe Arena. With the International fixture list taking up plenty of attention elsewhere it’s down to Leagues One and Two to prove that there’s still plenty to shout about in the lower reaches of English football!
Come back tomorrow for my full preview of the Cobblers game with Crawley but for now here’s a look at the rest of League Two this weekend.
FOCUS ON…Morecambe v AFC Wimbledon…
Last Season: n/a
It’s a first ever meeting between two of the more surprising teams of League Two so far this season with third placed Morecambe hosting fourth placed AFC Wimbledon.
Before the season kicked off, most people, including myself, Ben Mayhew and Maxi Hobbs wrote off Morecambe as potential relegation contenders with most of League Two improving their squads and the Shrimps seemingly going through the summer a lot quieter than the rest. But some shrewd signings by Jim Bentley including Izak Reid from Macclesfield, veteran Kevin Ellison from Rotherham and Nick Fenton also from the Millers.
Indeed Ellison is the joint top scorer at the club so far this term with seven goals to his name including one in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Torquay to keep his side in the top three. The fact that they are back in the running for promotion is going a long way to ease fans’ memories of last season’s disappointing showing that saw them finish just four points above the drop zone.
Sammy McIlroy made way for Bentley having failed to build on a playoff semi-final appearance in 2010 but Bentley, having spent nine years at the Globe Arena as a player in over three hundred appearances, has reignited the club so far in his debut season as manager.
A 1-0 defeat at home to Barnet on the opening day wasn’t a great start but the Shrimps went on to win their next four games before drawing against Bradford and hammering Crawley 6-0 in the highlight of the league season so far. That run also included a Carling Cup win at Championship side Barnsley with the run coming to an end at Millwall.
Following the Crawley win, four points taken from the games at Macclesfield and Dagenham and Redbridge saw Bentley’s men leap to the top of League Two and optimism was sky high. Defeat against Bristol Rovers and that draw at Torquay have halted the run a little and brought them back to third place but they will be looking to distance themselves with a crunch game with in form Wimbledon on Saturday.
The Wombles sit just a point behind Morecambe going into the game having picked up some real momentum in recent weeks. In their first season in the Football League it was always going to be tough to settle in but nine points from their last three games have put them right in contention at the top of the league.
Jack Midson, excellent contributor to The 72 Website, was touting his summer activity about on Twitter with his final destination after release from Oxford seemingly the subject of hijack attempts from various fans around the country! He chose Wimbledon and has apparently made a wise choice with eight of Wimbledon’s twenty goals in the league coming from the boot of the former Stevenage and Dagenham man.
That’s included one in each of their last three games, all wins, with Cheltenham (4-1), Bradford (2-1) and Gillingham (3-1) seen off as Terry Brown looks to guide his troops towards a second successive promotion. It’s not unheard of for a promoted Conference side to be elevated again a year later and with the momentum building who would bet against a match between the plastics and the real Wimbledon next season?!
Elsewhere in League Two…
Aldershot Town v Macclesfield Town
Last Season: Aldershot Town 0-0 Macclesfield Town
In six previous meetings between these sides, Aldershot have never beaten Macclesfield with four draws and two wins for Saturday’s visitors. All three fixtures between the two that have taken place at the EBB Stadium have ended in draws though with a tame stalemate last season. This time, Macc sit just a place above the Shots in the table as both teams look to avoid being pulled into the pack at the wrong end of the table.
Bradford City v Torquay United
Last Season: Bradford City 0-3 Torquay United
The Gulls’ 3-0 win at Valley Parade last season earned them a league double over Bradford en route to a Playoff campaign a month later. Phil Parkinson’s Bantams are again failing to live up to their billing as a huge club at this level and are just a point above the relegation zone going into the weekend. Torquay will be looking for their first win in six to keep in touch with the top seven.
Cheltenham Town v Dagenham and Redbridge
Last Season: n/a
It’s only the fourth meeting between Cheltenham and Dagenham with the Daggers yet to register a win in this fixture. Cheltenham have had an excellent week – after beating Bristol Rovers 2-0 at the Memorial Stadium they came through in the JPT away at Wycombe to book their place in the last eight of the Southern Section. Dagenham finally ended their dreadful run of five defeats in a row by seeing off Crewe last weekend but won’t be joining Cheltenham in the next round of the JPT after exiting at the hands on Southend United on Tuesday night.
Crewe Alexandra v Southend United
Last Season: Crewe Alexandra 1-0 Southend United
Crewe did the double over Southend last season without conceding a goal against the Shrimpers but come up against a much tough prospect this time around with Paul Sturrock’s men sitting pretty on top of League Two. That’s thanks to a 3-0 win last Friday night against fellow high flyers Shrewsbury Town at Roots Hall – their fourth victory in a row in the league. Crewe’s injury time defeat at Dagenham left them down in nineteenth and Dario Gradi will be hoping to lift his team in time to face the form team in League Two.
Gillingham v Port Vale
Last Season: Gillingham 3-0 Port Vale
Bayo Akinfenwa and Cody McDonald were on target for Gillingham against Vale last season but now that both strikers have left the club it’s been down to Danny Kedwell and Frank Nouble to lead the line. Jo Kuffour has also joined on loan from Bristol Rovers until January so there’s still plenty of prowess for Port Vale to worry about this weekend The Valiants climbed into the top seven following Marc Richards’ double last Saturday but have placed their leading scorer, Gary Roberts, on the transfer list following a ‘serious breach of club discipline’ that appears to have ended his Vale career. Roberts had started the season with five goals in nine games before the incident where it is reported that he failed to show up for training on a Sunday following a game and then was said to be ‘unfit to carry out his duties’ the following day.
Oxford United v Bristol Rovers
Last Season: n/a
There hasn’t been a league meeting between these two sides since March 2006 but the last competitive encounter saw Oxford win 6-1 at the Kassam Stadium in last season’s Carling Cup First Round. Rovers have since been relegated and sit in the bottom half of the table after a poor start under new boss Paul Buckle. The U’s, on the other hand, are flying in sixth place after Robert Hall’s goal earned them all three points at Hereford last weekend.
Plymouth Argyle v Accrington Stanley
Last Season: n/a
This is the first meeting between Plymouth and Accrington since 1959 in An Old Division Three match that saw the points shared in a 1-1 draw. Fifty two years on and Argyle are fighting for their lives on and off the pitch with a takeover thought to be close to completion according to acting chairman Peter Risdale. Stanley have struggled since appearing in last season’s playoffs but their concerns have been full placed off the pitch this week after defender Tom Bender was involved in a horrific clash of heads during the JPT game against Tranmere that saw him receive treatment on the pitch for thirty minutes. The game was abandoned and Bender was diagnosed with severe concussion later that night. After such a shocking incident it’ll be tough for Stanley players to regroup in time for the game at Home Park but they’ll be wanting to play for their fallen teammate more than anything else.
Rotherham United v Burton Albion
Last Season: Rotherham United 3-3 Burton Albion
Burton came from 3-0 down at half-time to earn a stunning point at the Don Valley Stadium last season with a certain Shaun Harrad scoring a hat-trick for them. Harrad, of course, has moved twice since then but Albion have been in and around the top ten all season. They came from two down to draw with Bradford last time out and they trail opponents Rotherham by just a point in the league after the Millers were beaten 2-0 at Port Vale.
Shrewsbury Town v Barnet
Last Season: Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Barnet
Shrewsbury’s defeat at Southend last Friday night was their third of the season but all of those have been away from the New Meadow where the Shrews have recorded four wins and a draw from their five home games so far. Three losses in a row for Barnet has left them just two places above the drop zone and it’ll be a tough ask for them to stop the rot at one of the leagues promotion favourites.
Swindon Town v Hereford United
Last Season: n/a
Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon were slowly turning around an indifferent start to the season until they suffered a 2-0 reverse at Macclesfield last Friday night. They welcome a Hereford side who have this week appointed Gary Peters as their new director of football to work with manager Jamie Pitman as the Bulls aim to escape the bottom two.