The busy festive period concluded with the traditional New Year’s Day matches in the Premier and Football League. With yet another change at the top of the League Two table and a number of tasty ties towards the bottom, the round-up begins with what was undoubtedly the game of the day at Plainmoor.
Torquay hosted bottom of the league AFC Wimbledon in what turned out to be a five-goal thriller with early goals and a late flurry. Paul McCallum’s header gave Wimbledon the lead five minutes in, but the hosts quickly levelled when their captain, Lee Mansell, fired home. As the first half was coming to a close, the Dons restored their lead through an unlikely source – defender Mat Mitchel-King grabbed his first league goal for the club. With Wimbledon set for three vital points to catch up with the other teams around them, Rene Howe levelled the scores again for Torquay before stoppage time began. There was final drama when, with four minutes added on, Aaron Downes was penalised for his challenge on Rashid Yussuf and Stacy Long powered in the spot kick. Wimbledon remain in 24th but close the gap with three points now separating themselves and 20th place.
Keeping with the bottom, 23rd met 20th as Bristol Rovers hosted Plymouth and Barnet (21st) took on Aldershot (22nd) at Underhill. In front of their home fans, Rovers began 2013 with a win, although they also stay in the relegation zone. Argyle found themselves two goals down at halftime. Joe Anyinsah gave the Pirates the lead in the 19th minute with a volley from Fabien Broghammer’s corner. And their lead was extended six minutes later when a second corner, again from Broghammer, wasn’t dealt with by the Plymouth defence – Matthew Lund finding the top corner with his effort. The Pilgrims managed to pull one back after an hour (Conor Hourihane) but it wasn’t enough and after the match boss Carl Fletcher became the first managerial casualty of the year.
Meanwhile a single goal was the difference between Barnet and Aldershot in a game littered with controversy. After a dull, goalless first forty-five, the game sprang to life in four second half minutes. Aldershot took the lead when Craig Reid netted from the spot after the Bees defender was deemed to have handled. The home side’s afternoon went from bad to worse when Jon Nurse was shown a straight red for an over-zealous challenge on Dani Lopez. And it definitely wasn’t the home side’s day when Jake Hyde’s finish was disallowed for offside – the referee had given the goal but overturned the decision after speaking to the linesman, who had flagged. Replays after the match suggested his initial decision was the correct one. The Shots’ win sees them move up the table but they are still only three points from danger.
Gillingham started this year back in first place, a position they’ve occupied for the majority of the season so far. A third minute goal by Chris Whelpdale was decisive against Southend. The Essex club continue to occupy the playoffs though, with a number of sides in the top seven losing. A win for Port Vale and they’d retain top spot – they took on Fleetwood – while Cheltenham had occupied third place for 11 matches before they took on Oxford. At Vale Park, Fleetwood took the lead after 25 minutes when David Ball turned in Junior Brown’s free-kick; they secured the points through Alan Goodall’s header towards the end of the opening period.
Elsewhere, a solitary goal for Oxford saw them continue their recent run of good form – a revival of late has seen the Us go 10 games unbeaten. Cheltenham’s defeat consigned them to fourth place. When Tom Craddock was clipped in the box there was only one outcome and Peter Leven duly put away the penalty.
It was an unhappy return to the Crown Ground for Paul Cook. The former Accrington manager suffered defeat as his current club Chesterfield were beaten by a single goal. Rommy Boco’s 65th minute strike from inside the box – his ninth of the season – was enough to separate the sides.
Wycombe were beaten in the cruellest of ways when they hosted Exeter at Adams Park. Maximum points could easily have gone the other way – first Wanderers were handed an advantage when Jamie Cureton saw red with 40 minutes played. With a man extra for over half the game, the Chairboys were given the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot but Joel Grant’s kick was saved by Artur Krysiak. And with only seven minutes left to play, 17-year-old defender Kortney Hause put through his own net after Grecians’ marksman John O’Flynn had his shot saved.
Also in the Football League’s bottom division, there were big victories for Northampton and York. After two consecutive postponements due to the recent bad weather, the Cobblers ran out winners at Sixfields. Their opener came courtesy of an Abu Ogogo OG and three minutes later their lead was doubled by Chris Hackett’s neat finish. After the break, Kelvin Langmead added a third and when the Daggers pulled one back through Scott Doe it was no more than consolation.
York’s first win in three matches came against a Burton team, who prior to Tuesday’s games occupied a play-off place. The home side went into the break two goals up. First Marcus Holness fouled Alex Rodman and Jason Walker scored the resulting penalty; then their lead was doubled by Patrick McLaughlin. The points were sealed late on when Matty Blair added a third from distance.
A late comeback from Rotherham saw them snap up third place, despite having been behind at Spotland, where Rochdale hosted. Ashley Grimes put Dale in front before the half-hour mark, although prior to that, Steve Evans’ side had a chance denied by the linesman’s flag. It took as long as the 78th minute for the visitors to find an equaliser – Kayode Odejayi scrambling the ball home to set up an exciting finish. The Millers’ winner arrived before stoppage time – Courtney Cameron, the on-loan midfielder, with his first goal since joining from Aston Villa.
Morecambe and Bradford played out an uninspiring goalless draw at the Globe Arena.
With a number of sides in the third round of the FA Cup, there are only eight matches in League Two on Saturday. Managerless Plymouth have a tough trip to Port Vale, Martin Allen’s leaders Gillingham face Bristol Rovers and Accrington (16th) meet Dagenham & Redbridge (17th) in the pick of the games.
Aldershot v Rotherham is the only all-League Two tie in the FA Cup, meaning there will be a representative from the division in the fourth round.