A full programme of fixtures this weekend in the Football League’s basement division and it certainly wasn’t going to disappoint, with first meeting second and a number of games involving teams at the bottom scrapping for points. The round-up begins in the North West, where the shock of the day took place.
24th placed Bristol Rovers travelled to high-flying Fleetwood, but come 5pm and the Gas would have earned only their second away win of the season. Five minutes in and the visitors were ahead as Danny Woodwards met Ellis Harrison’s cross. Half an hour played and John Ward’s struggling side doubled their advantage through Eliot Richards, before the points were secured early in the second half – John-Joe O’Toole’s 18-yard strike hitting the back of the net. Despite their emphatic win, Rovers remain rooted to the bottom, while Fleetwood’s defeat sees them drop out of the playoffs.
Barnet made it back-to-back victories and continued to surprise when they travelled to Rotherham. A goal in each half helped their cause to move away from the drop zone and Jake Hyde made it eight for the season when his chip over Andy Warrington put the Bees ahead with 20 minutes played. It was game over for Steve Evans’ playoff chasers eight minutes from time when Ricky Holmes’ cross found Andy Yiadom, giving the winger an easy side-foot, which he promptly put away.
Staying at the wrong end of the table, Plymouth hosted Morecambe and Aldershot were looking to continue their recent good form against Accrington. John Sheridan’s tenure as Argyle boss began with a win – which also saw his charges end the weekend out of the bottom two. It was a great start for the home side and they found themselves two goals up with only 16 minutes played. Conor Hourihane opened the scoring, before Ronan Murray (on loan from Ipswich) set up Paris Cowan-Hall to turn in from close range. Morecambe managed to pull one back through Ryan Williams’ long-range shot with 10 minutes remaining, but their chances of finding a late equaliser were diminished when Andrew Parrish was dismissed for a second bookable offence
Meanwhile, Aldershot continued their fight against the drop while Accrington’s slump goes on. The Shots went in at the break with a single goal’s lead – an early strike from Troy Brown was enough to separate the sides. But a Dani Lopez header in the closing 10 minutes ensured the points would be the Shots’ and they find themselves two points clear of AFC Wimbledon who failed to win.
It finished honours even at the Kingsmeadow when Wimbledon took on fellow strugglers Wycombe. Wanderers led through Jo Kuffour’s early goal but the Dons hit back and levelled through Paul McCallum. The hosts turned it around before the break when McCallum made it two – his fourth goal in three games. But the visiting side secured a point with just under 20 minutes left to play, Matt McClure’s effort making sure that the Chairboys didn’t make it an eighth successive away defeat.
Switching to the top of the League Two table and it was all change yet again with Port Vale leapfrogging Gillingham to take first place. Tom Pope made it 26 for the season, the division’s top scorer heading in from Adam Yates’ cross to give the visiting side the early advantage. Vale’s lead was doubled soon after when Adam Barrett was adjudged to have turned into his net (although debutant Lee Hughes may claim the goal), but Gills reduced the deficit a minute later through Danny Kedwell’s edge-of-the-box strike. It remained 2-1 and so Vale now sit a point ahead of the Gills at the top of table.
Exeter moved into the automatic promotion spots and made it three consecutive wins when they beat a Southend side looking for a promotion place themselves. A brace from John O’Flynn helped the Grecians secure maximum points, his first coming minutes before the half time whistle. The hosts left it late to kill the game off but Scot Bennett’s looping header was soon followed by O’Flynn’s second of the day. Southend remain in the top seven, but only on goal difference.
There was no Manager of the Month curse when Burton hosted Torquay. The Brewers’ Gary Rowett won the prestigious title for December after his side won 10 points from a possible 15. But it was Torquay who took the lead in this one, and Aaron Downes’ header before the break was the difference between the sides. With an hour played, Calvin Zola drilled in an equaliser and the eventual winner came only minutes from time – substitute Matt Paterson fired home to complete the turnaround for Burton, moving them into the playoffs in the process.
Cup heroes Bradford found themselves a goal up against Oxford, but come the end of the game, the Us made it four successive league wins. Nahki Wells, scorer of the Bantams’ opener against Villa, tapped in early on to give the home side the lead. But four minutes later Oxford levelled through Sean Rigg. With it looking likely that the points would be shared, Oxford were awarded a penalty after Alfie Potter was tripped – Peter Leven stepped up and snatched a late winner. Crewe beckons for Bradford as they play in the League Trophy northern semi-final on Tuesday.
There were also home wins this weekend for Chesterfield and Dagenham & Redbridge. The victory was wrapped up at half time when Chesterfield played a Northampton side who began the day three points ahead of the hosts. In fact, the game’s goals came in just eight minutes, the first courtesy of Jay O’Shea who recently made his move from MK Dons permanent. A double from Marc Richards soon followed – a mistake by Cobblers’ newly-returned Clark Carlisle saw the striker fire into the top corner, before a Tendayi Darikwa pass allowed Richards to make it three for the Spireites. Both teams sit a point off the playoffs, with Cheltenham still below Northampton.
The Daggers also went behind against Rochdale before finding a late winner to snatch maximum points. After an open, goalless first half, the real excitement came in the final 20 minutes of the match. Dale went ahead through Andrew Tutte’s 12-yard strike only to be pegged back minutes later – Abu Ogogo finding the correct net and scoring from close range. That left both sides 15 minutes to find a winner; Dagenham got it two minutes into stoppage time, Sam Williams teeing up Medy Elito to smash the ball home.
The only other draw this weekend came at Whaddon Road where York travelled to face Cheltenham, a side who have recently dropped from third to having to settle for a playoff place. After their FA Cup exit to Everton on Monday night, the Rubies went ahead in this one – Shaun Harrad’s curling strike came midway through the second period and was his first goal since September. York levelled six minutes from time with Jason Walker’s effort from Chris Smith’s flick-on giving the Minstermen a share of the spoils.
With Torquay and Exeter meeting on Tuesday night in their rescheduled clash and Cheltenham’s trip to Morecambe on Friday night, it’s Saturday afternoon football for everyone else. At the wrong end of the table, Accrington meet Wycombe; elsewhere, Gillingham will look to return to winning ways against Rochdale at Spotland and the league’s bottom side Bristol Rovers host third-placed Exeter.