It was another action-packed weekend in the Football League’s basement division and while Bradford and Rotherham’s game was postponed due to the Bantams’ involvement in the League Cup Final, the remaining 22 teams were vying for points. The game of the day was found at the Pirelli where Burton hosted Exeter – and six goals were scored.
Burton recorded their seventh successive victory and occupy the last automatic promotion spot as three first half goals saw them overcome the Grecians 4-2. Despite losing, Exeter remain in the play-off places. Michael Symes gave the home side the lead early on when his side-footed attempt found the back of the net. Two goals in seven minutes arrived before the break: first Jacques Maghoma’s cross met the head of Marcus Holness and then the Congolese midfielder got himself on the scoresheet with his volley. The Brewers found themselves four goals to the good the other side of the referee’s half-time whistle when, with an hour played, Lee Bell’s 20-yard strike extended the lead. Exeter halved the deficit with two goals in four minutes to salvage a bit of pride and after Guillem Bauza pulled one back, Scott Bennett’s header made the scoreline a little less embarrassing for the travelling faithful.
Staying with the teams at the top, there were wins for Gillingham and Port Vale, who remain first and second respectively. Both sides were victorious away from home and clean sheets aided their push for League One football next campaign. The only goal between Chesterfield and Gillingham was scored in the second period when Cody McDonald – in his second spell with the Kent club – netted. McDonald’s fourth goal since arriving at the end of January from Coventry came in the 50th minute and ensured Martin Allen’s side would remain top for another weekend. Meanwhile, Torquay interim boss Alan Knill’s tenure began with a defeat as Port Vale travelled to Devon. In bizarre fashion, Doug Loft’s 25-yard attempt deflected off the behind of Calvin Andrews, giving Vale a first half lead they were able to hold on to. The Gulls’ winless run now extends to five matches, while Micky Adams’ side keep up the pressure on their rivals.
Northampton remain in the play-off places and sit a point behind Burton in fourth, while things could be better for Plymouth Argyle who now occupy bottom position in League Two following their home defeat. A mistake by Jake Cole in the Argyle net gifted the Cobblers the lead – after flapping at a corner, he allowed Clive Platt to force the ball home. That single goal was enough to settle it and although Plymouth find themselves two points from safety, their goal difference is superior to a number of clubs involved in the basement dog fight.
There were vital wins at the weekend for Aldershot and AFC Wimbledon as they struggle to pull away from the drop zone. The Shots made it back-to-back wins after they beat Fleetwood, who finished the game with nine men. A double from Danny Hylton ensured maximum points and it was a good start for Andy Scott who took over this week after Dean Holdsworth was given his marching orders. The hosts went in at the break with a goal’s advantage after Hylton gave them the lead, and Fleetwood had it all to do when Jamie McGuire received a straight red after the hour mark. Their task was made even harder 10 minutes later when Alan Goodall was also dismissed and the Shots capitalised on their two-man advantage when Hylton netted his – and the Shot’s – second, six minutes from time. The home side also had a penalty saved. Wimbledon’s win saw them not only move off the foot of the table, but also out of the bottom two. 10 minutes from the final whistle, substitute Kevin Sainte-Luce fired them in front against a Dagenham & Redbridge side who themselves remain well clear of danger.
There was also a win at the weekend for Southend, but they had to come from behind against Wycombe. The Chairboys were ahead early on at Adams Park when Dean Morgan’s cool finish saw him net against his former club. Southend levelled after 50 minutes through Barry Corr and the JPT finalists completed the turnaround with five minutes to spare – courtesy of a solo effort from Watford loanee Britt Assombalonga. While the Shrimpers sit two points away from the play-off places, their hosts have now lost three games in a row.
Four goals were shared at the Crown Ground where struggling Accrington entertained promotion hopefuls Cheltenham. While the headlines were all about former England striker James Beattie’s brace for the home side, the Rubies had Marlon Pack to thank for their point as he also netted twice. After Nicky Hunt felled Jason Taylor in the box, Pack put the visitors in front, only for Beattie to level minutes later. The former Southampton front man bagged his second the other side of the half-time whistle, but Stanley were only able to hold on for four minutes and Pack completed his double when Darren Carter’s freekick wasn’t properly cleared. The solitary point sees Stanley fall into the bottom two, while Cheltenham have to continue to settle for a berth in the play-off places.
The points were also shared between Morecambe and Bristol Rovers. Jack Redshaw’s second minute strike from 25-yards was cancelled out by Eliot Richard’s close-range header early in the second half.
Barnet and Rochdale played out an uninspiring goalless draw at Underhill. Oxford and York also finished 0-0.
There’s midweek football this week in League Two, with Bradford v Dagenham & Redbridge on Wednesday night. A day earlier, at the wrong end of the table, Wimbledon host Plymouth and Torquay entertain Wycombe. Seventh plays second with Exeter’s trip to Port Vale and Southend will look to give their promotion chances a boost with a short journey ‘round the M25 to lowly Barnet.