There was midweek action again in League Two this week. Shocks occurred up and down the basement division with defeats for the top two – Gillingham still leading the way, with Port Vale two points behind them. Meanwhile, Southend’s play-off dream slipped at the hands of lowly Barnet, one of a handful of teams looking to push away from the bottom two. But the round-up begins with third-placed Burton Albion who made it eight successive home wins and are now real contenders for automatic promotion.
Five goals were scored at the Pirelli where Albion hosted Morecambe, the first arriving in the game’s opening 20 minutes – Jacques Maghoma the quickest to pounce on a loose ball. The Brewers extended their lead on the stroke of half time through Billy Kee’s close-range header and he doubled his individual tally after the break with a 12-yard volley. The visitors pulled one back in the closing 10 minutes via a Jack Redshaw penalty after Damien McCrory was adjudged to have fouled Chris Holroyd. Although Holroyd also netted for the Shrimps in second half stoppage time, it was too late for them to salvage a point.
A late goal for Oxford away at leaders Gillingham gave them a surprise win, also condemning their hosts to a sixth home defeat of the campaign. Six minutes from time, Alfie Potter latched on to a long ball before slotting into the bottom corner to send the travelling fans home happy. The gap between first and second remains two points with Port Vale also losing at home. Although they finished the game a man light, Exeter move into sixth and are four points off automatic promotion. Two first half goals ensured maximum points for the Grecians and Jamie Cureton notched his 19th goal of the season when he gave the visitors the lead. He turned in Matt Oakley’s cross after 10 minutes and Oakley was also provider for their second – this time teeing up Danny Coles to bundle home. Mark Moseley saw red for an off-the-ball incident but with 13 minutes remaining Vale failed to capitalise.
A goal in each half gave Barnet a vital win over a Southend side vying for a playoff finish. After a drab first half hour, the game came to life with 33 minutes gone, when Jake Hyde’s back post header gave the Bees the lead. It was the striker’s 10th of the campaign, more than he registered the previous time he was with the London club. With tickets on sale this week for their JPT final against Crewe Alexandra, maybe Southend had their mind on Wembley already and they found themselves a second goal down late on. Byrne was again provider and Dani Lopez - on loan from Stevenage - prevented Edgar Davids from opening his Barnet account when he made sure the player/manager’s goal-bound effort did, indeed, find the net. The strugglers from Underhill find themselves unbeaten in four matches.
There was also a shock in the North West where Accrington in 23rd faced their neighbours, mid-table Rochdale. After a goalless opening period at Spotland, Stanley ran rampant and three goals in 10 minutes handed them crucial maximum points. Substitute Lee Molyneux scored twice with minutes to spare: first a long-range effort that landed in the top corner then a 25-yard freekick. Rommy Boco was on the scoresheet minutes later and the victory for Stanley sees them move out of the bottom two, on goal difference.
At the other end of the table, Northampton’s promotion dream continues as a single goal separated them and Bristol Rovers. The deadlock was broken with only two minutes remaining when, from Ben Tozer’s long throw routine, Ben Harding was on hand to finish. While Town sit a point behind third-placed Burton, down in the basement, the Gas find themselves three points clear of danger.
Torquay continued their recent, alarming slump that has seen them unable to pick up a single point in February. Their latest defeat was their seventh successive setback and has seen the Gulls slide dramatically down the table. However, they did go ahead against Wycombe, a side that have been moving in the opposite direction under player/boss Gareth Ainsworth. Ryan Jarvis converted Billy Bodin’s cross to give the hosts a first half lead. The player/manager himself was at the centre of Wanderers’ late turnaround and the leveller came in the 76th minute – Sam Wood making the scoresheet. Minutes later Ainsworth set-up Matt McClure this time and his finish completed the comeback. The Chairboys are now in 12th place, a far cry from their position at the turn of the year.
Elsewhere on Tuesday night, play-off rivals Fleetwood and Cheltenham met, with both sides having to settle for a point. Marlon Pack’s 20-yard effort for the Rubies in the first half was cancelled out by Junior Brown’s 69th minute header.
The points were also shared between AFC Wimbledon and Plymouth – both teams now languish in the relegation places. A frantic two minutes saw Jason Banton’s low finish give the Football League’s bottom side the lead; the Dons replied almost immediately through Harry Pell’s volley. While Wimbledon are level on points with 22nd placed Accrington, Plymouth find themselves three points from safety, with a tough game at the weekend.
Rotherham left it late to secure a point against York. The visitors made the breakthrough midway through the second period when Matty Blair rounded Andy Warrington in the Millers’ goal. In the third minute of stoppage time, Steve Evans’ side levelled when Daniel Nardiello turned in Ben Pringle’s cross to aid their continued search for promotion.
Chesterfield and Aldershot played out a goalless draw.
The points were also shared on Wednesday where Bradford grabbed a late equaliser against a John Still-less Dagenham & Redbridge, the Victoria Road gaffer having departed for Luton Town the day before. The Daggers went ahead in the 69th minute through Luke Howell’s 18-yard strike and would have been winning comfortably had Sam Williams been more accurate with his spot kick. The Bantams drew level with minutes to spare, James Hanson netting from close range.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Southend will hope to return to winning ways against Rotherham, while at the bottom of League Two, Plymouth host Barnet in another six-pointer. Gillingham can extend their lead with maximum points over Aldershot, while sixth meets fourth as Exeter entertain fellow promotion hopefuls Northampton Town.