The first of the Easter weekend fixtures were played across Friday and Saturday afternoon in League Two. With things close at both ends of the table, it was a good opportunity for teams to build momentum going into Easter Monday’s games as well as for the remainder of the season.
On Friday afternoon, five goals were scored at Vale Park where promotion candidates Port Vale met Cheltenham, another team looking to go up to League One automatically. The narrow victory in the hosts’ favour meant the Rubies had to end the weekend with a place in the play-offs. Tom Pope’s hat-trick helped Vale secure maximum points, his first goal coming via a header in the opening 20 minutes. Cheltenham levelled after the break, Kaid Mohamed pouncing in the area, before going on to take the lead through Paul Benson’s effort. Vale equalised courtesy of a Pope volley and he completed his treble midway through the second period, increasing his tally for the season to 30. A neat chip over Scott Brown in the visitors’ goal secured the points.
A narrow win for Northampton kept them in the race for third place, while defeat for Torquay sees them continue their fight for survival at the wrong end of the table. Roy O’Donovan’s late strike five minutes from time handed The Cobblers victory – it was his third goal for the club since joining on deadline day in January.
There was also a Friday win for play-off occupants Rotherham, with a single goal separating them and AFC Wimbledon. Alex Revell’s 76th minute header handed Steve Evans’ side their first win in four, while the Dons still aren’t safe at the bottom.
Continuing with teams struggling at the foot of the table, Accrington recorded a surprise win over Wycombe, courtesy of an injury time goal. Three minutes into time added on at the end of the game, Lee Molyneux smashed the ball home for a vital victory which sees Stanley sit five clear of the dropzone.
Four goals were shared when Bradford hosted Southend on Friday afternoon and the draws didn’t stop there with a further six sides settling for a point apiece. At Valley Parade, the likelihood of either side making the play-offs now looks relatively slim, with Southend seven points off and Bradford a further point behind them, with just a handful of games remaining. The Shrimpers found themselves two goals up after just 11 minutes: Gavin Tomlin opened the scoring by tapping-in after Bilel Mohsni’s shot hit the post, before Britt Assombalonga doubled their advantage seconds later. The Bantams responded in the second half to deny Phil Brown a winning start as Southend boss. Zavon Hines pulled one back after 50 minutes before James Hanson’s header salvaged a point.
A goal each was the outcome when Oxford met Morecambe and relegation- threatened Aldershot travelled to Rochdale. At The Kassam, Oxford found themselves ahead via Alfie Potter’s effort on the hour mark, but Jack Redshaw’s added time header ensured it remained honours even. A point for Aldershot saw them move off the foot of the table, although they went behind at Spotland after George Donnelly broke the deadlock for Dale, early in the second period. When Josh Lillis couldn’t hold on to Ben Herd’s free-kick, Adam Mekki punished Dale midway through the second half, earning The Shots a point in the process.
The spoils were also shared on Good Friday between Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge. Despite a goalless draw, there was plenty of incident and the Bees left the field at the end with nine men. Loanee Karl de Silva was the first to be dismissed when he saw red three minutes from time for his foul on Luke Wilkinson. After the whistle, Keith Hill showed a red to defender Barry Fulller, following his verbal altercation with the official.
To Saturday’s games now, and Devon bragging rights were with Plymouth as they beat neighbours Exeter by a solitary goal. Jason Banton’s 18-yard strike handed Argyle the lead in first half stoppage time, putting them five points clear of the relegation zone. The Grecians stay in seventh at the end of the weekend, four points ahead of Fleetwood who sit outside of the play-offs.
The Cod Army had to come from behind twice to earn a draw against leaders Gillingham. Danny Kedwell opened the scoring for the Gills with his top corner attempt, with Jamille Matt equalising after half an hour for the home side. Charlie Allen nodded Gillingham back in front before the break but Matt doubled his and Fleetwood’s tally for the afternoon, capitalising on a defensive mix-up and slotting the ball home. Despite a single point, Gillingham are now six points clear at the top of League Two.
Burton missed out on the opportunity to move back into the automatic promotion places after their slender loss to Chesterfield. Drew Talbot’s 25-yard strike early in the second half separated the sides.
Meanwhile, York remain in the bottom two although they picked up a point against Bristol Rovers, who are reasonably safe now. The game at the Memorial Stadium ended goalless.
Round two of the Easter games continues on Monday, with a full programme in League Two.