With three games to go in League Two, Lucy Waldon rounds up the weekend’s action.
With things hotting up at both ends of the table, the first of the season’s major outcomes in the Football League was decided – Gillingham will be promoted to League One. Before Saturday’s games, play-off occupants Burton travelled to promotion hopefuls Port Vale on Friday night.
In their biggest win of the campaign, Micky Adams’ men put seven goals past Burton, administering a real dent in their goal difference as they continue to settle for a place in the play-offs. A hat-trick for veteran Lee Hughes helped Vale move a step closer to gaining a place in League One next season. Hughes had the home side two goals up after 20 minutes, his first arriving via a header, before converting a penalty after Zander Diamond fouled the man himself. Minutes later, Chris Birchall added a third and Vale didn’t take their foot off the gas in the second period. Another spot kick for Hughes completed his treble, with Tom Pope later making 32 for the season. Although Matt Paterson got on the score sheet for the Brewers with 20 minutes to go, there was still time for Vale to bag a couple more: Ben Williams’ brace in the game’s closing stages meaning it ended Port Vale 7 Burton Albion 1.
Also at the top, Gillingham knew they could gain promotion this weekend with a win against struggling Torquay, while they also needed Northampton and Cheltenham to drop points. A solitary goal won it for the Gills – Danny Kedwell latching on to a diagonal ball and slotting home to secure League One football next term for Martin Allen’s side. Meanwhile, Torquay drop a place to 22nd and sit level on points with relegation-threatened York.
None of the remaining pack were able to win on Saturday with defeats for Northampton, Cheltenham, Rotherham and Exeter. Bradford’s late play-off challenge was given a boost after they beat Northampton by a single goal. Garry Thompson’s long-ball eluded both Nathan Cameron and Cobblers’ keeper Lee Nicholls, allowing Nahki Wells to net into an open goal. While Northampton remained third, the Bantams are now within two points of the play-offs, with a game in hand over Exeter.
Cheltenham also stay in the place they began the weekend, but a win for Plymouth was their fourth in five games as they move further from the bottom two. A goal either side of the referee’s half time whistle had the points secure for Argyle. Going ahead on 40 minutes when Reuben Reid pounced after Joe Bryan’s drive rebounded off the post, a Michael Hector own-goal doubled their advantage. With mixed results this weekend for teams struggling at the bottom, Plymouth move up four places, three points clear of danger.
An early goal for Dagenham & Redbridge also helped them create a gap between themselves and the other teams vying for survival. But their win inflicted a blow on Exeter’s promotion hopes and The Grecians end the week in the final play-off place. Scott Doe’s fifth minute header separated the two sides at St James Park.
A late winner for Morecambe denied Rotherham a point. The Shrimps – who have nothing to play for – went ahead in the second half after Robbie Threlfall’s free kick found the bottom corner. The Millers hit back with Alex Revell’s equaliser coming less than 10 minutes later, but found themselves reduced to 10 men when Johnny Mullins was dismissed. Holding on for the final 20 minutes a man light, it looked as if the points were to be shared, but Kevin Ellison’s looping header from Andy Wright’s cross snatched maximum points – Ellison scoring against his former club.
Moving to some of the other teams struggling for League status, there were defeats for both AFC Wimbledon and Barnet. Both sides end the weekend on 48 points along with Accrington who earned a late draw. An 82nd minute goal for Bristol Rovers’ Tom Hitchcock gave the Gas three points – his volley hitting the back of the net in the game’s dying stages.
Meanwhile, Barnet lost their first home game since New Year’s Day after they came unstuck against Chesterfield, who now find themselves just a win away from the play-off places. After Jay O’Shea broke the deadlock before the hour mark, Sam Togwell wrapped up the win for the Spireites a quarter of an hour before the finish.
A dramatic late equaliser for Accrington meant that York remain in the bottom two, a point not being enough to see them climb the table. The Minstermen took the lead at Bootham Crescent as Adam Reed slotted the ball home on the stroke of half time. Stanley left it equally as late to find a goal themselves – four minutes into the eight added on, Peter Murphy bundled in Lee Molyneux’s corner to snatch a share of the spoils.
Also in the Football League’s basement there were away victories for Rochdale and Wycombe, both of whom have games in hand and are pretty much safe as things stand. An emphatic win for Dale saw them dent Fleetwood’s play-off ambitions, Ian Henderson putting them ahead in the opening 10 minutes. As well as two second half goals which killed the game off, the closing half hour was full of incident. Dale doubled their lead with an hour played: George Donnelly squeezing the ball past Scott Davies’ in the hosts’ goal. The Cod Army knew it wouldn’t be their day when Andy Mangan’s penalty was saved and they were subsequently reduced to 10 men when Nathan Pond was given his marching orders for an off-the-ball incident. In the game’s closing stages there was still time for Jason Kennedy to add a third for the visitors.
Joel Grant’s 10th goal of the campaign handed Wycombe victory over mid-table Oxford. Having already beaten two defenders, Grant coolly slotted past Luke McCormick to secure maximum points for the Chairboys.
With a number of teams still playing catch-up, there are midweek fixtures again this week:
Bradford v Bristol Rovers
Burton v Wycombe
Plymouth v Aldershot
Rotherham v Exeter
Rochdale v Southend