Weekend League 2 round-up

All the goals in all the games

For the first time since October, Exeter City fans had a League 2 victory to celebrate as the Grecians took three points home with them on their trip to the Crown Ground.  Paul Tisdale’s men took control of the game at Accrington Stanley early on, with Tom Nichols grabbing a double by 11 minutes, with Alan Gow adding a third on 24.  It was the first time Exeter had scored three goals in one game since October’s trip to Scunthorpe, that one ending in a 4-0 away victory. 

This weekend’s encounter was considerably more close in terms of its final scoreline, as James Beattie’s Stanley had a good go at a comeback: first, defender Peter Murphy made it 3-1 at the break, and then Kai Naismith got another – all of Naismith’s four strikes this season have come against West Country clubs, after he got one in October against Bristol Rovers and two in November against Torquay.  A third for Stanley was not to be, and Exeter City held on for a much-needed victory.  “When you find yourself 3-0 down after 20 minutes, you know you have a lot to do,” Stanley boss Beattie told Accrington’s official website following the game, “but fair play to [my] lads, after that they decided to start playing football.”  Stanley have now dropped to 21st in the Sky Bet League 2 table, having lost their last two fixtures.

There was also an important win for the division’s bottom club Torquay United, as they managed a 1-0 victory at Plainmoor over Southend United.  Manager Phil Brown could not lead the Shrimpers to another three points in Devon as he did in St James Park last month, for it was Millwall loanee John Marquis’s fourth goal of the season (his second in as many games) that won it for the home side. 

While the Gulls remain bottom of the table, they are now level with the next-lowest side, Northampton Town.  The Cobblers were the benefactors of a Dean Howell own goal as they drew 1-1 at Gigg Lane against Bury in new Shakers manager David Flitcroft’s first game in charge.  Former Exeter City striker Daniel Nardiello had earlier put Bury in front from the penalty spot, the goal his eighth of the campaign.  Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Flitcroft said: “I was happy with certain aspects, the first 20 minutes I thought we were good.  The second half was just a dog-fight.  It’s a work in progress.  As a coach, I’ve got to make sure we’re getting players in the right areas and try to infiltrate what they are doing with the precision and movement I’m trying to bring to club.”

James Constable is congratulated on his goal for Oxford

Each of the sides currently occupying the division’s top four spots tasted victory this weekend.  League leaders Oxford United managed a 2-1 victory for the second time this week, having dumped non-league Wrexham out of the FA Cup at The Racecourse by the same scoreline on Monday evening.  This one was much more of a close-run thing though, as the U’s needed Dave Kitson to head an injury-time winner to see off Dagenham & Redbridge at the Kassam Stadium.  The prolific James Constable scored his ninth of the season after just eight minutes, only for the League 2 top-scorer Rhys Murphy to equalise for the Daggers just before half-time.  But Kitson was on hand to give the home side their first win in three games late on. 

In fact, the teams in second and third were also picking up their first victory in three games this weekend.  Second-placed Chesterfield, who will visit St James Park on Friday evening, earned a 2-0 home win over Plymouth Argyle thanks to goals from Matty Brown and Marc Richards, who converted a 42nd-minute penalty.  Reuben Reid had a penalty saved as the Pilgrims looked for a reply, and even with goalscorer Brown sent off in conceding the penalty, the Spireites managed to hold on to their clean sheet. 

Antoni Sarcevic contributed to a Fleetwood win with a spot-kick

Fleetwood Town kept up the pace with the top two with a 2-1 away victory at Rochdale, who have fallen off the rails a little bit having topped the league less than a month ago.  It’s two defeats in three now for Dale, as they lost this one late-on: after Antoni Sarcevic’s penalty had been cancelled out by Scott Hogan, Mark Roberts secured the Cod Army an away victory with a goal in the final ten minutes.

Newport County AFC are the only side in the division who have won their last two fixtures.  After a 3-2 win over close rivals Chesterfield on December 1st, on Saturday that win was built upon with a 2-0 win at Fratton Park over Portsmouth.  Both goals came over the space of four minutes, Mike Flynn getting them both, as Richie Barker’s first game as Pompey boss ended in defeat.  A disappointed Barker, speaking to BBC Radio Solent after the match, said, “Speaking to people who’ve been here a while, they’ve pretty much said that sums up the season in 90 minutes, so we’ve got a lot of work to do”.  Next up it’s a trip to Bristol Rovers for Pompey, and Barker will be hoping that the occasion is matched by his first three points in the Portsmouth hotseat.

Speaking of Bristol Rovers, the Gas looked on course for a crucial away win that might propel John Ward’s side away from the bottom two, but the lead provided by John-Joe O’Toole was turned on its head in the second half as Padraig Amond and Jack Redshaw rescued 2-1 a victory for Morecambe at the Globe Arena.  The Shrimps now sit just outside the play-off places in ninth on 32 points, while Rovers are too close for comfort to Northampton in 23rd, just one point above the Sixfields side.  “It’s an absolutely devastating result. We have not been ruthless enough in the whole game,” Ward told BBC Radio Bristol.

Billy Kee netted the Brewers' leveller against York

A 2-2 draw between Cheltenham Town and Hartlepool United meant that the two sides remained slap-bang in the middle of the League 2 table in 13th and 14th respectively.  At half-time this one looked like a sure-fire Robins win; with goals from Jermaine McGlashan and West Brom loanee Kemar Roofe giving Mark Yates’ side a 2-0 lead at the break.  But Colin Cooper’s side refused to wave the white flag, and salvaged a point thanks to Jonathan Franks’ double.  The points were also shared at the Pirelli Stadium as Burton Albion and York City drew 1-1.  A Shane Cansdell-Sherriff own-goal put Nigel Worthington’s York in front, but Gary Rowett’s Brewers were on terms less than ten minutes later, as the ever-reliable Billy Kee got the equalising goal. 

Leon Johnson left it late as he scored six minutes into injury-time to rescue a 1-1 draw and a home point for Wycombe Wanderers, with Scunthorpe United’s Deon Burton surely dejected that his 49th-minute goal did not prove to be the Iron’s winner.  Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth lambasted his midfielder Josh Scowen, who was sent off for collecting two yellow cards: “I’ve had a right go at him,” he said.  “I think it’s reckless, I think he’s stupid getting sent off, and he knows it.  He’s down, but he’ll learn from that.  It feels like a win, but I’m angry because we had chances in the first half and didn’t convert, and just a couple of bad decisions.”  Finally, there was a 0-0 draw between AFC Wimbledon and Mansfield Town in West London.
Round-up by Oliver Roderick – @olrodlegacy