A look around the division at the weekend's action
Exeter City got their first win of 2014 in an entertaining game at Roots Hall as they beat Southend United 3-2. Jimmy Keohane got his first goal of the Sky Bet League 2 campaign after the setup from Arron Davies in the tenth minute, though a brace of headers from defender Mark Phillips – also his first goals of the season – swung things the way of Phil Brown’s side. The Grecians pushed for an equaliser, and were rewarded in the last ten minutes as Liam Sercombe scored for the second game running; his stunning strike looked like having the same effect as last week’s last-gasp equaliser at St James Park against Portsmouth, but it was to be even better for Paul Tisdale’s side, as Eliot Richards struck his first goal since signing on loan from Bristol Rovers to secure three points on the coach back to Devon.
Shrimpers manager Phil Brown conceded that Exeter were the better side, as he told his club’s official website: “There seemed to be a real nervousness as the game wore on, but we never really got going all game, and that’s really frustrating for me as a manager. I think what hurts the most, and I’m big enough to admit it, is that we were beaten by the better team in the end today.”
Ian Henderson netted Rochdale's winner against Morecambe
The Grecians are in action again in midweek, with Morecambe visiting SJP for the rearranged league clash on Tuesday evening. Jim Bentley’s side scored first in Saturday’s trip to promotion hopefuls Rochdale – Jack Redshaw scoring against his former club – but as with Exeter City’s opener, the lead was eradicated after two minutes as Scott Hogan equalised to add to a growing tally following his hat-trick last week at AFC Wimbledon. Ian Henderson struck the winner 15 minutes from time as a 2-1 win sent Keith Hill’s side into fourth, a point behind third-placed Oxford United and with a game in hand.
And Oxford United kept in front of the Dale for the time being with a convincing 3-0 home win over Mansfield Town. David Connolly sent United on their way with his second goal for his new club, despite the Stags enjoying the better of the early possession. The same was true of Nicky Wroe’s goal in the second half, but Paul Cox’s side lost their grip on the match completely when Deane Smalley got himself a tap-in to put the U’s out of sight.
Jay O'Shea is mobbed by his Chesterfield teammates for scoring a vital goal against Torquay
League leaders Chesterfield won again, this time by a 3-1 margin at home to Torquay United. This was yet another come-from-behind victory, as Shamir Goodwin gave the Gulls the lead five minutes into the second half. Torquay keeper Michael Poke was at fault as United surrendered their lead six minutes later, as he miskicked to allow Eoin Doyle in for the equaliser. Jay O’Shea scored twice in the final ten minutes to re-establish the Spireites’ four-point lead at the top. “It was a poor game and great credit must go to Torquay,” Chesterfield manager Paul Cook told BBC Radio Sheffield. “They came with a game plan – obviously to frustrate us – and then they get a goal. At this stage of the season, it’s about results and we got one today.”
That lead had briefly been whittled down to just the one point when Scunthorpe United emerged victorious in their Valentine’s Day clash at Accrington Stanley. The weekend’s trend of the eventual winners having been a goal down earlier in the match was again in play here, although the Iron went one further and were two-down at the break. Lee Molyneux and Peter Murphy both found Sam Slocombe’s net in the first period, and James Beattie’s side must have thought that they were on their way to a big upset. But Beattie, who was a guest on Saturday morning’s Soccer AM, bore witness to an emphatic Scunthorpe comeback. League 2 top-scorer Sam Winnall scored for the 16th time this season five minutes after the break, Hakeeb Adelakun levelled nine minutes later and David Mirfin completed the turnaround in injury time as it ended 3-2. “It was an amazing game, an amazing day really,” Scunny manager Russ Wilcox told BBC Radio Humberside. “Looking at the first-half performance you’re thinking it’s not going to be our day. There were a few choice words at half-time – constructive ones – but a few choice words and a couple of changes, and what a second-half performance.”
Wes Fletcher got the ball rolling from the spot for York in Plymouth
It’s safe to say that most Plymouth Argyle fans gave the Football League Show a miss on Saturday night after a horror show from their side ended in a 4-0 home defeat to York City. Neal Trotman was sent off after giving away a penalty just ten minutes in, and the day kept getting worse for John Sheridan’s men. Wes Fletcher scored that spot-kick, the 22-year-old netting for the 13th time this season, before John McCombe got two and Josh Carson added a fourth in stoppage time. A disappointed Sheridan urged his players to come back stronger when speaking to the club’s official website after the game: “It hurts, because we know what we’re trying to do and achieve, so we’ve just got to bounce back. We won’t hide. I’ll accept whatever’s been said and face everyone. Hopefully, we’ll show a bit of character, which we have done on a few occasions this season. I could blame the sending-off, but we just didn’t deserve to win. Today just wasn’t our day, and I won’t make any excuses.”
Portsmouth managed to hold on to a 1-0 lead this week as they beat AFC Wimbledon at Fratton Park in their first home win since Boxing Day. Ryan Taylor’s header was the winning goal as Richie Barker’s side put some distance between themselves and the bottom two, though the Pompey pitch did take a bit of a battering after this week’s conditions. “We were lucky to get the game on”, Barker told Radio Solent. “The pitch is obviously a real mess now and the rain throughout the second half didn’t help it. I don’t think those conditions are ever going to lend themselves to an entertaining game, but the most important things we showed were the right desire and mentality to see it through.”
Former Exeter City loanee Lawson D’Ath scored for Dagenham & Redbridge at the Pirelli Stadium against Burton Albion. Things became difficult for the Daggers when they lost Jack Connors to a second yellow card, and Billy Kee got his first goal of the calendar year to earn the Brewers a 1-1 draw and a point. Gareth Evans scored twice as Fleetwood Town beat rock-bottom Northampton Town 2-0 to go fifth. With Bury v Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town v Wycombe Wanderers falling victim to the weather, Newport County AFC’s trip to Hartlepool United completed the weekend’s schedule. The Welsh side have played away in seven of their last eight fixtures due to problems with the pitch at their Rodney Parade home and their form has suffered as a result. And Justin Edinburgh’s side are still waiting for their first win of 2014 after a 3-0 defeat at Victoria Park – Luke James got things up and running for Pools as he beat former Cardiff City goalkeeper Elliot Parish, before Andy Sandell was unfortunate to divert the ball into his own net for the home side’s second and Luke Williams added a third at the game’s conclusion. With the win Hartlepool leapfrog the Exiles and are now eighth, a remarkable turnaround for Colin Cooper’s men after their slow start to the League 2 campaign.