League Two Preview – High-flying promoted pair set to clash at Kingsmeadow

Last weekend saw 12 goals scored before Saturday in League Two, with three high-scoring Friday night fixtures. The highlight of those was a goalfest at the Memorial Stadium, with Bristol Rovers holding off a Rotherham comeback to emerge with a 5-2 win. The same scoreline went in favour of the away side at Plainmoor on Saturday, with Gillingham hitting five past Torquay. There was late drama in the fixture between lowly sides Dagenham & Redbridge and Plymouth. Coveted youngster Matt Lecointe opened the scoring with his first goal for Argyle who doubled their lead after half-time. The Daggers struck back twice to level the score, but Simon Walton slotted home an injury-time penalty to take the points back to Home Park. Crawley emerged victorious against Shrewsbury to claim top spot from Southend who could only draw against fellow promotion hopefuls Morecambe, courtesy of a Stewart Drummond own goal seven minutes from time. Elsewhere, Hereford beat Bradford, meaning that only goal difference separates 22nd and 23rd in the league.

The headline fixture of the coming weekend in League Two was a non-league match last year. AFC Wimbledon host top side Crawley Town hoping for a repeat of last season’s match at Kingston upon Thames, where the Wombles emerged 2-1 victors. The Crawley goalscorer that day, Matt Tubbs, has adapted well to life in League Two and with seven strikes to his name so far, he is the joint-third top marksman in the league. The two sides played each other in their opening match of the season, and Crawley emerged victorious in the League Cup first round back in July. Wimbledon, though, have the best record in the league against top-half opponents, winning four of their five matches against teams in the top 12. They will be looking to continue that impressive streak against the Red Devils, who are two points clear of their nearest rivals Southend.

Oxford jumped two places to third after their point against Macclesfield, which was their seventh game without defeat. Opponents Gillingham are fresh from a 5-2 win which saw them climb to within two points of the automatic promotion places. Oxford have scored first in 10 of their 13 fixtures, the best record in the league, but only went on to win in six of those matches. The Us will be without loanee Andy Haworth, who picked up an ankle injury against Macclesfield. Gills skipper Andy Frampton has returned to training, along with Danny Jackman, Charlie Lee and Jack Payne although the latter is unlikely to be risked against Oxford. Adam Birchall, Barry Fuller, Dennis Oli and Danny Spiller all remain sidelined for Gillingham.

Morecambe were pegged back by Southend last weekend after leading for most of the second half and in turn dropped to the cusp of the play-offs. Their opponents tomorrow are Port Vale, who are below the Shrimps only on goal difference. The teams’ record so far this season suggests that there will be goals at Vale Park. In the 26 combined games that the two sides have played so far this term, there has only been one occasion that the Shrimps or Port Vale have failed to score. Danny Carlton looks set to return from injury for Morecambe, and Vale have extended the loan deal of Liam Chilvers, who will be available for the fixture.

Second-placed Southend will be looking to reclaim top spot after their draw last weekend. They face Torquay, who were on the receiving end of a 5-2 hammering by Gillingham last time out. Southend are unbeaten in six, while the Gulls have not won since the start of September, a seven match winless streak. Jemal Johnson is pressing for a place in Southend’s first team after an impressive midweek showing for the reserves, while there are no fresh injury worries for either team.

Bottom side Plymouth recently agreed a deal to sell Home Park to Plymouth City Council which could push through a takeover to see the side out of administration. On the pitch, their dramatic late winner last weekend should boost the team’s confidence heading into their match with Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon. The Robins comfortably defeated Accrington 2-0 last Saturday with a goal in each half to jump up to 11th. Their record against bottom-half opposition is the fourth-best in the league, taking 13 points from their six fixtures against teams in the bottom 12. Plymouth ‘s win against the Daggers was only their second in thirteen league fixtures this season and they will be hoping to extend their two-match unbeaten run tomorrow. Neither side has any new injury concerns.

Two points separate Hereford and Barnet at the business end of League Two, and both sides will be buoyant going into tomorrow’s fixture. Barnet came from behind to beat Aldershot at Underhill while the Bulls beat fellow strugglers Bradford with two goals in the last 10 minutes. That win was only Hereford’s second since mid-August, while Barnet have taken just four points on their travels so far this season. Barnet’s Charlie Taylor has been banned for three matches for spitting on an opponent last weekend against Aldershot but the Bees will have Gary Borrowdale available after the left-back extended his loan deal. Hereford have no fresh injury worries.

Friday night’s only fixture sees Accrington Stanley host Cheltenham, who sit just outside the automatic promotion spots on goal difference. Stanley have the best record in the league coming from behind, having garnered nine points from the nine fixtures in which they have conceded first. This is just as well, as Cheltenham have scored first in eight of their 13 league fixtures so far this season. Theo Lewis took a knock in a reserve game so will not travel to Accrington. The Reds will be without Ian Craney who broke his leg in training this week but they will be able to call on James Spray who is back from a hamstring problem.

Promotion hopefuls Shrewsbury travel to Rotherham hoping to bounce back from their narrow defeat to top side Crawley last weekend. The Shrews have a poor away record so far this year, taking just seven points from their seven matches on the road. Rotherham’s home record is not much better, with the Millers collecting just 10 points from their six matches at the Don Valley Stadium. Neither side have any fresh injury worries to report.

Expect the match between Dagenham & Redbridge and Aldershot to be a close affair. Almost 75% of the sides’ matches have been decided by a single goal either way. Elsewhere, Northampton travel to lowly Bradford, who are looking for their second league win since the start of September. Burton, with the league’s top scorer Justin Richards amongst their ranks, host Bristol Rovers and Crewe travel to Macclesfield fresh from their 3-1 defeat of high-flying Wimbledon.

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