League Two Preview – International break puts division in the spotlight

The international break means that league football in England this weekend is restricted to matches outside of the top two tiers, with League Two boasting a full complement of fixtures this Saturday.

Tomorrow will see the league’s twelfth round of matches. It looks set to be a tight battle for promotion this year, with just 5 points separating eleventh place Cheltenham and table-topping Southend.

The game of the weekend looks to be AFC Wimbledon’s journey to the seaside, as they visit third-placed Morecambe. Both sides took their midweek cup ties to penalties, Wimbledon beat Stevenage 4-3 on spot kicks with the Shrimps succumbing to Preston 8-6 in an epic penalty contest.

Morecambe have a poor record at the Globe Arena this season, winning just twice at home while Wimbledon have lost just once on their travels this term. Terry Brown experimented with a new formation in midweek which will surely keep opposition manager Jim Bentley on his toes in training leading up to Saturday. Mat Mitchel-King is still a few weeks away from fitness for the Dons, but neither side have any new injury concerns after midweek.

League leaders Southend travel to Crewe who are languishing just a few places above the drop zone. Both progressed in their respective midweek cup fixtures and it is Alex who, despite their league position, go into the fixture on a better run of form. Crewe have won three of their last four league outings, while the Seasiders have only won once in the same timeframe. Crewe have no fresh injury worries and neither do Southend after midweek, with Barry Corr and Lee Sawyer remaining their only long-term absentees.

Level on points with the Shrimpers at the top are Crawley, and the early kick-off of the day sees them travel to mid-table Northampton. Matt Tubbs’ brace against Plymouth last weekend took him level on league goals with strike-partner Tyrone Barnett, who is a doubt for the match, and Tubbs will be looking to add to his tally against a Northampton side whose goal difference stands at a perfectly average zero. Kyle McFadzean is unlikely to make the journey for Crawley, while the Cobblers have no fresh injury worries.

Neither Crawley or Northampton were in action in midweek, but Aldershot and Macclesfield were, and both went out in the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday night. The Shots and the Silkmen are in 17th and 16th respectively and will be looking to bounce back from their midweek cup heartbreak. Expect something to give this weekend; Aldershot have the third-worst record at home in League Two, while Macclesfield have the second-worst away record. Paul Morgan and Jack Cudworth are long term absentees for Macclesfield, while Colin Daniel looks set to miss out on the visit to the Recreation Ground.

Bottom side Plymouth are close to exiting administration according to acting chairman Peter Ridsdale, but only time will tell if that helps their league form. Plymouth, who have recently been barred from making loan signings, face Accrington Stanley, whose midweek game was postponed due to the horrific injury sustained by Tom Bender. The 18-year-old has made a full recovery, but is still suffering from severe concussion and will certainly not figure at the weekend. Argyle will be hoping for more games against teams around them (like Stanley) as they have won a third of their games against bottom-half opposition.

Second-from-bottom Hereford travel to Swindon looking for their first win on the road this season. The Bulls have a worrying ‘goals scored’ column, with just four efforts in their 11 matches this term. It will be even harder work for the match officials at the County Ground, as Paolo di Canio has this week instructed his players to dive in order to win penalties. The order came after Matt Ritchie stayed on his feet last week against Macclesfield, and his honesty was not rewarded with a spot kick. The Robins overcame Exeter in midweek, while Hereford had the week off to focus all of their attention on Saturday’s match.

Bradford are three points and three places from bottom and will host mid-table Torquay on Saturday. Torquay did not feature in the second round of the Football League Trophy but Bradford knocked out Huddersfield on penalties on Tuesday evening. Expect Torquay to try and take advantage of the Bantams fairly porous defence, the fourth-worst in the league. The Gulls will be without Ian Morris who injured his knee on a coaching course, and while Bradford will have Jamie Devitt and Ritchie Jones back in contention, they will most likely be missing James Hanson, Ross Hannah and Adam Reed.

Two mid-table fixtures see Gillingham host Port Vale and Burton travel to Rotherham. The Gills and Rotherham both exited the Johnstone’s Painty Trophy in midweek, while Vale and Burton were not in the hat for the second round. Gillingham and the Millers have both taken 10 points from their last five home matches while Burton have only taken five points in their last five away fixtures. The player to watch in these two fixtures is Justin Richards of Burton who recently scored his 100th career league goal.

Fourth and fifth from bottom are away against teams in the top half; Barnet travel to fifth-placed Shrewsbury, while Dagenham & Redbridge visit Cheltenham. Both the Daggers and Barnet have won just once against top-half opposition so far this term, while the Shrews and Cheltenham have taken 10 and 11 points from teams in the bottom-half respectively.

Oxford, fresh after their midweek win in the Football League Trophy, host Bristol Rovers. Oxford have the second-best defensive record in the league and, if all matches this season were to finish at half-time, the Us would be top of League Two. They have no new injury worries but Rovers are expected to be without Danny Woodards, Wayne Brown, Scott McGleish and skipper Matt Gill.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Northampton (14) v Crawley Town (2) – 12:45

Aldershot (17) v Macclesfield (16) – 15:00

Bradford (22) v Torquay (13) – 15:00

Cheltenham (11) v Dagenham & Redbridge (20) – 15:00

Crewe Alexandra (19) v Southend (1) – 15:00

Gillingham (9) v Port Vale (7) – 15:00

Morecambe (3) v AFC Wimbledon (4) – 15:00

Oxford Utd (6) v Bristol Rovers (15) – 15:00

Plymouth (24) v Accrington Stanley (18) – 15:00

Rotherham (8) v Burton Albion (10) – 15:00

Shrewsbury (5) v Barnet (21) – 15:00

Swindon (12) v Hereford (23) – 15:00

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