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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

League Two Focus

Wednesday, and time to look at the latest events in the basement division of the Football League.

The top three have a healthy cushion over the chasing pack, and appear destined for League One. However, the race for the play-offs is as tight as it's ever been.

The relegation fight is over for Darlington at the bottom, but a good recent run has revived Grimsby's faint hopes of survival.


Rochdale's long wait to escape League Two has to go on a little longer after the long-term leaders suffered back-to-back defeats.

That's allowed Notts County to usurp them at the top, as their relentless run of results under Steve Cotterill continues. Both clubs are on the brink of securing promotion though.

Bournemouth are in pole position to be the third side promoted, their closest challengers are Rotherham - a further six points behind the Cherries.

As it stands:

Notts County.......40....52....80
2. Rochdale.............41....37....79
3. Bournemouth.......42....10....74


Morecambe (h), Rochdale (h), Port Vale (a), Darlington (a), Cheltenham (h), Torquay (a)

Northampton (h), Notts County (a), Hereford (a), Burton (h), Barnet (a)

Darlington (h), Burton (a), Port Vale (h), Chesterfield (a)

Cheltenham (h), Barnet (a), Crewe (h), Hereford (a)

Darlington are going to have a huge say in who will finish where in the automatic spots — although I have a feeling that the Quakers will lose every game, making my entire point redundant.

Rochdale and Notts County are up. Fact. However, I'm going to have to lean towards the Magpies to win the league. Rochdale got spanked at the weekend and County's game in hand should see the title head to the East Midlands.

Having siad that, if the Dale can get something at Meadow Lane then it should go down to the last game of the season.

Joining County and Rochdale will be Bournemouth.

Having said that, I fancy Chesterfield to make a push and if they can be within touching distance, the Spireites have to fancy beating Bournemouth at home to clinch automatic promotion.

Notts County (Champions), Rochdale, Bournemouth.

I'm delighted for Rochdale, who are on the brink of finally securing their long-awaited promotion. They've played good football, and have shown that, given time, something special can be built at a club.

However, they've suffered a little bit of a dip of late, and Notts County - who have been in sensational form under Steve Cotterill - have taken advantage. With their momentum, they must be favourites for the title. It will probably come down to the game between the two.

Dale and Notts should confirm their promotions shortly, and I expect Bournemouth to join them in League One next term.

They've been very consistent despite having huge problems off the pitch. That's great credit to Eddie Howe, their young manager.

Notts County (Champions), Rochdale, Bournemouth


It's a typically close run contest for the top seven spots in League Two. Good runs have seen Morecambe and Northampton force their way into contention.

Long-term challengers Rotherham, Bury, and Chesterfield have stumbled of late. Port Vale and Dagenham remain on the fringes and have an outside chance.

As it stands:

5. Bury...............42....-1.....67
6. Chesterfield.....42....2.....66
7. Aldershot........42....11....65
9. Port Vale........42....14.....63
10. Northampton.42....10.....63
11. Dagenham....42.....7......63


Port Vale (h), Lincoln (a), Torquay (h), Northampton (a)

Macclesfield (a), Bradford (h), Accrington (a), Bournemouth (h)

Crewe (h), Cheltenham (a), Lincoln (h), Morecambe (a)

Notts County (a), Dagenham (h), Shrewsbury (a), Aldershot (h)

Bury (a), Notts County (h), Bournemouth (a), Shrewsbury (h)

Rochdale (a), Shrewsbury (h), Bradford (a), Bury (h)

Burton (h), Morecambe (a), Hereford (h), Darlington (a)

As previously mentioned, Aldershot and Chesterfield will make the play-offs. Joining them will be... two other clubs.

This league is ridiculously tight and almost impossible to call. Northampton might miss out because of their tough run in - three top-eight teams in five games is unlucky.

However, you could argue their fate is in their own hands. Beat Rotherham and that puts doubt in the Millers mind and the Cobblers can start to believe. Can't see it happening though.
Rotherham should take one of the available places because if they can avoid losing to Northampton, they have a simple end of season fixture list.

Last place is a duke between Bury, Morecambe, Port Vale, Dagenham, and possibly Northampton. It could come down to the end of season game between Bury and Northampton but I don't think that result will matter.

Why? Because Dagenham would have taken 10 points from their last four games and clinched the final spot in style. Unlucky for Nobes because momentum will also land them a gig at Wembley - but they will lose to Chesterfield.

Aldershot, Chesterfield, Rotherham, Dagenham.

The race for the play-offs is unbelievably tight, and I'm having real difficulty calling who will make the cut and who will miss out. The teams in there are all very equal, and all unpredictable.

I've always thought Rotherham were one of the seven strongest teams in the division, so surely they'll make it - especially with their nice run in?

I tend to go with form sides at this time of the year, but I don't like the look of Port Vale or Morecambe's last few games. Dagenham's last few games look very comfortable - maybe even too comfortable.

Instead, I'll go with the experience of Bury to secure a top seven spot, along with the enigmatic Chesterfield - who you just don't know what to expect from.

For the last place, I don't know, Northampton to just edge out Aldershot - as there's always one team who sneaks in on the final day.

Summary: Rotherham, Chesterfield, Bury, Northampton


Darlington's relegation to the Conference was sealed despite their 1-0 win at Rochdale. Other results ensured Simon Davey's side will be playing Non League football next season.

Grimsby are still fighting to survive. However, time and games are running out for the Mariners to catch Barnet or

As it stands:

23. Grimsby...............42....-24....38
24. Darlington............40....-45....26


Torquay (h), Darlington (a), Barnet (h), Burton (a)

Bradford (a), Rotherham (h), Accrington (a), Grimsby (a) Rochdale (h)

Rotherham (a), Darlington (h), Aldershot (h), Notts County (a), Accrington (h)

Turls: Darlington are down - the Quakers will be playing Non-League football next season.

Grimsby will as well. I've been saying that the Fish-Heads have been doomed for a long time and I'm not going to turn at the last minute.

Too much ground to make up and, although they do play Barnet, I can't see them turning around a seven point deficit.


Nobes: Darlington always appeared to be in for a season of struggle, and that's the way it panned out. Unfortunately, their off-the-field troubles have translated onto the pitch, and proved impossible to overcome.

Hopefully those long-suffering Quakers fans will have something to smile about next season in the Conference. Although Simon Davey has a big rebuilding job on his hands.

Had Grimsby shown their form of late throughout the season, they'd be fine. However, isn't that always the case. Only when the straits are dire, do sides find the wins they require.

They're not out of it yet though, their only problem is that Cheltenham and Torquay have been winning games of late too. The Gulls have probably assured themselves of survival now, and one more win will do for Cheltenham.

Grimsby's biggest hope, therefore, will be a continuation of their good form, and Barnet to continue to slide. It will be very interesting when the two meet in the penultimate game of the season as to whether Grimsby are within touching distance.

As is it, they might just have left themselves with too much to do.

Summary: Grimsby

We're dropping into Non League tomorrow with a look at the Conference Premier.

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