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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

League Two Play Offs: Teams Preview

The League Two play-offs start this weekend.

It's largely a contest between the surprise packages of the season with Morecambe facing Dagenham while Aldershot pit their wits against one of the pre-season favourites, Rotherham.

Only one will join Notts County, Bournemouth, and Rochdale in League One next season though. Nobes looks at the teams involved.

Final top of the table:
1. Notts County.....................46.....65......93
2. Bournemouth.....................46.....17......83

3. Rochdale...........................46.....34......82

4. Morecambe........................46......9.......73
5. Rotherham United...............46......3.......73
6. Aldershot Town..................46.....13......72
7. Dagenham & Redbridge........46......11.....72

8. Chesterfield.......................46......-1......70


Story of the season:

Pre-season dark horses for the top seven, Morecambe won one of their first 11 matches.

However, a run of seven straight wins in the autumn propelled them into the play-off places.

They remained in the hunt for a top seven spot and seven wins in their last nine matches secured them top spot in the play-off positions.


The experienced Sammy McIlroy has established Morecambe as serious members of the Football League since winning promotion with them in 2007.

The Northern Irishman won promotion from the basement division with Macclesfield in 1998 - after bringing them into the Football League twelve months earlier.

Likes his teams to play good football, but Morecambe are well capable of dealing with the physical side of League Two as well.


Christie Park has been a fortress for the Shrimps this term. They have lost just three times at home this season - fewer than any of their play-off rivals.

They're unbeaten in their last nine at home - winning eight of them - including against play-off opponents Dagenham.

The second leg will also be their final ever game at their home before moving to their new stadium in August.


Morecambe's away form is the weakest of the four sides - losing 10 of their 23 games, conceding 40 goals along the way.

Although there will be a carnival atmosphere for the second leg too, the pressure will be even greater as Morecambe try and give their home a good send-off.

Key players:

The acquisition of Phil Jevons, on-loan from Huddersfield, has proved inspired by McIlroy. The former Bristol City man has notced 19 goals this term.

Midfielder Stewart Drummond [left] is an experienced campaigner who is an important creative influence from the centre of the park.

Centre half and long-serving captain Jim Bentley is typical of a strong and combative defence which will be tested by Dagenham's aerial style.

Play-off history:

During their time in the Conference, Morecambe reached the play-offs on three occasions.

They made the inaugural play-offs in 2003 under Jim Harvey where they lost out to Dagenham over two legs in the semi finals.

In 2006, Sammy McIlroy's side lost in the semi finals again, this time to eventual winners Hereford.

However, twelve months later they were victorious. After seeing off York in the semis, they came from behind to beat Exeter 2-1 at Wembley and secure promotion to the Football League.

League One pedigree:

This is only Morecambe's third season in the Football League. Their previous two have ended in very creditable 11th placed finishes. Prior to that, they spent 11 seasons in the Conference.

Rotherham United

Story of the season:

Topped the table early on under Mark Robins, but saw their manager leave to take over at Barnsley. His replacement was former boss Ronnie Moore.

They suffered a dip in form in the autumn but remained solidly in the race for the top three into the spring.

However, a run of just two wins in their final nine matches saw them finish well off the automatic promotion pace in 5th.


Ronnie Moore spent eight years with the Millers until leaving in 2005, but returned for a second spell earlier this term.

The experienced Liverpudlian masterminded their original rise from the basement division to the Championship ten years ago.

Operates with a direct, uncompromising style of play.


Just 18 goals conceded at their Don Valley Stadium home gives the Millers a strong defensive base in the all important second leg.

With 11 victories, no side in League Two won more matches away from home than Rotherham this term.


Their adopted Don Valley home has not been the happiest of surroundings. Ten home wins is the fewest of all the top seven sides.

A solid defensive record is also tempered by the fact they only managed 29 goals in their 23 home matches - again the fewest goals in the top seven.

They also enter the play-offs in the poorest form of the four sides.

Key players:

With 25 goals, Adam Le Fondre [left] is one of the division's top scorers this season. He will carry the burden of scoring the goals to win Rotherham promotion.

Left sided midfielder Kevin Ellison has experience of the play-offs with Lincoln and is a danger going forwards - as well as chipping in with goals himself.

Vastly experienced keeper Andy Warrington has had another good season and has promotion and play-off experience with Doncaster.

Play-off history:

Rotherham's only previous appearance in the play-offs came during Moore's first spell as manager in 1999.

There they lost out to Leyton Orient in the League Two semi finals on penalties.

League One pedigree:

The Millers were in the third tier for most of the '90s but spent three years in League Two after relegation in 1997.

They won promotion to the Championship in 2001 - where they stayed for four seasons - and were demoted to League Two in 2007.

Aldershot Town

Story of the season:

Started the season promisingly under Gary Waddock - who was promptly poached by Wycombe.

Kevin Dillon was brought in as his successor and maintained the club's challenge for a place in the play-offs.

A run of just one win in seven saw them slip to 12th in February, but eight wins in their last 14 matches secured them 6th place.


Formerly assistant to to Steve Coppell at Reading, the Shots job is Kevin Dillon's first as a manager.

The 50-year-old has continued from where Gary Waddock left off, only slightly tinkering with the side's natural attacking instinct.

Has experience of the play-offs
last season from his time with the Royals.


They are a side with the potential, when they click, to blow sides away - emphasised by them having the biggest goal difference of the play-off teams

Aldershot are also a side who have been developing and growing over the last three years since winning the Conference and being promoted.

They face the side with the highest expectations, which must also work in their favour.


Can they go any further? Aldershot have already exceeded expectations, how much more can they give?

Dillon is still a managerial novice and the play-offs are a different kettle of fish than the normal season.

They also took four points off Rotherham in the regular season - without conceding a goal. Will this mean their opponents are due a win and are out for revenge?

Key players:

The powerful Marvin Morgan [left] is the Shots top scorer this season with 16 and will be a handful for defenders in the play-offs.

Pacy left sided man Dean Morgan and is an important creative influence in the Aldershot midfield.

Midfielder Scott Donnelly has had another impressive campaign and has been a useful source of goals - netting 14 this season.

Play-off history:

Under Terry Brown, Aldershot competed in the Conference play-offs in 2004. There, they saw off Hereford in the semi finals before losing on a penalty shoot-out to Shrewsbury in the final.

The original Aldershot were winners of the basement division play-offs in 1987 against Wolves.

League One pedigree:

The Shots were formed in 1992 after the original Aldershot went out of business. Since then they've climbed their way back up the Non League pyramid, finally achieving promotion back to the Football League in 2008.

Their predecessors spent the majority of their time in the basement division, briefly having a few years in the third tier in the '70s and one season in the late '80s.

Dagenham & Redbridge

Story of the season:

Four wins in their opening five took them to the top early on, and they remained in the top seven throughout the first half of the season.

A run of five losses in their first seven matches of 2010 seemed to dent their play-off hopes.

However, four wins in their last five saw them move into 7th and secure the final play-off berth.


John Still has been in charge at Victoria Road for six years and took the club into the Football League in 2007.

The hugely experienced coach has used his Non League contacts well to develop a competitive team on a shoestring budget.

His young team narrowly missed out on last season's play-offs but their direct style has once again confounded more illustrious opponents this term.


A close-knit group of young players who have forged a strong team spirit with a great work ethic.

They might not be the easiest on the eye, but their long-ball style is effective and puts teams under great pressure.

That's particularly true at home, where they've won 15 games - more than any of their play-off rivals.

They go into the end of season lottery as big underdogs, ready to spring another surprise.


After coming so close last year, the fact they've managed to go one step further this is particularly impressive. How much more can they give though?

Their away form has also been very poor, just five wins on the road - and they must play the second leg away.

Their 1-0 loss at Morecambe just a few weeks ago could be an ominous sign ahead of the two meeting in the play-offs.

Key players:

Striker Paul Benson turned down a summer move to Shrewsbury and his goals have once again been key to the Daggers - with 18 this term.

Goalkeeper Tony Roberts [left] has been with the club for ten seasons and the 40-year-old is still an important figure at the back.

Danny Green was one of Still's Non League summer signings - from Bishop's Stortford - and has scored 13 goals from midfield in his debut League season.

Play-off history:

The Daggers only play-off appearance was in 2003 when they competed in the very first Conference play-offs.

Ironically, their opponents on that occasion were also Morecambe. They saw off the Shrimps in the semis before losing 3-2 in the final to Doncaster on an extra time golden goal.

League One pedigree:

Dagenham were only promoted to the Football League in 2007. After finishing 20th in their debut campaign, they ended up 8th last term and have now gone one better.

Formed by a merger of a series of clubs, they competed for promotion from the Conference on several occasions in the last decade.

And we'll take a closer look at the two ties later in the week.

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