With just 360 minutes of League 2 football left this season, there is plenty yet to be decided in both the promotion chase and the relegation battle. Between now and the last game there is set to be lots more twists and turns but the next few days will give us a clearer indication of what the table will look like come the end of the season. Part 1 of The72’s League 2 Easter Preview looks at the games on Friday and Saturday.
Oxford United v York City
With much 6th and 7th still well up for grabs, this game between two of the promotion hopefuls could prove to be a pivotal game come the end of the season. Oxford United have been very disappointing since the departure of Chris Wilder in January and new manager Gary Waddock has struggled since his arrival. However, despite the negatives, they picked up an absolutely crucial three points against Plymouth last Saturday which has revived their Play-Off dreams and has kept the belief amongst Oxford supporters alive.
York City were in a relegation battle not so long ago but a string of near perfect results has seen them fly up the league and they have a very real chance of promotion. York are unbeaten in 13 league matches, and they won six on the spin in March, but three draws in a row have meant they have failed to capitalise on the poor form of Oxford and therefore, with Oxford back to winning ways, the importance of this game cannot be understated.
After their unexpected win against Plymouth the belief is back for Oxford and I expect them to just edge this encounter.
Score prediction: 2-1
Rochdale v Southend United
This match is another huge game at the top of the table between two teams who have been in and amongst the promotion places all season. Rochdale have slipped to second following their shock 3-0 defeat to Mansfield on Saturday and are without a win in three. It is going to take a big collapse for them to fall out of the top three but for them to win the title they need to get back to the form that they showed at the end of March when they comfortably disposed of Accrington, Wycombe, Northampton and Portsmouth, and went top of the league.
Rochdale have a five point cushion between them and 4th placed Fleetwood and therefore defeat to Southend won’t be a complete disaster. However, for Southend, it could be. Southend struggled over the winter months and it looked at one point as though they would fall away from the Play-Offs. However they broke out of this with three wins recently but defeat to mid-table Wimbledon means that if they lose, their cushion over the chasing pack could be cut to a point and they could possibly fall out of the Play-Offs (if there is a big enough goal swing).
It’ll be a crucial game for both teams at Spotland on Friday and I think this will make it a tight and cagey affair.
Score prediction: 1-1
Wycombe v Northampton
This is the relegation six-pointer to end all relegation six-pointers. Wycombe sit 22nd whilst Northampton are 23rd and they are both tied on 46 points. Wycombe have a horrific run over the winter period to blame for their perilous position in the league and they have only won one of their last eight matches – a 2-0 win over Dagenham. However, despite the negatives, they have a greatly superior goal difference to Northampton and this means that they have the overall advantage in the race to stay up.
Northampton have been completely transformed since the arrival of Chris Wilder and have given themselves a really good chance of staying up. They have won some crucial away matches under Wilder (against Torquay, Exeter and Accrington) and this will give them the confidence to perform in another high-pressure match against another relegation contender. They have broken out of a difficult March with two wins in April and will be brimming with confidence ahead of this one.
This is, again, set to be a tight affair and will probably finish as a draw, which will suit Wycombe better.
Score prediction: 0-0
Portsmouth v Bristol Rovers (Saturday)
Portsmouth could potentially end any lingering relegation concerns with a win over struggling Bristol Rovers and it look as though that will be the case considering Portsmouth’s recent results. Pompey have won three in a row which includes a more than convincing 4-1 hammering of Dagenham. They seem to have found form at just the right time (their upturn coincides with the sacking of Richie Barker) and they are now 16th in the league.
Bristol Rovers are, on the other hand, still definitely in the mire. They are just one point clear of safety and are without a win in three (they have only won two of their last ten). With the squad that the Gas have they really shouldn’t be in this mess, but with players underperforming and an inexperienced manager at the helm, things are not looking good for them. This is the first of four high pressure games for Bristol Rovers with matches still against fellow relegation contenders and promotion chasers.
Portsmouth’s home advantage will see them over the line, particularly now the belief is back at Fratton Park. It could be a very damaging defeat for Bristol Rovers.
Score prediction: 3-0
Other games in League 2 with predictions:
Accrington v Mansfield: 1-1
Wimbledon v Newport: 1-0
Bury v Plymouth: 1-2
Cheltenham v Fleetwood: 0-2
Chesterfield v Exeter: 3-1
Morecambe v Scunthorpe: 1-2
Torquay v Dagenham: 1-1
Burton v Hartlepool: 2-0 (Saturday)