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npower League 2 midweek preview

23 October 2012

THE BIG MATCH

It gets no easier for Burton Albion as, after seeing npower League 2's longest active unbeaten run ended on Saturday by leaders Gillingham, they return to home action on Tuesday night against second-placed Port Vale.

The Brewers hadn't lost any of their previous eight games, a run that had seen them move up to sit in one of the Play-Off places, prior to going down 4-1 at Priestfield.

Now they have to put that result behind them and get back on the front foot again as they prepare to host the only side in League 2 currently within striking distance of Gillingham.

And Burton's former Vale goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson told the Derby Telegraph: "I'm not surprised about where they are - Vale always start well. But I think crunch time comes around December.

"I just think that, by then, you've played about 20 games. Teams can start well and then blow up in a puff of smoke and are struggling at the back end of the season. I think that's happened at Port Vale before but, fair play to them, they're going well now, so it will be an interesting derby.

"Last year, I remember Burton doing really well until December and being up around the Play-Offs. It's just one of those things that happens - and that is what the manager's trying to change here. Port Vale are a top-three side but, if we want to be where we want to be, we need to beat teams like that."

In most years, Port Vale's return of 29 points from 13 games would surely have seen them at the top of the table but instead they trail Gillingham by three.

However, they are comfortable in second with a seven-point advantage over third-placed Fleetwood Town having lost just twice so far in 2012/13.

One of those defeats came on the second weekend of the season, showing just how tough Vale have been to beat in the current campaign as they prepare to make the short journey to Burton.

Manager Micky Adams told The Sentinel: "We're not expecting to simply turn up and claim three points, but there wouldn't be 2,000 fans going there if they thought we were going to lose. They've got confidence we'll get a result. They're showing faith in us and we've got to produce the goods.

"We're there to be shot at. When we're in the mood, we're a difficult side to play against, but we've got to ensure we start right. It's up to me and the coaches to make sure the players are ready."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Fresh from picking up their first win of the season on Friday night, Barnet travel to Wycombe Wanderers with renewed hope and a first three-point haul to their name.

The Edgar Davids influence was in full swing at Underhill as the Dutch legend - newly appointed as joint head coach - pulled on his boots again and captained the Bees to a 4-0 victory over Northampton Town.

Barnet remain bottom of the table with six points to their name but they are now five points behind third-bottom AFC Wimbledon - and Tuesday night's opponents Wycombe, who are level on points with the Dons.

Mark Robson, Davids' coaching cohort at Underhill, told the Barnet & Potters Bar Times: "Edgar has come in and made a difference as has Uli [Ulrich Landvreugd] as well. They have been great on the training pitch and there has been a lot of work put it.

"So it has given us an extra edge to what we already had. He is an influence on the pitch for us and he helps the players around him. He gives us something that we haven't had, a leader in the middle who can make things happen.

"He is a talker and a communicator. He knows the game inside out and is someone who has added to the younger players around him. He is very similar in his coaching style. So it shone through in the game and he certainly helped the younger players."

Wycombe still have the potential advantage of a game in hand on the sides around them but Saturday's 4-1 defeat at Port Vale left them far from where they want to be.

However, they had been in good form prior to the weekend with a run of three straight wins, including a 1-0 success at high-flying Fleetwood Town and a 3-1 victory at npower League 1 side Portsmouth in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth told Chairboys Player: "It's an important game. Whether it's second-top Port Vale or bottom-of-the-league Barnet there's no different approach to these games.

"We need to win, we need to get points on the board, we need to bring Wycombe back into the position they deserve in the league and I believe it's higher than we currently are.

"I thought he [Davids] must have gone back to Holland but he's stuck around North London and Barnet are lucky to have him. He's got a wealth of experience and is a name. I know he's brought over a coach with him. I think he'll add to them and we'll have to be wary of that."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Gillingham maintained their three-point advantage at the top of npower League 2 with a 4-1 victory at home to Burton Albion on Saturday, their second successive victory while scoring four goals.

It was the Gills' seventh three-point haul in their last nine outings as Martin Allen's men continued their march at the top of the table and now they face a trip to Torquay United tonight.

The Gulls, perennial Play-Off contenders in recent years, find themselves 10th so far this season but so tightly congested is the League 2 table at present that they are only a point outside the top seven - and yet only two points clear of Oxford United in 18th.

Torquay prepared for the game tonight with a 3-2 defeat at Bristol Rovers, only their third loss of the campaign so far, and they will be hopeful of pushing themselves up the table before long.

Speaking of Bristol Rovers, that result took them six points clear of the bottom two and put them 20th ahead of tonight's trip to AFC Wimbledon - who are two places and three points behind Rovers.

Even at this stage of the season it could be an important night for both sides and Wimbledon go into it on the back of a good 1-1 draw with Fleetwood Town on Saturday.

Completing the bottom two, alongside Barnet, are Aldershot Town with eight points to their name after 13 games played and a visit tonight to Southend United, who started the season slowly but have warmed up to now sit 11th.

Behind the top two, Fleetwood continue to impress during their first season as a Football League club and hold on to third spot with 22 points and a better goal difference than Cheltenham Town, who are level on points with them.

Fleetwood travel to Chesterfield, who remain without a permanent manager but won 1-0 at Exeter City on Saturday, while Cheltenham host Plymouth Argyle having lost 3-1 at Play-Off rivals Bradford City on Saturday.

That result left Bradford in fifth ahead of their visit to Northampton Town, while Exeter are seventh and travel to Dagenham and Redbridge.

Northampton are 17th with 16 points to their name, while Dagenham are two places and two points further back, level on points with Bristol Rovers but with a better goal difference.

The remaining games see Rochdale host Oxford United, Rotherham United take on Morecambe, and Accrington Stanley at home to York City.

Click here for all the midweek action


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