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Match Previews

Sky Bet League 2 midweek preview

10 February 2015

We look ahead to the midweek action in Sky Bet League 2.

A NEW START

Newport County v Tranmere Rovers


Newport County play their first game at Rodney Parade since the departure of Justin Edinburgh when they host Tranmere Rovers.

Edinburgh’s three-and-a-half year tenure at Newport came to an end when the former Spurs defender was appointed as the new Gillingham manager on Saturday. The Exiles, who were on a run of three straight defeats going into the weekend’s game, lost again, to Wimbledon, with Jimmy Dack on caretaker duties.



Those last four defeats have seen the Welsh side concede 10 times, while failing to score a solitary goal in reply. Newport’s last victory came exactly one month ago, when Mark Byrne’s strike against Portsmouth took them into the top three.

The win over Pompey was their fourth successive triumph before hitting their current slump, but they still sit in the Play-Offs with a three-point cushion over eighth-place Plymouth Argyle.

Their midweek opponents Tranmere had been on a fine run of form, going five matches unbeaten to move clear of the bottom two. However that came to an end with defeat to Carlisle last time out, and Rovers have now dropped back to 21st, just two points clear of the relegation zone in what is proving to be a tight battle towards the bottom of The Football League.

A first for everything: The pair met for the first time back in September, and it was a forgettable encounter as they played out a goalless stalemate at Prenton Park.

LOOKING UP

Carlisle United v Shrewsbury Town


Two wins on the spin have seen Carlisle United find some breathing space over the bottom two, and they welcome third-placed Shrewsbury Town to Brunton Park.

The aforementioned win at Tranmere earned Carlisle a rare clean sheet – no team in the division has conceded more goals than the Cumbrians this season (50) – and the three points lifted them up to 18th in Sky Bet League 2.

Keith Curle’s appointment in September came three days after a 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture and his hiring has proved successful so far, but inconsistent form means his side are not out of danger just yet.



Their victories have been dotted in between numerous losing streaks, with the Cumbrians not having drawn a match since the first week of September, when they shared the points in an eight-goal thriller with Wimbledon.

Charlie Wyke has been key in the recent revival, with the former Middlesbrough man netting three times in Carlisle’s previous two outings. He won’t be joined in the starting XI by Kyle Dempsey tonight – the midfielder will serve a one-match ban after picking up two yellow cards in stoppage time in the weekend triumph on the Wirral.

Shrewsbury’s 1-1 draw with Southend extended their unbeaten home record, but they dropped to third despite the point.

Tyrone Barnett was a deadline-day signing for the Shrews and he marked his debut in style, coming off the bench to equalise against the Blues, and he is expected to make his first start for the club tonight.

Generous hosts: Shrewsbury have enjoyed their trips to Cumbria over recent years, picking up at least a point from each of their last five visits. Carlisle’s last home victory in The League over the Shrews came in January 2001, thanks to an early Steve Soley strike.

PLAY-OFF SHAKES

Stevenage v Bury


With the top five seemingly pulling away from the bunch, the race is on for the final two Play-Off places, and two sides in the mix go head-to-head at the Lamex Stadium where Stevenage host Bury.

A run of five wins in six lifted Stevenage up into the Play-Offs but they, like many teams around them, have stuttered when reaching the top seven.

Graham Westley’s side are now on a run of three successive defeats after a 1-0 loss to Mansfield and they find themselves four points behind their opponents, Bury, who currently occupy that coveted seventh spot.

The Shakers have been showing glimpses of their early-season form that saw them set the pace but they are failing to find any real consistency.

A three-game unbeaten run in January was brought to a halt by Burton, and they shared the spoils with fellow Play-Off hopefuls Exeter last time out. Daniel Nardiello netted in that fixture for his 12th goal in all competitions, but 11 of those have come on home soil.

Both sides have injury concerns with David McAllister likely to miss out for Boro, while Adam El-Abd is a doubt for Bury after coming off with a hamstring problem against the Grecians.

Goals galore: These sides have dished up 13 goals in three matches at Stevenage, at an average of over four per game. The Shakers are yet to win at the Lamex, but there have been two entertaining score draws either side of Boro’s 3-0 win in the final game of the 2011/12 League 1 campaign, although Bury won 2-1 at the JD Stadium in September’s reverse fixture.



AROUND THE GROUNDS

If the result in that match goes Stevenage’s way then Exeter can move level with Bury on 45 points, if they can find a return to form at home to Cambridge. The Grecians have just one win in seven, but Cambridge have triumphed only twice in their previous nine fixtures.

Burton moved back to the top of Sky Bet League 2 on Saturday following their win at Cheltenham, and they can extend their 10-game unbeaten run when welcoming Wimbledon to the Pirelli Stadium.

Wycombe were the other side who overtook Shrewsbury at the weekend, and they are now 12 without a loss after Hogan Ephraim’s free-kick earned a 1-0 win at Cambridge. The Chairboys host Plymouth, who had gone seven games without three points until Saturday’s win against Accrington Stanley.

That defeat for Stanley was their fifth in succession and saw them drop to 19th, although they are just a point behind Oxford in 15th, and will move above the U’s if they can triumph when the two sides meet at the Crown Ground.

Stanley were leapfrogged by Dagenham & Redbridge and Portsmouth at the weekend, when both sides recorded victories to steer them five points clear of the bottom two, ahead of their midweek meeting at Fratton Park.

Mansfield are another struggling side who picked up three points at the weekend and that lifted them out the relegation zone, up to 20th. They travel to the west coast to play Morecambe, who are winless in six.

Those three points for the Stags saw York return to the drop -zone, and Russ Wilcox’s side go to Luton, who have not lost at Kenilworth Road since the beginning of September.

The only side below the Minstermen are Hartlepool United, and they welcome in-form Northampton to Victoria Road. The Cobblers make the long journey up north on the back of six successive wins, and boast League 2’s top scorer in Marc Richards, who now has 16 goals for the season after his winner against Morecambe last time out.

The remaining fixture sees Southend take on struggling Cheltenham at Roots Hall. Paul Buckle’s Whaddon Road jinx continued last time out with the Robins losing to Burton, and they now travel to the east coast to take on promotion-chasing Southend. Phil Brown’s side are on a nine-game unbeaten run as they keep pace with the top three.

SKY BET LEAGUE 2 MIDWEEK FIXTURES

Tuesday 10th February 2015


Accrington Stanley v Oxford United
Burton Albion v AFC Wimbledon
Carlisle United v Shrewsbury Town
Dagenham & Redbridge v Portsmouth
Exeter City v Cambridge United
Hartlepool United v Northampton Town
Luton Town v York City
Morecambe v Mansfield Town
Newport County v Tranmere Rovers
Southend United v Cheltenham Town
Stevenage v Bury
Wycombe Wanderers v Plymouth Argyle

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