We look ahead to the weekend action in Sky Bet League 2.TROUBLE AT HOME
Cheltenham Town v Burton Albion
Paul Buckle is still looking for a first win at Whaddon Road since taking charge, and his Cheltenham Town side face stern opposition this weekend as they entertain in-form Burton Albion.
Buckle became boss of the Robins towards the end of November, earning a point in his first home match in charge thanks to a score draw with Oxford.
However, the former -Torquay manager has not managed to build on that stalemate, drawing three more matches in Gloucestershire while suffering defeat to Newport, along with an FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league Dover Athletic.
One highlight for Cheltenham is the form of teenage striker Jack Dunn. The youngster has struck three times in five games since signing on loan from Liverpool, including one of the goals in their only win under Buckle – a 2-1 victory against Oxford at the Kassam Stadium.
Dunn could be joined up front by Mathieu Manset, with the French striker one of five January signings looking to make their Cheltenham bow on Saturday.
It doesn’t get any easier for the struggling Robins this weekend. They sit in 21st place, just two points clear of the relegation zone, whereas their opponents Burton Albion are tied with Shrewsbury at the top of Sky Bet League 2.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has led his side to a nine-game unbeaten run, and they are now level at the summit with Shrewsbury on 54 points. Their form at the Pirelli has been perfect since the Dutchman’s arrival; however the Brewers haven’t won on the road since his managerial debut at Wycombe.
Score draws: The Brewers have drawn three of their four away games 1-1 under Hasselbaink, while four of Buckle’s five home matches in charge of Cheltenham have resulted in the same scoreline.
The reverse fixture saw Burton run out 1-0 winners at the end of September, when both teams were under different management. Cheltenham have failed to beat the Brewers in four outings, with their last win against them coming in November 2012.
KEEPING THE PACE
Oxford United v Luton Town
Luton Town’s consistent form sees them sit just three points off the automatic promotion places ahead of their visit to Oxford United on Saturday.
Luton went unbeaten in Sky Bet League 2 through January, winning two and drawing two of their four fixtures. Their most recent outing saw them pick up three points at home to Cambridge United, which avenged their FA Cup defeat to the U’s at the beginning of 2015.
The Hatters' home form has ensured they remain on the tails of the top three, having not been beaten at Kenilworth Road since the first weekend of September, with only Shrewsbury and Burton boasting better records on their own turf.
Their away form has not been bad either, with only Wycombe losing fewer games on their travels. John Still’s side have picked up 20 points from their 13 matches on the road, with their last away defeat coming in mid-December when they were thumped 3-0 at Morecambe.
They are still struggling in front of goal – 20th-placed Carlisle have found the net more times this term – and boss Still has addressed that problem by signing Nathan Oduwa on a youth loan from Tottenham, while extending the stay of Bournemouth striker Jayden Stockley.
Oxford have been the polar opposite in terms of consistency, having won three, drawn three and lost three of their past nine fixtures. They did pick up three points last time out with an impressive 2-0 win at Stevenage, and will have Alex MacDonald available for his debut after signing the goal-scoring midfielder from Burton Albion on deadline day.
This is Luton’s first visit to the Kassam Stadium since 2009, when the U’s were victorious in a Conference clash.
The one and only: There has been just one Football League encounter at the Kassam Stadium between the pair, back in December 2001. Luton took all three points on that occasion, with Matthew Spring’s second-half winner earning the Hatters a 2-1 triumph. The previous clashes came at the Manor Ground, with Luton winning three of the last five games at Oxford’s former home.
Plymouth Argyle v Accrington Stanley
Accrington Stanley can arrest a four-game losing streak when they make the long journey south to Plymouth Argyle this weekend.
Stanley, however, kicked off 2015 with a win down on the coast, at Plymouth’s rivals Exeter City, and they will make it a Devon double if they can pick up three more points on Saturday.
Their form has gone downhill since triumphing at St. James Park, though. A 3-0 defeat to Tranmere was followed by a loss at Wimbledon – their fourth away fixture in succession – but things didn’t improve when returning to the Crown Ground. A 1-0 loss to Bury was followed by a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Northampton. John Coleman took responsibility for the loss, but labelled some of his side’s defending as 'beyond a joke'.
It was a busy deadline day for the Stanley gaffer, as he brought in a trio of players - Scott Davies joined between the sticks on loan from Fleetwood, former Real Madrid midfielder Gerardo Bruna signed a short-term deal, and striker Terry Gornell has returned to Stanley for a third spell.
Number one? Only Carlisle and Hartlepool have conceded more goals than Accrington this term, and Scott Davies will become the eighth goalkeeper to be used by Stanley should he make his debut this weekend.
Things aren't rosy at Home Park either with Plymouth slipping down to 10th after a run of seven games without victory. Their long trip up to Hartlepool last time out would have seemed even longer coming back, after slipping to a 3-2 defeat to The Football League’s bottom club.
Anthony O’Connor’s loan spell from Blackburn was made permanent during the transfer window, but John Sheridan will now have to make do without Andy Kellett, after the left-back earned himself a shock loan move to Manchester United in one of the biggest Football League deadline day deals.
Accrington won the reverse fixture 1-0, but six of the nine games between these two sides have seen the points shared, including the last three at Home Park.
AROUND THE GROUNDS
Shrewsbury returned to the Sky Bet League 2 summit last weekend thanks to a 1-0 win at Newport County, and they welcome fifth-placed Southend to Shropshire in a big game towards the top of the table this weekend.
Phil Brown’s Blues are undefeated without a loss in eight, and will move within a point of the Shrews if they can become the first side to pick up three points at the Greenhous Meadow this season.
The longest unbeaten stretch in the league belongs to Wycombe, but they have slipped to third despite avoiding defeat in 11 games. They travel to Cambridge this weekend on the back of three successive draws, while the U’s have suffered two defeats in quick succession – at Luton, and Manchester United in the FA Cup.
The aforementioned defeat to Shrewsbury was Newport’s third on the bounce, but they remain in the Play-Off places and make the journey to Kingsmeadow to face AFC Wimbledon. The Dons sit 13th after drawing with Morecambe last time out, retaining their goal difference of zero.
The final Play-Off spot is occupied by Bury, who they host fellow promotion hopefuls Exeter City. Both sides lost last weekend, and the Grecians can join the Shakers on 44 points if they can record three points at the JD Stadium.
Stevenage are sandwiched between those two sides, and could also reach the 44-point mark if they can triumph over Mansfield Town at the One Call Stadium. Adam Murray’s side are winless in six and that form has seen them drop into the bottom two.
One way or another: Stevenage and Mansfield have only met on five occasions but there has never been a draw between the sides, with Boro victorious in four of those clashes.
York sit a place above Murray’s strugglers due to a superior goal difference, but they are without a win in five and have played a game more than the Stags. Dagenham & Redbridge make the trip to Bootham Crescent this weekend and will fancy their chances as York still only possess one victory at home this term.
The Daggers are one of five teams on 30 points, just two clear of safety. Two others go head-to-head at Prenton Park this weekend with Tranmere hosting Carlisle. Rovers’ Rory Donnelly picked up the Sky Bet League 2 Player of the Month award on Friday and will fancy his chances against League 2’s worst defence – the Cumbrians have shipped 50 goals in 28 games.
Portsmouth are also on 30 points, and they play host to the basement side, Hartlepool United. Pools grabbed a huge three points at home to Plymouth last Saturday and have seven points from their last possible 12. They remain seven points adrift, but Pompey are without a win in nine and have lost six of those matches.
That leaves Northampton Town and Morecambe, who go head-to-head at Sixfields on Saturday. Chris Wilder collected the Manager of the Month award after guiding his side to 13 points from their five January fixtures, rounded off with a 5-1 win at Accrington last week, but the Shrimps are unbeaten in six – although the last five of those have been stalemates.
SKY BET LEAGUE 2 WEEKEND FIXTURES
Saturday 7th February 2015
AFC Wimbledon v Newport County
Bury v Exeter City
Cambridge United v Wycombe Wanderers
Cheltenham Town v Burton Albion
Mansfield Town v Stevenage
Northampton Town v Morecambe
Oxford United v Luton Town
Plymouth Argyle v Accrington Stanley
Portsmouth v Hartlepool United
Shrewsbury Town v Southend United
Tranmere Rovers v Carlisle United
York City v Dagenham & Redbridge