We look ahead to the weekend action in Sky Bet League 2.DEVON DERBY
Exeter City v Plymouth Argyle
Devon’s two Football League clubs go head-to-head at St James’ Park on Saturday lunchtime, with Exeter City playing host to Plymouth Argyle.
The visiting Pilgrims are the in-form team going into the fixture, having picked up three successive victories, while Exeter are without a win in five matches following a 1-0 reverse against Portsmouth last week.
Up until Boxing Day, Plymouth were chasing down the top three and boasted the best defence in The Football League, but John Sheridan’s side then went seven games without picking up three points and dropped down to 10th as a result.
However, they have rediscovered that defensive stability in February, notching three successive clean sheets on their way to their nine-point haul, and only league leaders Shrewsbury have conceded fewer goals.
Plymouth’s return to form has seen them move back into the top seven, and one of the sides chasing that coveted spot in the Play-Off places is Exeter City.
The Grecians are 10th, just six points behind their rivals, and they will close the gap significantly if they can bring their winless streak to an end at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Exeter’s last success came in mid-January, when Alex Nicholls’ late penalty earned his side a 3-2 win at Mansfield, but they’ve picked up just two points since, with four of their five opponents in that period languishing in the bottom half of the division.
Paul Tisdale’s side will certainly not want a repeat of the reverse fixture back in August, when a rampant Argyle cruised to a 3-0 success at Home Park.
HARD TO BEAT
Dagenham & Redbridge v Burton Albion
Two in-form sides meet this weekend when Dagenham & Redbridge entertain Burton Albion at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium.
Dagenham have been flirting with relegation for some time, but a five-game unbeaten run has taken them up to 17th place and seven points clear of safety.
It’s no great surprise that a key man behind their current form is striker Jamie Cureton. The 39-year-old hitman has scored four goals in the Daggers’ last five outings, taking him to 11 league goals this term. Cureton also scored the opener in the reverse fixture between the two teams, although a late Billy Kee double gave Burton all three points.
Dagenham’s run of form pales in comparison to that of their opponents, though. Burton’s 2-0 win over Oxford last week extended their unbeaten run to 10 games as they continue their quest for not only promotion, but also the title.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has made a fine start to his Burton career since being appointed in November, boasting an unbeaten home record at the Pirelli and losing just once, to title rivals Shrewsbury.
The Brewers and the Shrews are neck-and-neck at the summit, with Hasselbaink’s side just trailing on goal difference, and the Dutchman has dipped into the transfer market to boost his attacking options.
Mickael-Antoine Curier has signed until the end of the season, and the striker could make his debut this weekend, to replace the injured Jacob Blyth. Following Alex MacDonald’s departure in January, Blyth is Burton’s joint-highest scorer with five goals – a figure he shares with Lucas Akins and Stuart Beavon – and Curier could fill the void left by the Leicester City loanee.
Cambridge United v Portsmouth
On Saturday afternoon, Cambridge United welcome Portsmouth to the R Costings Abbey Stadium for the first time since August 2000.
The two teams are locked on 37 points from their 30 games so far this term, sitting in 15th and 16th respectively, and are just seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Although that gap from the bottom two is relatively comfortable right now, the U’s are on a run of five games without defeat and will be looking nervously over their shoulder if things fail to improve.
A thumping 4-0 win over Newport County just over a month was a sign of what Richard Money’s side are capable of, and they followed that up with a 0-0 draw in their FA Cup tie against Manchester United, but they have failed to pick up maximum points since that win over the Welsh club.
Money has boosted his attacking options this week, though, moving to sign winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from Cambridgeshire rivals Peterborough United on loan until the end of the season.
Portsmouth, meanwhile, are on a good run that has steered them up the table; unbeaten in their last four outings having not conceded a goal in the process.
Two of those of four have been 1-0 wins at Fratton Park, while they have battled out goalless stalemates on their recent travels to Wycombe and Dagenham. Their form away from home may still be a concern, however - Andy Awford’s side have won just once in their 15 matches on the road this term, and Pompey’s travelling faithful have only seen their side find the net six times, which is the lowest figure in The Football League.
Cambridge have only recorded one victory over Portsmouth in 13 competitive meetings, and that came way back in March 1978 in a 1-0 success, but they have failed to defeat Pompey since. The reverse fixture ended 2-1 to Awford’s men, despite receiving a first-half red card.
AROUND THE GROUNDS
The weekend’s Sky Bet League 2 action gets under way on Friday night, when Accrington Stanley entertain Cheltenham Town at the Crown Ground.
Stanley have two wins on the bounce and face a Robins side who are winless in seven, and who find themselves in the relegation zone after last week’s 2-1 loss to Bury.
The Shakers can do Cheltenham a favour this week though, when they host Hartlepool – the only club currently beneath the Robins. Pools remain seven points adrift from safety after last week’s 3-1 defeat at home to Stevenage, while Bury sit outside the top seven on goal difference only.
Stevenage’s Play-Off charge got back on track with that aforementioned success in the north east, and they welcome Southend to the Lamex Stadium. The fifth-placed Blues’ 10-game unbeaten run came to an end last week, but they remain just two points behind Wycombe in third.
The Chairboys make the journey to Carlisle United looking to bring an end to a two-game losing run. Those defeats have left them five points behind the top two, but their opponents also slipped to successive losses last week and sit three points above the relegation zone.
Two more sides at opposite ends of the tables go head-to-head at Prenton Park, where Tranmere Rovers play host to league leaders Shrewsbury Town. Rovers are without a win in three, just a point clear of safety, while the Shrews sit at the summit thanks to a seven-game unbeaten run.
Mansfield Town and Oxford United sit 18th and 19th respectively ahead of their meeting at the Kassam Stadium. The Stags will be confident after picking up four points from their last two fixtures, including Monday night’s fine 1-0 win over Luton.
The Hatters can bounce back when they visit Kingsmeadow to take on Wimbledon. Despite that loss to Mansfield, John Still’s side are only a point off the automatic promotion spots and could return to the top three if results go their way.
Newport are another side in the Play-Off places and caretaker manager Jimmy Dack earned his first three points last Saturday when the Exiles won 2-1 at Wycombe. The Welsh side welcome Morecambe to Rodney Parade, who are 12th following Sunday’s home defeat to Dagenham.
That leaves Northampton Town and York City, who meet at Sixfields this weekend. The Cobblers have picked up just one point from their last two fixtures, while a win and a draw from York’s last two have dragged them out of the relegation places and up to 21st.
Marc Richards salvaged the Cobblers a point at Mansfield with a stoppage-time penalty last weekend and he was at it in the reverse fixture between these two, when his last-gasp free-kick sealed a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent.
SKY BET LEAGUE 2 WEEKEND FIXTURES
Friday 20th February 2015
Accrington Stanley v Cheltenham Town
Saturday 21st February 2015
AFC Wimbledon v Luton Town
Bury v Hartlepool United
Cambridge United v Portsmouth
Carlisle United v Wycombe Wanderers
Dagenham & Redbridge v Burton Albion
Exeter City v Plymouth Argyle – 1.00pm
Newport County v Morecambe
Northampton Town v York City
Oxford United v Mansfield Town
Stevenage v Southend United
Tranmere Rovers v Shrewsbury Town