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Match Previews

Sky Bet League 2 weekend preview

6 March 2015

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

HOME, SWEET HOME

Luton Town v Morecambe


Luton Town have lost three of their last four games, but they return to Kenilworth Road this weekend to host Morecambe.

Those three defeats for the Hatters have all been on their travels, slipping up at Mansfield Town,  AFC Wimbledon, and Bury. However, they recorded a comfortable 2-0 home win over Accrington Stanley in that period.

It was the first weekend of September when Plymouth came away from Luton with three points, but John Still’s side have made their home a fortress since then, dropping just six points from the 42 available.

Despite recent results, Luton still sit fourth and just five points away from the top three, but they are under pressure from Southend and Bury, who only trail the Hatters on goal difference.

Morecambe have impressed on the road this season, though, boasting the sixth-best record in Sky Bet League 2 despite their mid-table position.

The Shrimps are 12th, eight points off the Play-Offs, with their last 10 fixtures producing five stalemates, but they need more than the odd point if they are to make up any ground on the teams above them.

Luton and Morecambe are even over three meetings, with one draw and one win apiece, but it’s the latter who have the current bragging rights following a 3-0 win in December, after Luton skipper Steve McNulty’s first-half red card at the Globe Arena.



THE RACE FOR THE PLAY-OFFS

Stevenage v Newport County


Ninth-placed Stevenage host Newport County, who currently occupy the final Play-Off spot, as the race for a top-seven place gathers momentum.

A fine run of form from Stevenage sees them sitting just a point behind their opponents going in to Saturday’s clash. Graham Westley’s side are unbeaten in five outings, and their midweek win over Plymouth saw them leapfrog the Pilgrims.

One of Stevenage’s highlights of 2015 has been the emergence of teenage striker Ben Kennedy. The 18-year-old has scored three goals in six appearances this year and has proved a handful for opposition defences, winning two penalties in that period.

Newport’s results, though, have been rather inconsistent over recent weeks. Their last four fixtures read win, loss, win, loss, and Jimmy Dack will need his side to hit some form if they are to keep their promotion dreams alive.

Their two triumphs have both come on the road, and if the Welsh club can pick up a third successive win on their travels then it will give them a four-point cushion over Boro.

The reverse fixture back in December was the first time the two clubs had ever met, and it was the Exiles who took all three points with a 2-0 win at Rodney Parade.



Plymouth Argyle v Northampton Town

Four successive wins in February saw Plymouth climb back up the table, but they have slipped to consecutive defeats against two fellow Play-Off chasers, Bury and Stevenage, ahead of their meeting with Northampton Town.

The Pilgrims failed to score in both of those games, with their last goals all coming from Reuben Reid when he fired a hat-trick past Devon rivals Exeter a fortnight ago.

But John Sheridan’s side have an impressive defensive record – only league leaders Shrewsbury have conceded fewer goals – and they will have to be at their best to keep out the division's two scorers Northampton Town.

The Cobblers have netted 54 goals this term, with 17 of those coming from Sky Bet League 2’s most prolific marksman Marc Richards.

The 32-year-old striker didn’t start in either of the Cobblers’ two matches this past week, but that didn’t affect the division’s form side as they recorded two crucial victories.

Chris Wilder’s men became the first League 2 team to defeat Shrewsbury at Greenhous Meadow this term, recording a fine 2-1 win, before grinding out a 1-0 victory at Sixfields on Tuesday, against a Portsmouth side that had gone seven games without defeat.

The six points means they kept pace with the top seven, and they will move above the Pilgrims if they can pick up a win on the south coast this weekend.

Home Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Cobblers over recent times, though; they have lost on their last three visits, with their most recent success coming in 1998.

Plymouth also won the reverse fixture, winning 3-2 at Sixfields in December, which brought the head-to-head record level at 21 wins each, with 12 draws.



AROUND THE GROUNDS

Arguably the pick of the rest of the fixtures comes at Roots Hall, where sixth-placed Southend host Wycombe, who lie third.

The Blues will close the gap on their opponents to two points if they can pick up a win, but the Chairboys are prolific on the road, becoming the first club in the Football League to secure 10 away wins this term, following their midweek triumph at Tranmere.

That win for Gareth Ainsworth’s side kept them in touch with the top two, and the league leaders Shrewsbury host Cambridge United. The Shrews unbeaten home record may have gone last weekend, but they bounced back to win at Accrington in midweek. The U’s have just one win in nine, after being thumped 3-0 at home by York on Tuesday.

Burton sit second with only goal difference keeping them off the summit, but they have lost their last two by 1-0 scorelines. Last weekend saw Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s home run at the Pirelli come to an end, and they now face a trip on the road at Hartlepool.

Hartlepool remain bottom of the table and seven points from safety, after a 2-0 defeat against Dagenham last time out. That result means the Daggers are six points clear of the relegation zone, and they could extend that when they travel to Tranmere.

Rovers are only out of the bottom two on goal difference, and Micky Adams needs to arrest a run of three straight defeats. Cheltenham are the side below them, in 23rd, and they entertain Mansfield at Whaddon Road. The Robins found themselves out of the drop-zone for three days following a win last Saturday – their first clean sheet in 26 matches – but a Tuesday night loss against Carlisle saw them slip back in.

That win for the Cumbrians moved them up to 21st, and they welcome Exeter to Brunton Park. The Grecians face a 700-mile round trip, but Paul Tisdale’s side have the fifth-best away record in the division. However, they are without a win in seven following a goalless stalemate with York in their last outing.

The Minstermen have four points from their last two matches, - that draw with Exeter was followed by the win at Cambridge - but they could still find themselves in the bottom two if results don’t go their way. They go to Kingsmeadow to face a Dons side without a win in three.

Portsmouth visit Accrington Stanley on the back of a defeat to Northampton, but they were on a fine run until that Sixfields loss which saw Andy Awford and Jed Wallace pick up the Manager and Player of the Month awards for February.

Finally, Bury host Oxford United at the JD Stadium. The Shakers have won four games on the spin to move up to fifth, while the U’s are hovering above the relegation zone with just one win from their last six. Michael Appleton’s side currently sit 19th, five points above the bottom two, and their last win at Bury was in 2003, when they romped to a 4-0 success with three goals in the last 11 minutes.

SKY BET LEAGUE 2 WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday 7th March 2015


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

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