With the end of 2012 just around the corner, there was a full programme of Football League fixtures on Saturday. However, in League Two, three games succumbed to the wet and windy conditions.
At the top of the division, Gillingham and Northampton’s encounter at Priestfield was one of the postponements. This meant victory for Port Vale at Dagenham would see them leapfrogging the league leaders. Vale went ahead at Victoria Road in the opening five minutes, and Tom Pope’s header was soon added to when Jennison Myrie-Williams’ doubled their lead. The Daggers reduced the deficit 10 minutes later – a foul on Liam Chilvers saw a penalty awarded and Sam Williams stepped up to tuck the ball away. Before the half time whistle was sounded, the Valiants restored their two-goal cushion through Louis Dodds’ lob over Chris Lewington in the hosts’ net. In a much less exciting second period, Dagenham clawed a further goal back late on – Scott Doe’s strike wasn’t enough however and Vale took their place at the head of the table.
Third placed Cheltenham were another team to see their game called off, this time against struggling Bristol Rovers. The postponement allowed the teams around them in the play-offs to close the gap. Fourth met eighth as Southend travelled to Burton, where a win for the Shrimpers would see them move into the automatic promotion places. However, they were on the losing end of a 2-0 score line which saw the Brewers move into the final play-off spot. The result was wrapped up at half time with Calvin Zola’s opener – his 11th of the season – added to by Lee Bell’s 25-yard free kick, which took a deflection. Southend were handed a lifeline when Albion defender Nathan Stanton was shown a second yellow with 15 minutes left to play. The Shrimpers - who were two goals down in their last game and managed to salvage a draw - couldn’t fashion a way back here, but still find themselves in fourth.
Elsewhere, Accrington finished the year with another defeat as they continue to struggle at the wrong end of the table, while Steve Evans’ Rotherham keep up the promotion push. The Millers were handed a late Christmas present when the visitors’ Tom Eckersley headed into his own net with only 15 minutes played. Stanley were on level terms before the first half was out when Craig Linfield converted Michael Liddle’s cross. But it was all Rotherham in the second half and they retook the lead through Daniel Nardiello’s header. Two goals in three minutes then killed the game off: first Nardiello grabbed his second before Michael O’Connor made it four.
Fans at Valley Parade were entertained by a six-goal thriller, but it would be the away contingent that left the game happier when Bradford hosted Rochdale. All of the goals came in the opening 40 minutes. Dale took an early lead through Terry Gornell’s strike from inside the box. The Bantams had a chance to level when Alan Connell was bundled over by Ryan Edwards and the former Swindon front-man duly put away the spot kick. The visitors then retook the lead towards the end of the first half, setting up an exciting end to what proved to be a goal fest. Andrew Tutte’s strike was followed by a goal from Ashley Grimes, extending Dale’s lead to 3-1. Although Connell pulled another one back for Bradford, again from the penalty spot, Rochdale’s rout was complete on the 40 minute mark when Gornell bagged his brace, this time with a header. Defeat for Bradford put an end to their five game unbeaten run.
Also in League Two, there was a big win for Oxford, extending their run of games without defeat to nine. The Us took the lead after the half hour mark when Alfie Potter was provider for Sean Rigg to smash home and five minutes later the roles were reversed when Potter found his name on the score sheet – Rigg with the assist. The victory was complete when Tom Craddock pounced but the drama wasn’t over and Oxford found themselves a man short when James Constable saw red for an alleged elbow. The loss for Wimbledon moved them to the bottom of the league.
Also in the basement, a solitary goal for Wycombe gave them a vital point against fellow strugglers Plymouth. An 11th minute strike from Matt McClure ended Argyle’s four match unbeaten run and pushes Wanderers 10 points clear of the drop zone.
Barnet snatched a very late point when they travelled to Exeter and despite winning their last two games, the Bees found themselves two down at the break. Both of the Grecians’ goals came from corners: first a strong header by Danny Coles gave them a lead before it was doubled by defender, Scot Bennett. Jon Nurse pulled one back for Barnet with 15 minutes remaining and their equaliser came in the seventh minute of stoppage time when Stevenage loanee, Andy Iro bundled the ball over the line.
The points were also shared between Chesterfield and Morecambe. The hosts found themselves a goal adrift before half an hour was played – Chris McCready’s header giving the Shrimps the lead. Conor Townsend, on loan from Hull, levelled the scores when his free-kick went straight in from his boot. But Townsend soon turned villain when he was shown a straight red for an alleged elbow on Will Haining. Despite having a man advantage for thirty minutes, Morecambe had to settle for a point.
Fleetwood and York, the two promoted sides from last season, also played out a goalless draw.