There was a full programme of fixtures in the Football League’s basement division this Saturday with teams vying for points at both the top and bottom of the table. While there was no real change at either end, Gillingham were hoping to close the gap between themselves and current leaders Port Vale.
Two points now separate first and second as Gillingham won on the road at Bradford. Cody McDonald, back at the Gills (this time on loan from Coventry) scored the game’s only goal. He netted midway through the second half for his third strike in four games since his return. The Bantams, who had occupied the playoffs for a large proportion of the season, have to settle for 12th, but have two games in hand over a number of their rivals. Port Vale travelled to Barnet but had to settle for a draw, with their game finishing goalless. A point for the Bees sees them move out of the drop zone, sitting in their usual position of 22nd on goal difference.
It was Aldershot who switched places with the North London outfit at the end of the weekend, following their defeat to fellow strugglers Plymouth. In a game that was a definite six-pointer with 21st playing 22nd at the EBB, Argyle’s win sees them move up two places and two points clear of danger. A double from Jason Banton helped the Pilgrims to a vital win, the January loan signing from Crystal Palace opening the scoring in the fifth minute. The Shots managed to find a leveller minutes later through Peter Vincenti’s close range effort, but Plymouth re-took the lead before the half time whistle was blown – Banton’s curler ensuring victory.
Staying with the wrong end of the table, AFC Wimbledon suffered another defeat and they continue to prop up the rest of the division. Neal Ardley’s side are now five games without a win, their most recent loss being at the hands of Chesterfield. The Wombles went behind in the second half when Danny Whitaker’s cross picked out Armand Gnanduillet for the Ivorian striker to score his first goal in English football. Jack Lester’s low effort seven minutes from time sealed the win for the Spireites.
Elsewhere in League Two and while Burton move to third, Cheltenham slip down to fifth. A win for the Brewers also consigned their opponents Rotherham to a place outside of the playoffs. It was certainly a game of talking points at the Pirelli, the home side going ahead through Billy Kee midway through the opening half. Before the interval, the Millers were reduced to 10 men as David Noble was shown a second yellow and sent off accordingly. Kee doubled Burton’s lead in the closing forty-five and the visitor’s day got even worse when Michael O’Connor was dismissed for violent conduct – leaving Steve Evans’ team with nine on the pitch. The Brewers could have won by a bigger margin but Michael Syme’s spot-kick was saved by veteran keeper Andy Warrington. The game ended on a sour note, too, with visiting fans being led away by police for allegedly throwing bottles at referee Eddie Ilderton and Evans describing the match official as “obnoxious, rude and embarrassing”, saying he will launch a complaint, post-match.
Dagenham & Redbridge’s win against Cheltenham sees them climb the table. Luke Howell’s strike before the hour mark separated the sides and was their first ever win against the Rubies – who themselves have to settle for a place outside the automatic promotion slots.
Wycombe and Bristol Rovers both continued their good form which has seen the two sides increase the gap between themselves and the relegation scrap. Last year’s promoted side York began the campaign well but are currently in 18th place and they were on the wrong end of a 4-0 drubbing at Adams Park. Two first half penalties from Dean Morgan helped the hosts to a thumping win, with Wycombe taking the lead in the third minute of this one: Morgan was bundled over by Scott Kerr before returning to his feet and netting the awarded penalty. His – and Wycombe’s – second came in first half stoppage time: Jamal Fyfield the offender this time, barging over Joel Grant. It was Grant who put away the third and the rout was completed in style through Dave Winfield’s late header. The Chairboys’ run of games unbeaten increases to five.
Two second half goals for Bristol Rovers against Oxford sees them continue to progress under new manager John Ward. The deadlock was broken in the 55th minute when Ryan Brunt was fouled in the box by Jake Wright, allowing Lee Brown to tuck the ball away from the penalty spot. The Gas’ lead was doubled late on through Elliot Richards’ neat finish from David Clarkson’s quick free-kick routine. Rovers have now secured 13 points from their most recent five games.
Also in League Two there were comfortable wins for Northampton (at home to Rochdale) and Exeter (who travelled to Morecambe). The win for the Sixfields side saw them move back into the playoff places while defeat for Rochdale was their first since Keith Hill returned at the helm. Clive Platt headed the Cobblers in front after half an hour. The visitors levelled the scores through Jason Kennedy midway through the second half but Northampton restored their lead minutes later when Kelvin Langmead was quickest to pounce on a loose ball. The win was wrapped up eight minutes from time when Adebayo Akinfenwa scored from the spot after a penalty was awarded for a foul on Chris Hackett. It was Akinfenwa’s 14th league goal of the season.
Three second half goals for Exeter saw them move from seventh to fourth and sit a point behind Burton in third. A brace from Jamie Cureton saw him notch his 17th and 18th league goals for the season, helping the Grecians to their 10th away win of the campaign – a club record. Their opener came in the 62nd minute with Cureton latching on to Tommy Doherty’s through ball. Two late goals made maximum points secure, with Arron Davies scoring the second, having been picked out perfectly by Jimmy Keohane’s delivery. Cureton wrapped up the win in stoppage time, making the 600-odd mile round trip well worth it!
Completing the round-up, Jon Parkin’s third goal in as many games separated Fleetwood and Torquay at Plainmoor. ‘The Beast’s’ header arrived in the 26th minute and keeps the Cod Army in contention for the playoffs. A late goal for Southend denied Accrington a must-needed win. Stanley took the lead in the second half when James Gray slotted home and the Shrimpers’ task was made more difficult with the dismissal of Ryan Cresswell with just over an hour on the clock. The visitors snatched a point in the closing 10 minutes when Kevan Hurst’s 20-yard drive found the bottom corner.
Tomorrow night sees 12 teams in action, with games in hand still needing to be played. Gillingham can reclaim top spot with an away win at York; 7th meets 5th with Southend hosting Cheltenham and the winners of that one can go third. Aldershot could move out of the bottom two with a point (or win) at Morecambe.