Written by Andy Wood
Last week saw more excitement in the 4th tier, and in the end Plymouth Argyle were the big winners, beating Exeter in the Devon Derby to retain their place at the top of the league. Promotion contenders Portsmouth and Luton both slipped to defeat, whilst Doncaster and Crewe both won to go into strong positions. A 6th draw in 8 matches meant Carlisle maintained their unbeaten start to the season. There’s a lot more action still to come – here are 3 of the most intriguing matches over this weekend.
Crewe v Blackpool
As I mentioned, Crewe were one of the teams to take advantage last weekend and move into an early automatic promotion spot. One of the main reasons that Crewe are known to a wider football audience is their remarkable production line of young players – they have one of the most celebrated academies in the country. It’s no surprise then that their current good form is based around new developing talent – in their most recent win, against Grimsby, 6 members of the starting lineup had come through the youth system. That’s a statistic any team in the country would be jealous of, and credit should go to manager Steve Davis for promoting this and smartly balancing it with some experienced pros, especially strikers Ryan Lowe and Chris Dagnall. The recipe for success appears to be well in place for Crewe right now, and they’re steadily picking up the results to prove it. There are bigger, more boisterous clubs making the noise but it’s the Railwaymen who seem to be worth actually watching.
Their next opponents are a club who have had plenty of talking points of their own over the past few seasons – mostly for the wrong reasons. Blackpool’s most recent fixture, at home to Carlisle, will have highlighted one very noticeable thing to anyone who saw the video of the match, and that is the swathe of empty seats around the stadium. This is not because Blackpool lack a loyal fanbase – quite the opposite in fact. Frustration at the club has steadily been growing as a rift between fans and owners has at times reached breaking point. What has been viewed (correctly) as misinvestment off the pitch has led to mediocrity on it and another inconsistent start to life in the 4th tier (Blackpool’s first experience of it since 2001) will not bring fans back any time soon. They’ve managed a very decent 7 goals in their last 3 matches – a powerful and direct duo in Kyle Vassell and Armand Gnanduillet are starting to click – but only one match has resulted in a win, and they languish well inside the bottom half at this admittedly early stage. Saturday would be a great day to start turning things around.
Luton v Doncaster
Although it’s still very early in the season, there are some matches that can already take the look of ‘6 pointers’. A couple of weeks ago things were looking very good indeed for Luton Town, playing to a high standard and taking an early lead in the division. Back to back defeats in the subsequent weeks will therefore not be welcome to a side with lofty ambitions, and with another promotion contender rolling into town it suddenly becomes quite important to stop the rot. Another loss and they fall out the play-off places and have ground to make up on the leading pack- win and they are right back amongst said leading pack. Of course things will continue to change in the months to come but Luton see themselves as a major club in this division and they won’t settle for too many bad results. This is the first time that they’ve met Doncaster in the league since 2008 and it’ll be seen as a good benchmark as to their level going forward.
Donny have been in strong form recently and are starting to cement themselves as promotion favourites. Despite starting with a blip they now have 5 wins from 6 matches and are proving to be as good a goal threat as any in the league with 17 goals in 8 games already. The last time they played away from home was against another strong starter in Morecambe and they duly laid down a marker in a thrilling 5-1 victory. The attacking force in their team is pretty clear to see – James Coppinger continues to be in fine form and Andy Williams brings a proven League 1 striker down to League 2 level. If Luton make some fairly basic changes – shore up the defence and get some width in the team- it will be a competitive matchup, and hopefully one that brings us plenty of goals.
Yeovil v Cheltenham
Before last week, Yeovil were the worst team in the division, losing 5 games on the bounce and struggling to avoid defensive errors. They certainly managed to improve with a surprise away victory against Leyton Orient, but in terms of form this is still not a classic – both teams are still way down the table. That being said, they both have quality on their day – the game could come down to whose defence can stay the most focused though.
So why make this one to watch? Well for a start there’s a nice local element to it – the south west isn’t the best represented so a match up between two league sides from this part always makes an interesting occasion. But the story will really be about one man in particular, and that is Cheltenham manager Gary Johnson – best known as the man who guided Yeovil to promotion out of 3 different leagues. Having a club legend like this return to his old stomping ground will no doubt raise the roof a little bit at Huish Park.
Johnson has continued his success at Cheltenham by securing automatic promotion back into the Football League last season, and he’ll look to have his players well up for this one. They’ve been defensively shaky recently but they’ll look to some of their attacking players to get at Yeovil – not least impressive midfielder Harry Pell who excelled last weekend. Yeovil manager Darren Way, and assistant Terry Skiverton, were not only key players during Johnson’s first spell but went on to be part of his backroom team when Yeovil got into the Championship. They’ll be fighting to one up their mentor and the impact of physical forward Tom Eaves and the experienced Izale McLeod at exploiting the Cheltenham back line could be crucial. Expect these teams to come out of their shells on Saturday.
What will be the standout League Two game this weekend? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Matthew Wilkinson