This Saturday, another exciting League 2 season comes to an end. While we should say congratulations to Northampton Town for putting together a remarkable season in the face of major off-field issues and commiserate York and Dagenham and Redbridge, who will be playing in the National League next season, there is still plenty to keep us entertained as the promotion race has gone down to the wire. There are still two automatic promotion places up for grabs with three teams looking to claim them and only two points separating them. Here we take a look at those contenders.
It has been a fairytale season for Accrington. Led by fan favourite, fast approaching club legend status, John Coleman, Accrington currently sit 2nd in League Two on 84 points. To put this achievement into context, Accrington have the lowest budget in the entire Football League, meaning in the summer out of the nine players brought in, eight were free transfers. Their promotion push has been spearheaded by Billy Kee, who has 17 goals this season and even more remarkably by future star Josh Windass, despite missing a chunk of the season Windass has weighed in with 16 goals in 28 appearances from central midfield. The success of Accrington has been so remarkable that Coleman claimed that promotion for his side would eclipse Leicester’s Premier League win, he added “It’s the equivalent of finishing second in a Formula One race on a bike because of the facilities we have to work with, the budget and this is all about the players.” Sitting in second place, Accrington will undoubtedly start favourites and face a very winnable tie at home against 19th place Stevenage. Even a play-off place would be a remarkable achievement for Accrington but they look all set for automatic promotion as things stand right now.
Just one point further back on 83 points, we find Oxford United. They too have had a great season, most notably reaching the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy where they were narrowly beaten by League One Barnsley. Michael Appleton has really turned Oxford’s fortunes around and they too go into Saturday’s final game knowing that victory will see them claim a place in League One. This season they have been led League Two Player of the Year, Kemar Roofe, who can boast 26 goals in all competitions including a sensational volley from the half way line against Championship Brentford in a 4-0 victory in the Capital One Cup and two goals in a 3-2 victory over Premier League Swansea in the FA Cup. This great cup form has translated into the league which now leaves them in a great position to win promotion. However, out of the three contenders they face the toughest final match. They are at home to long-time Play-Off contenders Wycombe Wanderers, they are led well by Gareth Ainsworth and Oxford will know that they will be in for a real battle if they are to achieve automatic promotion this weekend.
The final contenders are Bristol Rovers, they sit 4th in the table on 82 points meaning that defeat for Accrington and an Oxford draw could still see them claim second place. Although, I’m sure the main aim will be promotion whether that be in second or third place. Currently, Bristol Rovers are the outsiders and they are relying on a slip-up from either of the other two teams, they are also hampered by their inferior goal difference to Oxford meaning that they have to win their final game as a defeat for Oxford and a draw for Bristol Rovers would see Oxford claim third place on goal difference. Even if Saturday isn’t their day, Bristol Rovers have all the signs of a club going places, they were taken over by Jordanian Billionaire Wael Al-Qadi this season and already the club are set to announce plans to build a new stadium. Also, the club could be about to achieve back-to-back promotions as this is their first season back in League Two after their relegation in 2014.
Their stand-out player of this season has been Matty Taylor, he was nominated for the League Two Player of the Year Award after scoring 27 goals, a league high, in his first ever season in the Football League. Rovers will hope that he continues this form on Saturday as they host Dagenham and Redbridge in a must-win fixture. Dagenham have really stepped up their performances since being relegated a few weeks ago, they have won their last two after playing Plymouth off the park in the first half and racing into a 3-0 lead before winning 3-2 and beating Crawley 3-0 at home. It’s clear then, that Dagenham aren’t leaving with a whimper and will be looking to put on a show in their final Football League appearance for at least a season but Bristol Rovers will back themselves to win and then all that will be left to do is hope for a favour from either Stevenage or Wycombe.
It’s going to be a really intriguing day of League Two football on Saturday, Accrington and Oxford will go in as favourites but as this season has shown, that means nothing. For me, I can see Accrington beating Stevenage and Bristol Rovers pipping Oxford to third place due to Oxford’s tough looking match against Wycombe. We will have to wait and see but if this season has taught us anything, expect drama.