It’s certainly been an eventful three-game week in League Two on-and-off the pitch. Managerial departures, promotion contenders facing off, and unbeaten streaks ending is just a sample of a frantic week. Let’s have a look at the key talking points from a doubleheader special.
Managerless Cambridge end Colchester’s 17-game unbeaten streak
Cambridge United sacked manager Colin Calderwood following a 4-0 defeat at home to Salford City on Tuesday night. Consecutive home 4-0 losses signalled the end of Calderwood’s 13-month reign which saw him help Cambridge avoid relegation. Assistant coach Mark Bonner was placed in temporary charge for the visit of Colchester United, and the game would be decided by a dramatic comeback.
The first half at the Abbey Stadium saw chances at a premium for both sides. Cambridge had the only chance of note in the final few minutes as Idris El Mizouni’s strike went off-target.
The excitement levels grew as the game progressed, with Luke Norris breaking the deadlock for the visitors on 67 minutes. Just as Colchester were set to extend their long unbeaten run, that all changed in 60 seconds. Andrew Dallas equalised on 85 minutes before Harvey Knibbs completed the comeback less than a minute later to give Cambridge a much-needed win.
Cambridge’s first win of 2020 ends a run of six games without a win and moves them up to 16th in the table. Colchester remain in the playoffs despite the end of their 17-game unbeaten run stretching back to October.
Colchester’s next game sees them host in-form Plymouth Argyle while Cambridge visit mid-table Newport County.
Hurst leaves Scunthorpe after eight months in charge
Scunthorpe were another club to make a managerial change as they parted company with Paul Hurst after eight months in charge. The 45-year-old was tasked with an immediate return to League One but only won 12 of his 38 games in charge in all competitions.
Hurst’s last game was a convincing 3-0 loss away to Northampton Town on Tuesday night. The Cobblers took the lead inside seven minutes courtesy of Vadaine Oliver’s header before Scunthorpe’s Kevin van Veen was sent off against his former club. Two goals in eight second-half minutes from Oliver and a Sam Hoskins penalty effectively ended Hurst’s tenure.
Russ Wilcox was placed in temporary charge for the visit of Crawley Town, but they would fall to another defeat. Jordan Tunnicliffe headed his first goal for Crawley inside six minutes with Reece Grego-Cox and Ollie Palmer completing the scoring for the hosts before half-time. The visitors scored a consolation on 57 minutes after Van Veen, who managed to get his red card rescinded, converted from the penalty spot.
The Iron have slipped to 19th having picked up just two points since their last victory against Oldham Athletic on New Year’s Day.
Scunthorpe will be hoping to have a new man at the helm by the time they face promotion-chasing Cheltenham Town at Glanford Park.
Grecians drop out of top three after consecutive defeats
Exeter City were in second place and two points behind leaders Swindon Town after a goalless draw against Colchester United last week. Fast forward seven days and the Grecians have suffered consecutive defeats – including one against the Robins, and are now out of the automatic promotion places.
The Grecians took the lead away at Port Vale courtesy of Nicky Ajose’s close-range header midway through the first half. Vale turned the game around with Scott Bennett’s early second-half penalty and Leon Legge firing the hosts ahead. Bennett added a third on 70 minutes to end Exeter’s 11-game unbeaten run.
Three days later and the big game of the weekend saw Exeter visit the league leaders. All the goals came in the first half with Eoin Doyle marking his permanent return to the Robins with his 24th goal of the season. Exeter wing-back Randell Williams capitalised on a defensive error to equalise before Hallam Hope scored the winning goal in first-half stoppage time.
Exeter claimed just one point in a week that they’d like to quickly forget. As a result, the Grecians have now slipped to fourth with the gap to Swindon extended to five points.
Exeter will want to bounce back into the automatic promotion places when they host Stevenage, the team they beat 3-0 in the EFL Trophy two weeks ago.
Crewe & Plymouth extend unbeaten runs to occupy promotion places
Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle capitalised on Exeter’s defeats by picking up results which saw them move ahead of the Grecians in the automatic promotion places.
After a disappointing draw at Scunthorpe, the Alex bounced back to form with hard-fought wins against Leyton Orient and Walsall. Goals from Daniel Powell and Charlie Kirk sealed a routine victory at home to Orient in midweek. The Alex were made to work hard away at Walsall as Powell and Oli Finney completed a second-half comeback in a 2-1 win.
Argyle had to settle for a point against Crawley Town, as Ollie Palmer’s late equaliser earned the visitors a deserved 2-2 draw. Tyreeq Bakinson’s early goal was enough to earn Argyle a 1-0 win at home to Newport County on Saturday. The Pilgrims had to hang on after captain Gary Sawyer was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge.
Crewe jump up to second after a run of three wins and two draws in their last five games. Similarly, Argyle are in fine form, with five wins and a draw in their last six games moving them above their Devon rivals on goal difference.
Plymouth face a tough trip to sixth place Colchester United while Crewe host Oldham Athletic. Both teams will be hoping for Swindon to slip up away at struggling Carlisle United.
Stevenage cast adrift at foot of the table after heavy defeats
When Stevenage trashed Cambridge United 4-0 at the Abbey Stadium three weeks ago, many thought this was a change in form. However, they’ve gone in the opposite direction and find themselves adrift at the bottom of League Two.
Stevenage fell to a 3-1 defeat away at Grimsby Town, their first home win under new boss Ian Holloway. Ben Nugent’s first-half own goal and second-half strikes from Billy Clarke and Charles Vernam sealed the win for Grimsby. Charlie Lakin scored a consolation in added time to reduce the deficit for the struggling visitors.
Fortunes didn’t improve at home to Leyton Orient as they once again conceded three goals, however this time without reply. 19-year-old striker Roul Sotiriou fired the ball across Paul Farman’s goal to open the scoring after 19 minutes. Ousseynou Cisse doubled Orient’s lead on 59 minutes before Sotiriou added his second three minutes later to move the visitors up to 18th place.
A third consecutive defeat leaves Stevenage four points behind Morecambe in the race to avoid the only relegation place.
Stevenage face a long trip down to Devon when they visit Exeter City. In addition, Boro fans will be hoping for Morecambe to drop points against Mansfield Town.
Matchday 30 results:
Bradford City 1-1 Cheltenham Town
Cambridge United 0-4 Salford City
Colchester United 3-1 Swindon Town
Crewe Alexandra 2-0 Leyton Orient
Forest Green Rovers 1-4 Carlisle United
Grimsby Town 3-1 Stevenage
Newport County 1-0 Macclesfield Town
Northampton Town 3-0 Scunthorpe United
Oldham Athletic 3-1 Mansfield Town
Plymouth Argyle 2-2 Crawley Town
Port Vale 3-1 Exeter City
Walsall 0-2 Morecambe
Matchday 31 results:
Cambridge United 2-1 Colchester United
Cheltenham Town 2-1 Morecambe
Crawley Town 3-1 Scunthorpe United
Grimsby Town 2-2 Forest Green Rovers
Macclesfield Town 0-1 Northampton Town
Mansfield Town 2-2 Carlisle United
Oldham Athletic 3-0 Bradford City
Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Newport County
Port Vale 1-1 Salford City
Stevenage 0-3 Leyton Orient
Swindon Town 2-1 Exeter City
Walsall 1-2 Crewe Alexandra