Four of the top five teams were in midweek action with mixed results. Victories for Swindon Town and Plymouth Argyle, as well as Exeter City and Crewe Alexandra holding each other to a 1-1 draw, meant that the promotion race was still too close to call. There were more twists in the promotion battle this weekend, as well as a feisty local derby – so let’s have a look at the key talking points.
Swindon surrender top spot after rare home defeat
Swindon Town were looking to cement their place at the top of League Two when they hosted out-of-form Forest Green Rovers. However, Rovers would pull off a surprising 2-0 victory, which in turn saw the Robins replaced as league leaders.
The visitors silenced the County Ground inside five minutes when Elliott Frear’s cross was slotted home by Matty Stevens. Swindon striker Jerry Yates thought he equalised three minutes before the interval only for his shot to be cleared off the line. Keshi Anderson’s long-range effort in added time crashed off the crossbar in a frustrating first-half for the Robins.
Forest Green doubled their advantage five minutes after the interval. Midfielder Ebou Adams rose highest to power his header past a helpless Steven Benda. Rovers defended resolutely for the remainder of the game, restricting Swindon to few chances as they held on for just their second win in 2020.
Swindon relinquish their grip on top spot following their first defeat at home since September. However, they have a game in hand on their promotion rivals as the season reaches its exciting conclusion. Rovers stay 11th after their first win in nine league games.
The Robins’ next two games are away from home against Oldham Athletic and Stevenage. Rovers are yet to win at home in 2020 but have two games in three days to rectify that statistic when they host Northampton Town and Morecambe.
Crewe capitalise on Robins’ defeat to become new leaders on goal difference
Swindon’s loss gave Crewe another opportunity to replace the Robins at the League Two summit. The Railwaymen entertained bottom of the table Stevenage, and they made sure to not let another chance pass them by.
The visitors had to thank goalkeeper Paul Farman for an early double save from Callum Ainley and Daniel Powell. However, Farman was soon picking the ball out of his net on 15 minutes courtesy of Chris Porter’s downward header. Crewe should’ve been further ahead in a dominant first-half display, but Daniel Powell’s strike hit the side-netting.
Farman was unfortunately to blame for Crewe’s second on 63 minutes after he fumbled Charlie Kirk’s low strike behind him. Four minutes later, Ryan Wintle’s strike took a heavy deflection and clipped the inside of the crossbar before landing in the back of Farman’s net to emphasise Crewe’s domination. Charlie Carter grabbed a late consolation for Stevenage on another forgettable day for the leagues bottom side.
Crewe’s eighth consecutive home league victory moves them above Swindon at the top of League Two on goal difference. A ninth straight league defeat leaves Stevenage eight points from safety with relegation growing closer with each game.
The Railwaymen have away trips to teams at opposite ends of the table against Mansfield Town and Colchester United. Every game is a must-win for Stevenage, but they have two tough home games against Newport County and former leaders Swindon.
Consecutive home victories move Plymouth to within a point of leaders
Plymouth Argyle moved back into the automatic promotion places on Tuesday after a 3-0 victory at home to Grimsby Town. The Pilgrims would replicate the same score against Macclesfield Town on Saturday to stay within touching distance of the leaders.
Striker Joe Ironside almost gave the visitors a shock lead with his header narrowly landing past the far post. Argyle took the lead on 33 minutes courtesy of Ryan Hardie’s deft lob over an onrushing Jonathan Mitchell into an empty net.
George Cooper went on to score a second-half brace in a routine victory for the Pilgrims. Cooper’s first came on 62 minutes as he fired the ball into the roof of the net after being played through by Danny Mayor. The 23-year-old, on loan from Peterborough United, saved his best for last on 77 minutes with a curling right-footed strike from outside the box.
The most important statistic for third-place Plymouth is the three-point gap ahead of Devon rivals Exeter City. The Silkmen remain second from bottom and eight points clear of Stevenage.
The Pilgrims have away trips against Morecambe and Leyton Orient, two teams at the wrong end of the league table. Macclesfield could still impact the promotion race as they host fifth-place Cheltenham Town following the visit of Walsall.
Controversial defeat at Walsall sees Grecians lose ground on top three
Exeter City slipped to fourth in midweek after a 1-1 draw at home to promotion rivals Crewe Alexandra. The Grecians had hoped to end a frustrating week with a win at Walsall, however, they suffered a damaging defeat in controversial circumstances.
Exeter goalkeeper Lewis Ward parried Josh Gordon’s cross out to Rory Holden who fired home to give Walsall a third-minute lead. Caolan Lavery was presented with the perfect opportunity to extend their lead, only to fire his close-range effort over the crossbar.
The Grecians equalised on 51 minutes as Ryan Bowman headed in his 14th goal of the season from close-range. The controversial moment came on 63 minutes when Bowman thought he completed the turnaround, only for referee Tom Nield to change his mind and rule it out for offside. That moment seemed to motivate Walsall, particularly Elijah Adebayo, as a late brace from the substitute sealed a 3-1 victory.
A third game without a win sees the Grecians slip three points behind Plymouth Argyle, with Cheltenham Town only a point behind having played a game less. Walsall move up a place to 14th after extending their unbeaten run to five games.
Exeter return to St James’ Park, where they’ve only lost once all season, as they host Salford City and Scunthorpe United. The Saddlers face teams dealing with financial troubles as they travel to Macclesfield Town before hosting Oldham Athletic.
Mariners earn local bragging rights at Scunthorpe for first time in 30 years
Grimsby Town are looking to next season under Ian Holloway, as they look for a respectable mid-table finish. However, that didn’t stop the Mariners from savouring their first victory over rivals Scunthorpe United since 1990.
Despite not having much to play for, that didn’t stop the high energy being played out throughout the game. The defences were on top in the first-half with Grimsby’s Billy Clarke providing the only shot on target for either team. The second-half would showcase the good and bad aspects of a local derby.
The visitors broke the deadlock on 52 minutes after Charles Vernam met Elliott Hewitt’s cross with a powerful header. Less than 10 minutes later the victory was sealed courtesy of another header, this time from defender Luke Waterfall. The game ended on a sour note as Scunthorpe’s Levi Sutton was dismissed for a lunge on Elliott Whitehouse, less than four minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Grimsby move up to 13th but a playoff push is highly unlikely with the gap at 11 points. The Iron slip to 19th and will be wanting to put this season behind them.
The Mariners host Carlisle United and Cambridge United in their next two games. Scunthorpe have tough away games against Colchester United followed by Exeter City three days later.
Matchday 37 results:
Scunthorpe United 0-2 Grimsby Town (1 pm)
Carlisle United 0-3 Colchester United
Cheltenham Town 0-0 Port Vale
Crawley Town 3-0 Oldham Athletic
Crewe Alexandra 3-1 Stevenage
Leyton Orient 2-1 Cambridge United
Newport County 1-0 Morecambe
Northampton Town 1-2 Mansfield Town
Plymouth Argyle 3-0 Macclesfield Town
Salford City 2-0 Bradford City
Swindon Town 0-2 Forest Green Rovers
Walsall 3-1 Exeter City