League Two: Weekly Round Up 26/08

Story by Aaron Bliss

After a manic opening week in League Two, Oxford United and Gillingham proudly look down on the rest of the division, having been the only sides to maintain 100% winning records, while the usual suspects: Barnet, Plymouth, Dagenham and Redbridge, and Southend are down among the dead men at this early stage.


After a very promising season opening, in which Stanley had won both games without conceding a goal, they were brought crashing back down to earth with an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home to Exeter. Alan Gow led the Exeter charge with two excellent goals, in between which Stanley saw an effort cleared off the line. Guillem Bauza saw a late penalty saved, before making it 3-0 with a close-range finish. With the Grecians dominating possession and chances, not even the most ardent Stanley fan could argue against the resounding scoreline, while Exeter have responded to their opening day defeat with back-to-back away victories.


Dean Holdsworth’s Shots failed to recover from their midweek loss against Exeter with another home defeat, though they will feel aggrieved to have seen this game slip away from them. After an electrical storm briefly stopped the match, Aldershot set about their task, and dominated possession throughout. Cheltenham seemed to be relying on a breakaway or set-piece, and that chance came in the 73rd minute, with on-loan striker Shaun Harrad nodding in a Billy Jones corner to complete a classic smash-and-grab.


Newcomers York City followed up an excellent midweek draw with Morecambe with a composed away win over struggling Barnet. The scoring started and finished in the first half, with Daniel Parslow and Ashley Chambers putting the Minstermen in control, before Jon Nurse briefly made a game of it. Michael Coulson fired in on the stroke of the break, and that was that. York are gaining a foothold in their new division, while on their displays so far it is difficult to see Barnet surviving.


AFC Wimbledon have endured the week from Hell in League Two, being soundly walloped for the second away game in succession, having come into this match on the back of a 6-2 demolition at Burton Albion. Unsurprisingly, the Wombles have the worst goal difference in the league, but their opening day win sees them clear for now. The game started as it meant to go on, with a goal inside 3 minutes for Bradford, from Nahki Wells. Curtis Haynes-Brown then sliced the ball into his own net ten minutes later, to send the travelling fans into despair. An astounding 40-yard free-kick from Andrew Davies compounded matters, and despite a response before half-time from Wimbledon’s Byron Harrison, the Bantams went on to add two more goals before the break, from Rory McArdle and James Hanson. Incredibly, the two teams proceeded to then play out a goalless second half!


A Dean Howell free-kick just after half-time; the club’s first in the Football League, was enough to ensure Fleetwood’s decent start to Football League life continued. Their games thus far have been tight affairs, with just two goals in total for their three matches, but manager Micky Mellon will not mind at all. Burton meanwhile, will have perhaps rued the fact they couldn’t have saved any of their six goals in midweek for this fixture!


Chesterfield, despite being the home side, will be far more pleased with this derby draw than promotion-chasing Rotherham, who will have been bursting to recover from their midweek defeat to Northampton. New signing Kayode Odejayi scored his second for the club to equalise, after Millers’ goalkeeper Scott Shearer had slipped and allowed Chesterfield’s Drew Talbott to cross for Jordan Bowery to open the scoring after just three minutes. Despite hoarding possession, Rotherham could not find the winner, and will be hoping for a more clinical edge if they are to be more than just nearly men this season.


The Gills followed their narrow midweek victory at Wycombe with another narrow away victory, this time at Victoria Road. Ex-Premier League veteran Deon Burton popped up to head home a cross on the half hour, though the Daggers equalised just four minutes later from the penalty spot. Dwight Gayle was brought down by Gills’ goalkeeper Stuart Nelson, but got up to drill the ball in. With well over thirty combined efforts on goal, it was a hard-fought game, but Martin Allen’s side stole the points just after the hour, with Myles Weston finishing smartly after a nice dribble, to leave Gillingham tucked in behind Oxford on goal difference only.


Morecambe have declined somewhat since their opening day dismantling of Exeter City, having only drawn against newly-promoted York, and now lost to a Port Vale side most expect to struggle with their financial difficulties. That said, Micky Adams is a canny operator, and masterminded an ideal strategy, with Vale scoring in the first minute, through Sam Morsy, and adding the decisive two goals in the last minute. The equaliser from Kevin Ellison was nothing if not deserved, but Morecambe failed to take the initiative, and were heavily punished after late strikes from John McCombe and Tom Pope.


A barnstorming clash at Sixfields saw the ground live up to its name, as the sides shared six goals. Bizarrely, this match followed the trend of a lot of other League Two clashes this weekend, in that all the goals were scored in the same half. This time: the second period. Southend took the lead on 57 minutes, through Britt Assombalonga, but this was cancelled out by the familiar figure of Adebayo Akinfenwa. The Shrimpers retook the lead via Kane Ferdinand with just twelve minutes left, but Northampton brought the crowd to its feet with a stunning resurgence. David Artell made the most of a Cameron Belford error to square it, and Ady Boothroyd’s men stole the lead with less than five minutes left on the clock, through an Alex Nicholls header. The Cobblers looked like a shoe-in for the three points, but Southend mounted a last gasp resistance, culminating in Ryan Cresswell lashing the ball home on the stroke of the whistle.


Oxford continued their surge to the apex of League Two by dispatching a struggling Argyle side who have gleaned just a solitary point from their three games thus far. Striker Deane Smalley, who started his Oxford career particularly slowly, netted a brace to see off the Pilgrims, who replied through a Robbie Williams free-kick, and almost levelled the scores late on. Oxford currently sit top of the pile, having beaten Southend 2-0 in the week, and U’s fans are dreaming of a season to remember, whilst Plymouth fans just want to wake up from the nightmare of the last four seasons.


Devon’s finest continued their unbeaten start with an excellent win over relegated Rochdale, who have made an inconspicuous start to their season. The Gulls actually fell behind early on to Andrew Tutte’s strike, but blitzed Dale with a four goal salvo. Billy Bodin finished a great passing move, before Aaron Downes and a double from Rene Howe, the second a lovely chip, finished the game, though a Torquay red card for goalscorer Downes, and a late Ray Putterill goal reducing the arrears, made it somewhat uncomfortable viewing at the end for Gulls fans.

The Wycombe-Bristol Rovers match was abandoned after 63 minutes, following torrential rain and an electrical storm. Rovers will feel particularly hard done by, having coasted into a 3-1 lead at the time, but this match will have to be rearranged at some later date. Both teams were eager to make up for a poor midweek, after Wycombe lost to joint pacesetters Gillingham, and Rovers could only draw with rock-bottom Barnet.


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