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Clear as mud!
Clear as mud!

League Two Run-In

By: Richard Lord
Date: 28/04/2006

AS we approach the penultimate weekend of the 2005/6 season, every team is still playing for something in League 2 - a contrast to that of the Championship, where everything was sorted out during the Easter weekend.

Chester - in 14th place and with 54 points - are still not mathematically safe, and Boston - the team immediately above them in the table - have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, as they stand five points behind 7th-placed Lincoln with six points up for grabs.

And, of course, there are still two automatic promotion spots available with three teams competing for them.

However, despite mathematics, there are several things that can be assumed. I’d be very surprised if any teams from Rochdale (17th) or above get relegated to the Conference because there are teams between ‘Dale and the drop zone that have to play each other - and both can’t pick up three points.

But three points is all that separates Bury, Notts County, Macclesfield, Barnet, Stockport, Oxford and Torquay, and bottom club Rushden are a further three points adrift. Barry Hunter’s side must win their last two games and hope that others slip up in order for Diamonds to survive.

Again, although Boston, Wrexham and Shrewsbury can mathematically achieve a top seven finish, it is very unlikely. There is also an outside chance that Cheltenham can slip out of the play-offs, although they’d need to lose their final two games and both Lincoln and Peterborough would have to win theirs. Bristol Rovers and Darlington are the outsiders.

As we all know, Grimsby travel to Macclesfield - who definitely need a few more points to make certain of their safety - and Leyton Orient host Peterborough.

This Saturday’s fixtures:

Barnet v Stockport
Boston v Rushden
Bury v Mansfield
Carlisle v Torquay
Cheltenham v Notts County
Leyton Orient v Peterborough
Macclesfield v Grimsby
Northampton v Chester
Rochdale v Bristol Rovers
Shrewsbury v Lincoln
Wrexham v Oxford
Wycombe v Darlington

Coverage of the relegation battle is very relevant to the Mariners’ cause because there are teams that can influence the outcome of the promotion race. You would expect Northampton to beat Chester at the Sixfields Stadium, but Orient face a stern test at home to the Posh.

Despite last weekend’s off-the-field events at London Road, Peterborough showed grit and determination to come back from 2-1 down to win 3-2 against Macclesfield. Lincoln travel to Shrewsbury, who boast a very good home record. Therefore Barry Fry will be expecting his side to pick up three points at Brisbane Road.

At the bottom it’s too close to call. I would suggest that Rushden have left it too late to preserve their tenure in the Football League, whereas Torquay are the form team, having won three games on the trot. That leaves Oxford, Stockport, Barnet and Macclesfield looking over their shoulders, and I’d guess that it’ll be one of those four teams who will join Rushden in the Conference next season.

Whatever the results on Saturday, nothing will be guaranteed as far as the relegation battle is concerned. The only thing that can occur is that Rushden could get relegated, but it’s certain that at least one relegation place will have to be decided on the last day of the season. The winners of the Barnet v Stockport match will more or less see them safe.

Therefore Oxford have it all to play for. If they don’t get a result at Wrexham it’ll leave them having to win on the last day of the season - when they entertain Leyton Orient.

Although there is undoubtedly a lack of quality in League 2, the overall race for safety and promotion is much more interesting than the top two divisions.

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