League Two Review – Week 17

The top nine clubs are separated by just nine points as Sky Bet League Two’s 2020/21 campaign enters its final third.

Wins for four of the top seven saw a shuffling of the playoff positions with Bolton Wanderers replacing Exeter City at the bottom of the pile.

League leaders Cambridge United bounced back from their midweek defeat to Cheltenham Town as they edged a win on the road against Port Vale. Top scorer Paul Mullin drew a blank for the seventh time this year as his side looked to a late winner from midfielder Liam O’Neil to retain their spot at the summit.

Vale are without a win in four and their poor form has sent them slipping towards the bottom of the league. The Valiants sit 20th, but, having played up to two matches more than those around them, their eight-point clearance to the drop zone is beginning to look precarious.

Second-placed Forest Green Rovers kept within a point of the U’s with a 3-0 victory over Colchester United. Having been denied a move to the top in their Wednesday-night loss to relegation-threatened Southend United, Mark Cooper’s side made amends on Saturday with a relentless showing.

Jamille Matt bagged twice in six minutes in the first half, bringing his tally up to 14 for the season. The Green were reduced to 10 men on the brink of halftime but were not troubled by the disadvantage as they scored a third just beyond the hour mark. Welsh goalkeeper Lewis Thomas did not face a single shot on his goal.

Southend rounded off an excellent week with a goalless draw with promotion-chasing Salford City. The Shrimpers saw a significantly small proportion of possession but earned a crucial point as ex-Torquay United goalkeeper Alex Bass made a stellar debut between the sticks. Once lodged firmly at the foot of the table, a relatively-decent run of form since the turn of the year has pushed the Essex side up to 22nd.

After recording their first win since December on Tuesday, Grimsby Town slumped back into their torrid form with a 1-0 loss to Harrogate Town. Eight minutes after his introduction, substitute Mark Beck netted the only goal of the game to hand the Mariners their sixth loss from eight matches in 2021. Paul Hurst’s side have recorded just three wins away from home this season.

February saw a total of four managers part ways with their respective clubs in the division, the latest of which, Ross Embleton, was sacked from Leyton Orient after a 3-1 loss to Tranmere Rovers. Embleton had taken Orient to 14th; eight points shy of the playoff spots. Reading and Orient legend Jobi McAnuff has taken interim charge.

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