League Two review: Wycombe sink Bury
The race to join Bury and Chesterfield in League One next season is going right to the wire, writes Danny Brothers. Either Wycombe Wanderers or Shrewsbury Town will finish third with the other facing the lottery of the playoffs. For Wanderers, after a morale boosting win over Bury on the Shakers’ own ground, it is in their hands and they will be hot favourites to seal the deal with a win over Southend in the final game of the season next week.
The Chairboys have had to wrestle back the automatic promotion place after four draws had given Shrewsbury a route back in. Victory over Crewe going into this toughest of tests placed that crucial third spot back in Wycombe’s possession. The Shrews would have been praying that Bury could have continued a sequence of six straight wins that had put them in the title picture, particularly after leaders Chesterfield handed them a chance to top the table by drawing Friday night’s big game 0-0 at Torquay.
Bury would have taken top spot on goal difference with a win but it was the visitors that fought their way to within three points of League One with a stirring performance that could prove to be the pivotal result that propels them up.
Ryan Lowe had Bury dreaming of top spot on ten minutes as he converted from the spot and it appeared to be business as usual for the home side, whose Gigg Lane ground has become something of a fortress in recent weeks. Their last three encounters on home turf have been against sides battling the drop though and Wanderers were proving to be much tougher opposition to conquer.
When Stewart Lewis crossed for the evergreen Gareth Ainsworth to head home at the back post, you sensed that the tide was turning. With the game finely poised at the break, Wycombe needed to push on with Shrewsbury in front at Cheltenham thanks to Mark Wright’s early goal.
That they did was mainly down to the poaching efforts of Ben Strevens. The former Brentford man got on the end of a Scott Rendell flick to turn the game completely on its head. Strevens then tapped in from close range two minutes from time to keep his side holding on to that coveted spot behind their beaten opponents. Bury must now hope for a Chesterfield defeat at home to Gillingham on the last day combined with a win for themselves at Stevenage if they are to steal the title away.
Shrewsbury held on to that victory at Cheltenham with Wes Thomas coming closest for the home side by scraping the cross bar and remain hot on Wycombe’s tails.
The playoff race is another hotting up with Accrington Stanley the only side guaranteed to be playing in the end of season lottery after they put a massive dent into Barnet’s survival hopes by winning 3-1 at the Crown Ground to make it twelve games unbeaten at home. Jimmy Ryan was the hero with a hat-trick to sink the Bees and clinch fifth spot no matter what happens in the final round of games.
There were damaging defeats for two sides behind them with Stevenage falling victim to two goals and two red cards at Sixfields as Northampton recorded their first win in nineteen games. The Cobblers guaranteed their safety and left Stevenage with a nervy finish to the campaign.
Torquay’s draw on Friday was good news for Gillingham but they couldn’t take advantage, falling to the surprise result of the day – a 4-2 home defeat to Macclesfield Town. Colin Daniel scored a brace to stun the Gills and they, along with Stevenage and Torquay are all left with 68 points going into next weekend. It’s two teams from those three to join the playoffs with Torquay at Rotherham, Gillingham at Chesterfield and Stevenage at home to Bury.
Port Vale can still nip in if there is an incredible round of results and they will have to match Saturday’s 7-2 win over Morecambe at least if they are to get back in the running on goal difference – the only way that they can gate crash the top seven.
At the bottom it’s farewell, after a good fight, to Stockport County who lose their league place after 106 years. The final nail in their coffin was hammered in by Crewe. An own goal from Alan Goodall and a fine finish from leading scorer Clayton Donaldson sent the Hatters into non-league.
So just one place left to join them and Barnet’s defeat means that the only team that they can catch is Lincoln, who led at Oxford until Asa Hall levelled things. A late Tom Craddock goal means that the Imps must beat Aldershot to guarantee their safety.
Hereford join Northampton in being safe for another season after a hard fought 1-1 draw with Bradford at Edgar Street. Stuart Fleetwood scored with just a couple of minutes remaining to equalise Jake Speight’s goal for the Bantams and complete a memorable turn around by former physio Jamie Pitman after he took over as manager towards the end of 2010.
Elsewhere, Burton claimed another good point against Southend at Roots Hall as Scott Malone’s goal guaranteed their survival and there was a cracker at the EBB Stadium as Adam Le Fondre’s double helped Rotherham come from two down to earn a point against Aldershot. The draw wasn’t enough for Andy Scott’s men though and they miss out on the playoffs following a poor second half of the season.
So plenty to play for in the final game and the final weekend of a dramatic season in League Two. Third place, the playoffs and that one remaining spot in the Conference will be confirmed in under a week and there promises to be tension, drama and heartache as the season reaches its climax.