Thursday, 8 November 2018

League 2: October Review


League 2 once again produced another excellent month of football, quality goals, exciting games and the 3rd sacking of the season as Mark Yates paid the price for Macclesfield’s woeful start to the season. Lincoln continue to lead the way with the MK Dons hot on their heels and Exeter making up the top 3. However, Macclesfield continue to prop up the table and are now joined in the bottom 2 by Cheltenham who are winless in the league under new boss Michael Duff.

Lincoln continue to lead the way despite their worst month in terms of results winning twice and losing twice. Danny Cowley’s side are continuing to charge towards promotion with battling performances and solid victories. However, their overall disappointing month of results has allowed the MK Dons charge into 2nd place staying unbeaten throughout October winning 5 of their 6 games with their most recent draw at Mansfield stopping their winning streak. The Dons have stormed up the table with Paul Tisdale finally getting the best out of his team including Chuks Aneke who is firmly enjoying his season right now striking 7 goals, playing with confident and some excellent individual performances. While Cardiff loanne Rhys Healy is excelling up top notching 5 gaols. Paul Tisdale is finally getting a tune out of the Dons after a slow start and momentum is building very nicely and a team with confidence and momentum is difficult to stop. No doubt Tisdale will want the feel-good factor to continue throughout November. Exeter make up the top 3 with managerial novice Matt Taylor making things look easy. Exeter have 29 points from their 16 games this season and Jayden Stockley continues to deliver up front. Exeter lost just once in October that coming in their most recent game against Forest Green. Despite that disappointing defeat, Exeter are looking strong and automatic promotion remains high on their agenda. The play-off places are made up by Colchester, Tranmere, Newport and Forest Green. John McGreal and Colchester enjoyed an excellent October winning 4 of their 6 games including a win over Lincoln. The goals of Sammie Szmodics, Frank Nouble and Luke Norris are leading Colchester’s promotion charge while efficient defending means the cheap goals in games last season are proving a thing of the past. Tranmere are enjoying their return to the football league flying high in the top 7 and proving a difficult side to beat. Like Colchester, Tranmere won 4 of their 6 games including a win over leaders Lincoln. James Norwood has been in magnificent form and is the league’s top scorer notching 12 league goals. Just one defeat for Tranmere in October and that was against promotion rivals Forest Green. Micky Mellon continues to do an excellent job at Tranmere and they certainly believe back to back promotions are within their grasp. Newport’s bubble may have burst slightly with Micky Flynn’s side winning just once in October but interestingly lost just 1 of their 6 games. Too many draws have seen the Exiles drop off the pace and Flynn will be determined to get Newport going again to keep their unlikely promotion charge alive. Forest Green are firmly enjoying their season and going into October were yet to taste defeat in the league however, a trip to a rejuvenated Northampton saw their unbeaten run end with a dramatic 95th minute winner for the Cobblers. Despite that, Forest Green won 3 of their other 5 games and deservedly so sit in the top 7. Losing Christian Doidge to Bolton doesn’t seem to have fazed them with goals being spread across the whole team and that can only be a positive. The New Lawn faithful believe they can potentially challenge for promotion and their early season form suggests it is very much within their reach.  

Other sides who enjoyed October included Northampton, Grimsby and Mansfield. The Cobblers of Northampton are very much rejuvenated under new manager Keith Curle. The Cobblers have won 3 of their last 4 games and overall lost just 1 of their 6 games during October. Keith Curle has firmly installed confidence, belief and more importantly goals into a team which was severely dry in attacking areas. While 18 points from their 16 matches is disappointing overall, there is no denying Northampton have turned a corner under Keith Curle and their season have firmly started now. Mansfield meanwhile are slowly coming together themselves, but their issue is far too many draws. The Stags have drawn 10 of their 16 league games and clearly finishing teams off is proving an issue for them. Despite this, an unbeaten October and just 1 league defeat overall means Mansfield are going very well and are on the cusp of the play-off places. David Flitcroft will be pleased with his sides good league record but knows they must start turning the screw and being more ruthless in front of goal. Flitcroft will hope November will be their month to charge towards the top 3. Meanwhile regular strugglers Grimsby enjoyed a good October after starting the month in the bottom 2. However, 3 wins and a draw from their 5 games has seen the Mariners climb out of the bottom 2 and open a nice cushion from Cheltenham in 23rd. Michael Jolley’s men have been determined, taken their chances and showed the necessary desire to see out games without being spectacular. Summer signing Wes Thomas notched crucial goals in their wins during October and Jolley will be hoping to see more of that from him as the season progresses. While they ended October with defeat, Grimsby will hope to carry that positive momentum built into November.

In contrast, times are proving extremely tough for Macclesfield with the basement side struggling for goals and confidence. Mark Yates paid the price for the Silkmen’s woeful start to the season and club legend Danny Whitaker has been put in caretaker charge until at least the New Year if rumours are to be believed. Whitaker did oversee their first league win of the season against Carlisle but thunderous defeats against Northampton, Cambridge and Bury have followed. Moral, confidence and ability are very low at the club and the pressure is on Whitaker to turn them around and fast. They lie 6 points off safety and have lost 11 of their 16 league games this season. The managerial situation needs addressing and fast. They need to sort out their defence with set pieces proving an issue for them. While goals are severely dry, and they must find a consistent goal scorer with caretaker boss Danny Whitaker being joint top scorer with 2 goals. Macclesfield must find a consistent winning run in November otherwise relegation will become inevitable. Times are also proving tough for the other team in the relegation zone Cheltenham. Michael Duff is yet to win in his 8 league games and the pressure is beginning to mount on him.  The fans are frustrated while players look low on confidence and seem to be struggling to adapt to Duff’s ideas. A poultry 2 points were picked up in October and things must improve and fast. Their last win came while Russell Milton was in caretaker charge. Duff will be hope that first win arrives soon as it could be the catalyst to ignite their season and pull away from the relegation zone.

Others who endured difficult Octobers included Morecambe, Notts County and Oldham. Jim Bentley and Morecambe endured a difficult month winning just 1 of their 6 matches while losing 3 of them. While the Shrimpers remain comfortably clear of the relegation zone for now, Jim Bentley will demand improvement and his future has been questioned more than once by fans this season and if things don’t improve, a change could be made. The longest serving manager in the English football league is feeling the pressure and no doubt results must improve. It seems things aren’t working for Harry Kewell and Notts County with the magpies rooted to 22nd place and while October started brightly with back to back wins, they have lost 3 on the spin and Kewell is struggling to get them going again. Cheap goals are costing County with Kewell’s men struggling to keep a clean sheet. Early promotion favourites saw expectations at the club sore. The players have failed to live up to the hype and things must improve to have any chance of mounting a charge towards the play-offs at best. Times are proving difficult for Frankie Bunn and Oldham. Off field issues including player strikes and late payments have transferred onto the pitch with the Lactics winning just 1 of their 5 matches and losing 3 of them. Oldham had a solid September and were sitting in the play-off places at the end of the month, but a miserable run has seen them fall into the bottom half of the table. Bunn will be feeling the pressure and things must improve in November. Bunn will want the Lactics to capture their early season form which saw them lose just 2 of their opening 10 matches. A positive for them is the form of Ishmael Miller who is beginning to find goals after a slow start to the season notching 3 goals as leading scorer Sam Surridge suffers a dip in form.  Bunn will hope November is the month where Oldham can charge towards the play-offs once again.

October was brilliant, and no doubt November will be the same with some mouth-watering games to come including Lincoln vs Forest Green, Tranmere vs Exeter, Exeter vs Northampton, Notts County vs Cheltenham, Lincoln vs Mansfield, Stevenage vs MK Dons, Tranmere vs Oldham and Forest Green vs Colchester. These are just a handful of matches taking place during November as there are plenty more. October offered an insight into the direction of clubs’ seasons and November will continue to add to that as the football comes thick and fast with plenty of football to be played. Could the managerial axe fall for a 4th time in League 2 with November bring the prime sacking month of the football league? Only points and form will give us an indication. League 2 is getting very interesting at both ends of table and the unpredictability factor will no doubt going into November.

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