Tuesday, 11 December 2018

League 2: November Review


League 2 once again delivered in November with some excellent football, cracking goals and more managers facing the axe. Two managers were sacked during November while Macclesfield finally appointed a successor to Mark Yates who departed back in October. MK Dons continue to lead the way, but Lincoln and Colchester are chasing just behind. While Macclesfield continue to prop up the league and are now joined the relegation zone by Notts County after another poor month of results.
 
MK Dons are on fire right now winning 3 of their 4 matches in November and drawing the other. But the bigger picture for the Dons highlights a run of 1 defeat in 12 matches winning 8 of those games. Paul Tisdale has firmly got the Dons singing to his tune. The likes of Kieran Agard, Chuks Aneke, Alex Gilbey and Dean Lewington have found new life under Tisdale after disappointing campaigns last time out while signings Rhys Healey, Jordan Moore-Taylor and Ryan Harley have been a breath of fresh air and excellent acquisitions to the team. MK Dons have momentum and right now are looking unstoppable. However, only closest rivals Lincoln and play-off hunting Stevenage have beaten the Dons this season. Danny Cowley’s Lincoln have hit a rough patch winning just 1 of their last 6 which saw them lose top spot. 4 of those 6 matches have been draws and in recent weeks Lincoln have struggled to seal games and score goals. Cowley will be aiming to recapture their early season form during the festive period with games coming thick and fast for the Imps starting with a tricky trip to Stevenage. Meanwhile 3rd place Colchester are enjoying their season finding themselves in the automatic promotion places aiming to celebrate come May. John McGreal’s side are in decent form winning 2 of their 4 matches in November and overall have won 6 of the last 10 matches. The form of Sammie Szmodics is certainly a factor in Colchester’s good form scoring crucial winning goals. The play-off places are made up by Newport, Mansfield, Bury and Exeter. An inconsistent month for Newport winning 2 and losing 2 which has seen them lose a place in the top 3 and with form of sides below, their place in the play-offs is also in jeopardy so Micky Flynn will be fully aware Newport’s form has to improve. Meanwhile it was an excellent month for Bury with the Shakers winning 3 of their 4 games and November has certainly seen them turn a corner after a slow start to the season. The signing of Nicky Maynard was a stroke of genius from Lowe while the improved form of Jay O’Shea has also contributed to the Shakers’ terrific run. Lowe will be confident his side can maintain their excellent form during December with Lowe determined to push for automatic promotion. The Stags of Mansfield are also in excellent form with David Flitcroft’s side winning 2 of their 4 games during November and drawing the other two games. The stags are the draw specialists but also are extremely difficult to beat losing just once all season. Unbeaten in 12 matches, Mansfield have real momentum and are slowly turning those consistent draws into victories. However, it was a very disappointing month for Exeter with Grecians not picking up a single victory during November and overall are winless in their last 7 games. Matt Taylor is suffering his first struggles in management after an excellent start to the season. The Grecians are slowly sinking down the table with wins alluding them and they will hoping Christmas brings them a change of fortune with plenty of matches to come to ignite their season once again.

November was a very good month for Cheltenham, Grimsby and Oldham. Michael Duff finally secured his first league win as a manager beating fellow strugglers Notts County at Meadow lane. It took 10 attempts for Duff and finally the win arrived. Since then, Cheltenham picked up a win straight after and progressed into the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Duff will be delighted at his sides’ turn around after a slow start to his tenure. Tyrone Barnett and Luke Varney are proving excellent additions up front scoring 7 goals between them since Duff took over. Michael Jolley and Grimsby also enjoyed November despite losing their first two games of the month. Jolley’s side are unbeaten in their last 3 league games which included a stunning 5-2 win over Tranmere. Confidence will be flowing after that terrific win and Jolley will be aiming to keep their unbeaten run going during December. Meanwhile, the Lactics of Oldham also saw an improved month despite talks of player unrest and unpaid wages. Oldham are unbeaten in their last 4 games and go into December with some confidence. Frankie Bunn is doing well in difficult circumstances and will be aiming to get Oldham closer to the promotion picture during December.

While these sides have enjoyed their recent month of football, other clubs are struggling, and pressure mounted on certain clubs. Notts County are now on their 3rd manager of the season after sacking Harry Kewell following a poor run of form. Kewell’s tenure lasted just 71 days and their problems lie defensively with the County struggling to keep goals out and score themselves to give them a chance of winning games. County lie 23rd in the table 2 points behind third bottom Cheltenham. County are desperate to save their woeful season and have appointed the recently departed Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley. Ardley arrives following 6 years at Wimbledon where he saved them from relegation to non-league football and guided them to promotion into League 1. Ardley is tasked with ensuring Notts County are not relegated from the football league but his main priority will be to stop conceding goals and find a way to win matches. Ardley has a proven record at this level and no doubt the fans will be hoping he is man to get them out of trouble. Ardley’s first league game is a derby with promotion hunting Mansfield and a derby win could be the perfect platform to get their season going. The other club to sack their manager was Swindon who parted company with Phil Brown following a disappointing start to the season. 1 win in their last 8 games spelled the end of Brown’s 8-month tenure at the club. Brown just couldn’t get Swindon near the promotion picture which is where the fans and chairman Lee Power expect the club to be. Former Oldham manager Richie Wellens has been given the task of getting Swindon in the promotion picture. However, his tenure started terribly suffering a heavy 4-0 home defeat to Carlisle, but things have improved for Wellens winning his last 2 games and Swindon are slowly heading in the right direction. Richie Wells wants Swindon to push towards the play-off places and he will be hoping the December games will help their cause further. Plenty of football to be played during December and Wellens will want maximum points in each game to sustain their good form.

Rock bottom Macclesfield have endured a tough return to the football league winning just once prior to November but an improved month which saw them end the month with back to back victories has pulled them back into the battle for survival. They have now finally named Mark Yates’ successor with Sol Campbell being appointed the new Macclesfield manager. The former England defender is tasked with keeping the Silkmen in football league. He taken an extremely difficult first job in management, but he will be confident in his abilities to keep them in the league. He takes over a side with real momentum following their consecutive victories. He described himself as the greatest mind in football and keeping Macclesfield in League 2 would certainly make many eat their sceptical words. Campbell will be determined to succeed but he isn’t given an easy first game with a trip to 3rd place Colchester his first assignment. Can Campbell deliver? A hectic December could offer good indications as to whether the task is too big for a novice in management.

League 2 was excellent value in November and no doubt December will be the same with football coming thick and fast during the festive period. There are some mouth-watering games to come during December including Bury vs Exeter, Colchester vs Macclesfield, Mansfield vs Notts County, Stevenage vs Lincoln, Oldham vs Bury, Newport vs MK Dons, Lincoln vs Newport, Bury vs Tranmere, Exeter vs Yeovil in the west country derby, Notts County vs Macclesfield, The 2nd ‘El Glossico’ of the season between Cheltenham and Forest Green and Mansfield vs Swindon. The festive period is upon us and who will be the ones to bring cheer and good tidings to their fans and whose will endure an unhappy festive period. Plenty of football to come as the halfway mark of the season arrives and teams will be looking to gain some momentum heading into 2019.

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