By: Joe Brayne, Callum Sutherland, Jacob Findell, Isaac Stronge, Matthew Holmes and Steven Narloch.
Relegation scraps await Wigan Athletic and Rochdale AFC while Bolton Wanderers, Stockport County and Salford FC embark on promotion pushes across the English Football Leagues.There’s an additional bonus in the Greater Manchester Football Wrap this week with Steven Narloch covering Altrincham FC and their Isuzu FA Trophy adventures.
The DW Stadium will play host to a crucial relegation six-pointer this Saturday as Wigan Athletic host fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town.
The Latics will be looking to build on Monday’s solid performance against Blackburn Rovers, in which they secured a 0-0 draw.
This was Wigan’s first clean sheet in 16 games. Their previous came on October 11, once again against Blackburn in a 1-0 victory.
Centre-back Rarmani Edmonds-Green, who was loaned to Wigan from Huddersfield last summer, returned to Yorkshire last month after the loan was terminated.
Shaun Maloney’s team can take confidence from their 2-1 win over the Terriers earlier on in the season. However, a win would still keep the Greater Manchester side in the bottom three.
With relegation an ever-growing cloud above them, Rochdale face yet another tricky contest against promotion hopefuls Northampton at the Crown Oil Arena.
A 2-1 defeat last time out at the hands of high-flying Salford cemented their position at the foot of League 2, but the narrowness of the result may hint at potential progress.
With new signings itching to make their mark, such as defender Toby Mullarkey, Saturday represents an opportunity for Rochdale to play without expectations, which gave them some relative joy last weekend.
But, as the clock ticks down towards the end of the season, results are ultimately more crucial than good performances. Rochdale’s fate hinges on whether the new blood can hit the ground running and inject some much-needed positivity back into the club.
Bolton Wanderers look to extend their winning streak to four games in League One as they travel to Weston Homes Stadium to face Peterborough.
The fifth-placed Wanderers face a hectic run of six games over February, including a Papa Johns (English Football League) Trophy semi-final against fellow northerners, Accrington Stanley. A 1-0 win against Cheltenham last weekend kickstarted a crucial month for The Trotters’ promotion push.
Meanwhile, The Posh could move into a playoff spot with a victory on Saturday, leapfrogging sixth-placed Barnsley if they lose to Cambridge United. Bolton have long proven a boogey team for Peterborough, winning 8 of the thirteen meetings between the two clubs.
The visitor’s top scorer, Dion Charles (11 goals), may prove the difference as the in-form striker enters on the back of making consecutive League One Player of the Month shortlists.
It was back to winning ways for Stockport County last weekend as they managed to net three past fellow play-off hopefuls Tranmere, with a man of the match performance from defender Chris Hussey.
Looking ahead to the weekend, the Hatters head to Yorkshire with a sold out away allocation looking for a second win on the bounce.
On paper, a narrow 1-0 for County the last time they visited The EnviroVent Stadium in the Carabao Cup may feel like the makings of a tough fixture. However, with Harrogate sat in 20th place, it’s a game that the Hatters should be taking all three points from if they are to cement their place in the play-offs.
Harrogate also come off the back of a win, away at Carlisle, so County cannot afford to take a win for granted. They’ll hope that Kyle Wootton, involved in more goals than any other player so far this season, will lead from the front and bring the victory back to SK3.
Salford City were unconvincing in victory yet again last weekend, struggling to a 2-1 home win against a spirited Rochdale side in a game which looked far from a play-off contender hosting the last-placed side in the division. This was however the first league win for Salford over their local rivals at the fourth time of asking, and the fans will be more than happy to have secured the bragging rights over their much more established neighbours for the first time.
The win moves Salford to within three points of third-placed Carlisle who currently occupy the final automatic promotion spot. New signing Louie Barry got his first start for the club and certainly showed flashes of what he can do, but it was Conor McAleny on the opposite flank who really impressed, grabbing the decisive second goal to make it seven goals in seven games, and being a constant threat throughout the game.
Next up for the Ammies is a trip to Birkenhead to face Tranmere Rovers. Tranmere have won just one of their previous six matches and will be looking for a big result to turn their season around as it begins to falter. It will be far from an easy task for Neil Wood’s men, with Prenton Park always being a tough place to go, but if they harbour real ambition of making it into those automatic promotion spots, these are the kind of games they simply must be winning.
For non-league fans what’s that you hear coming over the horizon? That’s right, it’s the familiar rumbling of the Isuzu FA Trophy. It’s the Fifth Round and with just 16 teams left, Altrincham may soon be eyeing up a trip to Wembley.
With a favourable, but still tough draw, away to Bracknell Town, Altrincham will fancy their chances against the team in the Southern League Premier South Division. After all, the Robins did manage to knock out high-flying Wrexham in the last round.
With many of the top teams in the Conference already knocked out, and with a mid-table finish seemingly cemented for Altrincham in the National League, the FA Trophy offers potential for big domestic silverware.
This could be the perfect opportunity for some of Altrincham’s new signings to get a run-out. Joe Hugill especially will be one to look out for, the 19-year-old striker, on loan from Man United, has scored six goals in five matches so far for United’s under-21 side.
It will be the first time the two teams have faced off against each other in any competition. The match will be played at 3pm this Saturday at Bottom Meadow.