By Matthew Holmes, Jacob Findell, Callum Sutherland, Steven Narloch, Joe Brayne and Isaac Stronge
The Greater Manchester Wrap at a glance: Salford slumbering towards play-offs, Wigan searching for a goal under Shaun Maloney, Bolton welcome play-off rivals, Stockport provide a cure to insomnia, Altrincham build towards 2023-24 and Rochdale continue to toy with Matthew Holmes’ emotions?
Salford ran out deserved winners last weekend, beating Newport County 3-1 at the Peninsula Stadium to maintain their grip on the final League Two play-off spot.
The Ammies went 1-0 down 30 minutes into the game, but recovered well, grabbing an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. They came out from the break firing, scoring again a minute into the second half, and Matt Smith’s 95th minute third put the gloss on the scoreline that their performance deserved.
Next up is a Friday night clash away at Crewe, who are now unbeaten in six games. They have only faced one side in the top half of the table during that run however, so this should still be targeted as a winnable game for Neil Wood’s men.
They are now just four points back from the automatic promotion places, but also only a single point clear of Mansfield in eighth, who also have two games in hand on Salford.
If they are to remain in the promotion hunt they really do need to put together a string of results for the first time in 2023.
It’s top versus bottom of the Championship this Saturday as Wigan cross the border into Lancashire to face high-flying Burney.
The two North West clubs are separated by 45 points and all the signs are pointing towards a defeat for the latics. A hard-earned point against Birmingham last weekend was followed by a defeat to West Brom last night, March 7.
Against their usual form, Burnley have hit a slight dip in performances with two wins in five. However, the Latics have only picked up seven points out of a possible 21 under Shaun Maloney.
All three teams in the relegation zone are currently six points from safety. Jack Whatmough and Co. in the Athletic defence will have to deliver a stellar performance in order to keep the league’s top scorers at bay.
With two goals under Shaun Maloney so far, could Ashley Fletcher bag another sneaky goal on the counter at Turf Moor?
After experience a spell of perfect form last month, Stockport County have hit a rough patch, picking up just two points across their past three games, in fixture that the Hatters would largely have expected to win.
Coming up this weekend is another fixture that County fans will be expecting their team to win, against 20th placed Colchester at the Colchester Community Stadium, following a disappointing draw this week against 21st placed Gillingham at Edgeley Park.
In his post-match interview following the Gillingham game, County boss Dave Challinor was hopeful that the away fixture may mean their opponents this weekend will be forced to come out more than The Gills did, allowing more space to attack.
That attacking selection may prove a headache for Challinor, with club captain Paddy Madden back to fitness but the pace of Oloafe and hold-up play of Wootton potentially making a more lethal combination.
A win in this game could see County move up as high as 4th in the league, once again knocking on the door of the automatic promotion places, if other results in the division go their way.
“If you can’t win, you don’t lose and it is definitely a point gained away from home”. Ian Evatt’s post-match musings ring true a few days after Bolton’s bore draw against Morecambe, but the sting of two dropped points remain.
After securing just two league wins over the last five matches, the Wanderers’ have all but ended their shot at automatic promotion. Ten games remain to be played in League One, yet Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle have extended their stranglehold at the summit over the past fortnight.
The Trotters’ welcome play-off rivals, Ipswich Town, to the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday. The Tractor Boys sit comfortably in third place and boast the highest goals scored (68) in League One so far.
Ipswich may boast the league’s most lethal attack, yet the seemingly unstoppable force faces an immovable object – the Bolton fortress, having conceded the least goals at home in the league (9). A win over Ipswich offers little short-term gain in the table. Victory, instead, would underline the Wanderer’s ability to grit through the playoffs.
Two league defeats on the bounce for Altirncham have all but consolidated a midtable position for this season. There is still a chance that the Robins come out of this season a chance of some long-awaited silverware
Yes, the late play-off push from a few weeks ago has been killed and laid to rest with a couple of humbling away defeats at the hands of Wealdstone and Scunthorpe, respectively.
The focus now will have to turn to two more away matches against York City. The first of which will be in the last eight of the Isuzu FA Trophy.
Both teams have won the competition twice. York won it as recently as 2017, with Altrincham’s last win coming in 1986. Both will fancy themselves to go far with many of the top National League teams already knocked out.
As mentioned, Altrincham’s go into the match on the back of two consecutive defeats. Meanwhile, York, who sit 17th in the National League have been in fair form themselves. They picked up a 3-0 win last night, albeit against 10-men Bromley.
The last meeting between the sides finished 2-1 to Altrincham at the J Davidson Stadium
Kick-off is 3pm this coming Saturday at the LNER Community Stadium.
Alright. I’ve got to put my hands up. Last week, I gave Rochdale absolutely no chance of winning against Stevenage, and barely any hope of winning another game all season.
So they went and beat the then-second-placed team 2-0 for their first victory since early January, to prove that I truly know nothing when it comes to football.
This Saturday, they travel to Grimsby, whose fortunes in League Two haven’t been brilliant of late. Sitting in 16th, the Mariners haven’t won in four games, besides a famous FA Cup triumph at Southampton.
Rochdale will see this as a chance to build upon a surprise victory in the faint hope of escaping the dreaded relegation. That being said, I’ll put them down for a defeat again, if only to give them a fighting chance of proving me wrong.