Greater Manchester Football Wrap (March 22-23): Rochdale, Salford City, Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Stockport County, Altrincham

By Matthew Holmes, Jacob Findell, Isaac Stacey Stronge, Joe Brayne, Callum Sutherland, and Steven Narloch

The coffin is being readied ahead of the weekend as Rochdale’s prolonged stay in the Football League threatens to come to an end, with local rivals Stockport looking to hammer in the final nails…


If there was a moment to sum up Rochdale’s season, it was when goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell sliced the ball into his own net under absolutely no pressure.

But Rochdale’s ultimate 2-2 draw, coming from 2-0 down and with a stoppage-time equaliser thrown in, showed that the players are still fighting away at the bottom of the football league.

The issue for the Dale is that, with three games left to go in the season, they’re nine points off safety, meaning any faint hopes of survival are the dreams of only the most positive-thinking fans.

Their stint in the EFL could be over by the time Saturday’s done and dusted, with a trip to promotion-chasing Stockport County not representing a likely avenue to prolong their hopes.

Stockport County

It’s down to the wire in League Two with third to eighth, all within seven points of each other, battling it out to take a spot in the automatic promotion places.

Two of the teams in that group, Stockport County and Carlisle United, entered their midweek fixture level on points and, on the night at Brunton Park, there was still nothing to separate the two.

Following a strong first half with a goal from Myles Hippolyte, County appeared to collapse into themselves in the second half, with a few nail-biting moments from corners as any command of his own box seemed to evade County ‘keeper Ben Hinchliffe, one being fatal for the score line.

After Carlisle took the lead late on, they looked to have sealed all three points in this crunch match until Connor Evans, fresh off the Hatters’ bench, made his impact immediately known.

The goal spelt relief for Stockport fans, more for denying Carlisle the extra two points rather than taking any great comfort from the draw.

This weekend, County welcome struggling Rochdale to Edgeley Park, in a match that could see their Greater Manchester neighbours relegated out of the league for the first time.

Wigan Athletic

After a crucial win at Stoke City last night, Wigan Athletic are still clinging on to survival in the Championship. 

Will Keane’s second half strike was the only goal of the game and puts The Latics on 37 points. 

However, Wigan are still five points from safety with three games left to play. 

Reading, Cardiff and QPR also have games in hand, making the task of escaping the drop even more challenging. 

Next up for Athletic is Millwall at the DW stadium. The London side are fighting for a play-off place, posing a real test for Shaun Maloney’s side. 

The Latics will continue on their pursuit of maintaining their Championship status for another year, but the climg may be prove to be too steep

Salford City

Salford are clinging to a play-off spot, but the table makes for worrying reading with the Ammies sandwiched between sides that have a game-in-hand.

They sit in the final play-off spot as it stands, two points off Bradford in sixth and level on points with Mansfield in eighth. All three sides have games remaining against top-4 sides, but Leyton Orient’s promotion may hurt Neil Wood’s side, with what could have been tricky games for both Bradford and Mansfield now meaning very little to the O’s.

It was a mixed week for Salford as the sour taste of a 1-0 home defeat to a Colchester side determined to waste time from the moment they took the lead in the 22nd minute was washed away by a comfortable 2-0 win over Hartlepool.

The Ammies now face the prospect of consecutive away games against Walsall and Carlisle respectively after those two home ties, and Walsall especially is looking like a must-win game.

A defeat would be catastrophic, likely to leave Salford three points adrift of the play-offs with just two games left to save themselves. Neil Wood’s men have simply been too inconsistent this season, and even in this crucial period of the season they have struggled to put teams to the sword.

Win here, and the promotion dreams can continue, but anything less and it may be yet another near-miss for a club which has made no secret of their desire to rise up the Football League pyramid.

Bolton Wanderers

🎵 Champions of the Papa Johns Trophy 2022-23, you’ll never sing that! 🎵 

Plymouth Argyle fell victim to Ian Evatt’s mighty Bolton side on the grandest of stages. In front of 34,000 faithful Wanderers, we hammered the top of the league side 4-0 in a scoreline that flattered the Southerners. 

There has been no hangover as the team switches its attention towards a tilt at the play-offs. An undefeated run of two wins and two draws since the EFL Trophy glory has ensured Bolton remain within the play-off frame. Derby County sit dangerously in seventh-place, sharing the same total of 72 points earned as Bolton – but a game in hand for the Wanderers may prove crucial. 

Bolton host Shrewsbury next at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday. The Shrews have picked up just one point in their last five matches – a terrible streak that has seen Steve Cotterill’s side pick up three red cards and concede a staggering 12 goals. Sitting comfortably in twelfth-place and unable to threaten either end of the table, Bolton have to make a statement and secure all three points. 


After Tuesday night’s draw with Dagenham & Redbridge, Altrincham can face the rest of the season knowing that they will remain in the fifth tier for another year.

They will want to finish the season strongly though and can jump up the table from their current position of 15th with a couple of victories.

There was a buzz around the team after the return of Albanian winger Egli Kaja to the bench. It was the first time he has been in the squad in two months.

He will surely take the place of on-loan striker Joe Hugill in the team who has failed to impress since his arrival from Man United’s youth team.

Torquay, a town south of Exeter, make the 249-mile journey up north to Altrincham this weekend in their final away match of the season and are in a world of trouble.

The Gulls are three points away from safety with just two matches remaining in the season, including this weekend’s trip and have a worse goal difference than Maidenhead and York City above them.

If Maidenhead and York City both get a point and Torquay lose then they will go down to the Conference South.

They play Wrexham at home in their final match of the season as well so Torquay will be desperate to win this weekend to have any chance of survival on the final weekend.

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