Mansfield Town v Crawley Town
Mansfield Town are back in action this weekend at home to Crawley Town and it is a must win game for them.
The Stags have dropped out of the play-offs in League Two following back-to-back defeats against Sutton United and Carlisle United and will be desperate to get back to winning ways. Their boss, Nigel Clough, says the team will do “everything” they can to get into the top seven with four matches left to play. In terms of injury news, 11-goal striker Rhys Oates is 50-50 for the clash against the Red Devils and getting him back will be a massive boost after he has missed the past four outings. Jordan Bowery and Danny Johnson are both suitable candidates to start up front instead again and the club has the strength in depth required to cope with having key players out injured. Midfield pair George Maris and Stephen McLaughlin both have Covid meaning Newcastle United loanee Matty Longstaff and Kieran Wallace are the most likely to step in for them. Mansfield’s home form will give them confidence going into their clash against Crawley this weekend and they have lost just once in their last 14 games at Field Mill and they have the quality to bounce back from their previous two losses with a big win in this one.
It is a new era at Crawley under the ownership of Wagmi United and they announced that 10 players have signed new contract extensions, including key trio George Francomb, Jake Hessenthaler and Jack Payne. John Yems’ side have won three games on the spin and speaking after their narrow 1-0 victory over Walsall last time out, their manager said it was a “sloggy” match. The Sussex club have nothing to play for and despite their impressive string of results recently, Mansfield need the win way more. The Red Devils have won just once in their last four away matches and with only four matches left of the season to play they can afford to take their foot off the gas now. They also haven’t kept a clean sheet on their travels since 8th January against Northampton Town which was nine matches ago. Yems has a clean bill of health to choose from but could look to try out some new players and systems as he keeps one eye on next season.
Walsall v Port Vale
Port Vale are eyeing promotion to League One and need a win this weekend away at Walsall.
Michael Flynn’s side will be looking to dent the Valiants push for League One but have been in poor form. The Saddlers have won just once in their last six outings and it is all about next season now for the Midlands club. It has been a tough past campaign for them and it is expected to be a summer of transition at the Bescot Stadium with both comings and goings anticipated as they prepare for Flynn’s first full campaign at the club. He wasn’t happy with their 1-0 away loss at Crawley Town last time out and said that his side “had to see that game out” and the former Newport County manager also hinted that he may hand some younger/fringe players the chance to impress over the next few matches which could play into Port Vale’s hands, especially if they are inexperienced or haven’t had much game time. Walsall have been dealt a major blow with key striker Conor Wilkinson ruled out with an ACL injury. The attacker has scored 10 goals in the league this season and has been replaced up front by George Miller in the past couple of games. However, the Barnsley loan man isn’t as prolific and has struggled for goals in 2022.
Port Vale are flying high in League Two right now and are currently 3rd in the table, two points above 4th place Northampton Town with three games left to play. They were beaten for the first time in nine league games last time out at home to Bristol Rovers 3-1 and need to bounce back. Their fate is in their own hands and if they win all their remaining matches they will be promoted to the third tier, which would be an unbelievable achievement. Their assistant manager, Andy Crosby, admits the “weren’t quite at it” against the Pirates. In terms of injury news, they are without midfield pair Brad Walker and Tom Pett as they both have hamstring problems so Jake Taylor, Harry Charsley and Ben Garrity form the midfield three, whilst the versatile Dan Jones provides competition and depth from the bench meaning they are well equipped for their remaining games. Vale have won their last four away trips on the spin against Bradford City, Barrow, Salford City and Hartlepool United and know how to grind out a win on unfamiliar soil.
Bradford City v Scunthorpe United
Bradford City take on Scunthorpe United this weekend as they look to end the season on a high.
Mark Hughes will be keeping one eye on next season which will be his first full campaign at the helm at Valley Parade. They were beaten 3-0 away at Colchester United last time out and he said they “need to start winning games”, starting by beating the Iron on Saturday. In fairness, the Bantams have turned a corner at Valley Parade in their past two clashes on home soil against Newport County and Tranmere Rovers and picked up two solid draws against the promotion chasing duo, having previously lost their opening three games there under Hughes against Mansfield Town, Swindon Town and Port Vale. Scunthorpe United are there for the taking and the Yorkshire side will be keen to avoid an embarrassing upset in this one. Centre-back Paudie O’Connor is now suspended and will miss this weekend’s game after getting a red card against Colchester on Monday afternoon. Nevertheless, this provides an opportunity for someone else to come in and stake their claim and Irishman Fiacre Kelleher is the expected candidate to start instead of him. He is a perfectly adequate player at League Two level and will be eager to impress Hughes by helping his teammates pick up a likely victory.
Scunthorpe United have been relegated to the National League already after a dismal campaign. They are rock bottom of the league and haven’t won since 8th February against Walsall, which was 13 games ago now. The Iron picked up a 1-1 draw at home to Stevenage in their last game with winger Harry Bunn scoring the equaliser on 75 minutes and their boss, Keith Hill, said there has “got to be improvement” from his side despite stopping their losing habit. They don’t stand much of a chance of getting anything against Bradford this weekend though as they are the lowest scorers in the division and have the leakiest defence. In addition, key defender George Taft is out injured at the moment which has weakened their already porous backline. Versatile James Rowe and youngster Ethan Young has stepped in but the club hasn’t kept a clean sheet since the last time they won a game against the Saddlers two months ago, which provides further encouragement to Bradford.
Hartlepool United v Swindon Town
Hartlepool United are painfully out of form as they prepare to lock horns with Swindon Town this weekend.
The Pools will just want this season to end now as they gear up for a summer of transition under manager Graeme Lee. The North East club were beaten 2-1 away at Rochdale on Easter Monday and are winless in their last six outings. They appear to be on the beach already with three games left of the campaign to get through before they can start thinking about their holidays. Their assistant boss, Michael Nelson, stepped into the dugout at Spotland with Lee missing it with Covid and said it was a game of “two halves”. Hartlepool can’t seem to find any consistency to win at the moment and have been a dealt a few blows on the injury front as well with defender Jamie Sterry and midfielder Joe Grey joining the experienced Nicky Featherstone in the treatment room leaving them short of options. They will make a late call on whether defender Timi Odusina is fit later this week from his knee injury, with veteran Gary Liddle stepping in for him against Rochdale. The Pools haven’t won at home in their last six outings at the Suits Direct Stadium and that could be seven with Swindon desperately needing a win there.
Ben Garner’s side are still in with a shout of making the play-offs this season but need a win on Saturday to keep their hopes alive. They are four points off with four games left to play and have played a match less than teams above them like Tranmere Rovers, Bristol Rovers and Sutton United. The Robins were beaten by Leyton Orient on Monday and their manager said that they have “got to go and win all four”. The Wiltshire club have received a massive boost with key attacking player Harry McKirdy returning to training this week ahead of their trip up north. He has been out injured over the past month and has been greatly missed by his side. The former Port Vale and Carlisle United man has scored 18 goals in all competitions this term and his return significantly increases their hopes of getting a win this weekend and his return will scare the life out of a Hartlepool side who are struggling for the motivation to play at the moment.
Exeter City v Rochdale
Exeter City are on the brink of promotion as they take on Rochdale this weekend.
If the Grecians win two out of their remaining four games they will be playing their football in League One next season. Matt Taylor’s side were beaten 2-0 away at Tranmere Rovers on Monday which was a setback for them and they will be desperate to bounce back. Speaking prior to their clash against the Dale, their boss has said “cannot lose confidence”. The fact that his side had won four games on the spin before their defeat at Prenton Park will give him confidence that they can return to winning ways. Sam Nombe is still expected to be out of action for the clash against Rochdale but that isn’t a problem for the hosts as they have plenty of options in his position up front such as Offrande Zanzala, Jevani Brown, Matt Jay and Padraig Amond, with the latter two fresh and ready to start if needed after starting on the bench against Micky Mellon’s side. Young midfielder Harry Kite is also sidelined but ever-present midfield pair Timothy Dieng and Archie Collins have formed a formidable partnership in the middle of the park. Exeter are unbeaten in their last nine outings at home and haven’t lost St James Park this year so should extend their run and take another step to the third tier.
Rochdale have nothing to play for now and have secured their Football League status for another year following their 2-1 win over Hartlepool United last time out. They can afford to take it easy now with three games left to play and their boss, Robbie Stockdale, admitted they were “shocking” in the first-half which shows his side are vulnerable to a poor performance. This has been reflected by their recent run of form as well and the Dale have only won twice in their last 11 league games. Rochdale have been without midfield pair Liam Kelly and James Ball and they are both doubts for this weekend’s long trip down south. Jimmy Keohane and Eoghan O’Connell have stepped into their shoes and the latter scored an impressive solo goal in Monday’s win. The North West outfit are a different team away from home though and have lost their last five away league games on the spin and don’t have much of a chance against an Exeter side desperate for a victory.
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