Scunthorpe United v Barrow
Scunthorpe United are on the verge of relegation to non-league for the first time in their history.
The Iron were beaten 3-1 last time out at home to Colchester United which leaves them 10 points from safety with 10 games left to play of the season to play. It has been a disastrous campaign for the Iron and their boss, Keith Hill, said after their loss over the weekend that they haven’t been “good enough”. The main reason behind their poor performances has been the fact that they can’t score goals. Scunthorpe are the lowest scorers in the league and have managed to find the net 25 times in their 36 matches so far.
They sold striker Ryan Loft to fellow League Two side Bristol Rovers in the January transfer window and didn’t replace him adequately. Joe Nuttall and Sam Burns came through the door this past winter but have managed just to score a combined three goals between them. To make matters worse, they have injury problems to deal with at the moment with defensive trio Lewis Thompson, Mason O’Malley and Ross Millen all sidelined, whilst Wolves loanee Luke Matheson is suspended now after getting sent off against Colchester. George Taft and James Rowe have stepped in to become the central defensive partnership over weeks but have been powerless to stop their opponents as the club slip towards the National League.
Barrow have relegation fears of their own and have also struggled for goals in this campaign, scoring just 31 in 35 games which is the second worse return in the division behind Scunthorpe. They drew 0-0 away at Rochdale last time out and their manager, Mark Cooper, admitted that it was a “good point” for his side in the end. It is hard to see where their next win is going to come from though and they are winless in their last seven league games which has seen them slip to 21st in the table, three points above the drop zone. The Bluebirds have scored just once in their last five matches and their top scorer this season is midfielder Ollie Banks on just eight. In an attempt to add some firepower into their attacking options, Cooper has brought attacker Dimitri Sea back into the first-team fold and he came off the bench against Rochdale. The Frenchman hadn’t played since January and his side are hoping he is the man to lift them to survival this term. However, he has found life in England hard so far and has scored just twice in 20 games since his move to Holker Street.
Port Vale v Mansfield Town
Mansfield Town were beaten for the first time since November by Tranmere Rovers 3-2 last time out.
The Stags saw their 14 game unbeaten run in the league halted by the Whites and have slipped out of the play-offs as a result. Their boss, Nigel Clough, said it was a “very disappointing” result for his side and they will be eager to bounce back when they take on Port Vale away on Tuesday evening, with only three points separating the two sides going into the game. Mansfield have proven they can score goals of late and have the strength in depth in their squad to leave established League Two forwards like Jordan Bowery on the bench. Clough seriously boosted his attacking department in the January transfer window by luring wingers Lucas Akins and Jamie Murphy to Field Mill, two players who have spent their careers playing at a significantly higher level. They also made the headlines by signing Newcastle United midfielder Matty Longstaff on loan on a deal until the end of the season and he has been a real hit so far with the Nottinghamshire outfit, chipping in with three goals to prove he is a real goal threat from midfield. His arrival has seen usual regular Ollie Clarke drop to the bench over recent weeks which again shows the quality of their squad right now.
Port Vale have their sights set on a push for the top seven between now and the end of the campaign and hammered Crawley Town 4-1 in their last game thanks to goals from Ben Garrity (x2), David Worrall and Connor Hall. Their assistant, Andy Crosby, said he was “delighted” with the win and he has done a steady job as he steps in for Darrell Clarke for the time being. The Valiants are on a roll and have lost just once in their past 10 matches. Key central midfielder Tom Conlon has been ruled out with injury until the summer but that hasn’t seemed to have affected their performances on the pitch. Garrity has stepped up to the plate over recent times and has had an impressive campaign, chipping in with a useful 10 goals from midfield. They tend to start with Jamie Proctor and James Wilson up front and they have managed to fire a combined 16 goals in all competitions this term and are two players who Mansfield will be keen to keep quiet. Young loan pair Ryan Edmondson and Kian Harrett, who have been lent to Vale from Leeds United and Huddersfield Town, provide back-up in attacking areas and will both be looking to have a strong end to the season before they head back home this summer.
Tranmere Rovers v Harrogate Town
Tranmere Rovers have got their push for promotion back on track after their 3-2 win over Mansfield Town last time out.
The Whites picked up the impressive three points thanks to a last gasp winner from striker Elliott Nevitt and became the first team to beat the Stags since November in the process. They have risen up to 4th in the League Two table and are outside the top three on goal difference at the moment behind Newport County. Their boss, Micky Mellon, said his side “needed” the victory and they will be looking to make it back-to-back wins at home to Harrogate Town on Tuesday night. Prior to their victory over Mansfield, the Whites had gone five games without a win but showed their character by halting their poor run of form. In terms of injury news, the Merseyside club remain without key midfielder Jay Spearing who hasn’t played since 1st February against Stevenage. He is back running on the grass now and Lee O’Connor has stepped in to take his place in central midfield over recent weeks alongside Everton loanee Lewis Warrington. The young pair are starting to click now and will be gaining valuable experience. Tranmere will be without Liverpool loan man Paul Glatzel for a spell now after he went off in the last match but have a ready-made replacement in January signing Kane Hemmings, who has chipped in with three goals since his winter switch.
Harrogate were battered 3-0 away at Bristol Rovers over the weekend and are not in the best of form at the moment. Their manager, Simon Weaver, said he is “really hurting” after their heavy loss at the Memorial Ground. The Yorkshire club have won just once in their last eight matches and don’t really have anything to play for now because they are comfortably sat in mid-table. They only named six substitutes on the bench against the Pirates on Saturday and the squad seems to be lacking the depth needed to be a truly competitive side at this level, hence why they are starting to fall away during these latter stages of the campaign. Experienced defender Rory McArdle made his return to the side from a groin issue at the weekend but went off versus Bristol Rovers and it is yet to be known whether he will be available for the trip to Tranmere. Wolves loanee Lewis Richards came on for him and has covered whilst the veteran has been sidelined. However, although the 20-year-old is learning on the job with the Sulphurites, he lacks the same Football League experience that his teammate has and may be a player who Tranmere look to exploit.
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