Now, folks, there we have it: Gameweek 39 is all done and dusted. It doesn’t quite feel as if it has been eight-or-so months since the 2016-7 League Two season ’twas but a glint in the fixture computer’s eye. And, yet, it is where we happen to find ourselves. We’re now staring down the business end of the current campaign and can see how the chips are starting to fall. You’d think it’s now safe enough to assume Donny and Plimmuff are bound for League One. It leaves us with one automatic and four playoff spots to fill in the final seven games.
Pompey are the guys screaming “shotgun” as far as the spare seat on the automatic ride goes. Stevenage, meanwhile, are at the front of the chasing pack. Our goalless draw at Cambridge, however, set us back in our pursuit of the South Coast side; not least because Portsmouth made a return to winning ways at the weekend. As much as Boro’ are the lead hunter in this equation, we’re also being hunted ourselves. Behind us, there are three other sides occupying playoff positions – and three more in striking distance as things stand right now.
League Two 2016-7: The Run-Ins
You could even run your finger as far down the table as our next oppo Barnet (14th) and admit that it’s still possible for them to gatecrash the party. OK, it’s a little bit arbitrary, but the Bees are only eight points adrift of Exeter (7th). So, who will finish with a bang – and who will end on a whimper? And who will be your League Two promotion pick(s) with NetBet? Let’s have a look at the runners, riders and rudiments of the run-in this term. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not under Starters’ Orders. We’re heading into the final furlong!
3rd: Portsmouth – 68pts
Hartlepool (21st, A) – Yeovil (18th, H) – Plymouth (2nd, H) – Notts County (20th, A) – Cambridge (12th, H) – Mansfield (9th, A) – Cheltenham (22nd, H)
For Boro’ to get automatic promotion, we’ll need to gain six points on Pompey. Well, seven given our inferior goal difference. It also means Pompey pretty much have to lose three before our own form starts to become a factor. And, with the exception of Plymouth and Mansfield, there’s not much in that list to worry ’em.
4th: Stevenage – 62pts
Barnet (14th, H) – Colchester (10th, A) – Morecambe (19th, H) – Carlisle (8th, A) – Mansfield (9th, H) – Yeovil (18th, A) – Accrington (15th, H)
On paper, this ain’t shaping up to be helpful run-in. You’d struggle to pick three more challenging away days in particular. On the other hand, we’re in very decent nick and looking strong at the back. So, you can probably back us to pick up a good few points on the final stretch. Not enough to topple Pompey, however.
5th: Blackpool – 60pts
Luton (6th, A) – Grimsby (13th, H) – Accrington (15th, H) – Doncaster (1st, A) – Cheltenham (22nd, H) – Notts County (20th, A) – Leyton Orient (24th, H)
Cor, the Tangerines have landed on their feet with their remaining games indoors. It’d be a surprise if Blackpool didn’t take all 12 points on offer from their home fixtures. On the road, however, it could be a different tale. Up next is a trip to Luton, and what an important ding-dong that’ll be for one, t’other or both!
6th: Luton Town – 60pts
Blackpool (5th, H) – Barnet (14th, A) – Leyton Orient (24th H) – Mansfield Town (9th, A) – Notts County (20th, H) – Accrington (15th, A) – Morecambe (19th, H)
We know, we know! Surely Luton Town would have wrapped up the title by now? And yet, there they are – sitting sixth after a bit of a recent wobble. Blackpool aside, their remaining home games look routine enough. As for the last few dates on the nationwide tour, they’re not necessarily for the feint of heart.
7th: Exeter City – 59pts
Mansfield (9th, A) – Newport (23rd, H) – Barnet (14th, H) – Cambridge (12th, A) – Morecambe (19th, H) – Doncaster (1st, A) – Carlisle (8th, H)
If only this weekend brought the curtain down on this League Two season. As it stands, Exeter are in the playoffs and Carlisle are not by virtue of goal difference. And look-see at that final fixture! For the Grecians, the home games look straightforward, but the away ones will make or break their aspirations.
8th: Carlisle United – 59pts
Yeovil (18th, A) – Notts County (20th, H) – Hartlepool (21st, A) – Stevenage (4th, H) – Crawley (17th, A) – Newport (23rd, H) – Exeter (7th, A)
You’d think Carlisle are licking their lips at the fixtures that take ’em into the final day. Or, maybe not. The Cumbrians are in a dire run of form. Even Orient have more points from their last six outings! If it wasn’t for such a favourable run-in, their hopes would already be up in smoke we reckon.
9th: Mansfield Town – 58pts
Exeter (7th, H) – Doncaster (1st, A) – Wycombe (11th, A) – Luton (6th, H) – Stevenage (4th, A) – Portsmouth (3rd, H) – Crawley (17th, A)
Mansfield have a louder shout than most in how the League Two promotion race pans out. If the Stags come to the Lamex on 22 April still in close pursuit of the top seven after four tough ties, you’d back that momentum to see them over the line. It’s a big ask, however, given their away days to come.
10th: Colchester United – 57pts
Notts County (20th, A) – Stevenage (4th, H) – Doncaster (1st, H) – Morecambe (19th, A) – Plymouth (2nd, H) – Leyton Orient (24th, A) – Yeovil (18th, H)
The top two at home and the bottom team away: it’s a veritable mixed bag for Colchester United as we head into the final straight. You can also make a case for the U’s being the one team for Boro’ to fear most. Their recent form hasn’t been great, however, so it will be interesting to see how they go.
If you’re still looking for an outside bet for promotion at this stage, it probably has to be Wycombe Wanderers. The Chairboys are 11th on 55 points, so do need the teams above to drop points. The next three fixtures are critical for them. After travelling down to Leyton Orient, Wycombe entertain Cheltenham and Mansfield at home. A full set of points from those and it could make for an intriguing last-gasp assault on the top seven. Meanwhile, Cambridge are a point back from Wycombe in the table but may well have left any surge too late.
So, who’s your money on?