Football League new boys compare notes

Last updated : 10 January 2008 By Gary Moss
We are very much into the business end of the season in League Two now and it comes a perfect time to reflect on what has been seen so far.

The fourth tier of English football has served up its usual long list of shocks since the campaign set off back in August.
Turner...Biggest shock

And, perhaps it is the not so shocking amount of surprises that makes League Two so enjoyable to follow.

There are plenty to choose from and many contenders for the shock of the season.

Hereford have been a real surprise package this term. After a blistering start to their second season in the league many backed Graham Turner's Bulls to fall away but as of yet it has not been the case.

The minnows remain second in the ladder and continue to defy the odds by showing their staying power amongst the automatic promotion slots.

Likewise League Two newcomers Morecambe have shocked both in league and cup competitions.

The Shrimps have capped off an impressive first season in the Football League most notably taking the scalps of Chamionship sides Wolves and Preston in the Carling Cup, reaching the regional final of the Johnstone Paint Trophy and sitting pretty in eighth just one point shy of a playoff berth.

Sammy McIlroy must be in dreamland as his team perform one upset after another.

Then there are the surprises at the other end of the table.

Our very own Notts looked to have assmbled at worst a playoff bidding squad but instead have flattered to deceive hovering ominously above trouble.

Lincoln City, formally known as the playoff specialists after making a top seven finish five seasons in succession have been embroiled in a relegation battle the majority of the season.

And that is not the end of the shocks by a long way with both Bradford and Brentford having struggled to adapt to life in the basement division despite being highly touted for a promotion push.

There have been many surprises and I am sure there will be plenty more - it
Lewis...Record Posh signing
is the nature of life in such a competitive league.

The past week has also seen a flurry of activity in the January transfer window.

High-flying Posh are showing no hint of easing off of the big spending after breaking their transfer record with the recruit of highly rated Norwich City goalkeeper Joe Lewis fir £400,000.

While Lincoln have done their best to reject high cash offers for kingpin Lee Frecklington from Darren Ferguson.

Macclesfield Town have made wholesale changes in a bid to reverse their poor fortunes.

Sheffield United defender Ryan Cresswell has enrolled at Moss Rose in an effort to steer the Silkment clear of danger.

Former Chairman Rib Bickerton has taken a post at Shrewbury meanwhile as Director of Football as the Shrews seek promotion.

As for Notts, Charlie McParland has dipped back into the market with the signing of well travelled midfielder Gavin Strachan as the latest Meadow Lane arrival.

Game of the day: Morecambe v Dagenham and Redbridge

Last seasons Conference promotion sides clash this weekend for the first time since embarking upon life in the Football League.
McIlroy...Never looked back since playoff win

And, while they're at it, the teams bosses may fancy exchanging notes in what has been a start of huge contrast for Sammy McIlory and John Still.

Morecambe have taken the division by storm making a blistering start that sees them as high as eighth in the table - just one point adrift of a potential playoff berth.

McIlroy has been helped throughout the campaign by the consistent fitness and level of performace from the spine of his side.

Jim Bentley and Dave Artell have formed one of the strongest central defensive partnerships in the league so far this term and as a result have made the Shrimps a hard to beat outfit.

The creative forces of Garry Thompson and top scoring winger Carl Baker have been good enough to open up any given side, while the strikers have too delivered the goods.

Michael Twiss is regarded by many as the key man with his ability to stump up a piece of magic at any given.
Blinkhorn...Found his form

Matty Blinkhorn struggled to adapt to life in League Two early on but with five goals in his last six outings, the front man has really found his eye for goal.

Today's addition of Posh keeper Shwan Jalal on loan for the remainder of the season will further boost the Shrimps ranks as they push on for a top seven finish.

They entertain a struggling Dagenham outfit on home soil where they have enjoyed a fine run already this season.

McIlroy's men have won six on their own turf already this season and boast the sxith highest home scoring record.

Things could not be going any better for last years Conference playoff winners and the envious former champions Dagenham and Redbridge will be hoping to steel their thunder as the sides meet tomorrow.

The Daggers are just one place above trouble and a mere five points above drop zone toppers Mansfield Town.

The Essex side have been riddled with injuries so far this season and have struggled to produce the quality to compete.

Fans will still believe they have a chance of survival based on the scoring abilities of their striking options.
Strevens...On fire

Jon Nurse, Paul Benson and Ben Strevens have all proved worthy finishers none more so than Strevens himself who is in fine form of late. He has netted four times in his last three games and will be looking for more on Saturday.

Redbridge have however been defeated a worrying seven times away from Victoria Park this season conceding 21 goals on the road.

The Daggers will welcome recent addition Ryan Hall to the side, who is likely to partner Glen Southam in the centre of the park after signing from Crystal Palace on a month long loan deal.

It is difficult to tell why two so evenly matched squads at the start of the campaign have endured such differing contrasts but form aside, these two teams will be desperate to prove their claim as the non-leagues best apprentice this season.

NCM Prediction: Morecambe are on a healthy role, just a point adrift of the top seven and it should continue here.


Wycombe will welcome their clash with playoff hopefuls Rochdale this
McGleish...Hat-trick at Field Mill
weekend fresh after a 4-0 midweek drubbing of lowly Mansfield.

Scott McGleish was on target with a hat-trick for Wanderers as they moved to sixth in the table.

Another win here will further blunt Keith Hill's promotion target.

Leon Knight is set to make his debut.

League Two player of the month and MK Dons stopper Willy Gueret will be hoping for a more quiet afternoon than he has enjoyed so far this season as they host Barnet.

Paul Fairclough's side should be on a high following a draw with League One's Swindon while the Dons may be keen to break a recent habit of narrow wins by knocking in some goals here.

Accrington Stanley legend Paul Mullin will be hoping to celebrate his new deal at the club as they travel to in form Stockport County.
Mullin...New Stanley deal

The wanted striker had apparently agreed a deal with Shrewsbury but has eased pressure of his future by commiting to the Fraser Eagle.

Full fixture list:

Bradford City v Notts County

Brentford v Chesterfield

Chester City v Mansfield Town

Darlington v Bury

Grimsby Town v Wrexham

Lincoln City v Rotherham United

MK Dons v Barnet

Morecambe v Dagenham and Redbridge

Peterborough United v Macclesfield Town

Stockport County v Accrington Stanley

Wycombe Wanderers v Rochdale

Hereford United v Shrewsbury Town (Sunday)