In what could be a pivotal day in the League Two relegation battle, four of the bottom five play each other while second-bottom Macclesfield Town travel to in-form promotion chasers, Bury.
Bottom club Notts County entertain Port Vale who sit two places and five points above them in the table while Yeovil host a Morecambe side who sit two points and a place above them in a game where three points could go a long way to easing both clubs relegation fears.
On paper, it would appear that Macclesfield have the toughest game, but the fact they are not expected to win could help them. All the pressure will be on second-placed Bury who will be a home banker on many people’s weekend accumulator as they look to chase down league leaders Lincoln City. The longer Sol Campbell’s side stays in the game; the more pressure will build on Bury and anxiety can do funny things to even the best teams. The Silkmen have drawn their last three while the Shakers are unbeaten in the league since Boxing Day and will be looking to immediately bounce back from their midweek defeat to League One Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy semi-final. All the pointers say home win, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Silkmen come away from Gigg Lane with a precious point.
Notts County go into their game with Port Vale facing a winding-up petition for unpaid tax and in a complete mess off the pitch as owner Alan Hardy’s reign appears to be coming to an ignominious end. On the pitch signs of improvement under Neal Ardley have waned. After a run of a draw and two victories, the Magpies have lost their last two. They face a Port Vale side who are yet to register a win under new manager John Askey having lost their previous three games in a dreadful run of form that is seriously putting their EFL status at risk. They also have off the field problems to deal with in the shape of fan protests against unpopular owner Norman Smurthwaite. It will be difficult to ascertain which set of supporters will be the most disgruntled at the state of their clubs at Meadow Lane in a match that I doubt will be one for the football purist. I take Notts County to win purely because their January signings such as Doyle and Mackail-Smith will give them that added bit of quality and experience.
Morecambe travel south to Huish Park looking for their third successive away victory against a Yeovil side which ended a six-game losing streak by beating a Cambridge United side with growing relegation fears of their own, last time out. Darren Way is not making himself very popular with supporters in what has been a terrible season for the Glovers. Jim Bently on the other hand quietly goes about keeping Morecambe in the league against all the odds and with very little supporter expectation, criticism or pressure. I feel Morecambe will be more relaxed and Bently’s experience will make them better tactically resulting in them claiming all three points.
In the overall picture, despite tipping them to beat Port Vale, I cannot see Notts County escaping the drop with everything that is going on at the club, it is just too much to ask of the players and manager. I feel Jim Bently will keep Morecambe up again and Sol Campbell seems to have instilled enough belief and organisation to save the Silkmen. That leaves a straight fight between Vale and Yeovil and to me, Vale appears to look like a club with the sort of deep-rooted problems and lack of investment that has seen clubs relegated to the National League in the past.
If my predictions turn out to be true, the EFL will sadly lose two of its oldest clubs, both with tremendous support, the demise of which will owe everything to how their respective owners have run the two clubs.