We are now well and truly into the business end of the season across the EFL, with the race to gain promotion and avoid relegation growing more and more intriguing by the week.
The battle at the top in League Two is particularly interesting as a cluster of sides will feel they are right amongst it all.
Morecambe boss Derek Adams will be without midfielder Yann Songo’o, who is serving the fourth of his six game ban from being found guilty of using a homophobic slur during a match in January. Another suspension issue is Nat Knight-Percival, who was sent off in their last match, whilst Stephen Hendrie may potentially return after being out with a hamstring injury.
In the other camp, Cheltenham manager Michael Duff won’t be able to call upon on loan goalkeeper Josh Griffiths, so veteran keeper Scott Flinders will likely step in. Also missing through injury are Will Boyle and George Lloyd, with Duff hoping both will be back sooner rather than later.
(4-1-4-1) Letheren, Mellor, Davis, Lavelle, Gibson, Kenyon, O’Sullivan, Wildig, Diagouraga, Mendes, Stockton.
(3-5-2) Flinders, Long, Tozer, Freestone, Blair, Sercombe, Thomas, Wright, Hussey, Smith, May.
The Shrimps come into the game in pretty good form, having picked up 10 points from the last 15 available, with a 1-0 away win at Harrogate Town being their most recent result. They did lose to Newport County the last time they were on home turf however, so they will be looking to put that right. A win here would draw them closer to the automatic promotion places, so they will likely be going all out for it.
Meanwhile, Cheltenham have won six of their last eight matches to steer them to the top of the table, but surprise losses to Barrow and Mansfield Town in that run means that they will be looking to improve on their consistency for the promotion run-in. A 2-0 win over Salford City in midweek will have boosted confidence ahead of this weekend, which they will hope can help steer them to victory once again.
Ones to watch
In the opening day meeting between these sides, the game was heading for a draw, before wideman Mendes Gomes popped up with a 92nd minute winner. Since then, the Spaniard has gone on to bag 13 goals in all competitions this season, making him Morecambe’s top scorer. He has done an interview this week, which will be broadcast on Football Focus prior to kick off, so the limelight will be on him going into the game. Even more so because he scored after just 29 seconds in midweek, a feat which he would surely love to replicate on Saturday.
Many neutral football fans will know forward Alfie May as the player who gave Cheltenham the lead against Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round in January. Unfortunately his side were unable to hold on for a famous victory, but his contribution this season has gone far beyond that, scoring 11 times to be the main attacking threat at Duff’s disposal. May has failed to find the net in his last four appearances, so will be looking to end that minor goal drought when he faces Morecambe.
These sides are in the fourth tier together for the fifth straight season, since Cheltenham’s promotion from the National League. And in their nine meetings since then, the head-to-head has been quite even. The Robins have slightly edged it with four wins to Morecambe’s three, but it was the Lancashire side that came out on top when they met on the opening day of this season, winning 2-1 in stoppage time. So Cheltenham will out for revenge on the side that caused their season to start with a stutter.
The game is available to watch for both sets of fans on each individual iFollow page for both clubs. For season ticket holding Morecambe fans, the link is obtainable for free.
What the managers have said
Morecambe manager Derek Adams spoke to the media ahead of the game, making note of their impressive season. He said:
“It’s a position Morecambe haven’t been in for a good number of years.
“The last time they were in this position was when Sammy McIlroy was manager and they finished in the play-offs.
“We want to try and replicate that – and even better that.”
In the other dugout, Cheltenham boss Michael Duff spoke to local journalists, discussing his sides current position, and how they aim to stay there. He said:
"I think we were top with 15 to go, we’ve managed to chalk off five, we’ve got to chalk off another 10.
“But you’ve got to win games, it’s one game at a time. It’s no good worrying about the chasing pack.
“They could all win, they could all lose, our points total doesn’t go up or down based on other people’s results. You’ve got to win games if you want to get promoted.”