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Monday, 25 March 2013

The View Outside The Premier League: Tranmere add to Stevenage woes and York City are in trouble


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Sqf hugh larkin

With international matches on the go, this weekend had a truncated Football League programme which was reduced even further by the dreadful March weather. The snow proved to be especially troublesome for Sheffield United and Brentford who would have taken top billing on Sky.

Bournemouth and Doncaster Rovers took advantage of the postponements and Tranmere were able to consolidate their position in a play-off spot. Next Friday Ronnie Moore's side host Sheffield United in a crucial encounter.

Tranmere disposed of a Stevenage squad who are low on confidence and have now lost 15 of their last 19 league games. Life in League One has turned sour for Stevenage after last season's excellent performance that saw the club reach the play-offs.

Boro boss Gary Smith was sacked this week due to the poor run. It remains to be seen if this is the right decision so late in the campaign. The team showed spirit at Tranmere, but the outcome was the same. They still have an 11-point cushion to the relegation places so there is time to arrest the slide.

Next week Stevenage take on Crawley, another club who came from Conference to League One in consecutive seasons and have now find life in the third tier more difficult.

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York City won their Football League berth back last season but are in danger of losing it immediately. Their season has also been one of early promise, then mediocre results and finally a steep slide toward the bottom. The decline cost Gary Mills his job after his sterling efforts to get York up and Nigel Worthington has taken over.

On Saturday a 2-1 defeat to Torquay took York into the drop zone and gave the Gulls' own survival hopes a real boost. City's next three games will have a critical impact on their survival hopes; first up is a trip to Bristol Rovers who have moved into safer territory recently.

Then come home games against Plymouth and Accrington who are both deep in the mire alongside York. Two wins from these matches would go a long way to saving City's bacon - equally, a failure to win at least one would be desperate.

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In the Conference, while Wrexham and Grimsby Town were contesting the FA Trophy Final, Lincoln City pulled off a vital win over Telford. The Imps left it very late to save the points against their relegation rivals but they are still in imminent danger of dropping another division.

While teams like Crawley and Stevenage are breaking new ground, Lincoln are an example of the teams who are suffering from the professionalisation of the 'fifth' division. Teams like Halifax Town and Darlington have suffered dramatic declines and the Imps and Stockport County are battling to avoid a similar fate.

Set against that, Chester City are fighting back after their own troubles and have taken the Conference North by storm this season. The revived FC Halifax have a decent chance of joining them.

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Speaking of clubs in trouble, Portsmouth made it a miserable week for Coventry City fans by beating the Sky Blues 2-0. The result put a spoke in Coventry's hopes of reaching the play-offs but boosted Pompey's hopes of staying clear of League Two. It will be something of triumph if both teams are still in business for next season.

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Hugh Larkin

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