League Two relegation battle: are Oldham in danger?

Let the battle begin

The raw emotion of the League Two relegation dogfight has brought some great highs, extreme lows and incredible stories.

Wycombe Wanderers beat the drop in 2014 at the expense of Bristol Rovers, whose fans had celebrated staying up at Adams Park the week before; Ronnie Moore then became the Hartlepool Houdini the following season.

Newport stayed up in May 2017, having been 11 points adrift in March, thanks to Mark O’Brien’s dramatic 89th-minute winner.

Morecambe then stayed up the following year, helped by the convenient fact that both they and final opponents Coventry needed only a point to achieve their respective ambitions.

What will unfold this year – and which team might not be lucky enough to experience final day relief?

Bury’s unfortunate expulsion from the EFL means just one team will suffer the drop - Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) looks at the teams who are in danger of finishing bottom.

Morecambe

Why they will stay up

Strong characters.

Jim Bentley, Ken McKenna, Kevin Ellison and Barry Roche are all very spirited people who never shirk a challenge; their influence consistently transcends the rest of the squad.

Centre-back Sam Lavelle signing a new contract is a huge plus, Adam Buxton has put in some solid shifts at right-back and forward Lewis Alessandra has already scored five league goals.

Why they might not

There appears to be little going for the Shrimps in possession.

Aaron Wildig and Andrew Tutte have had injury troubles dating back to the start of last season, and their continued absence would leave the midfield short on craft.

Morecambe’s Expected Goals For (xGR) per game reads 0.84 - the lowest in the division - so they need to start creating more chances to maintain their current average return of one goal per game, let alone improve it.

Verdict

Morecambe have fought bravely against the odds for years to stay in the EFL, but they are understandably 2/1 favourites with SkyBet for the drop – there were clear signs that they might stay up last season, even in defeats, that are arguably not quite as visible so far this year.

Oldham

Why they will stay up

There is some individual quality in this squad.

Autumn recruit Filipe Morais is an accomplished technician and Désiré Segbé Azankpo is a hardworking, energetic forward.

Christopher Missilou, meanwhile, was arguably among the most complete ball-winners in League Two last season and could be handy in a dogfight.

Why they might not

There is a clear disconnect between the club and the supporters, with huge question marks over Abdallah Lemsagam’s ownership regime.

A lot of lifelong fans who worked at the club have been discarded and thus, they have lost the community feel to an extent.

Verdict

11/2 with SkyBet to finish bottom but might just have enough quality to stay up, despite a potentially frosty feeling around Boundary Park.

Stevenage

Why they will stay up

Their performances under the interim stewardship of Mark Sampson have been reasonably spirited.

Kurtis Guthrie, when on song, is one of the most naturally gifted strikers at this level and could be a real asset to their attempts to beat the drop.

Fit again forward Jason Cowley is an exciting recruit from Bromsgrove while Ben Kennedy is an enigmatic talent.

Why they might not

Stevenage’s Expected Goals Ratio (xGR) of 38.09% is the second-lowest in the division, behind only Morecambe’s xGR of 32.71%.

A lot of the players in defence and central midfield are suited to agricultural performances, so there can be imperfections in terms of the build-up play from deep.

Verdict

9/2 with SkyBet for the drop but may be able to battle to safety.

Macclesfield Town

Why they will stay up

Macclesfield currently sit inside the top half of League Two, so they have a comfortable cushion to the bottom place.

Athletic midfielder Emmanuel Osadebe has thrived by making late runs into attacking areas and, having taken what might have been one of his last few chances in the EFL, could play a key role for Macclesfield this season.

Why they might not

The club has had difficulty paying their players in full on time.

So far, players and staff have worked admirably in the adversity, but they still have six months of the season to play and there is only so long for which they can deal with the uncertainty off the field.

It seems questionable that the club’s initial cashflow issues preceded the summer transfer window, yet they were still able to make 14 additions.

Macclesfield play five of the current top seven in their next 11 games – and that excludes clashes with big-budgeted sides like Mansfield, Salford and Plymouth Argyle.

Verdict

SkyBet’s 10/1 on Macclesfield to finish bottom could be shorter come New Year.


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