Surviving the League Two trap door

As the 2014-2015 season reaches its conclusion one of the main priorities at the start of the season for the 24 Sky-Bet League Two clubs is to remain in the Football League. This is because gaining promotion back to the Football League is a tough challenge, with the Conference often referred to as one of the toughest divisions to find a way out of.

It was ten years ago that Carlisle United were the last team to have bounced straight back to the Football League after suffering a relegation the previous season.

The last five seasons has seen Aldershot Town, Barnet, Chester City, Darlington, Grimsby Town, Hereford United, Lincoln City, Luton Town, Macclesfield Town and Stockport County plummet into the non-league.

Out of these ten teams only Luton Town have returned to the Football League, with the possibility of Barnet joining them as they currently lead this seasons Vanarama Conference with two fixtures remaining. With this sort of record nobody will want to see their team drop down into the fifth tier of English football.


With only four games left relegation from the Football League will be a major concern for all the teams involved at the wrong end of the League Two table. Before the Easter weekend fixtures take place it was Tranmere Rovers and Cheltenham Town who occupied the relegation zone with Hartlepool United, Carlisle United and York City looking worryingly over their shoulders.

However, York City got the better of Cheltenham Town, and then a further 1-0 win against Hartlepool United has all but sealed the Minstermen’s Football League status. York City’s five game unbeaten run has pushed them above Mansfield Town in the table.

The key fixtures:

Tuesday 14th April: Cheltenham Town v Cambridge United
Tuesday 14th April: Mansfield Town v Tranmere Rovers
Saturday 18th April: Tranmere Rovers v Oxford United
Saturday 2nd May: Carlisle United v Hartlepool United

For much of the current campaign it was Hartlepool United who looked a certainty for relegation. However the arrival of experienced manager Ronnie Moore has been a key factor in their revival which recently saw the Pools win four games in a row to move out of the relegation zone for the first time since October.

However this form has stalled recently and they have only claimed one point in their last three games, missing a big opportunity against ten men York City in their last fixture. If Hartlepool are to avoid the dreaded drop they will need to claim more points than two of their rivals as their poor goal difference (-29) will not do them any favours if they are to finish level on points with any of their rivals.

Hartlepool’s escape from the relegation zone has been helped by the recent slump of Cheltenham Town. The Robins have won once in their last ten fixtures and have dropped to the bottom of the Football League. However, they have rolled the dice recently and appointed former Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson until the end of the season.

Johnson has had previous experience in surviving relegation battles by helping Yeovil Town and Bristol City from similar positions and is Cheltenham’s third manager this season. However, he has not taken any points since his appointment and the club remain three points from safety.

Tranmere are also struggling in their fight for League Two survival. They were rock bottom of the League Two table when current manager Micky Adams took over in October and there has been little progress for the club since.

Rovers midfielder and top scorer Max Power previously claimed they had “nine cup finals left” and since then they have only picked up two points from the first five fixtures and with their current form of just four wins from sixteen fixtures in 2015 their chances of beating the drop do not look too bright in what would be back to back relegations after being relegated from League One last season.

Carlisle United and Mansfield Town will feel a little bit safer as they both currently sit six points above the relegation zone with 45 points. Both teams changed managers being half way through the current campaign. Carlisle, who were a place outside the relegation, have improved since the arrival of Keith Curle and are almost safe.

Mansfield, like bottom place Cheltenham Town have lost their last five fixtures, are struggling. A key fixture at home against Tranmere Rovers is a game they can not afford to lose. The 2013-14 season saw Bristol Rovers relegated with 50 points, with Barnet being relegated with 51 points the season before.

With this at the back of the supporters’ minds, just two wins from their last four games should see Carlisle United and Mansfield Town safe. Carlisle United face a key fixture at home to fellow struggles Hartlepool United which could be crucial in their bids to retain Football League status.

Bottom of the Table:

19 York 42 -3 48
20 Carlisle 42 -19 45
21 Mansfield 42 -21 45
22 Hartlepool 42 -29 40
23 Tranmere 42 -16 39
24 Cheltenham 42 -26 37

All teams involved in the relegation battle will know that gaining promotion from the fifth tier is no easy feat. Only two teams are promoted every season with one being promoted as champions of the Conference National and the other having successful negotiating the playoffs.

The past two seasons have gone down right to the wire with Bristol Rovers being relegated on the final day of last season, and Barnet suffering the same heartbreak the season before.

With the knowledge that only one team have come straight back from relegation in the last ten years, each team will be doing everything they can to avoid relegation to the non-league and hoping they can avoid that dreaded final day heartbreak.

The Author

Anthony Marriott

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