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Analysis: What League Two playoff hopefuls have the easiest run-ins?

The League Two season is almost at its climax but there are still plenty of teams still fighting for the playoffs, including Swindon Town. Take a look at who has the easiest and most difficult ends to the season with Total Sport Swindon's Ryan Walker giving his analysis below.

*Note: Given Forest Green's lead at the top of the table, we excluded them from this analysis.

2nd Exeter City

Played: 40 W: 20 D: 14 L: 6 Points: 74

Still To Play: Colchester, Tranmere, Rochdale, Barrow, Northampton, Port Vale

Exeter City currently occupy 2nd place in the League Two table having last lost at the start of March, winning 6 of their last 8 fixtures. Matt Taylor’s side faces three of the top ten during the end-of-season run-in but boasting such impressive recent form it would be a shock to see them drop out of the automatic promotion spots. 

A win against Colchester at the weekend would help The Grecians cement their place in the top three as they target promotion to League One.

Prediction: Automatic Promotion

3rd Port Vale

Played: 41 W: 20 D: 12 L: 9 Points: 72

Still To Play: Hartlepool, Bristol Rovers, Walsall, Newport, Exeter

Port Vale boasts the best form in League Two winning 7 of their last 8 matches and creeping into the final automatic promotion place. Tough games against playoff placed Bristol Rovers, Newport County, and fellow automatic chasers Exeter on the last day of the season make for a difficult end to the season for the northern-based outfit. 

Manager Darrell Clarke has experience of League Two promotion with Bristol Rovers in 15/16 and easy games against Walsall and Hartlepool will all but ensure they keep their place in the top 7 regardless of results against those teams around them.

Prediction: Automatic Promotion

4th Mansfield Town

Played: 40 W: 20 D: 9 L: 11 Points: 69

Still To Play: Sutton, Carlisle, Crawley, Stevenage, Salford, Forest Green

Mansfield have had a strange season flip-flopping in and out of patches of form but have managed to rise to 4th in the League Two table seeming to secure hard-fought wins similar to Swindon. 

Despite having played one less game than those around them, Mansfield’s main threat to securing their place in the playoffs is that they have struggled against similarly placed teams this season having already lost to Forest Green, Port Vale, and Tranmere in March and April. 

Boasting one of the biggest budgets in the league and with fans expecting playoff football, Mansfield will need to pick up at least one win against a top 10 team during the final matches.

Prediction: Playoffs

5th Northampton Town

Played: 41 W: 19 D: 10 L: 12 Points: 67

Still To Play: Oldham, Harrogate, Leyton Orient, Exeter, Barrow

Northampton have been in indifferent form recently boasting good wins against Tranmere, Stevenage, and Hartlepool but losing to Carlisle, Bristol Rovers, and Mansfield respectively as they try to secure their place in the playoffs. 

Away form has been a concern for The Cobblers with them winning just 7 times on the road this season in comparison to their 12 wins at home, and with a 50/50 split of home/away fixtures left this could be one team who won’t feel too safe as things stand. 

Three games against opponents in the lower half of the table should provide Northampton fans with some relief, but they must pick up maximum points in these games before their final two fixtures against Exeter and Barrow.

Prediction: Playoffs

6th Bristol Rovers

Played: 41 W: 19 D: 10 L: 12 Points: 67

Still To Play: Salford, Port Vale, Forest Green, Rochdale, Scunthorpe

At one point this season Bristol Rovers’ playoff hopes looked dead and buried, however Joey Barton has finally Swindon’s league rivals firing on all cylinders storming up the table and currently occupying sixth place in the league standings. 

Rovers have found the formula to not losing games having lost just 2 of their previous 14 matches, albeit rarely blowing teams away with big score- lines. 

However, their resolve will be tested to the limit in their next three matches as they come up against playoff rivals Salford City before games against current automatic hopefuls Port Vale and league leaders Forest Green Rovers. Win at least two of those games and Rovers will have all but cemented their place in the race for promotion.

Prediction: Miss Out

7th Newport County

Played: 41 W: 18 D: 12 L: 11 Points: 66

Still To Play: Crawley, Sutton, Colchester, Port Vale, Rochdale

Victory at Swindon last time out saw Newport climb into the final playoff position and now face one of the easiest run-ins as they face Crawley, Rochdale, and Colchester with Sutton and Port Vale also still to face. 

Recent wobbles have seen Newport give some fans cause for concern with losses against Hartlepool and Exeter. However James Rowberry has shown his ability in grinding out results and with League Two top scorer Dominic Telford statistically boasting nearly a goal a game, you wouldn’t bet against The Exiles climbing the table between now and the end of the season.

Prediction: Playoffs

8th Salford City

Played: 41 W: 18 D: 11 L: 12 Points: 65

Still To Play: Bristol Rovers, Barrow, Oldham, Mansfield, Stevenage

The club may boast high-profile owners, but ever since being promoted to League Two in 18/19, Salford City have failed to make the playoffs finishing just two points outside the top seven last season. 

Now Salford will be seeking to get into the playoffs at the third time of asking and will surely be confident of doing with City scoring 13 goals in their last 6 games as they climbed up the table. 

The test for Salford will be getting results against teams fighting at both ends of the table with Bristol Rovers and Mansfield both boasting better form and currently higher placed whilst Barrow and Oldham are each fighting to stay in the division.

Prediction: Miss Out

9th Tranmere

Played: 41 W: 18 D: 11 L: 12 Points: 65

Still To Play: Bradford, Exeter, Stevenage, Oldham, Leyton Orient

Tranmere at one stage looked certain to finish in the League Two automatic promotion places but have massively dropped off winning just once in their last five games and struggling to convert draws into wins. 

Games against Bradford, Oldham, Stevenage, and Leyton Orient each represent good opportunities to pick up victories whilst a tough home clash against Exeter will be a harder task. Tranmere need to go on a winning run if they are to force themselves into the playoff picture, and have a good chance of doing so with a fairly easy end to the season.

Prediction: Miss Out

10th Sutton United

Played: 40 W: 18 D: 10 L: 12 Points: 64

Still To Play: Mansfield, Newport, Barrow, Crawley, Bradford, Harrogate

Nobody expected Sutton United to be in the playoff picture having only been promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history last season but Matt Gray’s side now finds themselves just two points outside the playoff places and with a game in hand on most teams around them.

Sutton don’t play the most glamorous of football but instead excels at unhinging teams with more direct football and creating danger from set-plays. A difficult end to the season sees them come up against both Mansfield and Newport in the next two matches which could either end their hopes of finishing inside the playoffs or give them a massive boost. 

Sutton have already been to Wembley once this season, so could another trip be on the cards?

Prediciton: Miss Out

11th Swindon Town

Played: 40 W: 17 D: 11 L: 12 Points: 62

Still To Play: Harrogate, Leyton Orient, Hartlepool, Forest Green, Barrow, Walsall

Regardless of whether Swindon Town make the playoffs or not, this has certainly been a season to remember for the Robins with them relegation favourites at the start of the season to playoff contenders. 

New owner Clem Morfuni put his trust in Ben Garner and the former Bristol Rovers Head Coach has done a stellar job at creating a side that plays some of League Two’s most progressive football, but recent struggles have seen them slip to their lowest league position of the season. 

Swindon face the easiest run-in of the bunch with them coming up against a top 10 team just once over their final six games but their troubles in front of goal must be righted starting this weekend against 17th placed Harrogate if they are to keep those dreams of promotion alive.

Prediction: Playoffs

Swindon Town FC

Swindon Town Football Club

STFC are Swindon's top football team, based at The County Ground Stadium.

The County Ground, County Road, Swindon, Wiltshire , SN1 2ED

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