IT would be a surprise if one team in the top nine of League Two is not cursing a party pooper on Saturday night.

Newport County AFC head to relegated Southend United (kick-off 3pm) hoping that they will not be the victim in their bid for the play-offs on a fascinating last day.

After 45 rounds, the top nine teams all have something to play for and none of them face each other.

Relegation was settled last weekend with the Shrimpers joining Grimsby in dropping to the National League.

It’s all eye on the top with already-promoted Cheltenham’s bid for the title of relatively little interest. If they fail to get the job done against Harrogate then it will only be mild disappointment, safe in the knowledge that they will be a League One club next season.

Cambridge, Bolton and Morecambe are scrapping for the two remaining automatic promotion spots and the race for the play-offs is going to the wire.

County have it in their own hands and will want to avoid needing a slip up from Tranmere, Forest Green or Exeter. Salford are in with a chance but can’t catch Michael Flynn’s side.


Cambridge v Grimsby, Carlisle v Walsall, Cheltenham v Harrogate, Crawley v Bolton, Exeter v Barrow, Morecambe v Bradford, Oldham v Forest Green, Port Vale v Mansfield, Salford v Leyton Orient, Scunthorpe v Stevenage, Southend v Newport County, Tranmere v Colchester.

All of the top nine have a job to do and will have spent the week uttering ‘the shackles are off’ warnings about opponents who have little to play for.

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If County need a warning about Southend - and one imagines they don’t - then a DVD of the February meeting between the sides would make useful viewing on the coach to Essex.

The Exiles headed into the clash on the back of a win against Grimsby, when Nicky Maynard’s predatory finish earned a backs-to-the-wall success after Scot Bennett’s first-half red card.

The hope was that another three points would revive the push for automatic promotion. Instead it turned into a nightmare night.

The fixture was a rearranged one after Southend had a wasted trip to Newport on January 2, when a frozen pitch had led to a very late postponement.

County huffed and puffed in bitterly cold conditions after suffering an injury blow after 27 minutes when Matty Dolan limped off.

He was replaced by Jack Evans in what remains the former Swansea City midfielder’s only performance for the club.

County were frustrated by the Shrimpers, who grew in confidence in the second half as the minutes ticked by.

Flynn went on the attack by bringing on Jake Scrimshaw and Dom Telford to join fellow forwards Ryan Taylor and Maynard, mindful of the importance of three points.

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Yet County fell behind with 16 minutes to go when full-back Tom Clifford struck a free-kick from just outside the box and it deflected past the wrong-footed Nick Townsend.

The Exiles should still have won – Josh Sheehan, Ryan Taylor and Maynard all squandered glorious openings.

It was a win that lifted Southend off the bottom of the table and gave them hope of an escape, hopes that have since been dashed.

County can’t be doubled at Roots Hall if they are to avoid being as miserable as their hosts.


1 Cheltenham 79 points

2 Cambridge 77 points

3 Bolton 76 points


4 Morecambe 75 points

5 Newport 72 points

6 Tranmere 72 points

7 Forest Green 70 points


8 Exeter 69 points

9 Salford 68 points