Just one game remains in the Football League!The 2015/16 season is reaching its crescendo and there are a few Royals loanees out on loan with their eyes on a successful end to the campaign.
45 games ticked off in the Football League – just 1 remaining, and a lot to play for. We take a look at what’s at stake on the final weekend for our boys at Football League clubs, as well as rounding up the non-League finishing positions of the lads at other clubs…
Dominic Samuel – Gillingham (at home to Millwall)
Samuel’s return from injury is timely as far as Gills are concerned, as they need to win their final outing against Millwall to stand any chance of making the League 1 play-offs. The Lions, who are already guaranteed a play-off place of their own, have won 10 of their 22 away games to date in the division and lost just six – so the Gills will have their work cut out at Priestfield. Even if they win, they still need results to fall their way – if Barnsley win at champions-elect Wigan or Scunthorpe take a victory from a trip to Sheffield United, Gillingham’s result will become academic. Striker Samuel returned from a recent injury setback to start at Burton last weekend, only for the promotion-hopeful Brewers to snatch a stoppage-time win.
Tariqe Fosu – Accrington (at home to Stevenage)
The equation is clear for Fosu and Accrington – a win at the Crown Ground against Stevenage and they will take a place in English football’s third tier for the first time since the club’s original incarnation in 1960. The Boro are already safe from the drop, but will be the potential party-poopers up in Lancashire. Even a draw would suffice for Stanley if Bristol Rovers dropped points at home against already-relegated Dagenham, but in that unlikely scenario, then they would require Oxford to lose at home against near-neighbours Wycombe if they wished to avoid the lottery of the play-offs. Simple enough, yes? Accrington and League 2 Player of the Month nominee Fosu will be keen to avoid last-day permutations and reliance on favours, and a win on Saturday would do just that.
Craig Tanner – Plymouth (at home to Hartlepool)
The Pilgrims sat firmly on top of the League 2 table when we enjoyed our New Year celebrations – but 2016 hasn’t been kind to the Devon club, who will now need to fend off the challenge of the play-offs to take a place in League 1 in 2016/17. Five defeats from eight fixtures from the start of March took them outside the automatic places for the first time since September. But Tanner and Plymouth still have a chance – their home meeting with Pools on the final day of the regular season offers them an opportunity to go above Portsmouth, who host champions Northampton. Plymouth and Portsmouth, guaranteed the 5th and 6th positions in the table (one way round or another) will definitely meet each other over a two-legged Dockyard Derby in the play-off semi-final – the only thing at stake on the last day is whether Fratton Park or Home Park will host the second leg.
Rowan Liburd – Wycombe Wanderers (away at Oxford)
While Liburd and Wycombe don’t have anything directly to compete for on the final day, they can play a part in preventing neighbours Oxford getting promoted automatically. If Bristol Rovers win and the U’s lose on the final day, it’ll be a place in the play-offs. So that is the incentive that the Chairboys have when they make the short trip up the M40 on the last day – and if Liburd features, it’ll be his 10th appearance in Wycombe colours.
Jack Stacey – Carlisle (away at Notts County)
One of the few dead-rubber fixtures that will be taking place on the final weekend in League 2, Carlisle’s journey south to Notts County gives them a chance to finish comfortably in the top half of the standings. It has been a tough season for the Cumbrians – their Brunton Park pitch being destroyed by floods caused by Storm Desmond the lowlight – but they have shown steely resolve in the division. Stacey played twice earlier in the season as a Barnet loanee, including debuting away at Notts County, where he’ll be visiting again this weekend with Carlisle. He has netted twice since joining the Cumbrians and could make his 10th appearance for the club on the final weekend.
Dominic Hyam – Dagenham (away at Bristol Rovers)
Dagenham & Redbridge have long since confirmed that they will be playing in the National League next season, but they are determined not to go down with a whimper. Last weekend they defeated Crawley 3-0, as centre-half Hyam played the full 90 to help them to keep their first clean-sheet in almost two months – piling further misery onto a Crawley side that had sacked Mark Yates a week before. That followed an unlikely 3-2 win from their trip to promotion-hunting Plymouth a week earlier, and therefore securing only their second back-to-back wins of the season and lifting them off the foot of the table at York’s expense. They have a chance to play spoilers again this weekend at Bristol Rovers, and a chance to register three straight victories for the first time in 2015/16.
In the National League, Rob Dickie and Cheltenham Town reached 101 points with a fifth straight win on their final outing last weekend by beating Lincoln 3-1. The Robins had already secured a return to the Football League at a canter but ticked into three figures with their final fixture. Dickie made 28 appearances for the club in the league over two spells, sandwiching an ankle injury in a cup tie.
They could potentially be joined in the Football League by Braintree Town – Sean Long and Harry Cardwell could play their part in getting them there. They needed to avoid defeat on the final day to prevent Tranmere from sneaking into the play-off places at their expense – and they emphatically did that with a 3-0 win against Altrincham. Two legs against Grimsby follow, with the winner to face either Forest Green or Dover in the play-off final.
We had five players out on loan with National League South sides – goalkeeper Lewis Ward spent time with eventual champions Sutton United, while fellow glovesman George Legg – who played a part in Chesham’s magical FA Cup run – finished the season with 9th-placed Gosport Borough. Bishop’s Stortford and Hammad Lawal finished 11th, Jake Sheppard’s Eastbourne Borough finished 17th, while Liam Kelly scored twice from the spot to ensure Bath City’s survival on the penultimate weekend – they eventually finished 14th in a tightly-contested bottom-half.