A round-up of our youngsters’ achievements…Sean Long’s Lincoln City capped an incredible campaign by earning promotion back to the EFL on Saturday, as a 2-1 win in the day’s early kick-off against Macclesfield saw the Imps crowned as champions of the National League!
The Royals Academy graduate came off the bench in the final ten minutes to help Lincoln over the line – sparking frenzied celebrations for the 10,000 supporters inside Sincil Bank, as they returned to the League after a six-year absence.
It was Long’s 14th appearance for the Imps since joining the club on loan in January; in that time, he helped the team get past Ipswich, Brighton and Burnley and book a history-making FA Cup quarter-final tie with Arsenal.
Their win against the Silkmen was their seventh in succession – and handed them the title with two games to spare. That means that Long and his teammates can enjoy stress-free trips to Maidstone and Southport in the next week, with the title already secure.
And Craig Tanner’s Plymouth Argyle have already booked their place in League 1 for the 2017/18 campaign; their promotion to football’s third tier was confirmed with a blistering 6-1 win against Newport on the previous weekend.
It makes amends for the heartache suffered last season – Tanner was involved from the bench in the play-off final at Wembley last year as Wimbledon earned promotion, but this season they have avoided that game of roulette and ensured a top-three finish.
And Tanner has made 34 appearances in all competitions to date in his second spell for the Devonian club – and this time it has a happier ending!
The Pilgrims could theoretically still lift the title if results go their way over the next two games too. They are second only to Doncaster, who have led the way since January, but Donny have lost their last two… Plymouth are two points behind with a couple of games remaining.
There are more of our loanee players in the play-off hunt as well, across the divisions.
Jake Cooper’s Millwall currently have a slender grasp on the last play-off position in League 1 with just one game remaining... but, having been defeated in each of the last two, they can’t afford any slips. Southend and Rochdale are still in the hunt, but a win at Bristol Rovers would seal an extension to the season for the Lions.
Meanwhile in League 2, we could have as many as three loanees in their play-offs. In an incredibly concertinaed division, even Grimsby Town – currently 14th – still have a mathematical chance of securing a play-off spot with two games remaining.
But Stuart Moore’s Luton (4th) and Jack Stacey’s Exeter (5th) have things in their own hands. And Tariqe Fosu, with 12th-placed Colchester, still stands a chance of creeping in – they’re just three points behind Stevenage, who occupy the last of the play-off places.
Jake Sheppard’s Dagenham are guaranteed to finish either third or fourth in the National League, meaning they’ll definitely face Forest Green in a play-off semi. The winner of that tie will contest a final against either Tranmere or whichever side finishes 5th – which will be Dominic Hyam’s Aldershot if they beat Braintree on the final weekend, or if Dover don’t win either of their last two.