THE BIG MATCH

Promotion challengers Port Vale host relegation-threatened Plymouth Argyle in npower League 2 this weekend with both clubs desperate for the three points on offer.

Port Vale come into the fixture having lost their grip on top spot following a New Year's Day defeat against Fleetwood Town but they will be looking to bounce back when Argyle make the trip north.

The Valiants clearly favour playing away from Vale Park this season having mustered eight wins on their travels compared to five on home soil and Micky Adams is keen to improve their home form, hoping a rest after the hectic festive period will help their cause.

He told www.port-vale.co.uk: "We are struggling here at home and I don't think I can say that we're not because the results are there for everyone to see.

"We need to regroup, have a little bit of rest and start again. Hopefully we will be better against Plymouth."

The travelling Pilgrims are lingering at the opposite end of the table having won just one of 15 games, and without a three-point haul in their last eight away matches.

Last time out they fell two goals behind inside the opening 25 minutes against fellow strugglers Bristol Rovers, and could only pull one back through Conor Hourihane.

That result ended Carl Fletcher's spell as manager and the club have since announced that Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell will take over temporarily, starting with the match against high-flying Vale.

And, ahead of the match with Micky Adams' men, Nancekivell told the Plymouth Herald: "Port Vale are flying high at the minute. They are a good team and the league table doesn't lie. They have got some match-winners and good players.

"But we have got some good players ourselves and they were very focused in training. They have got a point to prove and they desperately want to put things right.

"They will be well-prepared, they will know their jobs and we will give it a good crack."

KEEP AN EYE ON

It may only be the second round of fixtures in 2013, but the npower League 2 Play-Off race is hotting up and two sides in the thick of it meet on Saturday as Northampton Town host Fleetwood Town.

The Cod Army currently sit sixth and travel to Northampton off the back of an impressive unbeaten festive period, their last defeat coming in the final match of November.

The Cobblers also had a good Christmas, winning both of their matches - the most recent being a 3-1 home success against Dagenham and Redbridge.

That victory extended their good home record, which is one of the best in the division, and left them four points adrift of the Fleetwood and the Play-Off places.

Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd insists his side won't get caught up in the hysteria of battling for a Play-Off place, but they are relishing going up against a side near them in the table.

He told www.ntfc.co.uk: "It won't be easy because Fleetwood are a good side. We have got to make sure that we compete and beat the teams around us.

"We want to win every game no matter who it's against and if we start worrying about the opposition too much then we will have a problem. We have to respect our opponent but there are so many areas in which we can improve as a team and that's what we need to concentrate on.

"It's important that we don't get too carried away and our first aim is to get to 49 points, which we want to do sooner rather than later. We are not looking beyond that and the most important target is always the next game."

Fleetwood will certainly provide Boothroyd's men with a tough challenge as they have been impressive away from home this term, losing just twice on the road so far.

They also have the best away defensive record in npower League 2 having conceded just nine times in the 12 matches they have played away from Highbury.

And they will certainly be confident after their aforementioned 2-0 away win against Port Vale last time out.

Manager Graham Alexander told www.fleetwoodtownfc.com: "I've got to be pleased with the points we've gained. It has been a thoroughly professional performance from the lads.

"Despite the holiday period, they have obviously prepared properly away from the club as well as at training. This is a pleasing attitude which we need to take forward. In a nutshell, we are looking to win a game of football [against Northampton]."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Gillingham and Bristol Rovers sit at opposite ends of the table and they lock horns this Saturday at the Memorial Ground.

The Gills reclaimed top spot with a New Year's Day victory against rivals Southend United, and will hope to maintain their position this weekend, while Bristol Rovers also won on January 1st to make things interesting at the foot of the table.

John Ward's men remain in the relegation zone but would move out of the bottom two if they win and one of the two teams directly above them - Barnet and Plymouth - fail to pick up any points at the weekend.

Barnet have a home game against Bradford City, who have struggled in the league following their historic Capital One Cup win over Arsenal.

The Bantams have managed just one victory in four games since their famous triumph over the Gunners.

Along with Barnet and Plymouth, Bristol Rovers could also catch Aldershot Town, but would need to overcome a four-goal deficit, as well as pick up three points. The Shots are in FA Cup action this weekend against fellow League 2 side Rotherham, so if Rovers can manage a win with a four-goal swing, they would be guaranteed to move out of the bottom two come full-time.

AFC Wimbledon are the team who currently prop up the table, and they travel to Rochdale. The Dons were surprise 3-2 winners away at Play-Off chasing Torquay United last time out, which will give them a boost ahead of the match with the inconsistent Dale, who have won two and lost two of their last four.

Elsewhere, Dagenham and Redbridge will be hoping to overcome their New Year's Day defeat away at Northampton Town as they travel north to Accrington Stanley, who sit directly beside them in the standings.

The loss to the Cobblers was the 16th-placed Daggers' third in succession, while Stanley come into the match having won their first match in eight last time out.

Wycombe Wanderers and Chesterfield were both 1-0 losers in the first round of 2013 fixtures, and they go head-to-head at Adams Park.

The Chairboys, who have improved under Gareth Ainsworth to sit 19th, lost out to Exeter City, while the Spireites were defeated by Accrington Stanley. It's likely to be a tight encounter with the two sides separated by just one point in the table.

Play-Off chasing Exeter will want to build on that victory against Wycombe when they visit York City on Saturday.

The Minstermen are just four points further back than the ninth-placed Grecians, though, so will be eager to close that gap with three important points.

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