THE BIG MATCH

Bristol Rovers versus Exeter City sees npower League 2's bottom side play host to the team third in the table in an important game for varying reasons.

Rovers have had big news off the field this week with their quest for a new ground but on the pitch is where they need to turn things around first.

Although they are a point adrift at the foot of the table, they have only lost one of their last four games and have won two out of three so far in 2013, so at least have the confidence boost that brings.

Manager John Ward told www.bristolrovers.co.uk: "They [Exeter] are looking for automatic promotion and they're good enough to do that with some great experience on their staff of that. We take them on as a top three team, we took Gillingham on, gave them a good game but couldn't quite beat them.

"We took Fleetwood on as a top seven team, gave them a good game and beat them. I'm looking for that same kinds of work again from our group and give them a good game.

"We shouldn't underestimate ourselves, it is going to be a tough game, we'll need the supporters and the players all pulling together like we've seen in the last two home games and that will give us are best chance."

Exeter start the weekend with a two-point advantage over fourth-placed Rotherham United, though the Millers have two games in hand, while Paul Tisdale's Grecians trail second-placed Gillingham by six points.

But they are also five games unbeaten with three wins in that time as they continue to rack up the points in their bid for a return to League 1.

Tisdale told www.exetercityfc.co.uk: "We shouldn't be optimistic just because we're third. Arguably there are a few teams around us that could win their games in hand - then suddenly we're not third.

"But we've had two or three months of good form, and the team is getting better. They should be optimistic knowing that we're in the top third of the table - there are 18 games to go and we're beginning to tighten our team. If we slip out of third, we shouldn't be any less optimistic.

"They should be heartened by what they see on the pitch. The commitment, the application, and cohesive nature in which we're playing at the moment."

KEEP AN EYE ON

For a long time it looked like Gillingham might race away from the rest of npower League 2 but they have been overhauled at the top by Port Vale - thanks to a 2-1 win away to the Gills in their last match - and they now face Bradford City.

The match against the Bantams will provide the Valiants with the perfect opportunity to press home their advantage at the summit with Gillingham's trip to Rochdale already postponed.

Assistant manager Mark Grew told www.port-vale.co.uk: "We are not taking anything for granted. We are not looking two or three weeks down the line, we are looking at Bradford City on Saturday.

"Along with the manager, I watched them at Crewe [in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday night]. Whether they play the same side on Saturday we don't know.

"We have already played them twice so we know about their squad of players. They have got a very good squad and we are no illusions that it will be an easy game on Saturday.

"Their success in the cup competitions may have had an adverse effect on their league form. They have played an awful lot of games in the last four or five weeks and whether it will tell at the end of the season I don't know."

Bradford lost that Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at Crewe and have another cup encounter to face on Tuesday night when they head to Aston Villa with a 3-1 lead ahead of the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.

That will be less of a priority than adding new life to their promotion bid as a run of four League 2 games without a win has seen them drop to ninth, albeit only out of the Play-Off places on goal difference.

Boss Phil Parkinson told the Telegraph & Argus: "They [Port Vale] are in good form and have a striker [Tom Pope] who's got 26 goals, which has been an enormous help.

"But I honestly feel that without the distractions of the cups and the injuries we've had, we should be right up there with them and my job is to get us back there.

"We know Port Vale have got some very good attack-minded players and we've got to make sure we're strong enough to deal with that.

"But equally I'm just as confident we'll create chances against them, as we've shown in the previous two games."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

The weekend's npower League 2 fixture list could well end up being decimated by the bad weather forecast and three games had already gone under at the time of writing.

Second-placed Gillingham were due to travel to 14th-placed Rochdale but that match has been postponed, as has second-bottom AFC Wimbledon's visit to 19th-placed Accrington Stanley and the game at Roots Hall between Southend United and Plymouth Argyle.

If clubs are fortunate enough to escape the weather there are some interesting matches to look out for.

Rotherham United and Cheltenham Town are fourth and fifth respectively, locked together on 43 points with Rotherham just having the edge on goal difference.

Both teams have two games in hand over third-placed Exeter City with the Millers on the road to Oxford United, who have League 2's current best record with no defeats in their previous six games, while Cheltenham are scheduled to be in action on Friday night with a visit to Morecambe.

Behind those two teams are Burton Albion in sixth, one point further back and with 27 games played. Boss Gary Rowett was named Manager of the Month for December and takes his side to Northampton Town, who are 10th and only a point outside the Play-Off places.

Fleetwood Town are eighth and on the same points as Southend and Bradford ahead of their visit to Barnet, who start the weekend fifth from bottom and three points clear of the relegation zone.

The League 2 Play-Off picture is looking congested with the teams in 11th, 12th and 13th all potentially within striking distance.

Chesterfield are the best-placed of that trio and are level on points with Northampton with a visit to Torquay United in the offing for Saturday.

Oxford United are 12th ahead of their meeting with Rotherham, while Dagenham and Redbridge are 13th on 37 points, three adrift of seventh place, but their goal difference is 11 worse than Southend's as they get ready to face 17th-placed Wycombe Wanderers.

Saturday's remaining scheduled game is York City against Aldershot Town, which survived a Friday pitch inspection.

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