THE BIG MATCH
Two teams on the cusp of the npower League 2 Play-Off places clash on Saturday as Chesterfield host Southend United at the Proact Stadium.
The Spireites currently lie 11th, on 39 points, while the visiting Shrimpers are a point better off in eighth. The lowest-placed side in the Play-Offs - Burton Albion - are on 42 points, so a win for either of the teams in Derbyshire on Saturday could see them move into the top seven, providing other results go their way.
Paul Cook's men approach the fixture having ended a three-game winless streak last time out, with a 3-0 victory over Northampton Town. And the 45-year-old is expecting his side to put in a similar performance to secure another three points.
"If we play like we did against Northampton, we'll win the game. It's not complicated. Southend have got their hands full with us," the former Accrington Stanley boss explained to www.chesterfield-fc.co.uk.
"We're looking forward to a game against a Southend side that will be very strong. We're preparing towards winning that game, that's all our focus is on."
While Chesterfield won 3-0 last time out in League 2, Southend lost 3-0, against Exeter City. That was the third league game in succession that the Shrimpers had failed to pick up any points, or even find the net.
Their attentions may have been sidetracked somewhat, though, with three cup games coming in quick succession. They advanced to the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory against Oxford United, following a 3-3 draw, and lost 2-1 in an FA Cup replay to npower League 1 high-flyers Brentford, after the initial tie ended 2-2.
Saturday's match gives Paul Sturrock's men the opportunity to get their promotion push back on track, and it also gives midfielder Kevan Hurst the chance to get one over his hometown club.
The 27-year-old made more than 50 appearances for the Spireites between 2005 and 2007, and he told www.southendunited.co.uk: "I'm really looking forward to the game and hopefully we can get back to winning ways, it's a big game for myself.
"I've got a lot of friends back at home who will be coming to the game, along with my family, so Southend will have a few more fans on Saturday.
"I've been back there a few times, and obviously had a spell with Chesterfield. It's been pretty good to me when I've gone back so hopefully it will be again this weekend."
KEEP AN EYE ON
Keith Hill will make a return to the Rochdale dugout on Friday night as he takes charge of Dale for the first time since departing in May 2011, with a match against Cheltenham Town.
Hill left npower Championship club Barnsley in late December after poor results saw the Tykes slip to the foot of the table. He wasn't out of work for long, though, with Dale acquiring his services for a second time, after dismissing John Coleman from his position as boss.
Coleman was in charge as the club lost their place in League 1 last term, and he left them sitting 14th in npower League 2, six points adrift of the Play-Offs.
Hill described his return to the club as a "no-brainer", and he said he is focusing on the next 18 games, before assessing his future.
The opening game to his second stint is a tough one, too, against fifth-placed Cheltenham, a team he appeared for as player in the 2000/01 season.
Mark Yates' Robins come into the match with Rochdale in a rough patch of form, having won just one of their last six.
They lost their place in the automatic promotion places during that disappointing run, but could return to the top three with a victory against Dale.
Boss Yates, who played alongside Hill at Cheltenham, told www.ctfc.com: "Keith Hill was great here [at Cheltenham], he was a great character to have around. He was a good player - we all knew that.
"The job Keith did at Rochdale was some achievement, he's done bigger and better things since and I was shocked like everybody else that he left Barnsley."
In the return fixture at Spotland in December, Rochdale ran out comfortable 4-1 winners.
Yates insists his team need to show their opponents what they are really about, but he knows Hill's influence will play a part in the game.
"Their players will want to impress in his first game in charge, but we have to be aware of that.
"We have to show Rochdale that we're not the team that went up there and got our backsides tanned. We've got to make sure they see a different side to us and if we do that we'll give anybody a game."
Hill didn't waste time in bringing in a new player, as he signed winger Andy Howarth - a player who played under him in his previous spell with Rochdale - and he is likely to make an appearance at Whaddon Road.
ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION
Gillingham could regain top spot on Saturday when they play York City. The Gills currently sit second, two points adrift of Port Vale, who drew 2-2 with AFC Wimbledon on Thursday.
The Gills also have two games in hand over the Valiants, so they will be eager to press home their advantage at the earliest opportunity.
The Minstermen come into the game with only one win in six, and they lie 15th, six points off the Play-Off contingent.
Burton Albion are up against Edgar Davids' Barnet, the Brewers will have to pick up three points if they want to guarantee their place in the top seven come full-time, as a whole host of teams are on their tails.
Chesterfield, Bradford City, Fleetwood Town and Southend United are within three points of Burton, while Oxford United and Dagenham and Redbridge are narrowly behind, in 12th and 13th respectively.
Fleetwood, who signed experienced midfielder Paul McKenna from Hull City this week, take on Oxford, while Bradford's match with ever-improving Wycombe Wanderers, has been postponed due to a frozen pitch.
Rotherham United are another team who will be looking over their shoulders, as they are only three points inside the Play-Offs, although they could find themselves in third after their match with Bristol Rovers, proving just how congested it is at the top of the npower League 2 table. The match at the New York Stadium is a big one for the Pirates, too, as three points could move them out of the drop zone.
Elsewhere, Dagenham and Redbridge host Jim Bentley's Morecambe. The Daggers have been inconsistent of late, with two wins and two losses in their last four, while Morecambe have become draw specialists, with five draws coming in their last eight matches.
The remaining fixture on Saturday sees Plymouth Argyle entertain Accrington Stanley. It's a significant match at the bottom of the League 2 standings with just three points between the two sides. The Pilgrims are one place above the relegation zone, in 22nd, while Stanley are 19th. A victory for John Sheridan's Plymouth would edge them narrowly away from the drop zone, while a win for Accrington would put six points between them and the bottom two.
There's also a game in npower League 2 on Monday, with Devon rivals Exeter City and Torquay United going head-to-head in front of the Sky Sports cameras at St James' Park.
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