THE BIG MATCH

The race for the npower League 2 promotion places is wide open as we enter February and two sides in the thick of things meet at the New York Stadium on Saturday as Rotherham United host Northampton Town.

The teams come into the match sitting five places apart but are separated by just two points, typifying just how close it is at the top of League 2.

The Millers are ninth but could find themselves as high as third come 5pm on Saturday, above the currently fourth-placed Northampton.

Aidy Boothroyd's men had sat third coming into the week but Burton Albion's point against Oxford United in midweek, coupled with the Cobblers' 2-0 defeat to leaders Gillingham, took the Brewers into the automatic promotion places, although they have played a game more.

Boothroyd, 41, was keen to reflect on the reverse fixture against Rotherham in August, which Northampton won 2-1, as he looked ahead to this weekend's important match.

"It was a good game here at Sixfields and to be honest it could have gone other way really," he told the Northampton Chronicle and Echo.

"Tactically we sorted it out and got the better of them that night but they've got some good players and they expect a lot of them there [at the New York Stadium]. They've got a wealthy owner, a new stadium and everyone expects them to do well this season.

"With that backing comes an expectation and it is nice to have that. We've got to see if we can go and give a similar account of ourselves to the one we gave earlier in the season and get a similar result."

If Boothroyd's team do complete the double over Rotherham, it will be the Millers' third defeat in succession as they have lost their last two matches, against Barnet and, most recently, Bristol Rovers - two sides towards the bottom of the table.

Rotherham boss Steve Evans has asked fans to be patient and get behind the team when the Cobblers visit on Saturday, after feeling their disappointment in the past week.

He told The Star: "The important thing is getting behind the team but if anyone wants to have a go at me then wait until after 46 games and see where we are then or at a stage if we can't get where we want to be.

"At the moment we stand three points behind the team in third place [Burton Albion] and we have played three games less than them.

"Yes, we have just had two poor games and two bad results but teams have patches when they're off-form."

KEEP AN EYE ON

It's promotion chasers versus relegation battlers at the Cherry Red Records Stadium this weekend as Burton Albion make the trip south to take on AFC Wimbledon.

The Dons currently sit bottom of the League 2 table on 27 points but a win could see them rise as high as 20th if results go in their favour.

Despite their lowly position, the Wombles are currently riding their best run of the season. In their four fixtures of 2013, they are yet to taste defeat - registering two wins and two draws, including a 2-2 stalemate at home against high-flying Port Vale last time out.

Jack Midson was the star in that match, bagging a brace against the Valiants, taking his tally to nine goals for the season, but the side's in-form striker is on-loan West Ham youngster Paul McCallum, who has notched four goals in his last four outings.

Dons manager Neal Ardley added another striker on transfer deadline day in the form of Gary Alexander, on loan from Crawley Town until the end of the season, and the boss is happy with the squad he has built.

"We're trying to create a really competitive squad," he told the Wimbledon Guardian, "to the point where players who were in their comfort zone before are looking over their shoulder.

"We can see it in training, it has raised another two or three notches over the past couple of months."

Burton Albion, on the other hand, need the three points to hold off the chasing pack. The Brewers are third, in the final automatic promotion spot, but could fall to ninth by the end of the weekend if they cannot beat the Wombles.

The Staffordshire club have lost only two of their last seven matches and come into the fixture having followed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Barnet with the previously mentioned 1-1 draw at the Kassam Stadium against Oxford.

A problem for Gary Rowett's men, however, has been their results away from the Pirelli Stadium. They have won just three games on their travels this season - scoring 10 and conceding 25 - compared to their 10 home victories.

The Brewers added Michael Symes, Alex McDonald and Ian Sharps during the transfer window and boss Gary Rowett believes those signings will help with their promotion push.

The 38-year-old told the Burton Mail: "They aren't transient loan signings, they've bought into what we're about.

"What it does is out a message that we're always going to try to improve and strengthen our squad and be proactive in that."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Bristol Rovers sit alongside AFC Wimbledon in the League 2 relegation zone but they could be in the safety places as early as Friday night with three points in their match against fellow strugglers Barnet.

John Ward's men have won their last two games, scoring six goals, and they are level on points with Plymouth Argyle, who occupy 22nd, so a win against the Bees prior to Saturday's schedule would guarantee the Pirates a place outside of the relegation zone.

A victory could lift Rovers as high as 19th, though - above Aldershot Town, Barnet and Accrington Stanley - signalling just how pivotal the Friday night fixture at the Memorial Ground is.

Plymouth, Aldershot and Accrington will all want to pick up wins, particularly if Bristol Rovers get three points on Friday, and they meet Dagenham and Redbridge, Exeter City and Port Vale on Saturday respectively.

Accrington's match against Port Vale also has implications at the top of the table as a win for Micky Adams' men would lift them back to the top, ahead of Gillingham, who aren't in action until Monday night when they entertain Wycombe Wanderers.

Cheltenham Town and Southend United occupy a Play-Off place, alongside the aforementioned Northampton and Exeter, and they will want to solidify their standing in the table against Torquay United and Oxford United respectively.

Fleetwood Town and Bradford City are waiting in the wings outside the top seven, hoping for a slip-up from the teams in the Play-Off places, and they clash in Lancashire this weekend.

Bradford's attentions have arguably been focussed on the Capital One Cup of late, with a day out at Wembley to look forward to in late February, but they need to knuckle down in the league if they want to remain in the promotion picture. The Bantams haven't won a League 2 fixture since a boxing day triumph against Accrington. Their opponents, meanwhile, won 3-0 against Oxford last time out to end a run of successive defeats.

Rochdale and Chesterfield aren't too far behind in the standings, lying 14th and 11th respectively, and they meet at Spotland, while York City and Morecambe, who are side-by-side in the lower half of the table, clash at Bootham Crescent in what is the remaining fixture in npower League 2 this weekend..

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