THE BIG MATCH

The fixture list has blessed us with what could be a real cracker as the Pirelli Stadium hosts an encounter between Burton Albion and Cheltenham Town - two sides in with a real shout of automatic promotion this season.

Home side Burton had been in the top three after a good unbeaten run but lost 3-0 at Bristol Rovers last Saturday, a defeat that ultimately cost them their place in the automatic slots, though Gary Rowett's men have the second-best form over the last six games.

It was only their third League 2 defeat of the year, however, and they sit just two points behind their visitors with the potential added advantage of a game in hand over the Robins.

Rowett told the Derby Telegraph: "I watched them on Tuesday night [against Chesterfield] and it looked like it was heading for a draw before they nicked a late winner.

"That took them up a couple of places, while we have dropped a couple of places after one defeat. I think it's going to be like that for the rest of the season now and it will come down to whichever teams keep their heads and get a bit of consistency. With 10 games to go, there is a lot of room for change.

"We're certainly looking forward to the game. It's going to be really tough as they're going well but after eight wins in a row [at home], we've certainly got nobody to fear at our place."

Cheltenham are six without defeat at the moment and overall have only lost three times since the end of November, showing just how tough a nut to crack Mark Yates' men have become.

They had been trailing the Brewers until two successive home victories, 2-1 against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday and 1-0 over Chesterfield on Tuesday night, saw them climb back up into third on 61 points.

Assistant manager Neil Howarth told www.ctfc.com: "Burton have a really good home record and some good recent results. They are on the back of a bad result though but their home fans have certainly kept them up there this season.

"They're a great club and it's a really friendly place to go when you turn up as the opposition. They look after you and do everything right and they do it right on the pitch, too. They like to play football and it's a good set-up there.

"Burton have some good players and are on a high at the moment, bar last week, but we're doing okay ourselves. We're looking to build on a good unbeaten record and can go there on Saturday with a bit of confidence ourselves."

KEEP AN EYE ON

At the other end of the npower League 2 table comes a match between two sides fighting for their survival in The Football League - one of whom has a new manager taking charge of his first game.

AFC Wimbledon are the hosts and they sit at the foot with 36 points to their name whereas their visitors, York City, are 18th and four points further on ahead of Nigel Worthington's debut as their boss.

The Dons, however, won't be concerning themselves with York's situation as they will be looking to build on a good recent run that had seen them go four matches unbeaten prior to last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham, and they now face York for a fourth time this season.

Manager Neal Ardley told Dons Player: "They've got a new manager and it's his first game in charge so there's nothing to go on. We can take the reports from the last game and you could possibly rip them up because they might not have any bearing on how they're going to play.

"They are obviously going to be motivated by a new manager and that will stoke them up so the timing is not great from our point of view but what we have got to take control of is us and our performance levels, our energy levels, that's what we've got to focus on.

"We have got to take the pressure away from the boys and say to them that anyone who watches any game of football we're involved in needs to know that we are the team fighting for our lives in the way that we approach the game, but we've also on the flip-side got to take the pressure off them and let them go out and play without fear."

Former Northern Ireland boss Worthington was handed the York job this week following the departure of Gary Mills, who had led the club back to The Football League last season.

The Minstermen have not tasted victory since New Year's Day when they beat Burton Albion 3-0 and since then they have collected just six draws from their 11 games, a run that has seen them slide to 18th on 40 points, four above the drop zone, and their hosts.

Worthington told the York Press: "I have to make an immediate impact because games are running out but there are ample points available to make sure we are in League 2 next season.

"I have to get the mindset of the players right and, having trained with them now, I was impressed with a lot of the football.

"We probably need a more ruthless streak to win games and we've got to get into a healthy position, reach 50 points as soon as possible, maintain the club's League 2 status and then look forward."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

It couldn't be much tighter at the top or bottom of npower League 2 at the moment and Saturday's game involving the leaders is one that will have ramifications at both ends of the table.

Gillingham are back on top of the pile with a two-point advantage - and a game in hand - over second-placed Port Vale, but have only picked up one point from their last two games so will be looking to put that right at home to Plymouth Argyle.

The Pilgrims' situation is serious as they sit in the relegation zone with 11 games to go, ahead of bottom side AFC Wimbledon only on goal difference and a point away from the safety line.

A win over fellow strugglers Barnet last time out, coupled with a draw against the Dons in their previous match, will send them to Kent in good heart but their resurgence has to continue if they are to get out of trouble.

Back at the top end is an intriguing clash between Port Vale and Southend United, who are eighth.

Vale, whilst trailing Gillingham, are three points ahead of third-placed Cheltenham Town so find themselves in a good position with 10 games remaining but will be looking to spark up a bit of momentum again after winning just one of their last six.

Southend's recovery from a difficult start to the season has seen them get among the promotion-chasers but they still have seven points to make up on the top seven if they are to get into the Play-Off places, though they do have a game in hand over Northampton Town - the team immediately above them.

Rotherham United are the form side at the moment and sit fourth after one defeat in their last eight, a point outside the automatic promotion spots, and their challenge on Saturday is a home game against Dagenham & Redbridge. The Daggers are 16th, six points clear of the relegation zone.

Exeter City in sixth and Northampton in seventh are locked together on 58 points, only three away from the top three, with the Grecians heading to ninth-placed Fleetwood Town and the Cobblers hosting Accrington Stanley.

That is an important one for Accrington, too, as they are third from bottom, just a point outside the relegation zone with only two wins to their name all year.

Level on points with Stanley are Barnet, who host 11th-placed Morecambe on Saturday, while a point clear of them are Torquay United - at home to Oxford United in 12th - and one point further on are Aldershot Town, whose task is a visit to 10th-placed Bradford City.

Saturday's remaining games see Chesterfield, in 14th, host Bristol Rovers, who are a place and two points behind, while 17th-placed Rochdale are at home to 13th-placed Wycombe Wanderers.

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