THE BIG MATCH

Port Vale will be aiming to stay in touching distance of npower League 2 leaders Gillingham when they host fellow promotion contenders Cheltenham Town on Good Friday afternoon.

The Valiants broke a five-game winless streak last time out, beating York City 2-0, to move back above Burton Albion into second place and it kept the gap between themselves and the Gills at eight points.

Vale striker Tom Pope, the division's top scorer and npower League 2's Player of the Year, will be aiming to add to his 25 league goals but insisted it won't be easy against a good Cheltenham side.

The former Rotherham United man told www.port-vale.co.uk: "They are a big strong side and I think that anybody who went to Cheltenham earlier on in the season to watch the game will have seen what they are about.

"We came away with a point from that game which was pretty much a game of two halves. They had the better of the first half and we had the better of the second half.

"You have got to be at your best and work as hard as you possibly can to get anything. Teams are going to make it difficult for us. They are going to put bodies behind the ball and we are going to have to be patient and keep knocking at the door."

Cheltenham go to Vale Park sitting fifth, two points adrift of Micky Adams' men, having lost just one of their last nine matches.

With their strong form behind them, the Robins will be eager for maximum points, but manager Mark Yates knows it will be difficult, especially with a game against follow promotion contenders Northampton Town to follow two days later.

"These are two games [Port Vale and Northampton] in a short space of time against two sides who are both going for it like we are so if we win both it will really propel us. We're trying to take all six points but we know it's tough," the 43-year-old explained to www.ctfc.com.

"We've got to take it one game at a time. Port Vale are a good side, particularly at home and on a big pitch. They've got good striking options but we just need to make sure we're as good as we have been.

"They've predominantly played 4-4-2 this season by the looks of it with two strikers up top who have been scoring goals so it works for them. They'll have a game plan and we'll do what we do best. We'll play our game on a slightly bigger pitch but it's only a couple of yards bigger than normal."

KEEP AN EYE ON

There's a showdown between two relegation threatened sides on Monday afternoon when York City and Plymouth Argyle do battle at Bootham Crescent.

Going into Good Friday's fixtures, York sit 23rd in the table with 41 points from their 40 league games, two points from safety, while Argyle, in 21st, are among the pack hovering above the drop zone with 43 points from 39 games.

The Minstermen have not won since the opening day of 2013 - drawing seven and losing eight of their last 15 fixtures - and that form resulted in a recent managerial change with former Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington replacing Gary Mills, the manager who led them up from the Blue Square Premier last term.

They could rise to 20th by the time Argyle visit, though, providing they beat mid-table Bristol Rovers on Saturday and other scores go in their favour.

York have struggled at Bootham Crescent this term winning just four league games - the lowest tally in the division - drawing seven and losing a further nine.

While Worthington and his men are in action at the Memorial Stadium, Plymouth will be seeking their third successive league victory when they host sixth-placed Exeter City in a Devon derby.

Successive 2-1 victories against Play-Off chasers Fleetwood Town and Southend United has lifted the Pilgrims off the bottom and out of the relegation zone but they are one of six sides that could be in the bottom two by the end of the Easter weekend. A cushion for Argyle, albeit a slender one, is their goal difference of -8 - the best of the bottom five sides.

Plymouth have a similar record on the road as the Minstermen have at home - four wins and nine defeats - so it is sure to be a tight contest.

History also backs that up, with only two meetings since 1997 being separated by more than a single goal, but all of the matches since '97 have gone Plymouth's way. The Pilgrims have the advantage overall, winning 10 contests between the two, with York taking six.

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Barnet will have a large say in which teams will be deep in the relegation mire by the end of the Easter weekend as they meet fellow strugglers Dagenham and Redbridge and AFC Wimbledon.

The Bees enter the double-header sitting 20th, three points above the drop zone having lost two of their last four fixtures, and six points over two other troubled sides would be priceless.

First up, they host the 17th-placed Daggers, who are separated from the drop zone by just six points, before travelling to Kingsmeadow for a showdown with a Wombles side that are a point and a place better off than Dagenham.

Wimbledon's other fixture is a difficult test at the New York Stadium against seventh-placed Rotherham United on Saturday, while the Daggers face Bristol Rovers in their other Easter fixture.

The side at the foot of the table before the weekend action is Aldershot Town but they could rise as high as 19th if results go their way and they are able to pick up six points from their two matches - away to Rochdale on Saturday, before hosting Oxford United.

One of the teams the Shots could leapfrog is Accrington Stanley, who travel to Wycombe Wanderers then welcome promotion-chasing Burton Albion on Monday afternoon.

Torquay United's quest to maintain their Football League status has been boosted over recent weeks with 2-1 wins over Chesterfield and York, but they will find it difficult to build on their current points tally as they take on Bradford City at home on Monday after facing Northampton Town at Sixfields Stadium on Friday.

Fourth-placed Northampton are joined in the Play-Offs by Cheltenham, Exeter City and Rotherham United. Exeter host Rochdale after their trip to Plymouth, while Rotherham entertain Wimbledon before meeting leaders Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium on Monday.

One place and a point above the Cobblers is Burton Albion and they welcome Chesterfield on Saturday, prior to their trip to Accrington.

The three sides best placed to challenge for a Play-Off spot - Fleetwood Town, Southend United and Oxford United - all have intriguing match-ups over the Easter break.

The Cod Army and the Shrimpers, after playing Gillingham and Bradford respectively, meet at Roots Hall on Monday as both strive to get into pole position to overtake any of the teams in the Play-Off pack that may slip up.

The U's have lost their last two fixtures so will be aiming to break that run against Morecambe on Saturday at the Kassam Stadium, before meeting Aldershot.

Rounding off this Easter weekend's action on Monday, Morecambe, who are without a win in their last four before meeting Oxford, host Wycombe Wanderers who seem clear of safety - they are eight points and eight places above the drop zone.

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