THE BIG MATCH

The stand-out fixture in this weekend's npower League 2 schedule takes place on Friday at Vale Park, where second-placed Port Vale entertain fellow promotion challengers Burton Albion.

The Valiants have turned around a spell of poor form to record two wins and a draw in their last three outings, and that has lifted them back up to second, above Burton Albion, who have now slipped to fifth, four points behind their Friday night opponents.

The Brewers haven't won in three and that makes their match against Micky Adams' men all the more important, on top of the fact that three points would lift them back into the automatic promotion places, above Cheltenham Town, who are fourth, and third-placed Northampton Town.

Brewers boss Gary Rowett is playing down the significance of the game, though. He told the Derby Telegraph: "I really don't see this game as pivotal, that's genuinely how I feel. We've not talked about tonight's game in those terms and I'm not just saying it to take the pressure off the players.

"When I look back, I could pick out seven or eight games already that I saw as pivotal. Rochdale away was one [in September]. I felt we'd have been picking up the pieces for the season already if we hadn't won that one.

"So, is this game any more important than the two homes games coming up after it - probably not. We haven't won in three games but still not much has changed up there [at the top of the division]."

Port Vale secured a last-gasp 2-2 draw on Easter Monday against Chesterfield and defender Darren Purse marked his return to the squad by finding the net.

It was a result that created a three-point cushion between the Valiants and the Play-Off places, and the experienced Purse believes he and his team-mates have the momentum going into the final few games of the season.

"We're on a good little run now after that sticky patch we had," the 36-year-old explained to The Sentinel, "and we need to keep building on that with massive home games coming up.

"We need to stick together, pick up the points, and keep the scoreboard ticking over.

"We don't want to build it [the match against Burton] up too much because it's not the be-all and end-all.

"We have five games to go and I'd take losing against Burton if it meant winning the next four and clinching promotion."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Another vital game in npower League 2 this weekend sees two relegation-threatened sides go head-to-head, with York City welcoming Accrington Stanley to Bootham Crescent.

With just a handful of matches remaining and only four points separating the bottom eight sides, every game left to play is vital, and even more so if it is against another team also in the battle for survival, as this one is.

The hosts, York, currently occupy a place in the relegation zone but trail Accrington, who sit 20th, by just two points.

And the Minstermen, who were only promoted to The Football League last term, have the wind in their sails coming into this fixture, after securing their first three-point haul for 17 games last time out by beating Plymouth Argyle, another side deep in the mire, 2-0.

Manager Nigel Worthington is eager for his side to record another victory, which would move them out of the bottom two. He told The York Press: "The last two performances have put a marker down. That's what we have been looking for and the players have proven they can do it now. They did well at Bristol Rovers and added a couple of goals against Plymouth, which was nice.

"Accrington are coming to our patch next and we must do exactly the same again. The performance [against Plymouth] lifted the fans and we need to do that on Saturday. The supporters come to enjoy a game of football and they respond to energy, desire and commitment.

"We have given ourselves a platform now and I want to be sitting on 48 points come 5pm on Saturday because that will mean we are heading the right way."

Accrington will also come into the match in high spirits after a last-minute James Beattie strike secured a 3-3 draw against high-flying Burton on Easter Monday.

That thrilling match came after a dramatic 1-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers on Good Friday and manager Leam Richardson insists his side should take confidence from those two results.

"If someone had offered you four points from two games over the Easter period you'd have snatched their hand off," the Stanley boss explained to the Lancashire Telegraph.

"When you've got goals in the team, which we have, you always believe and I've been trying to put that through to the group.

"We need everybody. I certainly can't do it on my own and neither can one individual in the team. We're going to need everybody all the way to the end."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Table-toppers Gillingham will hope to edge closer to promotion this weekend when they host a struggling Torquay United side.

Martin Allen's men top the table by eight points and have a 11-point cushion between themselves and fourth-placed Cheltenham Town, with four games remaining.

Burton Albion and Rotherham United have games in hand, though, so could still catch them.

While the Gills are battling at the top, their opponents Torquay are fighting for survival at the bottom, just a single point above the drop zone, making the game at the Priestfield Stadium a significant one at either ends of the table.

Bottom club Aldershot Town aren't in action this weekend, but all of their relegation rivals are. Plymouth Argyle reside just outside the bottom two and visit high-flying Cheltenham, while AFC Wimbledon, Barnet and Dagenham and Redbridge, who all have 48 points, take on Bristol Rovers, Chesterfield and Exeter City respectively.

Of those teams on 48 points, only Barnet were winners last time out, and they will be hopeful of extending their four-match unbeaten run against the Spireites.

Rochdale and Wycombe Wanderers sit in mid-table and won't be comfortable until they know they are mathematically safe, although it would take a dramatic downturn in form for either of them to be pulled into trouble.

Rochdale's opponents on Saturday are Fleetwood Town, who now only trail the top seven by three points, while the Chairboys are on the road to Oxford United.

Bradford City are also on the periphery of the Play-Offs, two points behind Fleetwood, and have a home match with Northampton Town, who will want to cement their position in the automatic promotion places - the Cobblers currently lie third.

Rotherham are sixth, four points below Northampton with a game in hand, and visit Morecambe, in what is the remaining npower League 2 match this weekend.