Can long-serving Accrington boss John Coleman achieve a fourth promotion?
By Laurie Fitzgerald
The battle for the fourth and the final promotion spot in League Two begins this weekend with the beginning of the Football League Play-offs.
On Saturday, Torquay host Shrewsbury Town, while the following day sees Stevenage take on Accrington Stanley at Broadhall Way.
The semi-finals conclude with both second legs taking place on Friday week with a place in the final at Old Trafford up for grabs on Saturday 28th May.
The favourites of the quartet will be a Shrewsbury side that battled impressively for an automatic promotion spot, only to be denied by Wycombe Wanderers on the final day.
But Graham Turner’s side have built up real momentum having won seven and drawing two of their last ten league games.
Turner knows what it takes to get a team out of League Two, as he managed it with former club Hereford Town back in 2008.
A great run of form breeds confidence, and in the likes of the club’s player of the year in Mark Wright and striker Matt Harrold, the Shrews are the team to beat.
But they will face a Torquay side that are bidding for back-to-back promotion after an excellent first season back in the Football League.
Paul Buckle has ensured the squad have coped with the expectations at the Devonshire club.
They have lost just one of their final dozen games, although they have struggled in recent wins with four draws in five games.
Defeat on the final day at Rotherham put their top seven spot in doubt; however, Gillingham’s defeat at chanpions Chesterfield handed the Gulls a reprieve.
Much will depend on Chris Zebroski to fire the goals to gain promotion, while player of the year Guy Branston will provide the defensive backbone despite not yet being offered a new deal at Plainmoor.
The other semi-final sees two teams that have won many plaudits over the past few campaigns.
If Torquay’s attempts at back-to-back promotion is impressive, then the efforts of Stevenage to do the same is all the more remarkable.
This is Boro’s first ever season in the Football League, as manager Graham Westley looks to improve his burgeoning reputation in management.
Their form has been indifferent in the run-in, with just one win in their last six matches, although that preceded an impressive six wins on the spin.
Their consistency has been built on a solid foundation, such as the experienced ever-present goalkeeper Chris Day and the likes of Scott Laird, Lawrie Wilson and John Mousinho providing the necessary structure to the Hertfordshire outfit.
But in their opponents Accrington Stanley, they come up against a manager that has contined to take his team to new heights in his 12 years in charge.
Only Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been in charge longer than Accrington boss John Coleman, but he has performed great things on a different scale to his long-term counterparts.
Since the 48 year-old took over at the Lancashire side in 1999, he has taken the club from the Northern Premier League Division One to the brink of League One.
With Stanley going for their fourth promotion under Coleman, they have the momentum to make another great step in the history of the club.
Accrington are unbeaten in 13 matches, and hope the likes of Phil Edwards and Sean McConville can continue their excellent form.
The question that remains now is this; just who will join Chesterfield, Bury and Wycombe in promotion to League One in 17 days time?
So what do you think? Which of the four teams will secure promotionto League One? Will this be the hardest fought of all the play-offs? Let us know your thoughts