English League 2

Gillingham v Rotherham preview

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Sun, 31 Mar 2013 19:48:00

Atletico Madrid were unable to leapfrog Real Madrid into second spot as they were held by Valencia.

A 1-1 draw in the Vicente Calderon stadium was not enough to move above their city rivals as Valencia produced a spirited display to keep their own Champions League hopes alive.

Jonas surprised the home side inside five minutes but Radamel Falcao promptly beat the offside trap at the other end to stab the ball home and restore parity within a minute.

Despite home pressure after the break, that's how it stayed and the result leaves Atletico a point behind Real with Valencia just a point outside the top four themselves.

Earlier on Sunday, bottom-club Deportivo La Coruna recorded back-to-back victories for the first time this season after a narrow win over fellow strugglers Real Mallorca.

Victor Casadesus gave Gregorio Manzano's side the lead but a wonderful goal from Silvio put Deportivo back on level terms before the break.

Veteran defender Carlos Marchena gave the visitors the lead early in the second half and Riki extended the advantage, before Alfaro scored late on to set up a tense finish. But Deportivo held on to keep their hopes of survival alive with the Galician side now just four points from safety.

Osasuna were another side whose hopes of avoiding relegation were handed a huge boost after they came from a goal down to win at Valladolid in fine fashion.

An own goal by Ruben gave the hosts an early lead but two goals by Kike Sola within 10 minutes after half-time put Jose Mendilibar's side ahead. Miguel De Las Cuevas then scored his first goal for the club to make sure of the points and lift Osasuna seven points clear of the drop zone.

Elsewhere, Real Sociedad's hopes of a Champions League place suffered a setback as they were held to a draw at Espanyol. In fact, they left the Cornella-El Prat grateful for a point after Javi Lopez's own-goal inside the final quarter of an hour denied the hosts all three points.

It was the second time Sociedad had come from behind in the match, David Zurutuza scoring either side of strikes from Sergio Garcia and Christian Stuani in an eventful first half.

Sociedad remain in fourth but are now just a point clear of Malaga in fifth as the race for the final Champions League spot heats up.

The Italian, who left Swindon in February, will take charge from Monday morning as the replacement for Martin O'Neill who was sacked on Saturday after the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United.

Chairman Ellis Short said: "Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started.

"The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status.

"I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us.

"Our fans have shown tremendous patience and understanding this season.

"They have continued to back the team in huge numbers, both home and away, and that is something that continues to inspire all of us in our drive to give them the successful club they deserve.

"That remains our primary aim."

The Sunderland job is only Di Canio's second in management after his spell at Swindon and he was a big success in Wiltshire, guiding the Robins to promotion to League One.

Di Canio, 44, played for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan before making a move to Britain where he played for Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton.

Within minutes of Di Canio's appointment, David Miliband announced he has resigned from his role as vice-chairman and non-executive director of the club due to Di Canio's "past political statements".

Within seven games of the Premier League season left Sunderland are just one point above the relegation zone.

The evening started well for the Bavarians when Nikola Djurdjic headed them in front in the second minute, but goals from Takashi Inui, Stefan Aigner and Alexander Meier turned the game around.

Sercan Sararer brought Furth back to within a goal, but they were unable to find an equaliser as they remain rooted to the foot of the Bundesliga, 14 points from safety with seven games left.

Frankfurt are now fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Schalke and still in the hunt for a place in the Champions League next season.

Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking saw his side relinquish a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw against former club Nurnberg.

Diego and Ivica Olic had put the Wolves into a commanding position, but Nurnberg mounted a spirited comeback to take a share of the spoils thanks to second-half goals by Timmy Simons and Per Nilsson.

On-loan midfielder Adam Reed is expected to make his home debut for the Minstermen against their relegation rivals.

Reed, drafted in from Sunderland last week, made his first appearance for the club in Saturday's goalless draw at Bristol Rovers.

Striker Michael Coulson could make his first start since damaging knee ligaments in October.

Coulson returned as a second-half substitute on Saturday and is set to be involved again.

Teenager Tom Platt is hoping to retain his place, but fellow midfielder Scott Kerr remains doubtful with a calf strain.

Defender Lanre Oyebanjo returned on Saturday after missing the previous four games due to a calf injury, while centre-half Chris Doig is hoping to shake off a knock.

City - three points from safety with five games remaining - are chasing their first win in 17 league games in a bid to escape an instant return to the Blue Square Bet Premier Division.

Pilgrims boss John Sheridan is hoping Saturday's goal hero Jason Banton will be fit to feature on Easter Monday.

Banton scored a brilliant solo goal in first-half stoppage time as Sheridan's side overcame Devon rivals Exeter City 1-0 in front of League Two's biggest gate of the season, 13,251, at Home Park.

The on-loan Crystal Palace forward. who has now scored six goals in 11 games since joining Plymouth, was substituted after 72 minutes.

"Jason hasn't trained all week," Sheridan said. "He has had a bit of a stiff back. We will just have to assess him. It might be a case of changing one or two because we have got a long trip and we had a very hard game against Exeter. Whoever comes in I expect them to fill the boots of the player they replace."

Anthony Charles and Warren Feeney are set to miss out again while midfielder Lee Cox (shoulder) is an injury doubt. He was replaced by Luke Young at half time against Exeter and will be assessed ahead of the clash with a City side four points below the Pilgrims.

Gulls manager Alan Knill has a selection dilemma at left-back for the Easter Monday encounter.

Former Arsenal youngster Tom Cruise is available again having served his one-match ban for the red card he picked up against York.

But his place in the side was taken by long-serving defender Kevin Nicholson in the 1-0 loss at Northampton, leaving Knill with a decision to make.

Scot Craig Easton is sidelined again with a calf injury while Billy Bodin and Nathan Craig are pushing for starts should Knill decide to freshen things up after the long Friday night trip to Sixfields.

Strike duo Rene Howe and Elliot Benyon looked lively once more against the promotion-chasing Cobblers and they are set to continue their partnership upfront.

Torquay sit four points above the relegation zone having lost just one of their last five games.

Bantams striker Nahki Wells could return to the starting line-up.

Wells has started among the substitutes in the last four matches, but set up the equaliser for James Hanson in Friday's home draw with Southend after stepping off the bench and is pushing for a recall.

Midfielder Ricky Ravenhill recovered from a shin injury to start against Southend, but Nathan Doyle and Will Atkinson could come into contention if manager Phil Parkinson wants to add some fresh legs for a second game in four days.

Matt Duke is hoping to return in place of Jon McLaughlin as Parkinson continues to rotate his goalkeepers, while defenders Carl McHugh and Michael Nelson are also pushing for recalls.

Bradford are chasing their first league win in four games on the road as they bid to keep their outside play-off hopes alive.

Shrimps boss Jim Bentley hopes to have top scorer Jack Redshaw available from the start on Easter Monday.

A groin problem restricted Redshaw to bench duty against Oxford but the former Manchester City youngster came on to fire his 16th goal of the season in stoppage time and secure a 1-1 draw.

Chris Holroyd is the man most likely to make way to accommodate Redshaw.

Will Haining's recovery from a hamstring injury to complete 90 minutes handed an unexpected boost to Bentley at centre-back against the U's.

But it remains a problem position for them, and Bentley must assess Andy Parrish (thigh) and will be without the experienced Nick Fenton (calf).

Chairboys goalkeeper Matt Ingram is expected to line up in goal again, having made his professional bow on Friday.

The youngster's big day was spoilt by Accrington's late winner at Adams Park but the club's youth product looks set to retain his place as Gareth Ainsworth's men look for the three points he believes will secure League Two football for another season.

Ingram was handed his debut because Tottenham recalled keeper Jordan Archer from his loan spell in the build up to kick-off on Friday to provide back up to Brad Friedel after an injury to Hugo Lloris.

Archer had made 29 appearances this season for Ainsworth's side before returning to White Hart Lane.

QPR loanee Bruno Andrade returned to the matchday squad after injury and the winger is pushing for a start,while Leon Johnson and Marvin McCoy will hope to keep their places after being recalled to the starting XI.

The hosts are almost at full-strength as they look to take another step towards promotion.

Saturday's 2-2 draw away at Fleetwood leaves Martin Allen's side six points clear at the top and 10 points ahead of fourth-placed Burton.

Their game against fellow promotion-hopefuls Rotherham will have to be navigated without the services of Andy Frampton, who serves the final game of his three-match ban.

The only other worry is midfielder Charlie Lee, who missed Saturday's game through illness and will be assessed.

Allen handed a rare start to Callum Davies at the weekend and, despite impressing, he is likely to return to the bench with Steven Gregory restored to the midfield.

Adam Birchall was also given the nod at Fleetwood but he will face competition from Deon Burton and Weston for his place in the attack.

Millers boss Steve Evans could name an unchanged side for Easter Monday's crunch promotion tie.

Evans' side did their hopes of pinching a top-three spot the world of good on Good Friday when they beat AFC Wimbledon and he could keep the faith.

Evans made four changes for the Dons match as he handed starts to Joe Skarz, Scott Shearer, Kari Arnason and Daniel Kearns and all four are expected to keep their shirt.

It was Shearer's first start in goal since October following knee and elbow injuries, so he may just be monitored ahead of kick-off.

Right-back Mark Bradley is their only absentee as he battles a broken foot.

Rotherham are currently four points adrift of third-placed Northampton with a game in hand.

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