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Defying the drop: Why Sutton United and Forest Green Rovers must win this weekend to avoid relegation

Sutton United and Forest Green Rovers are languishing at the foot of the Sky Bet League Two, the English football league’s most dreaded relegation zone.

This weekend, the bottom two take on the worst teams in the rest of the division, with it being a must win game for both the U’s and the Rovers. 

Whilst Sutton are seven points away from safety in 23rd, FGR require nine to escape 24th.

Although it is Sutton’s first spell in the EFL, they have been the underdogs throughout and managed to defy the odds. 

Whereas FGR are on the cusp of a double relegation, their poor performances on the pitch are highlighting the issues that linger behind the scenes. 

In their defence, this may be the most competitive League Two campaign we have witnessed for a few seasons, with 12 of the 24 teams undergoing managerial changes for differing reasons.

But for both clubs, failure to win this Saturday will allow their closest competitors more breathing room and furthermore cement their fate of relegation…

Sutton  United

The South London outfit suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat against Harrogate on Tuesday evening, Steve Morison’s first defeat since his arrival from Hornchurch. 

However, Morison recruited well in the January transfer window and has improved the squad significantly for the final stretch of the league campaign. 

The shrewdest of the six signings has been the capture of Charlie Lakin, joining on a loan deal until the end of the season from Burton Albion, Lakin has solidified the midfield and ensured quality.

Moreover, adding two options in defence, midfield, and attack – whilst extending the loan of goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis. 

Yet, their next opponent Doncaster Rovers (22nd) travel to Gander Green Lane this weekend off the back of a 5-1 thumping to Stockport County, if Sutton are victorious, the gap would shrink to just four points. 

Last time out: Doncaster gazumped the U’s with Harry Smith scoring their only goal, if Smith scores this weekend, it will be the first time since 2019/20 that he has scored home & away against the same team

Doncaster lost 2-0 in their only visit to the VBS Community Stadium and have not won on the road in seven matches. 

Forest Green Rovers

January saw Rovers record back-to-back draws for the first time since November and experience three different managers in the space of 36 days. 

FGR went through two managers within a month and began to feel the ominous yet familiar threat of relegation, eventually nominating the vastly experienced, Steve Cotterill, to steady the ship.

In his first game, Cotterill impressed the Rovers faithful, FGR had more possession, shots and duels-won than Accrington Stanley – but they fell to a 1-0 defeat.

Despite 13-game winless streak, inaccurate managerial recruitment and lack of improvement on the pitch, the players that have joined in this transfer window have injected hope into their survival bid. 

The six signings they have made warrant a side that are preparing for a Play-off push, the addition of record goal-scorer Christian Doidge brings with it a sense of optimism. 

However, a red card for debutant Alex Gorrin, who joined upon the expiry of his deal with League One side Oxford United, personified FGR’s ongoing misfortune.  

This weekend they travel east to take on Colchester United (21st), a side who are unbeaten under their new stewardship – Danny Cowley.  

Last time out: Forest Green Rovers’ third win of the season was an emphatic one, furthermore United have failed to score in the last four meetings between the two, whilst conceding 11

This clash cannot be undermined, with Mansfield (3rd) and Barrow (4th) next, their fate could be sealed within the next three games. 

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