League Two: Cambridge, Bolton and Morecambe in three-way final day promotion race

Cambridge, Bolton and Morecambe are in a three-way race for the final two automatic promotion spots in League Two - but who will go up and who will be forced to settle for the play-offs?
Cambridge, Bolton and Morecambe are in a three-way race for the final two automatic promotion spots in League Two - but who will go up and who will be forced to settle for the play-offs?

With one game of the regular season still to play, there is a three-way race for the final two automatic promotion positions in League Two.

Cambridge United, Bolton Wanderers and Morecambe all have a shot at promotion in a sensational finale to the season.

With three play-off places also up for grabs, there's plenty to play for in English football's fourth tier.

BBC Sport takes a look at what is at stake and what it will take to join Cheltenham Town in winning promotion.

How promotion can be won

This is how the top of the League Two table looks heading into the final game of the season, with Cheltenham currently the only team to have secured promotion
This is how the top of the League Two table looks heading into the final game of the season, with Cheltenham currently the only team to have secured promotion

After Cheltenham secured promotion to League One late last month, the race for the final two automatic promotion spots took a turn last weekend.

Cambridge missed the chance to go up last Friday after they were defeated 5-4 away at Harrogate Town and, the day after, Bolton also squandered the chance to return to the third tier after their last-ditch loss at home to Exeter.

That's left fourth-placed Morecambe still in the mix to win a spot in League One for the first time in their history.

Second-placed Cambridge will go up if they pick up at least a point against already-relegated Grimsby, given their superior goal difference in comparison to Morecambe.

Bolton travel to Crawley knowing a win will take them up, while a draw will be good enough if Morecambe fail to beat Bradford.

Morecambe can seal promotion with a win if Wanderers fail to collect three points, while a draw against the Bantams will be enough if Bolton are beaten in Sussex.

'People won't just give you what you want'

Cambridge have been defeated in their most recent two games, having lost just once in eight games beforehand
Cambridge have been defeated in their most recent two games, having lost just once in eight games beforehand

Cambridge go into their game against Grimsby having lost their past two matches, yet they are still in prime position to achieve promotion on the final weekend.

Despite their loss to Harrogate, boss Mark Bonner says the fact they still have another chance to go up is testament to the hard work they have put in this term.

"What you see across the leagues is that getting across the line is harder than it sounds, sometimes," he told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

"Whilst we're not in complete control of what happens, we are in the driving seat and the buffer we've built is off our own performances, results and quality throughout the season.

"You always have in the back of your mind what's happening elsewhere, I think that's natural. If ever a game is literally about us, it is this one.

"We know a positive result for us gets us to where we need to be [but] we know from our past two games, people aren't just going to give you what you want."

'No point in nerves'

Having been 17th after their defeat by Tranmere in January, Ian Evatt has led Bolton to 15 wins from their past 21 League Two games
Having been 17th after their defeat by Tranmere in January, Ian Evatt has led Bolton to 15 wins from their past 21 League Two games

Less than a decade ago Bolton Wanderers were Premier League stalwarts, with some formidable players among their ranks. But the club's recent tumultuous off-field history saw them drop to the fourth tier.

From administration, a 12-point deduction and a subsequent takeover, to a season to forget curtailed by the pandemic and resulting in a second successive relegation, the club have an unenviable recent record.

Bolton boss Ian Evatt could, however, return his club to the third tier at the first time of asking despite missing the opportunity to wrap up promotion against Exeter.

"It's season-defining. It's the last game of the season with all to play for and it's a huge game," Evatt told BBC Radio Manchester.

"There's no point worrying or being fearful or nervous about it. We just need to concentrate on the match itself, man for man, one v one, 11 v 11.

"Because of how well we've done [this season], we have a second opportunity and a second chance and we have to go in with that attitude. This weekend is strictly business."

'We've got to keep our end of the bargain'

Only Newport County have won more games at home in League Two than Morecambe this season
Only Newport County have won more games at home in League Two than Morecambe this season

Morecambe's previous highest finish in the fourth tier is fourth, which they recorded in 2009-10, their third season after winning promotion to the Football League in 2006-07.

Despite being an unfancied side that have battled against relegation in recent years, boss Derek Adams has inspired his side to challenge for promotion thanks to their excellent home form.

With 41 points gathered at the Globe Arena this term, they have the joint second-best record at home in the division, and welcome Bradford on Saturday hoping to make history by reaching their highest point in the English footballing pyramid.

"Our home form is testament to how well the players have played this season," Adams, who has previously won promotion from League Two with Plymouth, told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"Cambridge and Bolton are the ones that have it in their hands at this moment in time. We've got to keep our side of the bargain and hope results go for us elsewhere.

"We put on a very good performance [last week] away at Walsall, which was important because Cambridge and Bolton lost. At the start of the season, would every Morecambe fan have taken that? Yes they would."

The play-off race continues

The race for the play-offs continues into the final weekend of the League Two season, with Salford and Exeter still in with a shout of a top seven-place
The race for the play-offs continues into the final weekend of the League Two season, with Salford and Exeter still in with a shout of a top-seven place

The battle for a top-seven place goes on this weekend too, with Salford City and Exeter City currently outside the play-off places but still in with a chance of muscling their way into a crowded promotion picture.

Salford are the form team of the end-of-season run-in, having picked up 16 points from their past eight games going into the final day, with only Port Vale winning more points in that timeframe, but the Ammies must win to have any chance of a play-off spot.

Exeter, who face Barrow on Saturday, have scored the second-highest amount of goals in the fourth tier this term and can get into the top seven with just a draw if Forest Green lose to Oldham.

Newport and Tranmere are not quite assured of play-off places but face Southend and Colchester respectively knowing their fate is in their own hands.

Manager-less Forest Green take up the final play-off spot going into the last day of the campaign having been in automatic promotion contention for much of the season until their recent drop off.

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC