The 2022/23 campaign is nearing its climax in the fourth tier of English football. With around 9 games to go, nothing has been set in stone.
Despite being at the top for the majority of the season, leaders Leyton Orient have drawn their last four games and are now only eight points clear of Carlisle in fourth. They still remain nine games unbeaten but the inability to close games out in recent times is a worrying sign for Richie Wellens and O's fans. They have been somewhat reeled in by the pack.
But the pack have had issues of their own. It is needless to say that every team goes through a blip or two over the course of a season, it is too long not to. But sustainability in success derives from a tendency for the top teams to bounce back or limit their poor performances. Again referring to Orient, they have only lost five this season, and boast the best defensive record in the league having only conceded 25 goals in 37 games. Their ability to still pick up points even when they are not at their best is to be admired and despite four draws in their last four, they still remain in a superior position to not only gain automatic promotion but also win the league.
The immediate teams behind them: Stevenage, Carlisle and Northampton, have all had poor runs of results as well. This has granted Orient the opportunity to maintain a slender yet useful advantage at the summit.
The aforementioned three sides have been jostling for the other two automatic promotion places in recent times, and just three points separates them. Looking at the last six games, Northampton have picked up 14 points and not lost, catapulting them back into second from fourth. Stevenage, who were second for a copious length of time, have lost two out of their last six and gained ten points. Boro, and Orient for that matter, do still have a game in hand over the other two sides, which may prove pivotal come May. Carlisle have been arguably the surprise of the season after their run which rocketed them into the automatics in the beginning of 2023. They are now without a win in three, although they drew 0-0 against Stevenage and Bradford in recent weeks, both tough games. But the defeat to Gillingham this past weekend was perhaps a sign that they might be running out of legs. They now face the leaders this coming Saturday in what is a massively important game for both sides at Brisbane Road.
All in all, it seemingly appears that the top sides are, to a degree, stumbling to the finish line, and all the promotion places are still up for grabs. What is for certain, however, is that it will be an enthralling end to the League Two season...