2014-15 League Two Preview

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Plucky promotion winning teams always do well in League Two after coming up from the Conference, so watch out for Luton Town and Cambridge, who will fancy their chances. The teams coming down from League One – Stevenage, Shrewsbury, Tranmere and Carlisle – may be surprised at the level of competition they face for promotion, with the likes of Portsmouth, Bury and York all eager to get out of the division. Some high calibre players have been brought in who look too good for League Two, included Liam Lawrence at Shrewsbury and Luke Chadwick at Cambridge. On the managerial front, Micky Mellon has joined promotion contenders Shrewsbury, Michael Appleton takes charge of his fourth club despite being only 38 as he takes over the reins at Oxford, whilst one-time Bristol City defender Rob Edwards takes his first managerial job at Tranmere after impressing as assistant manager at Exeter.

My Prediction

1. Portsmouth

2. Shrewsbury Town

3. Plymouth Argyle

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4. Bury

5. York City

6. Southend United

7. Luton

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8. Burton Albion

9. Northampton Town

10. Tranmere Rovers

11. Stevenage Borough

12. Carlisle United

13. Cambridge United

14. AFC Wimbledon

15. Cheltenham Town

16. Newport County

17. Oxford United

18. Mansfield Town

19. Dagenham & Redbridge

20. Accrington Stanley

21. Wycombe Wanderers

22. Hartlepool United

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23. Morecambe

24. Exeter City


Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 2nd August 2014)

To win division

  • Bury – 7/1
  • Portsmouth – 7/1
  • Shrewsbury – 8/1
  • Luton – 9/1
  • Stevenage – 14/1

To gain promotion

  • Bury – 6/4
  • Luton – 13/8
  • Portsmouth – 9/5
  • Shrewsbury – 12/5
  • York – 3/1

To get relegated

  • Morecambe – 9/2
  • Accrington Stanley – 9/2
  • Wycombe – 5/1
  • Exeter – 11/2
  • Dagenham & Redbridge – 11/2

Top scorer

  • Ryan Lowe (Bury) – 12/1
  • Craig Westcarr (Portsmouth) – 14/1
  • Reuben Reid (Plymouth) – 14/1
  • Jake Hyde (York) – 16/1
  • Matt Tubbs (AFC Wimbledon) -16/1

Club-by-Club Guide

AFC Wimbledon

afc wimbledon

  • Last Season: 16th
  • Nickname: The Dons
  • Stadium: Kingsmeadow (4,720)
  • Manager: Neal Ardley
  • Star Man: Adebayo Akinfenwa
  • One to Watch: Tom Beere
  • My Prediction: 14th

A new-look strike-force of Matt Tubbs and Adebayo Akinfenwa will fire Wimbledon away from the relegation zone, whilst the experience Neal Ardley has added to his squad will keep them there. Despite this, a play-off push looks unlikely.


Accrington Stanley

accrington

  • Last Season: 15th
  • Nickname: Stanley
  • Stadium: The Crown Stadium (5,057)
  • Manager: James Beattie
  • Star Man: Tom Aldred
  • One to Watch: Josh Windass
  • My Prediction: 20th

James Beattie earned widespread acclaim for steering Accrington to safety in his first full season as a boss; a remarkable achievement considering it took them 13 attempts to win a league game. The question now is whether they can build on their 15th place finish or get sucked back into a relegation dog fight.


Burton Albion

burton

  • Last Season: 6th
  • Nickname: The Brewers
  • Stadium: Pirelli Stadium (6,912)
  • Manager: Gary Rowett
  • Star Man: Lucas Akins
  • One to Watch: Matty Palmer
  • My Prediction: 8th

Wembley play-off final heartbreak last season followed defeat in the semi-finals the year before, so Burton will want to go up automatically this time, or have a successful time in the play-offs. Getting the right balance of attack and defence, something they have failed to do recently, will be the key.


Bury

bury

  • Last Season: 12th
  • Nickname: The Shakers
  • Stadium: JD Stadium (11,840)
  • Manager: David Flitcroft
  • Star Man: Ryan Lowe
  • One to Watch: Danny Mayor
  • My Prediction: 4th

Big things are expected of David Flitcroft’s squad and their ambitious project after they finished last season extremely well and have added to their team superbly. The key signings will be returning players Nicky Adams and Ryan Lowe. The latter’s partnership with Daniel Nardiello suggests goals will be a formality – the two amassed 36 goals between them last season.


Cambridge United

cambridge

  • Last Season: 2nd in the Conference
  • Nickname: The U’s
  • Stadium: Abbey Stadium (10,840)
  • Manager: Richard Money
  • Star Man: Luke Chadwick
  • One to Watch: Ryan Donaldson
  • My Prediction: 13th

The plucky U’s will fancy their chances as confidence is high following their promotion from the Conference. Combine this ambition with the popular return of winger Kwesi Appiah along with boyhood U’s fan Luke Chadwick, who will be too good for this level and you have an equation for mid-table safety along with a possibility of a play-off push.


Carlisle United

carlisle

  • Last Season: 22nd in League One
  • Nickname: The Cumbrians
  • Stadium: Brunton Park (18,202)
  • Manager: Graham Kavanagh
  • Star Man: Billy Paynter
  • One to Watch: Brad Potts
  • My Prediction: 12th

Relegation from League One has led to a mass clear out at Brunton Park along with several arrivals. A fairly new squad will take time to gel, perhaps too much time, but Graham Cavanagh’s side will still challenge for the play-offs even if they don’t start off too well.


Cheltenham Town

cheltenham

  • Last Season: 17th
  • Nickname: The Robins
  • Stadium: Whaddon Road (7,066)
  • Manager: Mark Yates
  • Star Man: Byron Harrison
  • One to Watch: Joe Hanks
  • My Prediction: 15th

The Robins fell way short of a third successive top-seven finish last season and will have a new goalkeeper in place for the first time in 10 years after Scott Brown’s exit. Another team who could take time to gel, it’s difficult to see Mark Yates’s side finish anywhere else but comfortably in mid-table.


Dagenham & Redbridge

dagenham

  • Last Season: 9th
  • Nickname: The Daggers
  • Stadium: Victoria Road (6,078)
  • Manager: Wayne Burnett
  • Star Man: Abu Ogogo
  • One to Watch: Jack Connors
  • My Prediction: 19th

Dagenham & Redbridge were among the favourites for relegation last season after surviving on the final day of the previous campaign but proved a surprise package and finished 9th. They will be out to prove this is not a one off but it might not go quite as well as hoped and they could return to a scrap at the bottom.


Exeter City

exeter

  • Last Season: 16th
  • Nickname: The Grecians
  • Stadium: St James Park (8,541)
  • Manager: Paul Tisdale
  • Star Man: Matt Grimes
  • One to Watch: Eliot Richards
  • My Prediction: 24th

A transfer embargo after a PFA loan meant boss Paul Tisdale has had no choice but to let some big earners leave this summer and focus on the next generation and build a mostly home-grown XI. The Grecians flirted with the Conference at times last season, but this campaign could see them battle at the bottom throughout and it won’t end well.


Hartlepool United

hartlepool

  • Last Season: 19th
  • Nickname: Pools
  • Stadium: Victoria Park (7,857)
  • Manager: Colin Cooper
  • Star Man: Luke James
  • One to Watch: Brad Walker
  • My Prediction: 22nd

Colin Cooper endured a tough debut season in charge at Victoria Park as his side only briefly threatened to mount a play-off challenge following the drop from League One in 2012-13. It is unlikely to get any better for Pools, as a second relegation in three seasons could be on the horizon.


Luton Town

luton

  • Last Season: 1st in the Conference
  • Nickname: The Hatters
  • Stadium: Kenilworth Road (10,226)
  • Manager: John Still
  • Star Man: Andy Drury
  • One to Watch: Pelly Ruddock
  • My Prediction: 7th

Promoted teams often fare well in League Two and there is no reason why Luton will not continue that trend. Emulating the likes of Crawley and winning back-to-back promotions might be beyond the Hatters but do not rule out a play-off challenge in front of one of the biggest crowds in the division.


Mansfield Town

mansfield

  • Last Season: 11th
  • Nickname: The Stags
  • Stadium: One Call Stadium (9,816)
  • Manager: Paul Cox
  • Star Man: Sam Clucas
  • One to Watch: Liam Marsden
  • My Prediction: 18th

It’s been a hectic summer for Mansfield with plenty of ins and outs following a solid first season back in the Football League. Paul Cox looks to have finally replaced Matt Green upfront by signing Alex Fisher from AC Monza, and it could be his goals which keep The Stags fairly safely away from the relegation scrap which they could be involved in for parts of the season.


Morecambe

Globe Arena, Morecambe FC

  • Last Season: 18th
  • Nickname: The Shrimps
  • Stadium: The Globe Arena (6,476)
  • Manager: Jim Bentley
  • Star Man: Jack Redshaw
  • One to Watch: Ryan Edwards
  • My Prediction: 23rd

One of the division’s thinnest squads have again be tipped to struggle, even if Jim Bentley’s nous has steered them clear of danger in recent years. The Shrimps have however picked up three wins in 2014, and that will set the trend for the upcoming campaign, with nothing in pre-season suggesting otherwise.


Newport County

newport

  • Last Season: 14th
  • Nickname: The Exiles
  • Stadium: Rodney Parade (5,511)
  • Manager: Justin Edinburgh
  • Star Man: Chris Zebroski
  • One to Watch: Kevin Feely
  • My Prediction: 16th

With their horrendous injury list behind them and the majority of a settled squad still at Rodney Parade, expect another comfortable season awaits for Newport. They will look to build on their first season in League Two, but a play-off challenge is unlikely with mid-table more of a formality.


Northampton Town

northampton

  • Last Season: 21st
  • Nickname: The Cobblers
  • Stadium: Sixfields Stadium (7,653)
  • Manager: Chris Wilder
  • Star Man: Marc Richards
  • One to Watch: Ivan Toney
  • My Prediction: 9th

With one of the biggest budgets in the league, it’s no surprise that Northampton have made several big signings to make sure they don’t face a relegation battle like last season. This campaign, Chris Wilder will demand much more from his players in his first full season in charge as they look to get back to their form from 2012-13 when they reached the play-off final.


Oxford United

oxford

  • Last Season: 8th
  • Nickname: The U’s
  • Stadium: Kassam Stadium (12,500)
  • Manager: Michael Appleton
  • Star Man: Jake Wright
  • One to Watch: Josh Ruffels
  • My Prediction: 17th

Oxford have brought in three players on loan from higher divisions, as well as players and a new manager who have experience at this level. But with just two games in their last 15 games last season, morale may still be down at the Kassam Stadium. They’ll be safe from trouble, but won’t be promotion contenders.


Plymouth Argyle

plymouth

  • Last Season: 10th
  • Nickname: The Pilgrims
  • Stadium: Home Park (16,388)
  • Manager: John Sheridan
  • Star Man: Reuben Reid
  • One to Watch: Matt Lecointe
  • My Prediction: 3rd

They may have lost influential captain Conor Hourihane to Barnsley but the club’s signings have returned the feel-good factor to Home Park. Last season’s top scorer Reuben Reid has signed on a permanent basis, and his goals will be crucial to Plymouth’s promotion push. Not many people expect The Pilgrims to go up, certainly not automatically, but in John Sheridan they have a manager who won this divison with Chesterfield three seasons ago.


Portsmouth

portsmouth

  • Last Season: 13th
  • Nickname: Pompey
  • Stadium: Fratton Park (20,700)
  • Manager: Andy Awford
  • Star Man: Danny Hollands
  • One to Watch: Jack Whatmough
  • My Prediction: 1st

Last season’s promotion favourites somehow ended up in danger of a fourth relegation in five years. But with their money problems now behind them, Pompey are going in the right direction and Andy Awford impressed greatly after coming in at the back end of last season. It’s a decent squad at Fratton Park, with many exciting youngsters, so you have to favour them for promotion,

Fan’s View – Josh Pound

“Players to look out for include Jed Wallace, Jack Whatmough and Craig Westcarr. I think that we’ll finish in 5th position and then earn promotion through the play-offs”


Shrewsbury Town

shrewsbury

  • Last Season: 23rd in League One
  • Nickname: The Shrews
  • Stadium: Greenhous Meadow (9,875)
  • Manager: Micky Mellon
  • Star Man: Liam Lawrence
  • One to Watch: Ryan Woods
  • My Prediction: 2nd

Relegation from League One seems to have been forgotten instantly with a host of new signings, including the impressive capture of Liam Lawrence, meaning Micky Mellon’s team start off as one of the favourites for promotion. There’s no reason why they can’t do, it just depends whether the squad gel quickly enough.


Southend United

southend

  • Last Season: 5th
  • Nickname: The Shrimpers
  • Stadium: Roots Hall (12,392)
  • Manager: Phil Brown
  • Star Man: Kevan Hurst
  • One to Watch: Jack Payne
  • My Prediction: 6th

Southend will be bidding for another top-six finish in manager Phil Brown’s second full season in charge after losing in the play-off semi-finals to Burton in May. Half a dozen players departed in the summer but the bulk of the squad remains and Brown is expecting his side to challenge again at the top end of the table.


Stevenage Borough

stevenage

  • Last Season: 24th in League One
  • Nickname: Boro
  • Stadium: Broadhall Way (6,546)
  • Manager: Graham Westley
  • Star Man: Simon Walton
  • One to Watch: Tom Pett
  • My Prediction: 11th

Like Shrewsbury, Stevenage have cleared the decks following last season’s relegation and built a squad that could be capable of repeating their 2011 promotion campaign. It may not be as easy as it sounds though, and Boro could have a surprise mid-table season, in which promotion is far away.


Tranmere Rovers

tranmere

  • Last Season: 21st in League One
  • Nickname: Rovers
  • Stadium: Prenton Park (16,567)
  • Manager: Rob Edwards
  • Star Man: Jason Koumas
  • One to Watch: Max Power
  • My Prediction: 10th

It hasn’t been an easy summer for Tranmere, losing Ryan Lowe, last year’s top scorer, as well as their captain James Wallace. An instant return to League One is therefore far from certain and much depends on how new boss Rob Edwards, taking his first ever managerial role, adapts to life in the hot-seat.


Wycombe Wanderers

wycombe

  • Last Season: 22nd
  • Nickname: The Chairboys
  • Stadium: Adams Park (10,284)
  • Manager: Gareth Ainsworth
  • Star Man: Max Kretzschmar
  • One to Watch: Matt Ingram
  • My Prediction: 21st

Last season’s great escape is still fresh in the memory, as they avoided relegation on the final day. Gareth Ainsworth has brought in a number of experienced campaigners, as well as giving promising youngsters a chance in pre-season. They will battle at the bottom again, but survival should be insured in much more easy manner than last season.


York City

york

  • Last Season: 7th
  • Nickname: The Minstermen
  • Stadium: Bootham Crescent (7,872)
  • Manager: Nigel Worthington
  • Star Man: Keith Lowe
  • One to Watch: Cameron Murray
  • My Prediction: 5th

York exceeded all expectations by reaching the play-offs in May and manager Nigel Worthington will take great heart from a storming second half of the season. New signings will help maintain their momentum as the Minstermen look to pick up where they left off and challenge for another top-seven finish.

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