2015-16 League Two Preview

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You might say that League Two is the easiest division to get out of with the most promotion spots available (4), but in fact it proved incredibly close last season with automatic promotion being decided on the final day and the play-off final going to penalties at Wembley. It’s set to be equally close in 2015-16, with Notts County, Crawley Town, Leyton Orient and Yeovil Town all wanting to go straight back up following relegation from League One, but they’ll face competition from Luton and Cambridge, who have recruited well this summer. Also up there will be beaten play-off finalists Wycombe and Portsmouth, who finally look set to escape the fourth division with new boss Paul Cook in charge. The other new managers are Mark Yates at Crawley, Ian Hendon at Leyton Orient, Derek Adams at Plymouth and former England striker Teddy Sheringham taking over the reigns at Stevenage. Newly promoted teams always seem to do well too, so Barnet and Bristol Rovers will be hoping to follow that trend.

My Prediction

1. Portsmouth

2. Luton Town

3. Leyton Orient

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4. Cambridge United

5. Notts County

6. Oxford United

7. Northampton Town

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8. Plymouth Argyle

9. Stevenage

10. Exeter City

11. Wycombe Wanderers

12. Yeovil Town

13. York City

14. AFC Wimbledon

15. Bristol Rovers

16. Barnet

17. Carlisle United

18. Mansfield Town

19. Crawley Town

20. Newport County

21. Hartlepool United

22. Morecambe

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23. Accrington Stanley

24. Dagenham & Redbridge


Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 29th July 2015)

To win division

  • Portsmouth – 4/1
  • Luton Town – 7/1
  • Oxford United – 9/1
  • Leyton Orient – 12/1
  • Cambridge United – 14/1

To gain promotion

  • Portsmouth – 8/11
  • Luton Town – 13/8
  • Oxford United – 9/5
  • Leyton Orient – 13/5
  • Stevenage – 4/1

To get relegated

  • Accrington Stanley – 7/2
  • Morecambe – 4/1
  • Dagenham & Redbridge – 4/1
  • Newport County – 9/2
  • Mansfield Town – 5/1

Top scorer

  • Matt Tubbs (Portsmouth) – 7/1
  • Reuben Reid (Plymouth) – 9/1
  • Marc Richards (Northampton Town) – 10/1
  • Kemar Roofe (Oxford United) – 12/1
  • Danny Hylton (Oxford United) – 12/1

Club by Club Guide

Accrington Stanley

Accrington-001

  • Last Season: 17th
  • Nickname: Stanley
  • Stadium: The Crown Ground (5,057)
  • Manager: John Coleman
  • Star Man: Billy Kee
  • One to Watch: Matty Pearson
  • My Prediction: 23rd

Since they returned to the Football League in 2006, Accrington Stanley have defied the odds to stay in the division every season as they continued to be touted for the drop. It’s the same again this season, but even with club hero John Coleman in charge, who re-joined the club last September, a return to non-league currently seems a very high possibility.


AFC Wimbledon

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  • Last Season: 15th
  • Nickname: The Dons
  • Stadium: Kingsmeadow (4,850)
  • Manager: Neal Ardley
  • Star Man: Adebayo Akinfenwa
  • One to Watch: Tom Beere
  • My Prediction: 14th

The Dons started last season very brightly before fading away into mid-table, and it could be a very similar story this time around. Matt Tubbs may have joined Portsmouth in January, but they still have the infamous Adebayo Akinfenwa upfront and Neal Ardley has signed Tom Elliott from Cambridge United to partner him. Too good to go down, not good enough to go up.


Barnet

Martin-Allen-Barnet

  • Last Season: 1st (Conference Premier)
  • Nickname: The Bees
  • Stadium: The Hive Stadium (5,233)
  • Manager: Martin Allen
  • Star Man: John Akinde
  • One to Watch: Mauro Vilhete
  • My Prediction: 16th

Last year’s Conference Premier winners have already showed their intent for the new season with six new signings, with most having vital experience at this level. One is 36 year old Kevin Lisbie, who has over 100 career goals and is looking for one last success before retiring. Boss Martin Allen won League Two with Gillingham in 2012-13, and the Bees mustn’t be taken lightly despite the fact they are unlikely to mount a serious promotion challenge.


Bristol Rovers

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  • Last Season: 2nd (Conference Premier)
  • Nickname: The Pirates/The Gas
  • Stadium: Memorial Stadium (11, 916)
  • Manager: Darrell Clarke
  • Star Man: Lee Mansell
  • One to Watch: Ellis Harrison
  • My Prediction: 15th

Like Barnet, fellow newly-promoted side Bristol Rovers have also had a successful summer, giving new contracts to key players as well as to manager Darrell Clarke, who won three manager of the month awards last season on the way to winning the play-off final at Wembley. Midfielder Chris Lines, a boyhood fan of the club who he played for between 2004 and 2011 has returned permanently following a brief loan spell last year.


Cambridge United

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  • Last Season: 19th
  • Nickname: The U’s
  • Stadium: Abbey Stadium (8,127)
  • Manager: Richard Money
  • Star Man: Ryan Donaldson
  • One to Watch: Daniel Carr
  • My Prediction: 4th

Despite finishing 19th in their first season back in the Football League in 2014-15, Cambridge United are one of the favourites for promotion this time around after a huge overhaul of players this summer which has seen 10 new faces come through the door – some from higher divisions. The club’s CEO Jez George says the club “have got to challenge” to go up this season, placing huge pressure on boss Richard Money, who recently signed a new three year deal.


Carlisle United

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  • Last Season: 20th
  • Nickname: The Cumbrians
  • Stadium: Brunton Park (18,202)
  • Manager: Keith Curle
  • Star Man: Jabo Ibehre
  • One to Watch: Kevin Osei
  • My Prediction: 17th

After initially struggling following relegation last season, Keith Curle came in and steadied the ship at Brunton Park last season, but could still only manage a disappointing 20th place. They have lost their top two scorers from last season (Kyle Dempsey and Brad Potts) this summer, meaning it could be another frustrating campaign in Cumbria.


Crawley Town

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  • Last Season: 22nd (League One)
  • Nickname: The Red Devils
  • Stadium: Broadfield Stadium (6,134)
  • Manager: Mark Yates
  • Star Man: Izale McCleod
  • One to Watch: Shamir Fenelon
  • My Prediction: 19th

Following three years in League One, Crawley were relegated last year and prompted Dean Saunders’ exit from the club. Mark Yates has come in and let no less than 14 players go, and as I write, the club are without a contracted goalkeeper or any recognised full-backs. If they can sort out the mess, they should be alright, but more than likely a successive relegation battle is ahead.


Dagenham & Redbridge

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  • Last Season: 14th
  • Nickname: The Daggers
  • Stadium: Victoria Road (6,078)
  • Manager: Wayne Burnett
  • Star Man: Jamie Cureton
  • One to Watch: Jodi Jones
  • My Prediction: 24th

I don’t want to sound as though I’m repeating myself, but I think Dagenham & Redbridge are in a similar scenario to Accrington Stanley. They’ve been perennial relegation favourites and this season their luck may run out after losing experienced long-serving duo Abu Ogogo and Scott Doe. Wayne Burnett has defied the odds before though…


Exeter City

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  • Last Season: 10th
  • Nickname: The Grecians
  • Stadium: St James Park (8,541)
  • Manager: Paul Tisdale
  • Star Man: Craig Woodman
  • One to Watch: Jamie Reid
  • My Prediction: 10th

Surprisingly it has been Exeter’s home form that has let them down in recent seasons, so if they can turn that around, there could be a lot of positives in the season to come. Paul Tisdale is the second longest boss in the entire Football League and knows the club like the back of his hand. Play-offs are entirely possible but the Grecians might just miss out.


Hartlepool United

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  • Last Season: 22nd
  • Nickname: Pools
  • Stadium: Victoria Park (7,856)
  • Manager: Ronnie Moore
  • Star Man: Billy Paynter
  • One to Watch: Jake Carroll
  • My Prediction: 21st

It seemed like the impossible task, but Ronnie Moore did the unthinkable and kept Hartlepool United in the Football League last season. He will now want to kick on and avoid the scarp this time around, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds. A total of 19 players have either gone in or gone out of the Victoria Park door this summer, but the new looking squad may still have the same problems as their 2014-15 counterparts.


Leyton Orient

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  • Last Season: 23rd (League One)
  • Nickname: The O’s
  • Stadium: Brisbane Road (9,271)
  • Manager: Ian Hendon
  • Star Man: Dean Cox
  • One to Watch: Paul McCallum
  • My Prediction: 3rd

Having been in the League One play-off final in May 2014, it came as a surprise to many that Leyton Orient were relegated last season, meaning that they should be one of the favourites for promotion this campaign. Former O’s defender Ian Hendon was appointed as the club’s new boss at the end of May and has made many changes this summer, giving the squad a fresh-looking feel.


Luton Town

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  • Last Season: 8th
  • Nickname: The Hatters
  • Stadium: Kenilworth Road (10,356)
  • Manager: John Still
  • Star Man: Cameron McGeehan
  • One to Watch: Pelly Ruddock
  • My Prediction: 2nd

At points during last season, Luton won seven games in a row, but also lost seven games in a row, so it’s clear that the key for them to be successful is consistency. John Still is a very experienced manager, and won promotion from this division with Dagenham & Redbridge in 2010. With some impressive new signings arriving from higher divisions, all the signs point to an excellent campaign.


Mansfield Town

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  • Last Season: 21st
  • Nickname: The Stags
  • Stadium: One Call Stadium (8,000)
  • Manager: Adam Murray
  • Star Man: Matt Green
  • One to Watch: Mitch Rose
  • My Prediction: 18th

After only narrowly avoiding relegation last summer, there has been a huge overhaul of players at Mansfield this summer, with 14 players going out and 16 coming in to the One Call Stadium so far this summer. Young boss Adam Murray will be keen to impress in his first full season in charge, and although the play-offs are too, survival should be assured comfortably.


Morecambe

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  • Last Season: 11th
  • Nickname: The Shrimps
  • Stadium: The Globe Arena (6,476)
  • Manager: Jim Bentley
  • Star Man: Kevin Ellison
  • One to Watch: Tom Barkhuizen
  • My Prediction: 22nd

Jim Bentley’s a Morecambe man through and through, playing for the club from 2002 until 2011 when he took over as manager over the club. The club have shown their commitment to a long-term project, but so far this summer they’ve lost key players in strikers Jack Redshaw and Jack Sampson with no quality replacements, meaning some fans are beginning to worry, especially with little more available.


Newport County

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  • Last Season: 9th
  • Nickname: The Exiles
  • Stadium: Rodney Parade (7,850)
  • Manager: Terry Butcher
  • Star Man: Kevin Feely
  • One to Watch: Kieran Parselle
  • My Prediction: 20th

Newport flirted with both relegation and promotion last season, but it’s most likely to be the former again this season. The midfield is very thin, whilst the rest of the squad has changed pretty much completely and could take time to gel. With the passionate Terry Butcher in charge, the Exiles will fight right until the end and then just about survive.


Northampton Town

stadium

  • Last Season: 12th
  • Nickname: The Cobblers
  • Stadium: Sixfields Stadium (7,653)
  • Manager: Chris Wilder
  • Star Man: Marc Richards
  • One to Watch: Ivan Toney
  • My Prediction: 7th

After finishing smack bang in mid-table last season, Northampton have made some solid signings and held on to their strike force of Richards and Toney which is perhaps the best in the division. Upon his arrival in January 2014, boss Chris Wilder turned the Cobblers from relegation fighters to comfortable survivors and now wants to push on even further. With his ambition, they might just sneak into the play-offs.


Notts County

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  • Last Season: 21st (League One)
  • Nickname: The Magpies
  • Stadium: Meadow Lane (20,211)
  • Manager: Ricardo Moniz
  • Star Man: Roy Carroll
  • One to Watch: Adam Campbell
  • My Prediction: 5th

Notts County appointed their eighth full-time manager in five years when Ricardo Moniz came in last season, but couldn’t do enough to save them from the drop in the short time he had. He has made the squad fit his style this summer though, signing 17 players and letting 12 go. One of the newbies is perhaps one of the best League Two transfers of the window – Jon Stead, who scored 11 goals on loan at League One Bradford last season.


Oxford United

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  • Last Season: 13th
  • Nickname: The U’s
  • Stadium: Kassam Stadium (12,500)
  • Manager: Michael Appleton
  • Star Man: Danny Hylton
  • One to Watch: Kemar Roofe
  • My Prediction: 6th

Michael Appleton has kept the majority of last season’s key players and added some good, talented players to an already solid squad such as promising midfielder Kemar Roofe and Ryan Taylor, who could prove to be the perfect partner for Danny Hylton upfront. On the whole it’s a quite a young squad, which will certainly be challenging for the play-offs at least.


Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle fans shows the club colours prior to kick off against Exeter City-- Photo mandatory by-line: Dave Rowntree/Pinnacle - Tel: +44(0)1363 881025 - Mobile:0797 1270 681  - VAT Reg No: 183700120 - 16/08/2014 - SPORT - FOOTBALL - Sky Bet League 2, - Plymouth Argyle v Exeter City, Home Park, Plymouth, Devon. Restrictions: EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

  • Last Season: 7th
  • Nickname: The Pilgrims
  • Stadium: Home Park (17,150)
  • Manager: Derek Adams
  • Star Man: Reuben Reid
  • One to Watch: Tyler Harvey
  • My Prediction: 8th

After play-off disappointment at the end of last season, John Sheridan parted company with Plymouth, and Derek Adams in his first English managerial role, has come. Although some key players have been sold, Adams has already started bringing in players he’s familiar with from his time in Scotland. The Pilgrims should still challenge for a place in the top seven again, but might just miss out.


Portsmouth

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  • Last Season: 16th
  • Nickname: Pompey
  • Stadium: Fratton Park (21,100)
  • Manager: Paul Cook
  • Star Man: Matt Tubbs
  • One to Watch: Ben Close
  • My Prediction: 1st

Ever since their relegation to League Two in 2013, Portsmouth have failed miserably to meet expectations, but could this finally be their year? Paul Cook, who won this division with Chesterfield in 2014, has been appointed as manager and brought in a host of impressive new signings to make the squad far too good for the fourth tier. Whisper it quietly, but Pompey could run away with the league title.


Stevenage

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  • Last Season: 6th
  • Nickname: Boro
  • Stadium: Broadhall Way (6,722)
  • Manager: Teddy Sheringham
  • Star Man: Dean Wells
  • One to Watch: Brett Williams
  • My Prediction: 9th

Play-off disappointment last season called for a change of manager at Broadhall Way, and ex England striker Teddy Sheringham was given his first job in management. It will be interesting to see how he fares, as with the squad currently quite thin, it would be a good achievement to make the top seven again. But if he makes more signings, that aim will only become more achievable.


Wycombe Wanderers

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  • Last Season: 4th
  • Nickname: The Chairboys
  • Stadium: Adams Park (10,284)
  • Manager: Gareth Ainsworth
  • Star Man: Paul Hayes
  • One to Watch: Aaron Holloway
  • My Prediction: 11th

Wycombe probably played well enough to go up automatically last season, but had to settle with the play-offs, which ended in cruel fashion at Wembley. Young boss Gareth Ainsworth needs to pick his squad up and get a good start in order to challenge at the top again, but without last season’s loanee Alfie Mawson who won player of the season for his solid defensive performances, the Chairboys might have to settle for mid-table obscurity.


Yeovil Town

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  • Last Season: 24th (League One)
  • Nickname: The Glovers
  • Stadium: Huish Park (9,565)
  • Manager: Paul Sturrock
  • Star Man: Kevin Dawson
  • One to Watch: Jamie Burrows
  • My Prediction: 12th

Despite having three different managers in charge throughout the course of the campaign, Yeovil couldn’t avoid a successive relegation, but did show glimpses of hope by beating promotion chasing Sheffield United and Swindon in the closing weeks – after relegation had been confirmed. Boss Paul Sturrock will just want to aim for some stability this campaign, meaning that mid-table is probably a realistic aim.


York City

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  • Last Season: 18th
  • Nickname: The Minstermen
  • Stadium: Bootham Crescent (7,872)
  • Manager: Russ Wilcox
  • Star Man: Michael Coulson
  • One to Watch: Ben Hirst
  • My Prediction: 13th

York are moving into a new 8,000-seater stadium next summer, so promotion should be their aim, and with Russ Wilcox in charge – who won League Two and was awarded manager of the year in 2013-14 with Scunthorpe – the foundations are there. However, the squad probably isn’t quite up to the challenge of a play-off push yet, but things are looking up at Bootham Crescent.


A fan of a League Two and disagree with my predictions/comments? Let me know in the comments below!

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