2016-17 Sky Bet League Two Preview

As usual, I’m kicking off my previews in League Two, where the favourites for promotion include the usual suspects yet usual underachievers Portsmouth, relegated Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient who missed out on the play-offs by one place last season. At the bottom, Crawley Town, Newport County and Morecambe who all fought relegation before surviving the drop last season are the favourites to go down. Here’s my club-by-club guide…

Accrington Stanley

CREDIT: Getty Images/Jan Kruger
CREDIT: Getty Images/Jan Kruger
  • Last season: 4th
  • Manager: John Coleman

Last season’s surprise package, Accrington made the play-offs after being tipped for relegation at the start of the campaign. They still have one of the smallest budgets in the league and it’s difficult to see them finishing so high again, especially now last season’s top scorer Josh Windass has joined Rangers. 11th

Barnet

  • Last season: 15th
  • Manager: Martin Allen

The Bees ended last season with five defeats from seven and have only made three new signings this summer, so from outsider’s perspective it’s difficult to see what progress has been made from that poor run of form. However, they’ve managed to hold on to star striker John Akinde, who scored 24 goals last season so should have enough to survive. 18th

Blackpool

  • Last season: 22nd in League One
  • Manager: Gary Bowyer

Six years ago Blackpool were kicking off their Premier League campaign, but a fall from grace now sees them in League Two. Yet this summer has been largely positive (if you ignore the ongoing battle between fans and owner Owen Oyston), with Gary Bowyer coming in as boss and building a squad that on paper could challenge for the play-offs. 8th

Cambridge United

  • Last season: 9th
  • Manager: Shaun Derry

If Cambridge can replicate the form that saw them lose just one of their final 12 games of 2015-16, they could be real challengers for promotion. After arriving in November, boss Shaun Derry has had a full summer to build his squad, adding strength in depth. Barry Corr, who scored 12 goals last season before getting injured will provide the goal threat. 5th

Carlisle United

  • Last season: 10th
  • Manager: Keith Curle

Carlisle have built what could be the most potent attack in the division, with Shaun Miller (15 goals last season) joining Jabo Ibehre and Charlie Wyke at Brunton Park who scored 32 goals between them in 2015-16. If they can keep them out at the other end, The Cumbrians might have a chance of promotion. 7th

Cheltenham Town

CREDIT: Getty Images/Harry Trump
CREDIT: Getty Images/Harry Trump
  • Last season: 1st in National League
  • Manager: Gary Johnson

Very rarely do clubs relegated to non-league achieve promotion back to League Two at the first time of asking, but Cheltenham did just that last season, and did it in style as they accumulated 101 points. They should have enough to survive back in the Football League, but it’s unlikely they’ll challenge at the top, despite boss Gary Johnson saying “the only focus for us is promotion”. 15th

Colchester United

  • Last season: 23rd in League One
  • Manager: John McGreal

After surviving relegation battles for a few seasons, the inevitable happened in 2015-16 as Colchester were relegated from League One with barely a whimper. New manager John McGreal is in his first head coach position, and they’ve sold both last season’s top scorer George Moncur and vice-captain Alex Gilbey so promotion straight away is a big ask. 17th

Crawley Town

  • Last season: 20th
  • Manager: Dermot Drummy

A relegation battle is surely in store for Crawley Town, who lost their final eight games of 2015-16 to end up with a -33 goal difference. That tells its own story, and in truth the Red Devils only survived because the the teams below them were so poor. They have brought in striker James Collins, who won promotion with Northampton last season, but Dermot Drummy has a tough job on his hands. 22nd

Crewe Alexandra

  • Last season: 24th in League One
  • Manager: Steve Davis

It was a dismal season for Crewe in 2015-16 as they were relegated finishing bottom of League One. Things don’t look like getting much better though unfortunately, as the Alex squad lacks quality and depth and just all round leadership. 37 year old Ryan Lowe is back for his third spell at the club, and will need to hit the back of the net regularly if Crewe aren’t to be dragged into a battle to beat the drop for successive seasons. 19th

Doncaster Rovers

  • Last season:  21st in League One
  • Manager: Darren Ferguson

Many of Doncaster’s squad seem too good for League Two. Andy Williams scored 33 goals in the last two seasons in League One, whilst Darren Ferguson has signed his former Peterborough player Tommy Rowe,  as well as John Marquis – who helped Northampton to the League Two title in 2015-16. I’m backing them to achieve promotion back to the third tier at the first attempt. 1st

Exeter City

CREDIT: Getty Images/Harry Trump
CREDIT: Getty Images/Harry Trump
  • Last season: 14th
  • Manager: Paul Tisdale

Much like manager Paul Tisdale who is celebrating his tenth season at St James Park, Exeter City seem to be going nowhere fast, which isn’t that much of a criticism considering their admirable success on a very small budget. They won just six home matches last season which was their major downfall, but even if that problem is solved, the play-offs might still be beyond them. 16th

Grimsby Town

  • Last season: 4th in National League
  • Manager: Paul Hurst

A key part of Grimsby finally making it back to the Football League last season after relegation in 2010 was the 30 league goals of Padraig Amond. Had the Irishman stayed at Blundell Park, we might well have seen Grimsby achieve back to back promotions, but his departure to Hartlepool means the most likely bet is a comfortable mid-table finish. 13th

Hartlepool United

  • Last season: 16th
  • Manager: Craig Hignett

The signing of Amond is a huge boost to Hartlepool who scored just 49 league goals last season. Craig Hignett was appointed in May and in his first managerial job saw him just consolidate the club’s mid-table position. It is likely to be a similar story in 2016-17, as although the signs are there of a team slowly building towards promotion, it’s probably a little bit early yet. 14th

Leyton Orient

  • Last season: 8th
  • Manager: Andy Hessenthaler

Despite going through three managers last season, Leyton Orient still managed to finish eighth. If Andy Hessenthaler, appointed in April, is given time by trigger happy owner Francesco Becchetti, then the Os could do very well this season. Hessenthaler has built a good squad, making nine new signings this summer  including Jordan Bowery and Harry Cornick on loan from Bournemouth. 3rd

Luton Town

  • Last season: 11th
  • Manager: Nathan Jones

Inconsistency cost Luton a play-off place last season, and in truth they were better than their 11th place finish suggests. Young striker Jack Marriott, who scored a surprising 16 goals last season, has been joined upfront by Danny Hylton who helped Oxford United to promotion last season and said he thinks Luton’s squad are as good as the one he has just left . 4th

Mansfield Town

CREDIT: Getty Images/Clint Hughes
CREDIT: Getty Images/Clint Hughes
  • Last season: 12th
  • Manager: Adam Murray

Another side who could well have had play-off hopes last season had they not gone seven games without a win in Spring, Mansfield Town could be an outside bet for the play-offs if they can add more attacking quality to their team. Matt Green hit the back of the net 16 times last season, but doesn’t have much support in the goal-scoring department. 12th

Morecambe Town

  • Last season: 21st
  • Manager: Jim Bentley

Putting it bluntly, Morecambe look in real trouble. They have one of the smallest budgets in League Two, conceded a league-high 91 goals last season and have lost top scorer Shaun Miller to Carlisle. Add in the fact they lack strength in depth with a squad of just 20 players at the time of writing and you really struggle to see how the Shrimps can survive. 24th

Newport County

  • Last season: 22nd
  • Manager: Warren Feeney

It’s very similar story for Newport County. They too have little money to play with and last season’s top scorer Scott Boden has departed for Inverness. Lower league journey man Jon Parkin has arrived in South Wales but is probably on his last legs, so you question where the goals are going to come from in a side that netted a league low 43 in 2015-16. 23rd

Notts County

  • Last season: 17th
  • Manager: John Sheridan

A summer of upheaval at Meadow Lane has led to a real sense of optimism surrounding Notts County, who disappointed last season following relegation in 2014-15. New manager John Sheridan has let 13 players go and signed seven, five of which have arrived from higher divisions. On paper, it’s a squad that could well achieve promotion, but probably not automatically. 9th

Plymouth Argyle

  • Last season: 5th
  • Manager: Derek Adams

After two seasons of play-off heartbreak, it seems like perhaps only a matter of time before Plymouth return to the third tier. Despite 11 players leaving and 14 new signings, the Pilgrims still have a strong squad, especially with the prolific Jake Jervis and last season’s top scorer Graham Carey upfront. Automatic promotion might be beyond them, but the play-offs is definitely achievable. 6th

Portsmouth

CREDIT: Steve Bardens
CREDIT: Steve Bardens
  • Last season: 6th
  • Manager: Paul Cook

Can Pompey get out of League Two? They seem to be finally on the up with 2015-16 being thir most sucessful campaign since their plumett down the leagues began in 2010. Paul Cook has strengthened this summer: Carl Baker and Milan Lalkovic should add goals from midfield, whilst David Forde is an experienced head between the sticks. I know better than to predict Portsmouth to win League Two as I have done the past two years though! 2nd

Stevenage

  • Last season: 18th
  • Manager: Darren Sarll

By being appointed Stevenage manager this summer, 33 year old Darren Sarll becomes the youngest boss in the Football League, and his job at Broadhall Way couldn’t be much tougher. Boro might have to rely on a tight defence to survive, with hitting the back of the net a big problem, especially as there is no proven goalscorer at this level in the squad. 21st

Wycombe Wanderers

  • Last season: 13th
  • Manager: Gareth Ainsworth

Goals were also a key problem for Wycombe last season, with defender Michael Harriman being the club’s joint-leading scorer. However, this summer has seen the arrival of Dayle Southwell who scored 54 goals in two seasons in the National League – if he can replicate that form then Wycombe could challenge. The signing of Adebayo ‘The Beast’ Akinfenwa is also hard to ignore. 10th

Yeovil Town

  • Last season: 19th
  • Manager: Darren Way

It looked as though Yeovil were certain to suffer a third successive relegation when they sat bottom of League Two on January 1st, but new manager Darren Way turned the Glovers’ fortunes around. The aim now will be to build on that, but goals remain an issue (no team in the division scored less than Yeovil’s tally of 43 last season). 20th


Disagree with my predictions? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet me @OllyAllen1998

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