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Sky Bet League Two 2013/14 Preview

The start of a new season, oh what a wonderful time. New squad, new shirts, new starts; optimism rife and literally nothing can go wrong. You and every other side in the division know it’s their year to win the division. This is where helpful chaps like I come along and cross examine every team, deciding who will finish where before a ball is even kicked. I’ll be profiling every club in every division before the season kicks off, starting from the bottom up. 

League Two is possibly the hardest division to call; those at the top have all got strong squads and those at the bottom all have good cases for staying up. It promises to be an exciting season it the fourth tier of English football; the forgotten gem.

(All information correct as of 20/07/13.)

AFC WIMBLEDON

Rising from the Combined Counties Premier Division to the Football League in just eight seasons, the club born out of the original Wimbledon’s relocation, and subsequent name change, to Milton Keynes had known almost nothing but success in its short history. Even comfortable survival in a 16th placed finish at the end of 2011/12, Dons’ first season in League Two, was a relatively impressive achievement.

However, the stream of success was just moments from changing course last season. Requiring a win over Fleetwood and other results to go their way to stave off relegation, Andy Mangan’s equaliser, cancelling out Gary Alexander’s opener, left the Dons in the bottom two with less than 30 minutes of the season remaining. With fellow survival hopefuls Barnet, Dagenham and Redbridge and Plymouth all losing, just one goal was needed to keep AFC in the Football League. Jack Midson’s penalty provided just that. The Dons survived by the skin of their teeth.

AFC will be hoping for a much calmer campaign this time around, and some impressive signings will help to achieve what must be their goal of comfortable survival. With the loss of defenders Pim Balkerstein, Chris Hussey and captain Mat Mitchel-King, the additions of Callum Kennedy along with the experienced pair Barry Fuller and Andy Frampton will help sure up a defence that leaked 76 goals last season, six more than any other team.

After losing out on John Sullivan, who played a vital role in keeping the Dons up during a loan spell, to Portsmouth, Ross Worner and Ashley Bays have been brought in to challenge for the goalkeeper’s jersey along with stalwart Seb Brown. However, one successful loanee has signed permanently as former Norwich midfielder George Francomb comes in, bolstering a midfield that contains the talented Harry Pell. Charlie ‘Son of Teddy’ Sheringham has also been snapped up on a free transfer to provide a source of goals to complement those of Jack Midson and Luke Moore.

Manager Neal Eardly will be hoping his first full season in management is largely trouble free. I think it will be.  16th

Harry Pell

ACCRINGTON STANLEY

Who are they? Exactly. It’s best to get that out of the way before I begin.

The club who are best known for that advertising slogan and having David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd as a fan rarely fill up any column inches, but they’ve established themselves as an efficient, if not exotic, Football League outfit. However, after several seasons of comfortable safety, and even a play-off spot in 2010/11 under the guidance of John Coleman, Accrington found themselves in a serious relegation battle for the duration of the season just gone, eventually finishing three points above the relegation zone in 18th

With those at the top ends of the table getting stronger, both on the pitch and financially, it becomes increasingly difficult for a club like Accrington to compete. For this reason, the signings of former England internationals James Beattie and Francis Jeffers were seen as huge coups for the club. Whilst neither were exactly prolific, scoring just 8 goals between them, their experience and status is vital to a club of Accrington’s stature. The pair remains at the club for the new season, with Beattie replacing Leam Richardson to become player manager; the sort of punt that has every chance of paying off at this level.

The loss of several key players, including Lee Molyneux and Romuald Boco won’t make Beattie’s task any easier, but Accrington will look to some of their more experienced and talented players, such as Laurence Wilson, new signings Rob Atkinson and Nicky Hunt, along with Jeffers and Beattie himself to keep the club in the division.

It’s going to be a tough one for Beattie in his first management job. 24th

James Beattie

BRISTOL ROVERS

In the relegation zone as late as the final week of January, the Gas were starring Conference football in the face for much of last season. Mark McGhee’s sacking in December, along with John Ward’s appointment, was the catalyst for the turn around that saw Bristol Rovers finish in 14th, nine points from the play-offs and nine points from the drop zone. 

Ward’s record of 12 wins, 6 draws and only 6 defeats in his 24 games in charge have left many viewing the Gas as a serious promotion contender for the coming season. A quiet start on the transfer front won’t add any extra worth to that view, only bringing in ‘keeper Steve Mildenhall from Millwall whilst losing Joe Anyinsah and Ouimae Tounkara, but there’s still time to bolster their already impressive squad.

Rovers have an array of former youth internationals who are still under 25 at their disposal, including Fabian Broghammer of Germany and Tom Parkes of England, whilst the likes of David Clarkson and Danny Woodards provide experience. In Clarkson’s case, his goals may prove vital to any promotion push from the club.

A few new faces and Ward will be able to build on the excellent foundations that were laid last season, but the wage cap is said to be hindering his endeavours to improve the squad. Bristol Rovers will have their work cut out if they are to achieve promotion. 9th

David Clarkson

BURTON ALBION 

Ending the season prior to last in 17th, there were very little expected of Gary Rowett and his side going into the 2012/13 campaign. However, in his first full season in management, Rowett impressed many pundits by leading Burton to an unexpected spot in the play-offs by finishing 4th. The would go on to lose to Bradford City, the eventual play-off winners, in the semi-final but it’s difficult to argue that last season was anything but a relative success.

For Rowett, the sort of well-groomed young man your mother would enjoy looking at, success brings with it expectation. One of the highest rated young managers in the Football League will have his work cut out to galvanise the Brewers for another promotion challenge.

The challenge for Burton has been made all the tougher with the loss of last season’s top two goal scorers. The exciting winger Jacques Maghoma (18 goals in all competitions) has left for Sheffield Wednesday, whilst the prolific Calvin Zola (16) has joined Aberdeen.

However, Rowett has moved quickly to find replacements and strengthen the squad at his disposal. Journeymen strikers Rene Howe and, after a loan spell at the Pirelli Stadium last season, Michael Symes have joined with the pair boasting respectable goal scoring records in England’s four tier. Youngsters Adam Reed and Alex MacDonald, another former loanee, have impressed in several short term loan spells away from Sunderland and Burnley, their respective former clubs, and will now be looking to settle into a midfield that will also contain the experienced Rory Delap following his move on a free transfer from Stoke. The permanent signing of Ian Sharps, another former loanee, alongside Chris Hussey and Phil Edwards provides excellent defensive options for this division. It’s safe to say Burton have utilised the transfer market excellently this summer.

Despite all the transfer activity, and talented players such as Zander Diamond and Billy Kee retained from last season, Burton’s squad is a touch light in terms of numbers for a season long promotion push. A few extra bodies before the season kicks off and they’ll be in an excellent position. 4th 

Gary Rowett and Rene Howe

BURY

Fans of the Shakers will be relieved that their club are even taking part in the 2013/14 season. Announcing that they needed £1,000,000 to survive in April, it seemed as if the future of the club was in serious doubt. Thankfully, a consortium led by Stewart Day saved Bury, with Day pledging to rebuild and bring Championship football back to Gigg Lane after last season’s relegation from League One. 

The rebuild for the immediate future has had to take place quickly as the Shakers were forced to release 11 first team players and lost a further seven, including the likes of Steven Schumacher and David Worrall, to other clubs.

With the new board stating their support for manager Kevin Blackwell, he’s been able to make some excellent additions to the threadbare squad he was left with after the departures. Strikers Anton Forrester, a loan signing from Blackburn, and Ashley Grimes, a free from Rochdale, will look to provide the goals to return Bury to League One, whilst a punt on John ‘Brother of Wayne’ Rooney is also an interesting attacking addition. Experienced Andy Proctor will look to partner Tom Soares, who re-signed after initially being released, in midfield whilst Chris Sedgwick looks to be an excellent acquisition on the wing. Nathan Cameron from Coventry and Gareth Roberts from Derby are the stand out names in terms of new defenders, whilst former Arsenal youngster Reice Charles-Cook will battle for the number one jersey with Trevor Carson.

Some excellent additions, but is it enough? Will they jell quickly enough? Can Bury really reach the Championship in years to come? Maybe, but this season’s goal should be stability. 11th

Tom Soares

CHELTENHAM TOWN

After play-off heartbreak for the past two seasons, is it third time lucky for the Robins? Cheltenham’s fans will certainly as their club looks to build another promotion push. 

However, the summer hasn’t been too kind to Mark Yates’ side as a number of key players have moved onto pastures new. Darren Carter has joined Northamption, a host of strikers have left, including Paul Benson who has return to parent club Swindon following the completion of his loan spell, whilst Kaid Mohammed has joined Port Vale. However, the biggest loss will be that of Marlon Pack. The midfielder has turned down a new contract as he looks to fulfil his potentially in a higher division.

Thankfully for Cheltenham they’ve moved quickly to cover for the players they’ve lost. Winger Ashley Vincent comes in from Port Vale to replace Mohamed who’s gone the other way, whilst strikers Terry Gornell and Jamie Cureton plug the gaps up top. However, the key signing would appear to be Matthew Richards; the midfielder has impressed previously in League One with Walsall and Shrewsbury and will be a vital addition to the Robins’ squad.

With talented players such as Billy Jones and Jermaine McGlashan already on the club’s books, there’s no reason why Cheltenham can’t challenge for promotion again. 5th

Jermaine McGlashan

CHESTERFIELD

Things didn’t quite go to plan for the Spireites last season. Relegated from League One, still riding the high a new stadium brings and buoyed by the signing of Louis Boa Morte, Chesterfield were hoping for an immediate return to England’s third tier. Lingering in and around mid-table for much of the season, good form towards the end of the season lifted them to 8th; just missing out on a play-off position. Manager Paul Cook and his men will be more determined than other to achieve promotion for the club and its fans this time around.  

The summer departures point towards Chesterfield looking to start afresh and move forward. Danny Whitaker and Scott Boden, two players with over 100 appearances for the club, are amongst those who have been released, whilst club legend Jack Lester hung up his boots at the end of last season. Neal Trotman would be the player the fans will be most disappointed to see the leave; the first choice centre back was also released by Chesterfield.

However, the additions made by the club have been superb. Jimmy Ryan and Gary Roberts are two excellent signings for any League Two club, whilst the experienced and versatile Ritchie Humphreys is a huge coup for the Spireites. Youngster Sam Morsy joins from Port Vale after 72 games for the club, whilst striker Eoin Doyle will hopefully replace Lester as a vital source of goals.

The new signings will bolster a squad that already contains the likes of Jay O’Shea, Drew Talbot and Sam Tongwell. A successful season is on the cards for Chesterfield. 1st

Jay O’Shea

DAGENHAM AND REDBRIDGE

Plotting Dagenham’s fortunes since their return to the Football League would make a rather unhappy picture; the graph produced would be in the shape of a sad looking smile. A climb up the League Two table over three seasons led to a play-off victory and one season in League One, where the graph peaks at 21st spot in the third tier. Back in League Two, the Daggers finished 19th without ever being in any real trouble of relegation in 2011/12, but last season was far too close for comfort. 

Needing to win on the final day of the season to confirm their safety in a relegation battle that they seemed to have avoided just a few weeks earlier, Dagenham lost 1-0 to York. Thankfully for their fans, the Daggers were spared from a return to non-league thanks to Barnet’s defeat against Northampton, staying up on goal difference.

It’s hard to suggest anything other than another tough season for the Daggers who, despite receiving a seven figure sum from Dwight Gayle’s move to Crystal Palace from Peterborough through a sell-on-clause, don’t have the budget to compete with the bigger names of League Two. Transfer activity that has seen only the signing of youngster Afolabi Obafemi from Leyton Orient, along with the potential captures of Brian Saah and Rhys Murphy, only highlights their lack of muscle in the transfer market.

If they are to survive, the Daggers will look towards the likes of Medy Eliot and Gavin Hoyte to perform to their best. Even that though is unlikely to be enough. 23rd

Medy Elito

EXETER CITY

For much of last season, it seemed as if the Grecians would have the opportunity to return to League One at the first time of asking. Occupying a play-off spot for much of the season, only a poor run of form in April cost Exeter a crack at promotion.

A disappointment for Exeter fans, but Paul Tisdale, the undisputed number one when it comes to best dressed managers, will be hoping his side can bounce back and challenge for promotion once again this season.

The loss of last season’s top scorer Jamie Cureton, who found the net 21 times, is a big one. Also a big one in his replacement, Sam Parkin, but the robust striker doesn’t offer a CV that suggests he’s capable of being quite as prolific as Cureton. Tisdale will be hoping from more goals from his other strikers, especially 19 year old Jamie Reed who big things are expected of.

Whilst Exeter haven’t added massively to their squad, they’ve not lost any of their key players. Holding onto the likes of Scot Bennett, Liam Sercombe and Alan Gow could prove crucial if they are to push for the play-offs. 13th

Alan Gow

FLEETWOOD TOWN

After racking up over 100 points to win promotion from the Conference in 2011/12, a mid-table finish was a reasonable achievement for the Cod Army in their first season in the Football League. However, the relatively rich side will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of other non-league sides of late, including Crawley and Stevenage, in achieving a quick promotion to League One. 

Without the distractions of a Mr J. Barton training at the club during pre-season, the only media attention Fleetwood have received has been for the excellent additions they’ve made to their squad. Gone are some of the starts of their non-league days, such as Jamie Miligan and Andy Mangan, along with aging Football League regulars like Youl Mawene, who has become a coach at the club, and Barry Nicholson, in come the likes of Steven Schumacher, Jeff Hughes and Mark Roberts; all players who would surely be playing at a higher level if it wasn’t for the attractive salaries on offer.

Punts have been taken on England C international midfielder Antoni Sarcevic from Chester and defender Liam Hogan from Halifax, whilst Stewart Murdoch, Stephen Jordan and Matty Blair complete an impressive collective of transfers.

With manager Graham Alexander already able to call upon the likes of Steven Gillespie, Jon Parkin and Dean Howell, anything put promotion must be seen as a relative failure. 2nd

Dean Howell

HARTLEPOOL

After five seasons in the bottom half of League One, the Pool finally caved in and fell through the trap door into League Two. New manager Colin Cooper will be hoping to lead his side to an immediate return to League One, like Hartlepool did the last time they played in the four tier of English football in 2005/06.  

Dropping down a level often means an acceptance that certain players will be leaving. However, the Pool have so far managed to keep the bulk of their squad intact with only the loss of Ritchie Humphreys and Evan Horwood causing heartbreak to the club’s fans. Humphreys will be missed especially after the club stalwart racked up almost 500 league appearances in 12 years at Victoria Park.

The lack of players moving on means that Hartlepool are already in a decent position heading into the new season. Excellent defenders, such as Jonathan Franks and Peter Hartley are supplemented by a ‘keeper, Scott Flinders, who should be playing at a much higher level. Simon Walton and club legends Anthony Sweeney and Andy Monhouse provide the basis of a strong midfield, whilst Steve Howard has return from his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and may well partner James Poole in attack.

With such talent on hand, the signing of just one player, former Portsmouth and Colchester winger Jack Compton, can be forgiven. A lack of options up top may be the biggest motivator for Cooper to look do business; another forward will put the Pool on the right track for a promotion push. 6th

Simon Walton

MANSFIELD TOWN

During their five year absence from the Football League, the Stags only attention came from the slightly outrageous make up of their boardroom. A relatively young female chief executive, 31-year-old Carolyn Radford who says silly things like she aims to take Mansfield to the Premier League in five seasons, who is married to the slightly less easy on the eye chairman, 47-year-old John Radford, who does things like give his Aston Martin to manager Paul Cox after a 8-1 win, attracts the attention of the media for some reason. I can’t understand why.  

But Mansfield’s promotion as Champions from the conference, sealed on the final day, last season, along with a respectable showing against Liverpool in a 2-1 defeat in the FA Cup, gave the club some attention for the exploits on the pitch. Cox will now be hoping to earn more praise for his side’s performance by keeping them in League Two.

Losing Matt Green, scorer of 27 goals in all competitions last season, to Birmingham City will be a huge blow, whilst the departure of defender Luke Jones to Stevenage will be a blow of equal measure. Mansfield have addressed Jones’ departure with a plethora of defensive additions, including John McCombe and Martin Riley, but Cox is yet to find a striker to fill the void left by Green. The onus is now on the likes of Ben Hutchinson and Jake Speight to come up with the goals to keep Mansfield in the division.

In addition to a highly rated title winning squad, three excellent acquisitions in midfield, former Yeovil and Macclesfield star Keiran Murtagh, the highly rated Sam Clucas from Hereford and Jamie McGuire from Fleetwood, mean the Stags are arguably a goal scorer away from boasting a huge chance of survival. They’ll do it, but not without a fight. 20th

Sam Clucas

MORECOMBE

Ask someone to name the 92 league sides and Morecombe are probably omitted more often than not, but Jim Bentley and Sammy McIlroy before him have made Morecombe a mainstay of League Two as they now enter their seventh season in the Football League. Although occupying the bottom half of the division for much of that time, one 4th place finish in 2009/10 bucks that trend, the Shrimpers have rarely needed to take a serious look over their shoulders. 

Bentley’s objective for the coming season must surely be to survive once again, and his additions in the transfer market will no doubt help achieve that goal. The loss of Lewis Alessandra to Plymouth has been quickly forgotten thanks to the capture of young striker Jack Sampson from Bolton, whilst pacey winger Marcus Marshall will look to provide the service for Sampson to finish.

The signing of young midfielder Alex Kenyon, player of the year for Stockport as they were relegated to the Conference North, and defender Tony Diagne from Macclesfield are the type of signings clubs of Morecambe’s size need to make, whilst the capture of Mark Hughes from Bury is something of a coup.

With quality already in the squad, especially in the shape of former Liverpool defender Robbie Threlfall and journeyman striker Kevin Ellison, the new additions give Morecombe the chance to aim for a slightly more comfortable finish, well away from the drop zone. 15th

Kevin Ellison

NEWPORT COUNTY

Following relegation from the Football League in 1988, the Welsh club went out of business in 1989; this is a long awaited return for the fans of the County. After just three seasons in the Conference, traditionally an incredibly tough league to get out of for clubs with smaller budgets, Newport’s win in the play-off final over fellow Welsh side Wrexham meant they were back were they probably feel they belong.  

Manager Justin Edinburgh, who also won the FA Trophy for the club, now faces his toughest test to keep the club in the Football League.

The bulk of the side will be based around last season’s heroes. Aaron O’Connor and Christian Jolly will provide the firepower upfront, whilst Ismail Yakubu, the mainstay of the back four, can boast Football League experience with Barnet. Lee Minshull and Michael Flynn, a Football League regular, are the pick of the names from a slightly threadbare midfield that will need strengthening before the season begins. The permanent signing of Adam Chapman from Oxford will help strengthen the midfield after impressing during a loan spell last season.

Edinburgh will no doubt have one of the smallest budgets in the league, but he’s made a number of superb signings in addition to Chapman. Former Liverpool youngster Jamie Stephens joins to provide competition to Lenny Pidgeley in goal, whilst Harry Worley will look to partner Yakubu in the centre of defence. The signing of journeyman Chris Zebroski will aid the other end of the pitch, guaranteeing at least a handful of goals.

With County’s squad still looking a little thin on the ground, they’re going to have to strengthen before the season kicks off to avoid an immediate return to non-league. 22nd

Ismail Yakubu

NORTHAMPTON TOWN

It was a case of overachieving throughout the season, underperforming for the most vital one for the Cobblers last season. Defying the odds to secure a play-off place, Aidy Boothroyd’s men succumbed to an inspired Bradford City in the final, who were helped by some generous Northampton defending and the alarming statistic that their opposition failed to muster a shot on goal. 

The team that losses the play-off final often faces a hangover going into the new season and struggle to replicate their form of last season; Boothroyd will want nothing less than the same as what his side produced last term.

There have been some huge departures for Boothroyd to deal with during this summer, none bigger than Adebayo Akinfenwa’s move to Gillingham. The larger than life figure ended the season with 16 goals and will be sorely missed at Sixfields. Luke Gutteridge and Ben Harding both leaving will also dent Northampton’s squad, as will Clarke Carlisle’s retirement.

However, the Cobblers have made some excellent additions to their squad thus far. Matt Duke comes in from Bradford to take the number one jersey, whilst Darren Carter and Ian Morris fill the gaps left by Gutteridge and Harding. Boothroyd is yet to find a replacement for Akinfenwa, and that is something that must be quickly addressed with the season fast approaching. In the meantime, the burden of scoring the bulk of Northampton’s goals will pass to Roy O’Donovan.

Despite possessing the likes of Kelvin Langmead and Chris Hackett, their achievements of last season are unlikely to be replicated. 12th

Darren Carter

OXFORD UNITED

Since their return to the Football League three seasons ago, Oxford have been within touching distance of the play-offs on all three occasions. In truth, the only serious challenge they mounted was in 2011/12, but the margins between the Us and the top seven has never been more than a handful of points. Manager Chris Wilder will be hoping to push on this season this and finally break into the play-offs.

In order to achieve this, Wilder has operated a revolving door transfer policy. Damian Batt, Michael Duberry and Peter Leven are amongst the six who have been released, whilst Tom Craddock, Simon Heslop and Jon-Paul Pittman are the stand out names as a further eight players have moved on to new clubs.

Taking the squad down to its barebones, Wilder has worked hard to bring in some promising signings to build a promotion chasing side. Experienced defender Tom Newey joins from Scunthorpe, whilst Welsh U21 international full back Jonathan Meades joins from Bournemouth after impressing on loan at AFC Wimbledon last season. The midfield has been bolstered by David Hunt, the sort of journeyman who has almost 300 appearances to his name with seven clubs, whilst former players Danny Rose and Asa Hall re-join for a second spell at the Kassam Stadium. But arguably the most impressive signing is former Reading and Stoke striker Dave Kitson. Despite being far from the peak of his powers, 11 goals in 33 games for Sheffield United last time out suggests he’s still got goals in him; even more so in League Two.

With Wilder reiterating his desire to add to a squad that already contains the likes of Jake Wright, Alfie Potter and James Constable, Oxford’s squad has the potential to be strong going into the new season. Will they have enough to finally challenge for promotion? They’ll give it a good go at least. 7th

Alfie Potter

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

Argyle fans haven’t had much to shout about over the last few years; they’ve dedicated their attentions to boasting about how many of their number they can shove onto a coach travelling hundreds of miles all over the country every other week. I suppose you need something to shout about when things aren’t so impressive within the club, both on and off the pitch. 

After four solid mid-table finishes in the Championship, the Pilgrims only just avoided relegation by finishing 21st in the 2008/09 season, followed by relegation to League One in 2009/10. With administration crippling the club, a second relegation in as many years followed, whilst the club’s two seasons in League Two have seem them only just survive; finishing 21st on both occasions.

But with the finances now under control, Plymouth will now be looking to start their journey back up the Football League. The deadwood has been shipped out, with Paris Cowan-Hall, Warren Feeney and Anthony Charles amongst those leaving the club, and some excellent additions have been made, such as strikers Marvin Morgan and Lewis Alessandra, whilst Ruben Reid re-joins on loan from Yeovil. Disgraced ‘keeper Luke McCormick is given a second chance and comes in to challenge Jake Cole between the sticks, whilst the midfield has been bolstered by the signings of Dominic Blizzard and Romuald Boco.

With exciting youngsters, such as Isaac Vassell, coming through and experienced heads, like Guy Branston, the make up for the Argyle squad looks ideal. Despite the successful rebuilding, they’ll do well to challenge for promotion, but any relegation worries should be avoided fairly comfortably. 14th

Marvin Morgan

PORTSMOUTH

Just like Plymouth, Pompey and their fans have lived through some tough times over the past few seasons. However, the fall has been from a higher perch for Portsmouth, sharper and much deeper too. From the Premier League, an FA Cup win and a place in Europe to three relegations in four seasons and a doubt as to whether the club would survive for almost the entirety of the last two years. With a fans’ trust now in charge of the club and a degree of financial stability restored, optimism is through the rough with 10,000 season ticket holders hoping for promotion.herher

With finances restricting Pompey to one-month contracts and loan deals last season, manager Guy Whittingham has been given the rather ‘Football Manager’-ish task of building a squad from scratch with a relative degree of financial backing. Phil Smith, Yassin Moutaouakil, David Connoly, Johannes Ertl and Patrick Agyemang have signed permanent deals after played for the club last season, whilst promising youngsters such as Jed Wallace have given Whittingham a platform with which to build from.

Eight new names have come in, including John Sullivan who replaces the departing Simon Eastwood in goal. Former Hull duo Sonny Bradley and Danny East make up the defensive additions alongside Joe Devera, whilst a trio of midfielders, Andy Barcham, Ricky Holmes and Romain Radovani, are all superb acquisitions. Tom Craddock will provide support for Connoly and Ageyman, and with time still remaining until the start of the season, expect a couple more additions to come through the Fratton Park doors.

The fans will be delighted they just have a club, but they’ll have more to than just survival to shout about this season. 3rd

Yassin Moutaouakil

ROCHDALE

After just two seasons away from the fourth tier of English football, where they spent 35 consecutive years previously, Rochdale found themselves back in the mediocrity of a mid-table finish in League Two last season. The owners and fans clearly want more, with John Coleman’s sacking midway through the campaign indicating that. Keith Hill, in his first full season in charge, will be looking to move the Dale up the table, mounting a promotion challenge. 

There’s been plenty of change in the playing staff as Hill has looked to revitalise his underperforming side. 12 players been shown through the exit door in one way or another, including Jason Kennedy, Bobby Grant and Phil Edwards, who can all be viewed as major losses for the club. However, the calibre of player brought in by the club is rather impressive. Ashley Eastham joins after doing a tour of League One and Two via loan moves, whilst former Southampton defender Oliver Lancashire joins in him as a defensive acquisition. Winger Matthew Done, who spent two years at Barnsley with Hill, re-joins his former club, whilst namesake Matthew Lund joins from Stoke. Utility man Peter Vincenti completes the list of impressive experienced signings. Contracts have also been given to youngsters Bastien Hery and Scott Hogan.

Whilst Hill is a manager highly respected within the walls of Spotlands, and Rochdale have excellent players, such as Andrew Tutte and Ian Henderson at their disposal, it’s unlikely the club will be able to compete with the other bigger clubs in the league for promotion. They lack the depth in quality that the likes of Fleetwood do and it will come as a surprise to me should they be up towards the summit of the table come May. 10th

Ian Henderson

SCUNTHORPE

A second relegation to the Iron in three seasons will come as a big blow to the club who worked so hard to get themselves into the Championship under the stewardship of Nigel Adkins. Overachievers they may have been, but they deserved there spot in England’s second tier, upsetting many of the big boys. Brian Laws, in his third spell in charge on the club, will be looking to right the wrongs of last season and return the club to its previous status. 

The Iron will have to go into the new season coping with the loss of a number of key players who would have stamped their authority on this division. The most frustrating thing for Scunthorpe’s fans is that Andy Barcham, Callum Kennedy, Tom Newey and Jimmy Ryan have all joined fellow League Two sides; a sign that Scunthorpe may struggle to compete financially with their competitors even in this division. Long standing winger Mark Duffy has also left the club, joining Championship side Doncaster Rovers, whilst Akpo Sodje has signed for Tranmere in League One.

With a further five players released, Laws, like so many managers in this division, has had to rebuild from a relatively small base of players. However, the signings of Andy Welsh, Matt Sparrow and Chris Iwelumo are excellent, whilst the return of legend Andy Dawson is a huge boost for the club. Two players Laws worked with during his time at Sheffield Wednesday, wingers Sean McAllister and Etienne Esajas have also been snapped up, as have Gainsborough Trinity pair Luke Waterfall and Terry Hawkridge.

I view Scunthorpe’s chances of promotion as I do Rochdale’s; there’s hope, but there just isn’t enough quality to mount a prolonged challenge. However, a solid defence containing the likes of Eddie Nolan and Christian Riberio is up there with the best in this division. If it performs to its potential, the club won’t be far away. 8th

Eddie Nolan

SOUTHEND UNITED

Last season was filled with disappointment for the Shrimpers. The bitter pill of losing the Football League Trophy Final was followed by the club missing out on the play-offs after a slump in form in the final few months of the season that saw off Paul Sturrock and continued under his predecessor Phil Brown. With rumours of financial struggle and uncertainty surrounding the club, Brown will have his work cut out to lift heads in time for the new season. 

Thankfully for Southend fans, they’ve kept departures to a minimum so far. However, losing star players Bilel Mohsni and Sean Clohessy, along with Mickey Spillane, John Spicer and Gavin Tomlin, won’t be easy. Will Atkinson is an excellent addition from Bradford whilst John White joins permanently from Colchester after a short loan spell last season, but Brown has been relatively inactive in the transfer market.

The hope rests in the bulk of last season’s squad to up their game, especially the likes of Ryan Creswell and Marc Laird who could be key in bringing at least a play-off place to Southend. However, it’s been stripped of its quality, and with apparent financial constraints, it won’t be easy for the Shrimpers to break into the top seven. 19th

Ryan Cresswell

TORQUAY UNITED

After reaching the play-offs in 2011/12, avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth will be a huge disappointment for all those involved with the club. Disappointing further still was the unceremonial departure of manager Martin Ling, who was replaced by Alan Knill after he took over from Ling during a period of ill health. Knill has a tough job on his hands to both improve Torquay’s fortunes and win over the doubters. 

After losing 12 players over the summer, it’s yet another threadbare squad for a League Two manager to deal with, but Knill hasn’t been able to strengthen in significant enough numbers. Whilst the signings of former loanee Elliot Benyon, Ben Harding and Dale Tongue are promising, along with youngsters Courtney Cameron and Jordan Chapell, are promising, Knill has just 16 first team players at his disposal. Those 16 are lack goals too with Rene Howe yet to be effectively replaced.

Whilst the likes of Kevin Nicholson and Billy Bodin remain at the club, unless Torquay strengthen in the coming weeks, it could be a very tough season ahead. Even if they do bring in some extra bodies, it may not be enough to keep them out of trouble. 21st

Billy Bodin

WYCOMBE WANDERERS

For a period of time at the beginning for last season, it looked as if the Chairboys were about to suffer their second consecutive relegation. With Gary Waddock sacked player-manager Gareth Ainsworth worked wonders with a young squad to lead them out of the mire and into a respectable 15th place finish. With Ainsworth having hung up his boots and donned the suit on a full time basis, his attentions will be fully focused on developing his young side further. 

Losing the exciting winger Joel Grant has been the only major blow for Wycombe this summer as the club have so far managed to hold on to talents such as goalkeeper Matt Ingram. In terms of transfers in, Jon-Paul Pittman re-joins the club to fill the void left by Grant, whilst a punt has been taken on the less than prolific Paris Cowan-Hall; scorer of three goals in 40 games for Plymouth. Nick Anold also joins in a loan deal from Reading.

With Ainsworth’s side also boasting some experienced heads, such as Gary Doherty and Matthew Spring, the Chairboys should have no issue with avoiding relegation this season. However, they may well need to keep an eye over their shoulder as those around them have improved massively during the off season. 18th

Gary Doherty

YORK CITY

York City

One of English football’s greatest statistics was in danger of being ruined for much of last season. Thankfully for nerds like myself, York avoided relegation and becoming the first side to be relegated in the season after winning promotion to the Football League. Nigel Wothington came in after Gary Mills departed from the manager’s hot seat and just about managed to steady the ship in order to keep York afloat in League Two.

Worthington has wasted no time in getting his side prepared for a slightly more comfortable experience in League Two this time around. Mainstays of the promotion winning side, such as Jason Walker, Michael Potts and Jon Challinor have all been released, whilst Scott Kerr and Paddy McLaughlin have joined Grimsby. The Minstermen’s fans will be upset to see the back of Matty Blair, who joins Fleetwood, but York have made some exciting additions for the coming season.

Goalkeeper Chris Kettings joins on loan from Blackpool, with fellow loanee Ben Davies, signed from Preston, the only defensive addition thus far. However, the midfield has been strengthened in great depth with Lewis Montrose, Estonian international Sander Puri and Craig Clay signing up. The attack has seen further additions still with Ryan Bowman, Wes Fletcher, Ryan Jarvis and the experienced Richard Cresswell all excellent signings. 17th

Richard Cresswell

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