There is no way you are going to convince me that this season’s League Two is going to be more exciting than last years. It was a truly remarkable season in the English Fourth Tier. On the final day of the season you had an undecided title race, eventually won be Portsmouth, a team that had not led the division until the final day. You had two play-off places being chased by about seven clubs with the two that started the final match day in them eventually, thanks to late drama at St James Park, just about clinging on to them. You also had a fairy tale escape story finally completed thanks to an injury time goal at Rodney Parade that saw rookie manager Mike Flynn steer Newport to the most unlikely of relegations survivals in what locals now refer to as “mission Flynn-possible.”
But as the smoke of last season’s fires drifts over the horizon the wind of the new season is blowing in fast and the clubs of League Two are nearly ready to battle it out again for glory or for dismay. So without further ado here are is D3D4 Football’s League Two Preview…
Chesterfield: The Spireites always do well whenever they fall into League Two and have made some marquee signings already this summer. Gary Caldwell will be hungry to prove himself as a manager and the signings of Chris O’Grady from Brighton and Joe Anyon and Scott Wiseman from Scunthorpe will give him every chance of a successful campaign.
Coventry City: Keeping Mark Robins was the most important task that the club chairman had on his table at the end of last season and, for a nice change, he has been successful. Robins will lead the team and has been busy bringing in experienced players to help facilitate an immediate return to League One. Michael Doyle and Liam O’Brein arrived from promoted Portsmouth and Peter Vincenti, a key new addition from Rochdale, will be a goal threat from midfield. Expect them to be a challenger this season.
Luton Town: Finishing 4th last season didn’t do justice to a side that played an attractive brand of attacking football. Manager Nathan Jones is expected to take them one step further this year and has added to his forward line with the signing of James Collins from Crawley and Elliot Lee from Barnsley. Danny Hylton remains and will form a potent front line for the Hatters, should be a sure thing for the automatic promotion spots.
Port Vale: The return of cult hero Tom Pope from Bury and the addition of Tyrone Barnett from Wimbledon will give Vale a real chance at bouncing straight back up. Anthony Kay and Critian Montano from Bury and Bristol Rovers will also be key in a team managed by, yet unproven, Michael Brown. The Burslem outfit have every chance of being real contenders in League Two this season.
Mansfield Town: Keeping manager Steve Evans, despite an approach from Swindon, was a key moment in the Stags off-season. A swathe of new signings have descended on the Nottinghamshire town and some big names at that. David Mirfin and Zander Diamond join from Scunthorpe and Northampton respectively and will likely form the most solid centre back partnership in the division. Paul Anderson and Will Atkinson also drop down from League One Northampton and Southend to add creativity in midfield whilst Lee Angol will look to prove himself upfront after signing from Peterborough. If he can get the goals then expect the Stags to be in an automatic spot come May.
Colchester United: John McGreal’s men will hope to continue where they left off after a great end to last season saw them just miss out on a play-off spot. If Frenchman Mikael Mandron can score the goals to replace those of departing Chris Porter then the U’s will make the play-offs.
Cambridge United: Shaun Derry still needs to prove that he has what it takes to be a good manager but he has every chance as long as United can keep hold of midfield dynamo Luke Berry. The club have already rejected four offers for last season’s 17 goal man and have added to a limp forward line with the signing of 34 year old Jabo Ibehre from Carlisle. If Berry stays and Ibehre finds the net then the U’s should make the play-offs at least.
Lincoln City: Momentum is a wonderful thing in football and Lincoln will come in to the new season with plenty of that. Record breaking season ticket sales will make for a lively atmosphere at Sincil Bank as the Cowley’s have added strength in all area to a team that was already full of talent. John Bostwick from Peterborough is a real coup and striker’s Matt Green and Ollie Palmer will no doubt be dangerous at this level. Would not be surprised to see them make the play-offs or even an automatic spot.
Exeter City: The loss of Ollie Watkins is a blow but the money will, no doubt, be well invested so expect the Grecians to be around the play-offs again this season. There has not been much transfer activity so far but the return of Dean Moxey will help a fragile back line and if Tisdale weaves his magic Exeter will have another good season.
Stevenage: A dreadful run towards the end of the season scuppered Stevenage’s chance of a play-off spot but with striker Matt Godden fit they are always a danger. New additions Blair Turgott and Danny Newton will inject some pace into a side that was pedestrian at times last year and Joe Martin will add his experience to the back line. Darren Sarll’s men will be in and around the play-offs again this year.
Swindon Town: A big club at this level, Swindon’s new manager David Flitcroft is arguably their best addition. Chris Robertson signs at centre back from Wimbledon to help solidify the back line but Paul Mullin will be unlikely to fire in the goals needed for a promotion push.
Notts County: Kevin Nolan’s men will be a lot better this year and Jon Stead remains a quality player at this level. Terry Hawkridge is an excellent capture from Lincoln City but overall I expect this to be a year of steady progress from the Magpies.
Carlisle United: Carlisle were unlucky in the play-offs last season but off the field issues haven’t helped the recruitment drive this summer. Jabo Ibehre has followed fellow striker Charlie Wyke out the door leaving the Cumbrians short up front leaving a lot resting on the shoulders of the returning Hallam Hope who re-signed from Bury. If Nicky Adams stays fit then you never know but expect a season of regression from the Cumbrians.
Grimsby Town: Russell Slade must make the Mariners more consistent if they are to push the front runners this season. Omar Bogle’s goals were sorely missed after he left for Wigan in January though end of season form of Sam Jones gives rise to hope. As of yet they have not made a signing that get the senses tingling so expect a season of mid-table mediocrity for Grimsby.
Forest Green Rovers: Their first ever season in the Football League will be reward enough for Forest Green fans but a season of consolidation and trips to Coventry and Notts County will be a nice change. Reece Brown is an excellent capture from Birmingham but they may find goals hard to come by.
Crewe Alexandra: Crewe should be good going forward after adding veteran Chris Porter from Colchester to a front line that already consists of Chris Dagnall and Jordan Bowery but the loss of John Guthrie, Billy Bingham and Ollie Turton won’t help. Lower mid-table again for the Railwaymen
Wycombe Wanderers: Gareth Ainsworth has lost centre back Aaron Pierre to Northampton and has added little to his side. With Akinfenwa and Kashket upfront they should stay clear of relegation but not much else.
Cheltenham Town: Much will depend on keeping Harry Pell who is the life and soul of this team. Top scorer Billy Waters left in the summer but promising signing Mohammed Eisa is an exciting prospect. Should be more solid than last season.
Barnet: New man Rossi Eames will need top striker John Akinde to have another prolific season if he is to keep his charges away from the drop zone. With hardy any new faces expect a season of struggle from the Bees.
Crawley Town: The loss of striker James Collins will hurt Crawley as new manager Harry Kewell has look abroad for his new recruits. Thomas Verhaydt and Moussa Sanoh will need to adapt quickly if the Reds are to avoid relegation.
Newport County: A new artificial pitch will make for better football at Rodney Parade but the reality is that Newport have one of the smallest budgets in the division so don’t expect them to make massive strides on last year. Lamar Reynolds from the Vardy Academy could be a game changer after an impressive scoring record with Brentford Town last season and is certainly one to watch.
Yeovil Town: Darren Way will need to bring in some additions if the Glovers are to avoid another season of struggle. It is hard to see where goals will come from with only Olufela Olomola joining from Southampton on loan offering any hope.
Morecambe: Off the field problems and the loss of Ryan Edwards at the back will likely make it a hard fight for survival this season for The Shrimps. Hopes may rest on the evergreen Kevin Ellison rolling back the years and scoring double figures once again.
So there it is, our predictions for the new campaign though in reality League Two will likely be too close to call again.
For all the League One and Two new check out www.d3d4football.com where we’ve also launched a brand new podcast, with the first pair of episodes available now.
Follow us on twitter @d3d4football