Accrington could be looking at a tough season ahead. New player manager James Beattie has next to no managerial experience and will be tasked with not only the tactical dilemma’s but also bear a significant weight when it comes to scoring goals following the departures of Padraig Amond and last season’s standout player Lee Molyneux, making his job even harder. He has brought in Danny Webber who has played at a higher level before but he hasn’t played a competitive fixture since the 12/13 season so its something of a gamble. Two defensive recruits in Nicky Hunt and Rob Atkinson will need to be good enough to bolster what was the 3rd worst defence in League 2 last year. If injuries occur to the likes of Beattie or Webber the squad on paper lacks depth to cover effectively.
Burton Albion were amongst the most prolific goalscorers in League 2 last year but they have lost both Jaques Maghoma and Calvin Zola who netted 26 times between them. Rene Howe was a frequent scorer last year for Torquay and has been drafted in as the remedy. Whether he can reproduce the goals he did last season is a doubt but with the addition of Rory Delap and his giant throwins a direct style of play may suit the big man perfectly. Only if Howe fires on all cylinders and the likes of Alex Macdonald start to chip in with goals will they have a chance of the playoffs otherwise they will find it hard.
Phil Brown has overseen something of anoverhaul of the 12/13 squad at Roots Hall over the summer. They no longer possess the attacking threats of Britt Assombalonga or Gavin Tomlin who scored 28 goals between them last campaign and adding to the exodus were two players who featured in the PFA League 2 team of the year in defenders Sean Clohessey and Ryan Cresswell. I’m doubtful that Craig Reid brought in from Aldershot will be prolific enough to make them a force and with their 20 player transfer embargo limit in place they could be in for a tough season.
Plymouth Argyle will be looking for improvement this year after struggling at the foot end of the table for the past two seasons. Much will depend on whether they can improve there attack which was the second worst in the league last year. Pressure will be on Reuben Reid to score at least a double figure tally something which he hasn’t done since the 2008/09 season. Marvin Morgan scored 7 for Shrewsbury last season so will need to better that in a lower division and Romauld Boco will want to reproduce his 10 goals that he scored for Accrington. With a lack of midfield creativity and a weak substitutes bench consistent of youngsters the squad lacks depth so the scoring contributions of the players listed will be key. Anywhere within the mid-table band looks most likely finish.
Exeter City have lost a number of senior players including the prolific Cureton who scored 21 goals. Hopes will be placed on experienced journeyman striker Sam Parkin from St Mirren to help fill the large void and he will need to score fairly consistently. They are another team which lack depth to the squad and it is hard to see them doing as well as last season baring in mind how reliant they were on Cureton. Could be in for a tougher season this year.
Torquay United will have a more settled management team in place this season and after securing the signings of karl Hawley and Callum Ball from Scunthorpe and Derby respectively will be relieved to have bought in some players. Hawley netted 11 goals in League 1 last year and looks to be the sort of experienced lower league marksmen that could bag a decent total without being prolific whilst Callum Ball is still an unknown quantity but is rated as a good prospect at Pride Park. They have lost Rene Howe who scored 16 goals equating to a third of there total goals scored last season so both will certainly need to make a good contribution to fill his boots. Benyon has thrived at Torquay before but hasn’t scored a lot at all in the last couple of years at other clubs. Will definitely need to improve their away form this season. Would expect them to be looking over there shoulders more than up the league.
Newport County will be riding high on the back of promotion which sees them back in the football league for the first time in 25 years and It is possible the feel good factor amongst the squad and fans alike will help launch them off to a good start early in the season. Chris Zebroski has the ability to score in the division and will be their key marksmen. If they can maintain momentum they could finish higher than expected but the division is a long hard slog and by the end of the season I would expect them to be fighting hard to maintain their newly earned football league status.
Mansfield Town will be delighted to have regained their football league status but it may well prove to be the case that they have to focus on retaining it this season. They lost their prolific front man, Matt Green, to Birmingham City after he knocked in 25 goals in the Blue Square Premier last season which is a big blow and haven’t brought in a replacement striker as of yet. I would expect them to be battling within the lower echelons of the division this season.
Bristol Rovers have yet again been earmarked as potential promotion candidates by many this season but after failing to deliver on high expectation for the past couple of seasons, I wouldn’t expect them to pulling up any trees in 2013/14. Experienced manager John Ward has opted for a more reserved approach in relation to the transfer market this summer adding only goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall and making last seasons loanee John-Joe O’toole a permanent signing. He will be hoping that a settled and gelled squad will improve his chances of steering them up the table. Over expectancy may hinder the club progress again especially if they start poorly.
Bury are not expected to do well this season if the bookmakers odds are anything to go by but the club has now been taken over after last seasons financial turmoil and relegation, which could spell light at the end of the tunnel. Looking through the list of new recruits there are some good players in the squad. Ashley Grimes has scored goals consistently in league 2 for the past couple of seasons without being prolific whilst Gareth Roberts has plenty of experience at Championship level and although 35 years old should have the legs for this league. Tom Soares could be there key player this year. There has been a massive turnover in their playing staff which could see the newly assembled squad take time to gel and I think that Bury could pick up later in the season and there’s value in them reaching the playoffs.
Cheltenham Town will be hoping they can make the playoff zone again this season after ending last season in dissapointment. In the 37 year old Jamie Cureton they have opted for the tried and tested solution to address there lack of goals scored last season. They will also have to improve their away form this campaign. Terry Gornell scored 5 goals in 8 appearances during a loan spell at Rochdale early last season so has potential to score a decent number. Ashley Vincent from Port Vale is much in the same mould as Kaid Muhammed who departed and will slot comfortably into that position on the wing. Have a decent chance of another strong season in 2013/14.
Wycombe Wanderers spent a lot of last season struggling at the bottom of the table before pulling clear in the final stretches to achieve 15th place. This season they have added attacking duo Paris Cowan Hall and Jon Paul Pittman from Plymouth and Oxford respectively as they look to kick on. Gareth Ainsworth has finally hung up his playing boots so will be able to concentrate more on managerial proceedings which could benefit the team and they have kept hold of their key player; winger Dean Morgan, who scored 10 goals last season. I would expect Wycombe to improve on last seasons finish and with fine margins separating teams from top to bottom in this league who knows the to what extent. They may be a surprise package and worth a playoff punt.
AFC Wimbledon staved off relegation last season under Neal Ardley and they are another team that has had a big summer clear out of the squad. Barry Fuller and Charlie Sheringham come in to boost the frontline and they will need to score to aid the goalscoring exploits of Jack Midson who has been the clubs’ pivotal player in recent times. Wimbledon could be in for anther hard season down at the basement and the preseason odds reflect that.
Nigel Worthington helped the minstermen to preserve there league 2 status last season with an incredible run of results that saw them pick up 4 wins in the final 5 games. That could bode well for this season especially as the manager has now had a full pre-season to work with the squad and add players such as Lewis Montrose from last years winners Gillingham, the experienced striker Richard Cresswell from Sheffield Utd, and Ryan Bowman who scored 15 goals in the conference. York look in a position to improve on last seasons finish of 17th place.
There seems to be an air of optimism at Spotlands for this season as in Kieth Hill they may just have ‘the right man at the right club’. They have lost the likes of Bobby Grant to Blackpool, who netted 15 times last year, as well as Ashley Grimes and Jason Kennedy who were all influential players in the side. However Dale will be hoping the lanky Vincente, lund and Done prove to be astute signings and that George Donnelly can increase his goal output. With a good atmosphere and team unity Kieth Hill could replicate his past achievements again and maybe nick a playoff spot.
Scunthorpe will be one of the favourites to bounce back up and gain promotion this season and looking through the squad they should be capable of being right up in the mix. Experienced striker Chris Iwelumo will be expected to be a hit at this level especially with his physical attributes and Deon Burton scored 11 en route to Gillingham’s title win last year. Added into the mix will be Sam Winnall from Wolves who will want to start making his mark as a striker. Andy Dawson from Hull will add solidity and Matt Sparrow well known to the club can score goals. You would expect them to make the playoffs as a minimum requirement.
Chesterfield look like a team that are ready to kick on this season after missing out on a playoff spot last year. The experienced Marc Richards has consistently found the back of the net in this division and he will be combined with the young Tendayi Darikwa who has reportedly had Premier League scouts sniffing around the Pro-act stadium. Big centre back Ian Evatt signed from Blackpool should be a commanding presence at the back and at 31 years old should still have the legs to be a very good signing at League 2 level. Gary Roberts is another player that looks to be an astute signing. A winger that has impressed at higher levels in the past and could be an influential force. Chesterfield could be a real promotion contender this season.
Dagenham & Redbridge
Dagenham & Redbridge have been installed by the bookamakers as one of the favourites to be relegated this season. Manager Wayne Burnett kept them up on goal difference and the Daggers only won 2 matches from 12 with him at the helm which perhaps doesn’t bode well for this season. However the Daggers boardroom will be hopeful that Burnett has now a chance to stamp his own authority on team. Rhys murphy is there only signing of note the ex arsenal youngster landing in Essex via Telstar. He could be a vital scorer for them and they will need goals from him to stay up. I would expect Dagenham to be scrapping for survival again.
Oxford Utd will want to make this the season of progression into a playoff place at least after a highly inconsistent showing in the 2012/13 campaign. Dave Kitson is potentially a very good signing after netting 11 goals in 33 games in League 1 last year the 33 year old should have enough left in his locker to become a leading marksemen in this league. They possess plenty of attacking verve with the likes of Alfie Potter, Sean Rigg and Deane Smalley but I still don’t think they have properly addressed their defensive unit which was very weak at times last year and it could cost them a place in the play offs yet again. Expect a top half finish and good shot at the playoffs but lack all round strength to be automatic contenders.
Fleetwood Town will be desparate to finish in the top seven as a minimum requirement this season. A mid table finish was viewed as something of a disappointment at Highbury last season after previously storming to the Conference title in 2011-12. Such is the clubs ambition they targeted a double promotion. As long as finances aren’t stretched beyond their means it can only be looked upon as a positive that they will not want to settle for mediocrity. Big Jon Parkin is always a handful, Junior Brown will be looking to emulate his 11 goal return and club record signing Jamille Matt will be expected to step up to the plate with more goals after a full preseason in the North West. Would expect them to be in and around the playoff mix.
Hartlepool fans enjured an absolutely torrid season in 2012/2013 as they plummeted like a rock into league 2. It got as bad as a 20 game winless run last season and it may take time for Collin Cooper to shake off their losing mentality. Unfortunately I don’t think they have reached the bottom of their downwards curve and will have to battle hard to ensure that they preserve their football league status this season.
Northampton Town fans will be expecting another strong season with Aidy Boothroyd at the helm after he led them to last seasons playoff final at Wembley. They have lost big Akinfenwa who scored 16 of their 64 goals, in short 25%. This is a big void that needs replacing and his absence is reflected in the prices on offer which point to a less successful campaign than last. They have good goalscoring potential from midfield areas in the likes of Deegan, Carter and Hackett and will want Clive Platt to chip in more.
Portsmouth fans will be hoping the cataclysmic demise of Pompey is something consigned to the history books. Guy Whittingham is the manager tasked with the challenge of leading the South Coast club from the state of ruins to promotion contenders. With strong signings such as Simon Ferry and Andy Barcham who have both tasted League 2 promotion with Swindon and Gillingham respectively, it comes as no surprise that they have been installed as one of the favourites to go up this season. It may not as easy as some people think, but its hard to see them not finishing in at least the playoffs.
Morecambe have been installed as the favourites to be relegated this season, and for good reason. Last seasons top scorer Jack Redshaw who scored over a quarter of their goals is out injured until the new year whilst key goalscoring winger Kevin Ellison is a year older at 34 and can’t be expected to reproduce the 11 goals from last season. Young striker Jack Sampson will hope to make a mark after joining from Bolton. It’s hard to argue with the odds for relegation although if they have a strong finish to backend of the season they may exceed the point spread on offer.