The League Two season kicks-off with some interesting sides in the mix. Will Portsmouth turn their fortunes around? Can Newport County make their mark on their return to the league?
Here we will have a look at the bookies favourites in the title, promotion and relegation markets.
Portsmouth are bookies favourites at 5/1 with the Sporting Bet. After all the financial difficulties Pompey have finally come out of administration, so no points deductions or transfer embargoes are in force this year.
The squad have added Patrick Agyemang and Tom Craddock to the side along with six other players, while only losing fringe players on frees. They still have the services of the likes of Ricardo Rocha, John Harley and Sam Sodje. This should help the younger players during the season, and maintain stability on the pitch.
Midfield is a little light on players, but other than an injury crisis they should stay at the top of the table without too much of a problem. I’m taking the 5/1, are you?
Second favourites are Fleetwood Town, at 7/1 with BetFred. They have done well since entering the Football League, and consolidated their position with a 13th last season. Fleetwood have also been quite busy in the transfer market, with eleven players moving on, and eight brought in, including Stewart Murdoch from Falkirk, former Manchester City youth player, Stephen Jordan and Ryan Cresswell from Southend United.
With Steven Schumacher, Jon Parkin and Damian Johnson in the side the quality is there however it remains to be seen if they can improve as much as the bookies seem to think.
Chesterfield come in at 15/2 with Paddy Power and will be looking to improve on their 8th place finish of last year. The Derbyshire side have done well in pre-season and so far have brought in some decent quality in the transfer market.
Ian Evatt from Blackpool, Jamie Devitt from Hull City and impressive young defender Ryan Edwards from Blackburn Rovers have come in along with five more players, while just four have been moved on.
The squad is fairly young so the likes of Luis Boa Morte (remember him?) will be looked to for guidance as well as to work their magic on the pitch. Paul Cook’s side has a very good chance of promotion and could be the one side to challenge Portsmouth this year.
With the three above sides no worse than 9/5 in the Promotion market, here’s a look at a few of the other candidates according to available prices.
Bristol Rovers are 7/2 with Bet Victor to reach League One. Rovers finished 14th last year as the side continue the struggle to evade the shadow of city rivals Bristol City. The Pirates pre-season form has been average at best, although a win against a Reading XI will boost morale.
They’ve lost the services of Oumana Tounkara and Scott Bevan, but have bolstered the squad with goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall and Jon-Joe O’Toole from Colchester United. If Matt Harrold has support in the goals department they may have a chance. I personally think they are a little short priced.
Oxford United are 4/1 with many firms including William Hill to land promotion. Three wins and three draws in pre-season is encouraging, although an embarrassing 1-5 reversal to Oxford City does dent the confidence somewhat. In the transfer market they have been very active, with some seventeen players coming in and out. The losses of Harry Worley to Newport County, Tom Craddock to Portsmouth and Jon Paul Pittman will be felt, but they have been able to bring in striker, Dave Kitson from Sheffield United, Jonathan Meades from Bournemouth and Asa Hall from Shrewsbury on loan.
Oxford’s squad is a good size and Dave Kitson will no doubt add to the firepower provided by James Constable and Alfie Potter, they have a great chance of doing something big this season.
Scunthorpe United are best price 4/1 with Bet Victor. The relegated side have finally returned to the basement after reaching the dizzying heights of the Championship several years ago. They missed safety by three points and will be looking to return as quick as possible.
The transfers in and out of the club have rotated faster than the turnstiles at Glanford Park, with nineteen players in and out. Notable signings include: veteran striker Chris Iwelumo, Andy Dawson from Hull City, Matt Sparrow from Crawley Town and Deon Burton from Gillingham. They’ve bought well, and have looked to firm up a leaky defence, the only other problem I can see for Brian Law’s side is the squad is still on the small side, but expect some more loaned players towards the end of the transfer window.
Cheltenham Town are 9/2, again the best price is with Bet Victor. The Robins reached the play-offs last season but unfortunately were dumped out by Northampton Town. They come into this new campaign with renewed vigour, bringing in six players and releasing four. A recent friendly gave them a morale boosting draw against Premiership side Cardiff City, and show signs that they are ready for the push once again. Ashley Vincent, Matt Richards and journeyman Jamie Cureton have beefed up a quality, if small squad and like Scunthorpe, they will be looking to add one or two names before the window closes.
According to bookmakers, it’s a three horse race for the two relegation spots. Other than the sides mentioned below, the rest are 7/1 bar.
Joint favourites for the black hole are Accrington Stanley, 9/2 with Skybet. Stanley finished three points above the drop zone last year, and look like they are heading for a long season in this campaign. Player/Manager, James Beattie has a massive job on his hands with little resources.
Seven players have left, including fan favourite Romauld Boco, Amine Linganzi and Lee Molyneux. Only three have come in to the squad, with Nicky Hunt being the pick of them. These are a banker in my opinion.
The other club with the dubious moniker of joint favourite for the drop, is Dagenham and Redbridge, their 9/2 is available with Bet365. The Daggers survived on goal difference last season, as Barnet missed out. The side have struggled somewhat in pre-season, and have also been extremely quiet in the transfer market, with promising forward Mo Sharif, returning to QPR from a loan spell, and three signings coming into the squad, with striker Rhys Murphy joining from Dutch side Telstar, as the only interesting one of the three. With the squad hardly changed, they are rightly down as favourites to go down and will need a miracle to survive like last year.
The other side bookmakers feel could go down are Morecambe at 5/1 with Coral. The shrimpers, finished sixteenth last season, some ten points clear of the drop zone. Pre-season has been okay, with narrow defeats to Middlesbrough, Motherwell and Wigan Athletic, followed by an excellent win away to St. Johnstone.
In the transfer window they have in essence replaced four with another four, losing Lewis Allesandra to Plymouth and Gary McDonald to St. Johnstone, as well as Chris Holroyd and Jordan Burrow. In have come Tony Diagne from Macclesfield, Jack Sampson from Bolton Wanderers, plus Mark Hughes and Alex Kenyon. Its going to be a tough ask for Morecambe, but with the majority of the squad still remaining from their league finish of last season, I cannot see them falling through the trap door.