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Match Previews

2014/15 Sky Bet League 1 season preview

7 August 2014

Barnsley

Last season: 23rd in the Sky Bet Championship - relegated.

Danny Wilson couldn't save Barnsley from the drop last term and the 54-year-old will start his first full season in charge of the Tykes, in his second spell as manager of the club, with the aim of promotion.

The Barnsley defence was a leaky one last term, conceding 77 goals - the Sky Bet Championship's worst defensive record - and Wilson has signed defenders Joe Dudgeon and Reece Brown. Goal threat Chris O'Grady departed for Brighton and Hove Albion but he's been replaced by Sam Winnall, who was Sky Bet League 2's top scorer in 2013/14 after netting 23 times for Scunthorpe United.

Heyday: Wilson guided Barnsley to the Premier League in 1996/97, finishing as runners-up in Division One.

Bradford City

Last season: 11th in Sky Bet League 1.

After the thrills of a Sky Bet League 2 Play-Off triumph and a Capital One Cup journey to savour in 2012/13, last season was always going to be a slight come-down for Bradford but they had a solid season and finished mid-table.

They've added steel to their squad in the close-season, acquiring Notts County duo Gary Liddle and Alan Sheehan and striker Billy Clarke. The influential Gary Jones and Kyel Reid have both moved on, however, leaving big shoes for the new signings to step into.

Winter woe: If Bradford can replicate their start and end to last season, they'll do well again in 2014/15. However, their downfall proved to be over the winter months; winless in 13 games from 26th November to 17th February.

Bristol City

Last season: 12th in Sky Bet League 1.

Steve Cotterill guided Bristol City from 23rd to the safety of mid-table after taking over in December last term and things are looking rather bright for the Robins ahead of 2014/15 with Ashton Gate being revamped and the playing squad being freshened up.

Long-serving players Louis Carey, Liam Fontaine and Marvin Elliot have departed and Cotterill has secured the services of Luke Ayling, Luke Freeman, Mark Little, Aaron Wilbraham, Korey Smith and Wade Elliot - players who could shine on the Sky Bet League 1 stage. The club have also kept hold of Sam Baldock, last season's League 1 top-scorer.

Stalemate: Bristol City were League 1's draw specialists last term with 19 of their 46 games ending level.

Click here to read more about Bristol City's signing of Luke Freeman from Stevenage

Chesterfield

Last season: Sky Bet League 2 champions - promoted. Johnstone's Paint Trophy runners-up.

Chesterfield secured the Sky Bet League 2 title last term by collecting 84 points from 46 games, losing just two home games, and they'll have the wind in their sails going into 2014/15.

A quiet summer of ins and outs and the Proact Stadium indicates that manager Paul Cook is happy with his squad as they aim to do better than their last League 1 voyage when they were relegated in 2012/13 after just one season in the division.

Lively: Since moving into the Proact Stadium for the 2010/11 season, the Spireites have won the League 2 title twice, been relegated once and also lifted the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Colchester United

Last season: 16th in Sky Bet League 1.

With limited movement on the playing staff over the summer it looks set to be another season of consolidation for Colchester United.

They finished 16th last time around, six points above the drop zone, but will want to improve their form in front of their home fans - they lost 10 times at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in 2013/14 which was the second-most defeats at home for any side in League 1.

Look out for: Striker Dan Holman. The front man started out at Northamptonshire side Long Buckby before progressing to Histon, then Braintree Town. He netted 24 times in 55 appearances for the Iron in the Conference and will be eager to take his chance in The League.

Coventry City

Last season: 18th in Sky Bet League 1.

After a rocky start to the 2013/14 campaign, Coventry City battled their way up the division to finish a solid 18th. Steven Pressley and his men performed admirably and will look to kick-on this time around.

It was no surprise to see clubs come in for their talented youngsters over the summer; defender Cyrus Christie transferred to Derby County while hitman Callum Wilson signed for Bournemouth. Pressley has recruited well though, with the experienced Reda Johnson, Danny Pugh and Marcus Tudgay all joining the club.

Goals galore: Coventry were involved in an astonishing 151 goals during 2013/14. They scored 74, which was the club's highest since 1977/78 and conceded 77 - the highest number they have let in since 1956/57.

Crawley Town

Last season: 14th in Sky Bet League 1.

This coming season is going to be an interesting one for Crawley Town. It'll be John Gregory's first full campaign in charge of the Red Devils and he has a much-changed playing squad with 16 new arrivals at the West Sussex club.

Along with Sky Bet League 2's Shrewsbury Town, Crawley have been the busiest club with regards to signings and gelling will be a big factor for them. Key signings include winger Gwion Edwards from Swansea, Stevenage duo Jimmy Smith and Lucas Akins, exciting full-back Lanre Oyebanjo and experienced front man Izale McLeod.

Key signing: Lanre Oyebanjo. In the last three years, Oyebanjo has won the FA Trophy, the Conference Play-Offs and helped establish York City in Sky Bet League 2, before joining Crawley this summer. If that isn't enough, the 24-year-old also has a degree in mathematics.

Crewe Alexandra

Last season: 19th in Sky Bet League 1.

Crewe survived the drop by four points last season and will strive for better this time around. One thing they will have to improve if they are to finish higher up the division is their poor defensive record - they conceded a division's worst of 80 goals in 2013/14.

Despite their relatively poor campaign last time around, Steve Davis has opted against adding a number of new players to his squad with front man Marcus Haber and goalkeeper Scott Shearer his only signings. Key men Mark Ellis, Byron Moore, AJ Leitch-Smith and Mathias Pogba have all departed.

Snap: The Alex scored 54 goals in both 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Doncaster Rovers

Last season: 22nd in the Sky Bet Championship - relegated.

The key to Doncaster Rovers' season will be how they bounce back from last season's final-day heartbreak. If they can recapture the form that saw them dramatically win the Sky Bet League 1 title in 2012/13, then the disappointment of relegation on goal difference in 2013/14 will be a distant memory.

Nathan Tyson, Cedric Evina, Curtis Main, Reece Wabara and Jed Steer are the incomings and they have big shoes to fill with the departures of key players James Husband, Chris Brown, David Cotterill, Mark Duffy and Ross Turnbull.

Final-day flurry: Doncaster Rovers are certainly the team to watch on the last day of the season. In 2012/13 they won at Brentford to clinch the title in the most dramatic fashion, before last season's cruel final-day relegation.

Fleetwood Town

Last season: Fourth in Sky Bet League 2 - promoted via the Play-Offs. Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Finalists.

Fleetwood Town's maiden campaign in Sky Bet League 1 comes after six promotions in 10 seasons - the most recent of which secured by beating Burton Albion 1-0 in the Sky Bet League 2 Play-Off Final in May - and the Cod Army will certainly have momentum going into 2014/15.

Chairman Andy Pilley has ambition, manager Graham Alexander has Football League knowledge and his squad looks strong. The majority of players that got them up from Sky Bet League 2 have been retained, including the long-serving Nathan Pond, while experienced duo Keith Southern and Stephen Crainey have signed.

Fairytale: The Cod Army won the North West Counties Division One title in 2005 and that started their rapid rise up the divisions.

Gillingham

Last season: 17th in Sky Bet League 1.

A relatively busy summer at Gillingham has seen a number of players signed as they aim to progress from last season's 17th-placed finish, six points above the relegation zone.

Striker Luke Norris impressed whilst on loan at Northampton Town and Dagenham and Redbridge and he has joined the Gills on a permanent basis, along with Doug Loft, Jermaine McGlashan and John Egan. Adebayo Akinfenwa and Myles Weston are amongst the players going the other way.

If they are to improve on 17th, the Gills will need to better their away form from 2013/14 when they collected just 18 points from 23 games on the road.

Terrible travellers: Gillingham conceded 48 goals away from home last season - more than any other club.

Leyton Orient

Last season: Third in Sky Bet League 1 - lost to Rotherham United in the Play-Off Final.

Leyton Orient were within touching distance of the Sky Bet Championship last term but fell at the final hurdle, losing on penalties in the Play-Off Final. Manager Russell Slade will want the form from 2013/14 carrying into this season.

The O's racked up an impressive 86 points last time around and that would have been enough to win the division in 2012/13. Slade has lost the services of wing-wizard Moses Odubajo and goalkeeper Jamie Jones but Jobi McAnuff, Shane Lowry, Adam Legzdins and Darius Henderson are astute acquisitions.

Inspiration: After suffering heartbreak in their final game of the 2013/14 season, Slade wants to take a leaf out of Brentford's book and bounce back at the first attempt to gain promotion. The Bees were set for automatic promotion in 2012/13, but had to settle for a Play-Off spot where they were beaten in the Final, before recovering to be promoted last term.

Milton Keynes Dons

Last season: 10th in Sky Bet League 1.

MK Dons have been busy during pre-season. They've reacted to the departures of experienced duo Luke Chadwick and Alan Smith plus the likes of Stephen Gleeson and Ryan Hall, with the loan signings of Benik Afobe from Arsenal, Brentford's Will Grigg, and Tom Hitchcock on a three-year contract from Rotherham United.

Seventh time lucky: The 2014/15 campaign will be MK Dons' seventh consecutive season in the third tier of English football. In three of their previous six they have reached the Play-Offs but are yet to win promotion.

Notts County

Last season: 20th in Sky Bet League 1 - survived the drop by three points.

The Magpies have undergone a gruelling pre-season schedule, competing in nine games in just over three weeks - the most recent of which was a 2-0 win at home to Spanish side Osasuna. There's also been an exodus at Meadow Lane; only two players remain from the County starting XI who kicked-off the 2013/14 Football League season at Sheffield United - Mustapha Dumbuya and Danny Haynes.

Age matters: Ex-Manchester United 'keeper Roy Carroll has signed for County on a one-year deal after leaving Greek side Olympiakos. The 36-year-old is 67 days older than his manager Shaun Derry.

Oldham Athletic

Last season: 15th in Sky Bet League 1.

Oldham's pre-season has been promising. A 2-1 win over Premier League outfit Newcastle United and a 3-1 victory against Huddersfield Town, from the Sky Bet Championship, has led boss Lee Johnson to praise the high levels of confidence in his squad. In that game, striker Jonson Clarke-Harris notched his sixth goal of pre-season, and he'll be one to watch this season.

Loyal: Oldham Athletic are the longest-serving members of English football's third tier, having remained in the division, uninterrupted, since 1997/98. This will be their 18th consecutive season at this level.

Peterborough United

Last season: Sixth in Sky Bet League 1 - lost in the Play-Off Semi-Finals to Leyton Orient. Won the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Peterborough United were aiming for the double last season; the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and promotion. The first they achieved in March but fell short in the Play-Offs, losing to Orient in the Semi-Final. They've lost reliable performers such as Mark Little (Bristol City), Tommy Rowe (Wolves) and Craig Alcock (Sheffield United), but have recruited well in Jon Taylor (Shrewsbury Town), Ben Alnwick (free) and Michael Smith (Bristol Rovers). Their first-team went unbeaten during pre-season.

Redevelopment: Peterborough are in the process of building a new stand at their London Road home. After the dismantling of the Moy's End terrace last term, the Posh hope to see their new 2,000-seater stand open during the first few months of the campaign.

Port Vale

Last season: Ninth in Sky Bet League 1.

Micky Adams guided Vale to their best league finish in 10 seasons last term, but he is still looking for a new striker for the forthcoming campaign to improve on that ninth place, following the departures of Jordan Hugill, Jennison Myrie-Williams and Gavin Tomlin.

Goals: Tom Pope was the Valiants' top scorer with 16 in all competitions last season. Myrie-Williams (10) and Doug Loft (nine) were second and third, but with both having left Vale Park, Pope will need more assistance with goal-scoring duties.

Preston North End

Last season: Fifth in Sky Bet League 1 - lost in the Play-Off Semi-Finals to Rotherham Untied.

After losing to eventual-winners Rotherham United in the Sky Bet League 1 Play-Off Semi-Finals last year, Preston's main quest over summer would have been to keep hold of 24-goal striker Joe Garner. A few days out from the season, they've not only managed that, but have also re-signed Paul Gallagher on a season-long loan from Leicester City and strengthened at the other end with the arrival of Leyton Orient's Jamie Jones between the sticks.

Play-Off woes: If Preston are to return to the Sky Bet Championship for 2015/16, they'll hope to do so with automatic promotion. Their Semi-Final defeat to Rotherham last term made it nine unsuccessful Play-Off campaigns for the Lilywhites.

Rochdale

Last season: Third in Sky Bet League 2, securing the final automatic promotion slot.

Summer 2014 has been relatively quiet at Spotland but the big news from Greater Manchester was the departure of Scott Hogan to Brentford. Despite picking up an injury during last season, the 22-year-old netted 19 times as Dale secured promotion, and boss Keith Hill immediately ruled out using that money to recruit new players, instead saying it would be used to safeguard the future of the club. One striker to join the club is Calvin Andrew, who moved from York City on a free transfer.

London buses: Rochdale fans had to wait 41 years to secure a promotion, finally ending the drought in the 2009/10 season. Despite being subsequently relegated, their next promotion - last term - only took four years.

Scunthorpe United

Last season: Second in Sky Bet League 2 - promoted.

Scunthorpe United only lost five times last season - by far the fewest in Sky Bet League 2 - and went on a 28-game unbeaten run in the process. Sam Winnall's goals were a big part of their success and although he'll be a big loss having moved to Barnsley, the likes of Paddy Madden, Deon Burton and Gary McSheffrey will be ready to fill the void.

Click here to read more about Paddy Madden - One to Watch in League 1 this season

Yo-yo: Over the past 10 seasons, the Iron have been promoted four times and relegated on three occasions.

Sheffield United

Last season: Seventh in Sky Bet League 1. FA Cup semi-finalists. Celebrated their 125th anniversary as a club.

Nigel Clough took over at Bramall Lane last season with Sheffield United in a relegation fight. He inspired incredible form which elevated them to a seventh-placed finish, although Play-Off hopes were always feint, and a Wembley appearance in the FA Cup semi-final. They may have lost key defender Harry Maguire during pre-season but, bolstered by Andy Butler and Craig Alcock, and with a full season under Clough, the Blades could be competing at the top.

Attendance analysis: Only promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers had a higher average attendance in Sky Bet League 1 last season than Sheffield United. The Blades' average of 17,512 was the ninth best in The Football League.

Swindon Town

Last season: Eighth in Sky Bet League 1. Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Finalists.

Swindon Town will look like a different team next season. Fourteen players have permanently departed the club, in addition to Miles Storey going out on loan to Portsmouth. Just three have come in; Antonio Josue, Anton Rodgers and Josh Lelan (loan). They ended pre-season with a comfortable 4-1 win over an Aston Villa XI.

Key man: Despite the number of players to leave Wiltshire, boss Mark Cooper has managed to keep hold of 23-year-old right-back Nathan Thompson. The defender - who has won the Player of the Year award at the County Ground two years running - was subject of much interest over the summer.

Walsall

Last season: 13th in Sky Bet League 1.

Walsall were looking like challenging for a Sky Bet League 1 Play-Off spot last season until their form took a bad turn. From the 28th January through to 3rd May, the Saddlers lost nine out of 18 games, winning just two. Those 13 points, from a possible 54, saw them slip disappointingly into the bottom half.

Attack, attack, attack: Walsall scored just 49 goals in 46 league games during 2013/14, something Dean Smith has quickly addressed during pre-season. He's signed Tom Bradshaw, Jordan Cook and Ashley Grimes, and could yet add further firepower to his front line.

Yeovil Town

Last season: 24th in the Sky Bet Championship - relegated.

Yeovil Town's first ever season in the second tier of English football lasted just nine months after they finished bottom, seven points from safety. However, Gary Johnson's record at the club will give Glovers fans plenty of heart heading into 2014/15 - he's won the FA Trophy, the Conference Premier and League 2, as well as a League 1 Play-Off Final. The latter achievement helped him to win the Outstanding Manager Achievement Award at The Football League Awards in March 2014.

Relatives: Yeovil boss Gary Johnson has already faced son Lee Johnson (Oldham boss) back in the 2012/13 season, but they'll test their wits against each other again this year. The team's are scheduled to meet in Oldham on 13th December, before a return to Huish Park on 7th March 2015.


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