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Match Previews

Sky Bet League 2 season preview

6 August 2014

We take a look at each team in Sky Bet League 2 ahead of the 2014/15 season.

AFC Wimbledon

Last season: 20th in Sky Bet League 2.

Having avoided relegation on the final day of the season by three points, the Dons have been bolstered by the signings of Matt Tubbs on a season-long loan from Bournemouth and Adebayo Akinfenwa. Add to that the captures of Sean Rigg, Aaron Morris, Mark Phillips, James Shea, Joe McDonnell and Jack Smith, and the Dons' busy summer recruitment drive should pay off with an improvement on 20th.

Watch out for: Tubbs and Akinfenwa, who could be the division's top strike-force.

Accrington Stanley

Last season: 15th in Sky Bet League 2.

Accrington were also battling at the basement of The Football League for the first half of the 2013/14 campaign, but late-season form saw them rise to 15th, seven points clear of the drop in what turned out to be a successful season. They begin this year at last season's Play-Off Semi-Finalists Southend United, having beaten Chorley 2-0 in their final pre-season friendly.

Keep an eye on: James Gray. The striker netted three times in the final two games of last season, and put pen to paper on a new two-year extension over summer.

Burton Albion

Last season: Fifth in Sky Bet League 2 - beaten by Fleetwood Town in the Sky Bet League 2 Play-Off Final.

Burton endured a second successive season of Play-Off heartbreak last time around, losing 1-0 to Fleetwood Town in the Final at Wembley Stadium. After falling at the previous hurdle in 2012/13, losing 5-4 on aggregate to Bradford City in the Semi-Finals, Gary Rowett will be keen to secure an automatic promotion spot this time around.

Rowett has made some astute signings including striker Stuart Beavon and midfielder John Mousinho.

Goal-shy: The Brewers' league games in 2014/15 produced 89 goals, the fewest of any Sky Bet League 2 team.


Last season: 12th in Sky Bet League 2.

A mid-table finish saw Bury 12 points from the Play-Offs and nine clear of relegation, but the Shakers have been busy in the close-season.

Between making a handful of signings and confirming several departures, and a pre-season tour to Tenerife, David Flitcroft also saw his men pick up an impressive 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers at the JD Stadium.

Homecoming: With Flitcroft having returned as manager to a club for whom he used to play, Nicky Adams and Ryan Lowe have also signed for the former employers.

Cambridge United

Last season: Second in the Conference Premier - Play-Off Final winners and FA Trophy champions.

A double-trophy winning 2013/14, in which the U's sealed a return to The Football League after a nine-year absence, is going to be hard to follow. Losing influential, young midfielder Luke Berry to Sky Bet League 1 side Barnsley was unexpected, but the return of Crystal Palace loanee Kwesi Appiah - who scored 10 goals in 17 games at the Abbey last season - is a huge plus. They beat MK Dons 3-1 during pre-season.

Versatile: Tom Champion, a ball-winning midfielder by trade and an integral part of last season's promotion, has been employed at centre-back at times during pre-season, as the U's experimented with a 3-5-2 formation.

Carlisle United

Last season: 22nd in Sky Bet League 1 - relegated.

More than 40 players wore a Carlisle United shirt in competitive action last season as the Cumbrians finished third-bottom of Sky Bet League 1, five points from safety. Their three wins away from home was the joint-worst in the division.

The signings of experienced Football League players like Gary Dicker and Billy Paynter, along with the mix of youth provided by Brad Potts and Mark Beck, amongst others, has the Cumbrians looking in better shape this time around.

Last time in Sky Bet League 2: Carlisle's most recent League 2 campaign was 2005/06 when they were promoted as champions after collecting 86 points from 46 games. They scored 84 goals that season.

Cheltenham Town

Last season: 17th in Sky Bet League 2.

Only relegated Torquay United won fewer home games than Cheltenham during the 2013/14 Sky Bet League 2 campaign. They'll be aiming to build more of a fortress at Whaddon Road this time around and return to the form that saw Mark Yates' team reach the Play-Offs in both 2011/12 and 2012/13.

All-change: After a difficult season, the Robins have had a major overhaul with nine players leaving and nine arriving.

Dagenham and Redbridge

Last season: Ninth in Sky Bet League 2.

Dagenham and Redbridge boss Wayne Burnett has been quick to warn fans that repeating last season's ninth-placed finish will be difficult, but having signed 11 players during the break the Daggers supporters may have reason to be hopeful.

Veteran: One of those players to pen a deal in Essex is veteran striker Jamie Cureton, who will be competing in his 21st season of professional football.

Exeter City

Last season: 16th in Sky Bet League 2, embedded within the tight group in the middle of the division.

Exeter will need to dramatically correct their home form if they are to progress into the top half this campaign. Between October 2013 and March 2014 they were winless in 13 - drawing five and losing eight. Away from home, their pre-season has been the most glamorous of any Football League side, going unbeaten on a three-match tour in Brazil; drawing against Fluminense and beating Tupi and Rio Cricket e Associacao Atletica.

Management style: Paul Tisdale is the second-longest serving manager in English football's top four divisions, behind Arsenal's Arsene Wenger. But it's not just his football that Tisdale knows thoroughly; he's often cited as the best-dressed boss in the game.

Hartlepool United

Last season: 19th in Sky Bet League 2 - the highest of the three teams on 53 points.

Hartlepool may have had a disappointing 2013/14 after relegation the year before but the future looks like it could be bright for the North East outfit. At just 19, Luke James was the club's top scorer last term with 14 goals, while midfielder Bradley Walker - named LFE Apprentice of the Year for League 2 at The 2014 Football League Awards - made an encouraging start to life as a professional footballer.

Boro boys: Pools manager Colin Cooper, who played for Middlesbrough, has signed Stuart Parnaby and Matthew Bates during the close-season, both of whom are also former Boro employees.

Luton Town

Last season: First in the Conference Premier - promoted as the champions of non-league.

Last season John Still inspired Luton Town to do what they had failed at for the previous five years - gain promotion to the Sky Bet Football League. Andre Gray was a big factor behind their title win and he has departed for Brentford.

Manager Still knows The League, though, and with the wind in their sails and a number of impressive new signings at Kenilworth Road including Andy Drury and Paul Benson, his team could be in for another positive campaign.

Attendance: Luton's home league crowds last term averaged 7,387. That would have put them 35th in The Football League for average gates. In Sky Bet League 2, they would have been second behind Portsmouth.

Mansfield Town

Last season: 11th in Sky Bet League 2.

Back in The Football League last season for the first time in five years, Mansfield ended in a respectable 11th place. They've continued that form into pre-season, beating higher opposition in Notts County and Leeds United. Boss Paul Cox has made some interesting signings, including the addition of Alex Fisher from Italian Serie C club Monza.

Best in a decade: The Stags' finish in the top-half of Sky Bet League 2 in 2013/14 was the club's highest league position at the end of a season for 10 years, since contesting the 2003/04 old Division Three Play-Offs.


Last season: 18th in Sky Bet League 2 on 54 points.

Morecambe started 2013/14 well and were as high as fifth at the start of November after 15 games but only won four times after Christmas. The Shrimps conceded 64 goals in their 46 outings last time around - the third-worst in Sky Bet League 2 - and manager Jim Bentley, a defender during his playing days, has shored up his backline by signing Ryan Edwards, Jordan Mustoe, Laurence Wilson and the experienced Alan Goodall.

Continuity: Bentley, appointed in May 2011, is the 10th longest-serving manager in the top four tiers of English football but he has been at Morecambe since 2002, making over 300 appearances before becoming the boss.

Newport County

Last season: 14th in Sky Bet League 2 on 58 points.

Newport were another team to mix it in the upper echelons of Sky Bet League 2 last term before settling in a mid-table position. They were fifth on Boxing Day after a 1-0 success against Wycombe Wanderers but triumphed just four times after that.

The ins and outs at Rodney Parade have been limited ahead of what will be the Exiles' second season back in The Football League, indicating Justin Edinburgh has a settled side.

Home, not-so-sweet home: Newport's collapse in the second half of last season wasn't helped by the pitch at Rodney Parade with a number of their games being postponed. They played 20 matches in the final 11 weeks of 2013/14.

Northampton Town

Last season: 21st in Sky Bet League 2 on 53 points - three above the drop zone.

Chris Wilder inspired a remarkable up-turn in fortunes at Sixfields Stadium last term after taking over from Aidy Boothroyd to save the Cobblers from what seemed like an inevitable drop into non-league, just a season after the club made the League 2 Play-Off Final.

Wilder has rebuilt his side over the close-season, signing the likes of Marc Richards, John-Joe O'Toole and Zander Diamond, and they look in much better shape this time around.

Key signing: John-Joe O'Toole. The 25-year-old midfielder was named in the Sky Bet League 2 Team of the Year at last season's PFA Awards after top-scoring for relegated Bristol Rovers, with 15 goals in 46 appearances.

Oxford United

Last season: Eighth in Sky Bet League 2.

Oxford were unsettled after the departure of Wilder last term, going from sixth and seven points inside the Play-Offs, to finishing eighth and nine points outside the top seven.

It hasn't exactly been a smooth summer at the Kassam Stadium either with Michael Appleton being named head coach in early July after an ownership shake-up saw Gary Waddock leave the club. Only time will tell if Appleton has had enough time to build and gel his squad for a challenge at the summit of Sky Bet League 2.

Start as they mean to go on: Oxford have won their opening game in the last two seasons. Last term they thumped Portsmouth 4-1 at Fratton Park on the first day.

Plymouth Argyle

Last season: 10th in Sky Bet League 2.

John Sheridan turned a struggling Plymouth from 2012/13 into Play-Off-chasing Plymouth during 2013/14 in what was his first full season in charge. Further progression this term would mean a challenge for at least the Play-Offs.

Goal glut: Reuben Reid, loaned from Yeovil Town, was the division's second top-scorer last season with 17 goals and he has signed a permanent deal with the Pilgrims. His ability in front of goal will be crucial.


Last season: 13th in Sky Bet League 2.

Portsmouth struggled to adapt to life in Sky Bet League 2 in 2013/14 after their rapid descent from the top flight to the fourth tier in four years. That was until the appointment of Andy Awford, who propelled the team up the division.

The five wins and two draws he took charge of at the back-end of last term, along with the tidy acquisitions he has made, including a loan deal for Millwall defender Paul Robinson, means Portsmouth are the favourites. The manager has played down that tag, though.

Play Up Pompey: The South Coast club's terrific following is no secret and they've sold around 11,000 season tickets for the 2014/15 Sky Bet League 2 campaign. They also had the highest average attendance in Sky Bet League 2 last term.

Shrewsbury Town

Last season: 23rd in Sky Bet League 1 - relegated.

It's been a summer of change at the Greenhous Meadow with Micky Mellon being appointed as manager, taking over from caretaker boss Mike Jackson.

Their disastrous 2013/14, in which they recorded only nine wins in 46, will be swiftly forgotten and the focus will be on bouncing back to recapture the feel-good factor at the club. Last time they were in League 2, in 2011/12, the Shrews finished second, returning them to the third tier after a 15-year absence.

Busy summer: A mammoth 16 new signings have walked through the doors at Shrewsbury so gelling will be crucial. The experienced Liam Lawrence is the new club captain.

Southend United

Last season: Fifth in Sky Bet League 2 - defeated Play-Off Semi-Finalists, losing to Burton Albion.

Phil Brown guided Southend to the Play-Off Semi-Finals last time around and expectations ahead of 2014/15 will be high at Roots Hall. Brown lost senior players in Anthony Straker, Marc Laird and Freddy Eastwood in the close-season so it will be interesting to see if the new signings of Lee Barnard, David Worrall and Myles Weston can hit the ground running.

Watertight: Southend conceded a miserly 39 goals over their 46 matches last season - the best defensive record in the division.


Last season: 24th in Sky Bet League 1 - relegated.

It's been a busy summer at Stevenage as Graham Westley prepares for life back in Sky Bet League 2 with the club. The manager led Boro out of the division in 2010/11 and, after a spell in the Preston North End dugout, he finds himself back at the Lamex Stadium and in the fourth tier.

The side will be much-changed from the one that lost 26 games in Sky Bet League 1 last season and Westley will hope to replicate the results from his previous stint. Among the new signings are Ronnie Henry and Chris Beardsley, who have both played for the club before.

Hot-shot: Adam Marriott is another new face at the Lamex Stadium after he signed from Cambridge City. The striker hit the net 45 times in the Southern Premier last season in 42 appearances.

Tranmere Rovers

Last season: 21st in Sky Bet League 1 - relegated.

Tranmere are back in Sky Bet League 2 for the first time since 1988/89 and they're under the guidance of 41-year-old Rob Edwards. The Welshman, in his first job as a manager, is tasked with steadying the ship at Prenton Park after a disappointing 2013/14 which saw them relegated three points from safety.

Edwards has snapped up Kayode Odejayi to lead the forward line while Marcus Holness joined from League 2 Play-Off Finalists Burton Albion.

Leaky: Tranmere conceded 79 goals last term - the second-worst defensive record in Sky Bet League 1 - so the signing of Holness could prove to be an important one.

Wycombe Wanderers

Last season: 22nd in Sky Bet League 2, avoiding relegation on the last day of the season by goal difference.

Gareth Ainsworth's Wycombe couldn't have come closer to dropping into non-league last term and they need to use the momentum from their final-day heroics to help them kick-on this time around. New club chairman Andrew Howard believes the manager will prove his worth as part of a long-term rebuilding project at Adams Park.

The Chairboys' home form was the second-worst in the division in 2013/14 so that'll have to be improved upon. The signing of utility man Peter Murphy from Accrington and front man Paul Hayes are good additions.

Last-gasp: Murphy scored a last-minute leveller for Stanley against his new club Wycombe at the Crown Ground last season.

York City

Last season: Seventh in Sky Bet League 2 - lost in the Play-Off Semi-Finals to eventual-winners Fleetwood Town.

Continuity will be the task in hand at Bootham Crescent after a 17-match unbeaten run took them into the Play-Offs last term.

Nigel Worthington has recruited wisely during the close-season with full-back Marvin McCoy replacing Crawley Town-bound Lanre Oyebanjo and Barnet prospect Jake Hyde also signing. Add to that the captures of Anthony Straker from Southend and Luke Summerfield from Shrewsbury and the Minstermen have a handy looking squad.

Unbeaten: With York's astonishing unbeaten run coming at the end of 2013/14, the Minstermen are undefeated in the Sky Bet League 2 regular season since a 2-0 defeat to Chesterfield on Tuesday 28th January.

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