Terry Pierce - League Two season preview

By 19 July 2010 07:32

Just seven weeks after the play-off finals, the real football is nearly back. Over the next three weeks, in the run up to the new football league season, Football.co.uk's npower Football League blogger Terry Pierce will be assessing the runners and riders ahead of the new campaign, starting this week in League Two.

League Two is notoriously hard to predict. Let's be honest, this time last year very few of us would have picked Eddie Howe's Bournemouth as a candidate for the top three, and Dagenham and Redbridge would have been a huge outside bet to win promotion to League One.

So where's the smart money ahead of the inaugural npower League Two campaign?

- League Two fixtures / League Two news

The biggest question for me is whether the 'big' teams in the bottom tier are finally going to get their act together to challenge for top spot.

Bradford pull in the crowds and have a top manager at this level in Peter Taylor, but they have flattered to deceive over the last couple of seasons and their preparations have been hampered by new striker Jake Speight heading to prison as opposed to Shrewsbury on the opening day.

The Shrews are another side who have failed to live up to expectation over the last couple of seasons, but on their budget they should be there or there abouts and new boss Graham Turner knows exactly what it takes to drag a side out of the bottom tier, having taken Hereford to League One.

Of the sides who failed in last year's play-offs, Rotherham look the best bet to go one better, particularly if they manage to keep hold of Adam Le Fondre, while Morecambe will be hoping to continue their progression in their first season away from Christie Park.

Another club who have moved to a new ground over the summer, Chesterfield, will be hoping they can celebrate the relocation in style and, after just missing out on the top seven last season, will be looking to finally make their way back up the pyramid. They've added smartly over the summer and look likely to challenge.

Of the relegated clubs, it's quite often said League Two is a tough division to bounce back out of.

Southend are in all kinds of trouble off the pitch but have brought in Paul Sturrock and the experienced boss has wasted no time in assembling a squad not too dissimilar to the one that took Swindon back to League One at the first attempt a few years ago, so the Shrimpers look the most likely of the relegated four to challenge.

But the other three sides - Stockport, Gillingham and Wycombe - have all lost key players and will struggle to return to League One straight away.

At the bottom, expect the two sides promoted from the Blue Square Premier - Oxford and Stevenage - to survive and prosper, and maybe even challenge for a top-half finish.

Both Barnet and Cheltenham were very close to slipping out of the football league in May and could struggle again, while Accrington and Macclesfield will always have a battle on their hands on their paltry gates.

There's so little to choose between so many clubs in the bottom tier and it takes a brave punter to heavily back anyone to top the pile next may, so expect plenty of twists and turns and fair few surprises between now and then.

Tip for the top: Shrewsbury

Outside bet: Chesterfield

Destined for the drop: Cheltenham

Source: DSG

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