League 2 Runners and Riders

The Challengers

Portsmouth – Proven L2 manager making shrewd signings, expect this to be Portsmouth’s year. Key man – Gary Roberts; Paul Cook’s talisman has dropped down to League 2 and looks to be the creative force that will fire Pompey to promotion. Tubbs and Bennett also key.

Notts County – Interesting summer business, will either go very well or very badly. Key man – Jon Stead; surprised he has dropped down a level particularly after last season’s FA Cup exploits, will be a handful for many defences
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Oxford United – Michael Appleton is compiling a useful squad. Should be potent going forward. Key man – Kemar Roofe; quick and canny striker signed permanently from WBA is a good acquisition.

Luton Town -  Spending big after disappointing last season, bigger names doesn’t always guarantee L2 success. Key man – Craig Mackail-Smith; if he stays fit will surely be amongst the goals with his pedigree.

Cambridge United – Bankrolled by the visit of Manchester United, could be pushing for a play-off spot. Key man – Barry Corr; has chased the money to Cambridge but should deliver the goods, horrible to play against.

Northampton Town – New Indian owners could bring the good times back to Sixfields. Have a decent manager in Wilder. Key man – Ricky Holmes; creator in chief at Sixfields will create a hatful of chances for Richards and co.

AFC Wimbledon – Under an impressive young manager in Ardley, the Dons could surprise a few this season. Key man – Paul Robinson; impressive and experienced centre back will provide solidity at the back.

The Also-Rans
Leyton Orient – Boardroom turmoil often filters onto the pitch. Expect a season of consolidation. Key man – Dean Cox; bags of assists last season in a poor side, expect more of the same.

Stevenage – Teddy Sheringham’s first venture into management should end safely in the top half. Key man – Tom Pett; young winger plucked from non-league will continue to impress and catch the eye of bigger clubs.

Bristol Rovers – Back in the Football League and Darrell Ward hasn’t added too many new names. Should be a worry-free return. Key Man – Chris Lines; brings experience and know-how to the Gasheads midfield.

Wycombe Wanderers – Ainsworth’s men suffered play-off heartbreak last term, but departures suggest they won’t bother the top 7 this year. Key man – Sam Wood; goals and assists were key last seaon and will bare more responsibility this year.

Yeovil Town – Big turnaround of players of the summer under Sturrock. Consolidation the key word here.  Key man – Simon Gillett; lovely ball-playing midfielder probably playing a league below himself. Stand-out player at Huish Park.

Crawley Town – Another big clearout and the replacements don’t exactly inspire. Looking down rather than up, particularly if McLeod departs. Key man – Izale McLeod; Scores goals wherever he goes and if he stays expect no different.

Plymouth Argyle – A managerial change and signings are don’t exactly look like they will take Plymouth to the next level. Key man – Curtis Nelson; powerful and young centre back will go on to bigger things.

York City – Struggled last season, particularly in front of goal, but expect a relatively solid season. Key man – Vadaine Oliver; Russ Wilcox has a track record of getting goals out of raw strikers, outside shot of top goalscorer.

Barnet – Expect Martin Allen’s side to be strong at home and carry on with some of their title-winning momentum. Key man – John Akinde; can he carry on his 30-goal form of last season?

The Relegation Candidates
Accrington Stanley – Will always struggle on one of the league’s smaller budgets. Might not overachieve again. Key man – Josh Windass; talented attacking midfielder will definitely provide Stanley’s attacking impotentus.

Morecambe – Have made some astute signings but still likely to be looking over their shoulders. Key man – Peter Murphy; useful signing who has a proven track record at this level with goals from midfield.

Dagenham & Redbridge – Look very short at the back and tend to be over-reliant on veteran Jamie Cureton. Key man – Jamie Cureton; the older he gets, the better he becomes.

Hartlepool United – Big turnaround of personnel after great escape, but still lack the quality other sides possess. Key man – Trevor Carson; underrated keeper likely to have a busy season.

Exeter City – Began to stagnate under Paul Tisdale and could have an indifferent season. Key man – Tom Nichols; Exeter’s stand-out player, creative input is placed heavily on his shoulder.

Mansfield Town – Struggled last season and after a summer of average recruitment, that trend looks set to continue. Key man – Jack Thomas; teenage midfielder sensation is the one quality player Mansfield possess.

Newport County – Uninspiring squad with Terry Butcher in charge spells worry for Exiles fans. Key man – Joe Day; rookie keeper has talent and is likely to be busy.

Carlisle United – Another side that struggled last season and without quality additions Keith Curle’s side could struggle again. Key man – Jabo Ibehre; experienced striker will have to deliver in an otherwise threadbare attack.

Article by Greg Kitchin

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