FOOTBALL LEAGUE lover Gabriel Sutton ( @_FootbalLab ) delivers his team-by-team verdicts on all 24 League Two clubs ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, as well as revealing how he sees the end of season table looking come May.
1. Lincoln (9/1 Bet365)
One key ingredient to look for in a potential title-winner is unity and Lincoln City have that more than anyone.
Danny and Nicky Cowley are untouchable at Sincil Bank and they, in turn, cherish the backing they have been given from the board and supporters, creating a togetherness that should see them overcome any sticky patches.
Let’s have it right: the Imps possess a formidable squad, too. They have added pace and quality in John Akinde and Bruno Andrade, meaning forwards Matt Rhead and Matt Green can be used in shorter bursts. Harry Toffolo joins to solve the left-back dilemma, with right-sided counter-part Neal Eardley among the division’s finest.
The two big losses are Ryan Allsop and Alex Woodyard: the former should be replaced well when goalkeeper Josh Vickers returns to fitness while the latter’s place will be taken by Michael O’Connor, who adds midfield tenacity alongside either the powerful Michael Bostwick or the technical Lee Frecklington.
The only reason the Imps didn’t finish last season with one of the best defensive records in the division was because they were forced to change their centre-backs at Christmas, but Blackburn loanee Scott Wharton and captain Luke Waterfall should find consistency; Lincoln, 9/1 with Bet365 for top spot, can find it too.
2. Notts County (13/2 BetBright)
Kevin Nolan has been ruthless this summer. Despite overseeing progress in a top-seven finish last term – and they were undone by a series of questionable refereeing decisions in the play-off semi-final with Coventry – he still saw the need for change.
The Liverpudlian dismissed 11 players, eight of being which in their thirties. David Vaughan crosses the Trent to add midfield experience but otherwise, Nolan has picked young, dynamic players coming into their peak.
He has freshened up last season’s Precambrian forward line by adding the powerful Kane Hemmings and the nippy Kristian Dennis, reducing Jonathan Stead’s work load. In new boys Enzio Boldewijn and Nathan Thomas, the Magpies have two of the best inverted wingers in the division, who will be supported ably by impressive full-backs Matt Tootle and Dan Jones.
Questions could be asked about the goalkeeper situation given that Ross Fitzsimons, the elected successor to the released Adam Collin, only started 16 league games last term. He though will be protected by two of three good centre-backs in Richard Duffy, Shaun Brisley and Ben Hall, the latter returning on loan from Brighton.
When they had old strikers up top last term, they had to press at a high-intensity for long spells because the midfield could never be too far back; extra pace in the side this year allows them to manage games in different ways, so promotion – 2/1 with Unibet – could be around the corner.
3. Grimsby (40/1 BetBright)
Ambitious? Perhaps, given that they’re as big as 10/1 for promotion with Bet365, but there’s something about Michael Jolley.
In 10 games before he took over, Grimsby had accrued just two points and looked to be sliding towards an EFL exit.
In 10 games after, they took 15 points – a 750% improvement.
If Jolley can inspire top half form in the most out-of-form side in England, it begs the question: what can he do after a full pre-season, having been backed by the board?
And he has been backed. Mitch Rose, who scored some vital goals in the 2017-18 run-in, will play alongside League One calibre midfielders in battler John Welsh and the selfless Jake Hessenthaler.
With veteran Nathan Clarke released, Jolley will encourage a higher three-man defensive line as younger centre-backs Harry Davis, Alex Whitmore and Akin Famewo arrive.
Reece Hall-Johnson and Andrew Fox are shoe-ins for the wing-back roles while goalkeeper James McKeown, an honest character, has a bond with supporters.
The only question mark about the squad is the dearth of proven goalscorers at this level. Jordan Cook might have something to prove after signing from Luton but JJ Hooper, who bagged a final-day hat-trick at Forest Green, could step up to the mark, so this might just be the season to be Jolley.
4. MK Dons (13/2 Ladbrokes)
MK Dons have responded to relegation by making the best possible appointment in Paul Tisdale.
In the second half of last season, Dan Micciche had tried to re-connect the club with it’s possession principles but, with no senior coaching experience, he lacked authority.
Tisdale has that authority. He has consistently developed players over the last 12 years at Exeter City; ball-playing centre-back Jordan Moore-Taylor and advanced technician Ryan Harley follow the boss to provide shining examples.
New boy Jordan Houghton should tidy things up in midfield alongside the influential Alex Gilbey, who returns from a lengthy injury.
A natural left-back might yet be needed unless the energetic Mitch Hancox can polish the defensive side of his game, while Lee Nicholls needs to rediscover some confidence in goal.
However, Kieran Agard could benefit from playing down the middle; fellow forward Sam Nombe also looks set for an exciting campaign, being one of many academy graduates offering raw energy; Tisdale could take him and right-sider Callum Brittain up another level technically.
The smooth Stadium:MK pitch suits possession sides, so potential for home goal-gluts might be worth monitoring in the individual match markets; promotion chances though, could be defined by the extent of their adaptability on the road.
5. Cambridge (25/1 BetBright)
Cambridge United have a capable squad. It was, perhaps, being badly used by Shaun Derry, who enforced defensive football despite possessing midfield technicians like George Maris and Jevani Brown.
Joe Dunne though, has brought that excitement factor back. It seems telling that in 16 games under the bobble-hatted Irishman, they scored the exact same number of goals as they did in 31 under his predecessor – 28.
David Amoo and Harrison Dunk can provide natural width while ball-winner Gary Deegan protects a stable back-four of Bradley Halliday, Greg Taylor, George Taft and Jake Carroll; the quartet have forged a strong understanding.
Should veteran stopper David Forde’s form drop, they have a potential star in Dimitar Mitov, who is rated as highly in CB5 as he was in Charlton’s youth setup.
Question marks linger over the fitness of strikers Jabo Ibehre and Barry Corr but, if one of them can stay available for a full campaign, a top-seven finish at 5/2 with BetVictor could be on the cards.
6. Stevenage (40/1 Bet365)
After a summer of impressive recruitment, Stevenage’s squad now has a nice balance.
They have added experienced professionals such as centre-back Scott Cuthbert and midfielder Joel Byrom, as well as raw non-league talents in winger Emmanuel Sonupe and forward James Ball.
For every battle-hardened campaigner like Michael Timlin, there’s an exciting technician like wide man Ben Kennedy or playmaker Mark McKee.
They have a high-pedigree target man in Alex Revell next to an attacking speedster in Danny Newton.
This blend of different characters, playing backgrounds and styles will give them the flexibility to adapt to different scenarios, which could go a long way to solving last season’s problems.
In 2017-18, we saw Boro score three or more home goals on eight occasions – they could turn on the style when they wanted to. When the football didn’t flow, however, they relied on inexperienced players to hold things together and that’s where the lack of calmness and leadership became problematic.
Recruitment thus far suggests they have learnt from those issues and Dino Maamria, loved during his playing career, has already created a siege mentality; equally though, the talent and youthful exuberance remains.
7. Crawley (66/1 Spreadex)
Of all 24 League Two teams to back in 2018-19, Crawley Town could offer the best value.
The Sussex outfit, at the time of writing, are fourth-favourites for relegation, but all the evidence suggests they should be given more respect.
Since November’s 4-0 loss at Wycombe, they have taken 42 points from 28 games, borderline play-off form.
The now-departed Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Enzio Boldewijn played their parts in that run, but both wide forwards have been replaced well.
Dominic Poleon might flourish in an expansive system, especially at this level and the same can be said of the diminutive Filipe Morais, Bolton’s assist-king of 2016-17.
Ex-Lincoln striker, Ollie Palmer, was one of just five players in England’s top four leagues to manage double-figures for goals in 2017-18 without starting more than 15 games in all forms.
More defensive depth might be required with Josh Yorwerth leaving but utility men Romain Vincelot and George Francomb bring pedigree to a squad containing adventurous right-back Lewis Young and goalscoring midfielder Jimmy Smith.
188Bet offer 6/1 on a top seven finish for the Red Devils; those odds appear very generous for a side that looked as technically advanced as Crawley did last season.
8. Mansfield (10/1 Ladbrokes)
If football was played entirely on paper, Mansfield would make the top three.
Tyler Walker, on loan from Nottingham Forest, has the potential to tear up this league alongside Craig Davies, who adds muscle and experience up top.
The squad is jam-packed with players who have either won promotion from this division or more than held their own in the one above; credit for that must go to owners John and Carolyn Radford.
There’s a catch, however. After Steve Evans’ controversial departure in February, David Flitcroft inherited a side set to bulldozer it’s way into the top three. Flitcroft though tampered with the style of play, asking his players to hit the front men less frequently and subtle changes disrupted the fluency; so much so that they won just two more games and missed out on the top seven.
Flitcroft, who doesn’t exactly hold glowing reviews from Bury and Swindon fans, has divided supporters and that could be problematic – especially if they start as slowly as they did last season.
That’s not out of the question, either: the Bolton-born boss looks set to switch to 3-5-2 and it might take some players, who were used to 4-4-2 every week under Evans, time to adjust.
Should the camp grow divided during a transitional period, more stable ships could profit.
9. Swindon (14/1 188BET)
Phil Brown oversaw an underwhelming 10-game stint at the end of last season: two wins is a bad return, considering that the same players had spent most of that campaign challenging for promotion.
That though, only tells half the story. While the Robins spent 89 from a possible 208 days of Flitcroft’s tenure in the top seven, fans felt they were in a false position due to dour home performances.
That context goes some way to excusing the lack of excitement under Brown who, if we’re being generous, at least added back-bone to the side. That should be helped further by the signing of muscular deep-lying playmaker Toumani Diagouraga, who starred for Brentford in 2014-15.
The improved fitness of Dion Conroy, one of many centre-backs who struggled with injury last term, is a boost, as is the return of key goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux, who Flitcroft had surprisingly sent out on loan to Waterford.
Bigger questions could be asked going forward. Advanced midfielder Steven Alzate and striking super-sub Elijah Adebayo, both on loan, represent decent wildcard options but it would be risky to trust either to carry an attack over a whole season.
As good as poacher Marc Richards and set piece specialist Matty Taylor have been, both are getting on. Unless number 10 Kaiyne Woolery can find consistency, therefore, re-enforcements are needed to a side that flattered to deceive last term.
10. Cheltenham (50/1 Spreadex)
Given that Mohamed Eisa scored 23 goals last season, the obvious conclusion is that Cheltenham will be weaker without him.
Notably however, the Robins didn’t accept the first offer for Eisa and ended up getting by far the biggest fee they have ever received, a sign that new chairman Andy Wilcox can give them more of a foothold in the market.
Secondly, they have drastically improved many other areas of their squad. Left-back Chris Hussey and centre-back Johnny Mullins bring knowhow while right-back Sean Long arrives recommended by Lincoln, so last season’s clumsy defensive errors should be a thing of the past.
Long-throw specialist Ben Tozer partners an underrated midfield hassler in Nigel Atangana while new wide men Ryan Broom and Alex Addai could enjoy breakthrough campaigns.
They need to add a striker, of course – Brian Graham and George Lloyd are not yet the men Johnson would want to hang his hat on. However, BetVictor‘s 11/8 on the Robins making the top half looks appealing; improvements in other areas more than make up for Eisa’s exit.
11. Northampton (12/1 Ladbrokes)
Unusually for a club relegated from League One, Northampton Town have signed just three players and released only six at the time of writing.
There’s two ways of looking at this. On the one hand, it means they have on paper a strong squad, given that it was built last summer with the remit of challenging for promotion in the division above.
On the other hand, relegation naturally devalues any group and given that many at Sixfields didn’t pull their weight in various no-shows last term, perhaps only a select few should be kept on board.
Reality lies somewhere in between. The issue with this Cobblers squad is not that it’s lacking in ability – Matt Crooks and John-Joe O’Toole have often excelled in League Two – but that the balance of that ability isn’t quite right.
Even though they could go into this campaign with nine midfielders available, there is still a shortage of natural wide options and Sam Foley might be the closest thing to an experienced anchor man; questions also linger over likely first choice goalkeeper, David Cornell.
The addition of reliable goalscorer Andy Williams should give them a much-needed cutting edge up top and the rise of youngster Shaun McWilliams is exciting.
However, it’s hard to see the squad clicking into place quickly enough for an instant return.
12. Crewe (40/1 BetVictor)
Over the last two seasons, Crewe have lurched from one extreme to the other: they have either been a crisis-ridden club threatened with an EFL exit, or an in-form side quietly assembling a top half challenge.
Alex fans hope they can remain on the latter path, after taking 26 points and scoring 27 goals in their final 14 games in 2017-18 – only Accrington had a better record in that time and only Coventry scored more.
Credit goes to strikers Jordan Bowery and loanee Shaun Miller, the latter having since joined on a permanent deal from Carlisle. The duo will be ably supported by talented academy products Callum Ainley and Charlie Kirk; the narrow diamond system means both are given freedom to push forward.
When at their worst, the Railwaymen have suffered out of possession from a lack of steel, but the recent introduction of former Ipswich and Leeds battler Paul Green has made a difference in that regard, as has defender Eddie Nolan’s impressive form.
A play-off push might be a stretch but William Hill’s 13/8 on a top half finish looks generous – the signs of progression are there.
13. Exeter (25/1 Bet365)
For the first time in 12 years, Exeter City begin a season without Paul Tisdale at the helm.
His replacement, Matt Taylor, is a rookie: his only relevant experience came in a brief stint as a player-coach at Bath City.
The signs are that Taylor wants to introduce a direct style of play, so he is helped by last season’s gravitation in that direction.
The presence of target man Jayden Stockley, arguably the Grecians’ best player, encouraged earlier forward balls; the fact the 19-goal man remains boosts their chances and new signing Jonathan Forte should add mobility up top.
However, Jordans Moore-Taylor and Storey, so impressive as a defensive pairing in the play-off semi-final, depart for MK Dons and Preston respectively, so Troy Brown must stay fit for longer to partner new boy Aaron Martin.
Pierce Sweeney and Jake Taylor remains a valuable right-sided pairing – the latter chipped in with eight goals last year – but the midfield needs re-building. Ryan Harley and Lloyd James have departed and although Nicky Law, a League One play-off campaigner with Bradford in 2016-17, should be an experienced partner for holding midfielder Jordan Tillson, the lack of depth is a worry.
Exeter possess just 16 players who have had regular exposure to the EFL, so any injury crisis will leave them leaning on youngsters like promising but unproven midfielders Harry Kite and Jack Sparkes.
Hopes of another top seven finish could therefore be hindered by a lack of depth in the playing squad and a lack of experience in the dugout.
14. Forest Green (50/1 Betway)
A 2-1 New Years’ Day home defeat to Wycombe left Forest Green bottom of League Two; most owners, in that position, would have dismissed the manager.
Dale Vince though, thought otherwise: perhaps he wanted to rewarded Mark Cooper for promotion in 2016-17, perhaps he felt the boss had been let down by poor summer recruitment.
Either way, Cooper was backed not only to stay on as manager, he was also backed to bring in various high-quality players – namely defender Farrend Rawson, attacking midfielder Dayle Grubb and poacher Reuben Reid – all of whom helped The Greens to stay up by a solitary point.
Another return of three away league wins though will not be tolerated, especially after the club strengthened even further, following the appointment of a head of recruitment that highlight’s the club’s growth.
Liam Shephard and Joseph Mills should offer thrust from full-back, Lloyd James will add a touch of class in the holding role just behind the all-action Carl Winchester, captain of rivals Cheltenham last term.
Add these new boys to one of the division’s best strikers in Christian Doidge and you have a side with serious potential: but, with fans still divided over Cooper’s conduct, that potential might not immediately be fulfilled.
15. Port Vale (33/1 Coral)
Poor recruitment in the previous two summers had been a factor behind Port Vale’s recent decline, so they can take heart from this year’s smoother business.
They completed their squad with 10 new signings before 1st July – Scott Quigley joining on loan from Blackpool four days later.
The additions roundly improve the squad: Luke Joyce and Manny Oyeleke add steel and energy respectively in central midfield, while the experienced Scott Brown should end the recent keeper conundrum.
The strike-partnership of Tom Pope and new signing Ricky Miller might not quite be the perfect marriage some suggest; neither have much pace, so Neil Aspin might turn to the more mobile Idris Kanu, on loan from Peterborough.
Defensive improvements are also required to avoid a repeat of last season’s 11 and 14-game winless runs; Leon Legge should add aerial prowess but is not the type of defender that would relish a one-on-one scenario, so the veteran will need support from last season’s ever-present, Nathan Smith.
The 2017-18 Young Player of the Year, James Gibbons, should again thrive at right-back, so steady progress is to be expected.
16. Carlisle (33/1 Spreadex)
Although Carlisle fans were grateful for the work Keith Curle has done, few argued that his tenure hadn’t run its course.
Tom Miller and Danny Grainger provided little width from full-back while the midfield looked only to Jamie Devitt for inspiration, meaning hopeful balls to Richie Bennett or Cole Stockton was the extent of their attacks; at least for the first hour of matches.
Substitutes like Hallam Hope played a reasonable part for the Cumbrians, which is part of the reason they had any hope of making the play-offs, but this was a roundly reactive side in need of new ideas.
The question is whether they will get those new ideas from John Sheridan, whose remit is so often to re-enforce old ideas for the sake of simplicity.
Nobody can deny that ‘Shez’ has done excellent work keeping Newport, Oldham twice and then Fleetwood in their divisions with some comfort.
He also inherits a good defence including no-nonsense centre-back Tom Parkes, who has won promotion with Bristol Rovers while midfielders Mike Jones and Kelvin Etuhu, when fit, add solidity.
However, the northerner has only added one attack-minded player to a side that scored 58 goals last season – the energetic but raw Rotherham loanee Jerry Yates
The lack of depth might leave the door open for academy graduate Sam Adewusi to make an impact but more adventurous teams now appear to be the ones challenging for promotion – Carlisle could fall behind.
17. Newport (50/1 Betway)
Michael Flynn deserves credit for turning Newport County from a club doomed to non-league to one stable in mid-table.
However, the goals dried up in the second half of last season – only three teams scored fewer after January.
Top scorer Frank Nouble has left for Colchester while long-throw specialist Ben Tozer is now at Cheltenham.
Keanu Marsh-Brown, who shone in the National League, could add unpredictability from a wide forward role like Robbie Wilmott and Jamille Matt offers a physical alternative to Padraig Amond.
However, more central creativity is required from Matty Dolan or Josh Sheehan, alongside new battler Andrew Crofts.
There is stability at the back, even though key loanee Ben White has left: Mickey Demetriou and Mark O’Brien are stalwarts, as is goalkeeper Joe Day, who has not failed to reach double figures for clean sheets since joining in 2014.
Cult hero David Pipe might not have the stamina every week at 34, so loanee Tyler Hornby-Forbes might reduce his work-load, while fellow wing-back Dan Butler should continue his development.
Newport will rarely be found wanting for effort under Flynn, but they might need to build off the field before they build any further on it.
18. Colchester (22/1 Betfair)
On paper, Colchester are one of the bigger clubs in League Two, but their approach is akin to one hoping to merely sustain itself at this level.
Chairman Robbie Cowling has funded a squad that contains only 16 ‘senior’ players; who one could define as having had reasonable exposure to the EFL.
That list doesn’t include Dillon Barnes, who is likely to replace the long-serving goalkeeper Sam Walker after a handful of non-league appearances, but it does include 20-year-old Courtney Senior, who has been handed the number 7 shirt having essentially kicked off his career last season.
That’s not to say Senior couldn’t be brilliant – he showed real promise in the second half of 2017-18 – but the club is taking huge leaps of faith in players that are relatively unproven.
They will therefore hope that defensive leader Tom Eastman can stay fit for a full campaign, along with full-backs Ryan Jackson and Kane Vincent-Young.
New boys Frank Nouble and Luke Norris should add a little more knowhow in forward areas and midfielder Tom Lapslie can be a tough nut on his day.
Although Colchester have a starting eleven potentially worthy of the top half, those players could be let down by the lack of proven quality in reserve.
19. Tranmere (33/1 BetVictor)
Tranmere Rovers deserve credit for their 2-1 win over Boreham Wood in the National League play-off final: everything that could have gone against them did, and yet they still showed incredible desire to battle with 10-men until the very end.
They hope that drive will serve them well in League Two but, even with key man James Norwood staying, questions could be asked about the quality of the squad.
Walsall-bound target man Andy Cook has been replaced by Paul Mullin, who is an honest worker with a decent spring, but not much more.
While Jay Harris will scrap in midfield next to Oliver Norburn, they could miss the more technical Jeff Hughes.
Mark Ellis should improve the defence alongside Ritchie Sutton – and left-back Zoumana Bakayogo is a decent addition too.
However, we saw at Shrewsbury that Micky Mellon tends to adopt conservatism after a promotion, rather than stick to the same template, so goalscoring crises like the one at the beginning of last season could become more commonplace.
Although Tranmere shouldn’t get dragged into a relegation dogfight, they might take longer than fans would like to feel their way into this division.
20. Bury (16/1 Bet365)
After the horrors of last season, Bury have plenty of work to do before they re-connect with supporters.
Ryan Lowe, who oversaw six wins in 25 last term, was perhaps fortunate to keep his job. The most likely explanation is that the board, knowing they must cut costs, wanted somebody who would not demand a big budget, who already understands the problems and who has knowledge of the academy prospects.
Midfielder Callum Styles, a rose among thorns last term, provides a clear example of the potential that lies within, as to an extent does centre-back Saul Shotton, utility man Ryan Cooney and winger Joe Adams.
The defence is strengthened by the arrivals of right-back Tom Miller, centre-back Will Aimson and left-back Chris Stokes – the latter two having won promotions from this level.
There will be pressure on teenage Preston loanee Mathew Hudson, who could start in goal with just one EFL game to his name and more questions could be asked further forward.
New wingers Nicky Adams and Byron Moore might not quite be at the level they used to be; up top, one could say the same about Chris Dagnall and there’s no guarantees Jermaine Beckford will stay fully fit, while other options are raw and unproven.
Without possessing many players at their peak, the Shakers, 11/8 for a bottom half finish with Betfred, risk a situation in which the veterans lack the energy and the kids lack the knowhow.
21. Morecambe (125/1 Betway)
If there was uncertainty about how the off-field change of ownership would affect Morecambe’s transfer business, the early signs are encouraging.
Jim Bentley has been able to address last season’s main problem, which was scoring goals: Jason Oswell brings a reliable record from Stockport and aerial specialist Rhys Oates was rated at Hartlepool.
Of course, they will need to play with a little more composure to get the best out of the new boys but the arrival of midfielder Andrew Tutte will help.
The defence needed no strengthening: Sam Lavelle developed superbly alongside the more experienced Steven Old in 2017-18. Wing-back Aaron McGowan has departed but James Sinclair brings, at a push, Europa League pedigree and Jordan Cranston, a forward-thinking left-sider, is another good addition if he can stay fit.
Barry Roche, meanwhile, remains a key figure, not just between the sticks but in the dressing room, much like the evergreen Kevin Ellison and boss Bentley.
Morecambe have big characters around, which should once again give them the inner-strength to survive in adversity.
22. Macclesfield (125/1 Spreadex)
John Askey has spent a combined 25 years at Macclesfield but, after guiding them to the National League title last season, has moved on to Shrewsbury.
That victory was an inspirational achievement for the club, but how will they fare in Askey’s absence?
Replacement Mark Yates deserves credit for keeping Solihull Moors up last term and with his summer recruitment, he has left little to the imagination.
Not only has Yates sealed a permanent deal for Nathan Blissett, who gave the Silkmen a more direct option after joining on loan from Plymouth, he has brought in another target man in Harry Smith.
It’s possible, therefore, that Macclesfield will play more long balls than anyone else in League Two.
That, alone, is not a bad thing, but it was common for Yates’ Crawley and Cheltenham sides not to play with the midfield too close to the front man.
Michael Rose, who adds experience after joining from Morecambe, will hope to change that while Koby Arthur, who has played in the Championship with Birmingham, could fare well, but the squad lacks depth.
A good start, therefore, will be required to dispel the notion that they have come up without the necessary infrastructure and off-field stability.
23. Yeovil (125/1 Betway)
The only notable memories from Yeovil’s 2017-18 campaign came from cup competitions: they reached the semi-finals of the EFL Trophy, losing to Shrewsbury and of course drew Manchester United in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
Their League Two campaign, by contrast, was positive only in the sense that they didn’t go down: and when you’ve flown as high as the Championship in the last half a decade, survival is no cause for excitement.
Major questions, therefore, are being asked of the leadership of the club. Chairman John Fry has been criticized for a lack of investment while Darren Way has not been able to bring fresh ideas.
In fairness to Way, his squad looks threadbare and while aforementioned clubs can fall back on a good academy, Yeovil rely heavily on loanees.
Thankfully, the powerful Francois Zoko and the nippy Alex Fisher are contracted permanently and the strikers could form a decent partnership, as could centre-backs Shaun Donnellan and Omar Sowunmi; the latter having penned a new deal.
Major concerns lie in midfield, with James Bailey recovering from a long-term injury and last season’s loanee, Lewis Wing, going back to Middlesbrough.
The Glovers, second-favourites for the drop at 7/2 with Betway, have a squad that contains just 17 senior professionals – unless they find a collection of gems on loan, a season of hardship could be in the offing.
24. Oldham Athletic (25/1 Spreadex)
Based on all the goings on at Boundary Park, it’s hard not to get horrific flashbacks to Leyton Orient’s nightmarish 2016-17 campaign.
Craig Davies launched a complaint about Oldham Athletic owner Abdallah Lemsagam’s treatment of players. The owner, who has looked at a foreign recruitment model that rarely bears fruit below the Championship, has plunged the club into financial difficulties, so Frankie Bunn, in his first permanent manager’s job, has his hands tied.
Key attacking loanees from last season, the tricky Duckens Nazon and the potent Eoin Doyle, are no longer present and the lack of quality and depth in forward areas is an issue.
Ousmane Fane, a willing battler last season, starts 2018-19 out injured, so a midfield partner must be found for Dan Gardner.
Peter Clarke has a severe lack of pace and his potential centre-back partners, Sam Graham or Jamie Stott, both lack EFL knowhow, while goalkeeper Johnny Placide, although a reasonable shot-stopper, takes more risks than one would like.
Full-backs Cameron Dummigan and Andy Taylor could be assets while attacking midfielder Jose Baxter is a wildcard.
However, BetVictor‘s 33/1 on bottom place for the Latics looks generous: while other clubs have the mentality to deal with adversity, Oldham’s squad might not quite be prepared for a scrap let alone cash-flow issues; that’s where they might encounter problems big enough to jeopardize their EFL status.