EFL fan Tom Love (@TomLove_18) has been tasked with tackling the ante-post Top Goalscorer market ahead of the 2020/21 League Two season.
WLB Season Preview 2020/21 | League Two: Top Goalscorer
Alfie May (66/1 each-way Betfair)
Cheltenham were excellent last season under the tutelage of the impressive Mike Duff. It was their defence that really helped them get into the play-offs; the Robins conceded just 27 goals – that’s 10 fewer than the second-best backline in the league (Colchester).
Although Duff will be keen to carry on that stringent theme, they may need pack a bit more of a punch in attacking areas. One player they have who could provide this is the diminutive Alfie May.
As a Bradford City fan I’ve seen a lot of lower league football and May has been someone who has always stood out for his boundless energy and anticipation on when to press, as well as his finishing.
If you look at his goal record whilst at Doncaster it doesn’t really stand out, however a large majority of his performances came off the bench as he was often playing second fiddle to John Marquis. He got his move to Gloucestershire in January and returned a healthy six goals in 12 appearances, impressing fans at Whaddon Road.
May has spent most of his career at non-league level being transferred between lots of clubs but his move in 2015 to Kent-based Hythe Town saw a lot of scouts become interested. He had trials at Crewe and Stevenage before Donny snapped him up.
He may have ended up in the lower ebbs of non-league due to his small frame as so much academy focus is on physicality if you want to make the step up, especially so in Leagues One and Two. I’d say his quality is more akin to third-tier football but in order to get regular minutes a move to a well-run League Two team looks spot on for now at least.
May will hassle and harry defenders into making mistakes and I’ve seen more than enough fourth division football to know that centre halves hate playing against players like him, and often make errors when under pressure.
It’s not only his off the ball work that’s excellent, he’s cool when within a sight of goal, and always on the move in the box, and will be looking to anticipate knock downs from Andy Williams. He’s got an eye for a screamer too, and has shown great ambidexterity throughout his time in the EFL.
I’m expecting him to really show what he’s all about this coming season and if he stays injury free I’d expect him to be a common starter for the Robins who are well fancied to compete once again. 66/1 is available with Betfair and that looks a big old price and worthy of some each-way money.
Kurtis Guthrie (80/1 each way Bet365)
If you rewind to this very piece a year ago you may remember that I put up Stevenage striker Kurtis Guthrie at 80/1 for top scorer.
Naturally, it was a long shot given his price but it was a disappointing stop-start campaign for Guthrie who was part of an underwhelming Stevenage side who struggled before he moved north to Bradford, only for the man who brought him to the club, Gary Bowyer, to be sacked just days later.
That along with the coronavirus stoppage made it one to forget for the Jersey-born target man. But guess what, I’m putting him up again at the same price he was last year. Mad? Maybe. But hear me out…
Many Bradford fans, myself included, weren’t expecting him to feature that much this season, but after the loss of James Vaughan to divisional rivals Tranmere, there is an increased burden on Guthrie, Clayton Donaldson and Lee Novak to supply the goals.
In pre-season it has been Guthrie who has shone, popping up with a couple of goals and assists and manager Stuart McCall has been starting Guthrie and has been impressed by what he’s seen.
Under McCall, City are likely to be quite open and look to attack games and that will be a refreshing change from the dour football of Bowyer, and before him David Hopkin and Simon Grayson. Fans are worried about the defence but should be encouraged by the positive forward-thinking approach shown in the summer, scoring five goals in games against higher league opposition.
I am wary of focussing too much on pre-season but the legendary figure of McCall has openly said he’d rather win 4-3 than 1-0, and that should mean plenty of chances created for the likes of Guthrie.
The Bantams’ gaffer likes to opt for two up top and has experimented with a 3-5-2 formation in order to keep bodies in the middle of the park but also allow width from energetic duo Dylan Mottley-Henry and Connor Wood.
Left wing-back Wood was head and shoulders better than any other Bradford player last season and his delivery is the best in the league. With him and the re-signing of Billy Clarke who was a chief creator for Grimsby last season, there should be quality ammunition into the frontmen.
Guthrie has obvious aerial presence standing at 6'3 but is a decent finisher with his feet too. The season before last he managed to knock in 14 goals. He isn’t really one to run in behind defences but give him the service in this league and he can fill his boots.
Last season City had three strikers all at the top of the market with Eoin Doyle, Vaughan and Donaldson all shorter than 20/1. That was under a defensive minded manager in Bowyer. This season, under the expressive McCall, Bradford's three forwards are all 50/1, 80/1 and 80/1. That doesn’t add up to me.
The one worry would be a star signing coming in but given the financial restrictions it is becoming increasingly hard to see. I think if Guthrie gets off to a good start and keeps his place then he could be in the goals for a side that promise to score and ship them in equal measure.
Ruel Sotiriou (100/1 each-way Bet365)
My ‘One to Watch’ in League Two this season may well be someone you’ve seldom heard of. Cyprus U21 International Ruel Sotiriou is a player I’ve watched quite a bit of, and I think this could be the year where he really breaks through and makes a name for himself.
Sotiriou only entered the Orient first-team towards the back end of the season and given his age (just turned 20) it’s probably no surprise.
If there ever was a mark of a striker with astronomical potential, then it would be to have Peterborough sniffing around, which was the case in the winter. The O’s held firm though and in August he signed a new two-year deal.
Gaffer Ross Embleton said after that contract extension “He has shown since coming into the team that he is more than capable at this level. For any young player it's about playing games and proving you can do it.” That indicates to me that the youngster will be given a headline role up top at Brisbane Road this campaign.
The explosive frontman has a lot in his armoury. For his age he is incredibly strong and has the physicality to not only hold off defenders, but to bully them. Many young strikers struggle with the rough and ready nature of fourth-tier centre-halves but trust that will be no issue for Sotiriou, who may even thrive off the battle.
He spent a very short time on loan at Dover and I can remember him coming on in a televised FA Cup game against Southend, scoring the winner three minutes after his introduction with a powerful strike from the angle. From then on, I’ve kept a keen eye on his development and it was only a matter of time before he pushed himself into first team contention.
Sotiriou managed to notch five goals in just 10 appearances for Orient and if he can manage to stretch that out over a full season he should be in the running. He’s got decent close control and can score all manner of goals, as shown last season with a header at Newport, a long range drilled strike into the bottom corner against Stevenage, coming in at the back stick in the reverse game against Newport and showing anticipation to latch onto a rebound to poke home versus Colchester.
There’s a heavy Cypriot community in this area of London and it’s producing some interesting players; Hector Kyprianou is another player now on the Orient books after spending his academy days a couple of miles north at Spurs. His namesake Harry is now at Southend whilst Jack Roles, another impressive Spurs youth product, has already played at senior international level. It’s certainly a trend to keep an eye on in this region.
100/1 (Bet365) quotes on Sotiriou cannot go unbacked in my opinion. He’s as short as 40/1 elsewhere, which is about the price I’d have him at. Again, the each-way terms which pay four places at a quarter of the odds apply and even a place could pocket us a hefty win. It’s probably my favourite-ever triple-figure punt.