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Vital Lincoln City - League Two Season Preview 2017-18 (P1)

Vital Lincoln City - League Two Season Preview 2017-18 (P1)

INTRODUCTION

The information in this preview is complete to 5pm on Thursday 3 August 2017. All player ages are correct at 1 August 2017. Managerial data is as accurate as I can make it: it is almost impossible to identify the exact dates managers joined or left minor non-league clubs 25 years ago, and detailed statistical information for minor leagues is not readily available. Online statistics databases have not been used due to the errors they can contain. As I have compiled the figures myself, any errors therefore are my fault entirely. Firstly, sincere apologies to the subjects; secondly, any errors should be minor and not affect the overall impression; thirdly, it will be more accurate than Wikipedia; fourthly, if you always believe I am an idiot, you will never be disappointed.

An average points per game figure is given for each manager. In order to translate that into something more tangible, the table below shows how many points that figure equates to over the course of a 46-game season. Although other factors obviously come into play, it gives an indication of how likely that manager is to be involved in a relegation struggle (under 1.20 PPG), a play-off challenge (above 1.50 PPG needed) or an automatic promotion challenge (above 1.70 PPG needed).




ACCRINGTON STANLEY

Last season:
13th
P46 W17 D14 L15 F59 A56 Pts65
Average attendance: 1,699

Manager:
John Coleman, 54 (appointed September 2014)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.1: John Coleman (Accrington Stanley)

John Coleman's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
Elliot Parish, 26 (Dundee)

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (6):
Arron Davies, 33 (-)
Romuald Boco, 32 (Leyton Orient)
Paddy Lacey, 24 (Serving 14-month drug ban)
Steven Hewitt, 23 (Bangor City)
Luke Wall, 20 (Bangor City)
Brayden Shaw, 20 (Bangor City)

Forwards (3):
Terry Gornell, 27 (Chorley)
Shay McCartan, 23 (Bradford City)
Nathan Webb, 19 (Ramsbottom United)

Players in (6):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Ben Richards-Everton, 25 (Dunfermline Athletic)

Midfielders (3):
Liam Nolan, 22 (Southport)
Érico Sousa, 22 (Tranmere Rovers)
Mekhi Leacock-McLeod, 20 (Billericay Town)

Forwards (2):
Kayden Jackson, 23 (Barnsley)
Jonathan Edwards, 20 (Hull City - season-long loan)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 22

Number of players in squad: 19

Pre-season:
P5 W1 D2 L2 F12 A9

12/7: Huddersfield Town - H 0-1
15/7: Everton XI - H 3-3
19/7: Preston North End - H 2-3
22/7: Oldham Athletic - H 2-2
29/7: Southport - A 5-0

Commentary: Last season was a strange one for Accrington Stanley. Despite finishing in the bottom half of League Two, they were only 5 points short of the play-offs in a tightly-packed table. A great run of 15 games unbeaten between February and April carried them from a relegation battle to a bid for promotion, and fans might have been forgiven for looking forward to 2017-18. However, there have been unexpected changes over the summer. The biggest loss is new Northern Ireland international Shay McCartan to Bradford, while three midfielders departed for Bangor City, of all clubs. Stanley stalwarts Terry Gornell and Romuald Boco have also gone, leaving manager John Coleman to carry out a major rebuild of his playing staff. On the positive side, the influential Sean McConville remains, and new signing Mekhi Leacock-McLeod from Billericay looks interesting. Their pre-season campaign may not have done them any favours with just five fixtures, four of which were against significantly superior opposition. The main handicap for many clubs in southern Lancashire will always be the challenge of persuading locals not to travel to Manchester for their football, and the generation of revenue is far more difficult in as small a catchment area as Accrington. The club's target of 1,000 season tickets has not been achieved, finishing at little over 800. Stanley had the lowest average attendance in the Football League last season, and attracting quality players with a severely limited budget means the experts habitually predict a season of struggle at the Wham Stadium. The squad does appear limited, but Coleman is a clever manager who repeatedly inspires Stanley to punch above their weight.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 25/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table.


BARNET

Last season:
15th
P46 W14 D15 L17 F57 A64 Pts57
Average attendance: 2,211

Manager:
Rossi Eames, 32 (appointed May 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.2: Rossi Eames (Barnet FC)

Rossi Eames' managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Bira Dembélé, 29 (Laval)
James Pearson, 24 (On trial at Coventry City)

Midfielders (3):
Tom Champion, 31 (Boreham Wood)
Luke Coulson, 23 (Ebbsfleet United)
Daniel Cheema, 18 (Billericay Town)

Forwards (3):
Shaun Batt, 30 (Chelmsford City)
Michael Gash, 30 (King's Lynn Town)
Sam Akinde, 24 (-)

Players in (3):

Goalkeepers (1):
Craig Ross, 27 (Macclesfield Town)

Defenders (1):
Richard Brindley, 24 (Colchester United)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
Shaquile Coulthirst, 22 (Peterborough United)

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 26

Pre-season:
P6 W5 D0 L1 F13 A5

8/7: Maidstone United - A 5-0
12/7: Swansea City - H 1-0
15/7: West Ham United U23 - H 2-1
22/7: Millwall - H 1-0
25/7: Braintree Town - A 3-1
29/7: Concord Rangers - H 1-3

Commentary: Barnet had an inconsistent 2016-17, marred by three changes of manager and a play-off bid ended by a catastrophic run of 2 wins from 18 games between January and April. The Bees picked up just 24 points over the second half of the season, and needed a 2-0 win in a crunch game at Hartlepool on 22 April to secure their League status. Summer transfer business has been low-key, suggesting more of the same next time around. Barnet remain heavily dependent on John Akinde, whose 26 goals went a long way to keeping them out of the danger zone last season. All of this suggests that 2017-18 may present a significant test for them. The club continues to move forward off the field, with plans announced in June to expand capacity of The Hive to 8,000 and develop a new centre for the club's academy. Older supporters will point to the fact that these developments carry the club further from their home in Barnet, and a return to the town looks increasingly unlikely. Stability may be the main target this season for rookie manager Rossi Eames, who is the youngest in the Football League at 32. Pre-season results have been impressive, with five wins out of six against some good opposition, but that will count for nothing from August against sides with considerably more to spend on players than they have.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 50/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table, although a relegation battle may arise should they lose Akinde for any reason.


CAMBRIDGE UNITED

Last season:
11th
P46 W19 D9 L18 F58 A50 Pts66
Average attendance: 4,737

Manager:
Shaun Derry, 39 (appointed November 2015)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.3: Shaun Derry (Cambridge United)

Shaun Derry's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (2):
Will Norris, 23 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
David Gregory, 22 (Bromley)

Defenders (1):
Jordan Williams, 19 (Brackley Town)

Midfielders (3):
James Dunne, 27 (Swindon Town)
Conor Newton, 25 (Hartlepool United)
Dylan Williams, 19 (St Neots Town)

Forwards (3):
Barry Corr, 32 (-)
Ben Williamson, 28 (Eastleigh)
Joe Pigott, 23 (Maidstone United)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (2):
David Forde, 37 (Millwall)
Dimitar Mitov, 20 (Charlton Athletic)

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (3):
Gary Deegan, 29 (Shrewsbury Town)
David Amoo, 26 (Partick Thistle)
Emmanuel Osadebe, 20 (Gillingham)

Forwards (3):
Jabo Ibehre, 34 (Carlisle United)
Ade Azeez, 23 (Partick Thistle)
Jevani Brown, 22 (St Neots Town)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 26

Number of players in squad: 26

Pre-season:
P10 W4 D3 L3 F11 A9

8/7: St Neots Town - A 1-0
11/7: St Albans City - A 1-0
12/7: Royston Town - A 4-1
15/7: Norwich City - H 0-2 & 0-0 (two one-hour matches)
18/7: Ebbsfleet United - A 2-0
21/7: Tottenham Hotspur U23 - H 2-3
22/7: Dartford - A 1-1
25/7: Woking - A 0-0
29/7: Southend United - H 0-2

Commentary: Cambridge United had the worst of starts to 2016-17, finding themselves bottom of League Two with just three points from their first eight games. Three straight wins sparked a revival, and the Us found themselves in the play-offs by the mid-point of the season. Defeat at Wycombe on the final day consigned Cambridge to another season in the basement, and having finished 9th the season before, two successive near-misses will have sharpened collective resolve to go one better this time. The loss of goalkeeper Will Norris to Wolves was an unexpected setback during the close season, but manager Shaun Derry has held on to his key outfield players. Perhaps the best bit of summer business was the retention of striker Luke Berry in the face of interest from a number of clubs, for his 22 goals were the foundation on which the season was built. No one else scored more than 9, and Derry has signed the experienced Jabo Ibehre and rumoured Lincoln trialist Ade Azeez in an effort to reduce the obvious dependence on Berry. That plan may fall short, with Azeez due to stand trial shortly for a hit-and-run incident involving a cyclist last October. Cambridge escaped from the Conference three years ago and have re-established themselves as a solid League Two side; but are they yet in a position to mount a serious bid for promotion to League One?

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 16/1

Prediction: Mid-table.


CARLISLE UNITED

Last season:
6th (lost in play-off semi-final)
P46 W18 D17 L11 F69 A68 Pts71
Average attendance: 5,305

Manager:
Keith Curle, 53 (appointed September 2014)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.4: Keith Curle (Carlisle United)

Keith Curle's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (8):

Goalkeepers (2):
Mark Gillespie, 25 (Walsall)
Max Crocombe, 23 (Salford City)

Defenders (3):
Michael Raynes, 29 (Crewe Alexandra)
Shaun Brisley, 27 (Notts County)
Patrick Brough, 21 (Morecambe)

Midfielders (1):
James Bailey, 28 (Yeovil Town)

Forwards (2):
Jabo Ibehre, 34 (Cambridge United)
Ben Tomlinson, 27 (FC Halifax Town)

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (2):
Jack Bonham, 23 (Brentford - on loan until January)
Shamal George, 19 (Liverpool - on loan until January)

Defenders (1):
Tom Parkes, 25 (Leyton Orient)

Midfielders (1):
Kelvin Etuhu, 29 (Bury)

Forwards (3):
Richie Bennett, 25 (Barrow)
Hallam Hope, 23 (Bury)
Sam Cosgrove, 20 (Wigan Athletic)

Average age of players out: 27
Average age of players in: 23

Number of players in squad: 24

Pre-season:
P6 W5 D1 L0 F18 A1

8/7: Carlisle City - A 4-0
11/7: Penrith - A 5-0
12/7: Workington - A 3-0
15/7: Blyth Spartans - A 3-0
22/7: FC Halifax Town - A 0-0
28/7: Blackburn Rovers - H 3-1

Commentary: Carlisle got off to a terrific start to last season, going unbeaten for the first 15 games and losing just once in the first 23. They sat just 2 points off the top of the table in second place at the midway stage, but the loss of star striker Charlie Wyke to Bradford in the January transfer window led to just 4 wins from the next 21 games. A run of 7 games without a goal highlighted the lack of striking options, and they slipped back to tenth. Carlisle then upset the form book once again to win their final two games to qualify for the play-offs with a point to spare, but a semi-final defeat to Exeter put paid to any hopes of League One football for another season. Successful season or not, Carlisle still conceded 68 goals despite making the play-offs - only 7 teams conceded more. Fans are not complimentary regarding their defence and have demanded changes over the summer which so far have not been evident. With the departure of Jabo Ibehre to Cambridge compounding the mid-season loss of Charlie Wyke, it is also hard to see who is going to score the goals for them again unless Barrow refugee Richie Bennett can make the step up to League football. Carlisle enjoyed a very productive pre-season campaign, although the opposition left something to be desired in terms of quality. Manager Keith Curle has lamented the amount of money being spent on players by other League Two clubs and claims he cannot compete with the big spenders Mansfield, Chesterfield and...Lincoln. That may be an unavoidable fact of life in football at all levels now, but does nothing to suggest that Carlisle are likely to repeat last season's promotion bid.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 16/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table.


CHELTENHAM TOWN

Last season:
21st
P46 W12 D14 L20 F49 A69 Pts50
Average attendance: 3,323

Manager:
Gary Johnson, 61 (appointed March 2015)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.5: Gary Johnson (Cheltenham Town)

Gary Johnson's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included. Does not include Johnson's spell as Latvia manager from September 1999 to April 2001.

Players out (12):

Goalkeepers (1):
Calum Kitscha, 24 (-)

Defenders (4):
Danny Parslow, 31 (York City)
Liam Davis, 30 (Torquay United)
James Jennings, 29 (Wrexham)
Jack Barthram, 23 (Barrow)

Midfielders (5):
Asa Hall, 30 (Barrow)
James Dayton, 28 (Leyton Orient)
James Rowe, 25 (Aldershot Town)
Jack Munns, 23 (Hartlepool United)
Jordan Lymn, 19 (Evesham United)

Forwards (2):
Amari Morgan-Smith, 28 (York City)
Billy Waters, 22 (Northampton Town)

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (1):
Jonathan Flatt, 22 (Wolves - season-long loan)

Defenders (2):
Jamie Grimes, 26 (Dover Athletic)
Jordon Forster, 23 (Hibernian)

Midfielders (2):
Kevin Dawson, 27 (Yeovil Town)
Nigel Atangana, 27 (Leyton Orient)

Forwards (2):
Mohamed Eisa, 22 (Greenwich Borough)
Jerell Sellars, 21 (Aston Villa)

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 20

Pre-season:
P7 W2 D0 L5 F13 A14

11/7: Oxford City - A 1-2
14/7: Bishop's Cleeve - A 6-0
17/7: Evesham United - A 3-0
20/7: Bath City - A 1-2
22/7: Weston-super-Mare - A 1-2
25/7: Bristol City - H 0-3
29/7: Peterborough United - H 1-5

Commentary: Contrary to expectation, Cheltenham struggled badly last season after cantering to the National League title in 2015-16. Relegation was avoided by just 4 points, with safety only secured with a 1-0 win over Hartlepool in the penultimate game. More worrying will be the return of just 49 goals, a direct contrast to the 87 scored the previous season, and the fact that top scorer Billy Waters has departed for Northampton. Sudanese striker Mohamed Eisa has been brought in to replace Waters after scoring 57 goals in 2 seasons for Greenwich Borough, although the four-tier step up will be a test. Former Lincoln youth Jerrell Sellars has also joined after a spell at Aston Villa, but the signings in other positions look run of the mill. Cheltenham spent a lot of money in an effort to escape the National League at the first attempt, and the budget may be restricted accordingly; it will never be large on average gates of around 3,300. Confidence will not have been boosted by a poor pre-season campaign which delivered three defeats by sides from National League South. On the positive side, Gary Johnson signed a new two-year contract 26 May after recovering from multiple heart bypass surgery. Johnson has one of the better managerial records in League Two with an impressive 5 previous promotions to his name, but he is very unlikely to add to that just yet.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 40/1

Prediction: Relegation battle, should survive because of Gary Johnson.


CHESTERFIELD

Last season:
24th in League One (relegated)
P46 W9 D10 L27 F43 A78 Pts37
Average attendance: 5,928

Manager:
Gary Caldwell, 35 (appointed January 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.6: Gary Caldwell (Chesterfield FC)

Gary Caldwell's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (15):

Goalkeepers (2):
Thorsten Stuckmann, 36 (Returned to Germany)
Lloyd Allinson, 23 (FC United of Manchester)

Defenders (4):
Dan Jones, 30 (Notts County)
Liam Graham, 24 (-)
Charlie Raglan, 24 (Oxford United)
Sadiq El Fitouri, 22 (Ahli Tripoli)

Midfielders (5):
Ritchie Humphreys, 39 (Retired)
Ángel Martínez, 31 (Returned to Spain)
Jay O'Shea, 28 (Bury)
Dan Gardner, 27 (Oldham Athletic)
Jon Nolan, 25 (Shrewsbury Town)

Forwards (4):
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, 31 (-)
Ched Evans, 28 (Sheffield United)
Jake Beesley, 20 (Salford City)
Curtis Morrison, 19 (-)

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
Joe Anyon, 30 (Scunthorpe United)

Defenders (3):
Scott Wiseman, 31 (Scunthorpe United)
Bradley Barry, 22 (Swindon Town)
Jerome Binnom-Williams, 22 (Peterborough United)

Midfielders (3):
Jordan Sinnott, 23 (FC Halifax Town)
Jak McCourt, 22 (Northampton Town)
Louis Reed, 20 (Sheffield United - season-long loan)

Forwards (3):
Chris O'Grady, 31 (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Gozie Ugwu, 24 (Woking)
Delial Brewster, 19 (Everton)

Average age of players out: 27
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 26

Pre-season:
P9 W4 D1 L4 F18 A12

4/7: Sheffield FC - A 4-1
6/7: Matlock Town - A 4-0
7/7: Buxton - A 4-0
11/7: Benfica B - N 0-0 (played in Santo Antonio, Portugal)
15/7: Middlesbrough - N 0-2 (played in Santo Antonio, Portugal)
18/7: Sheffield United - H 1-2
22/7: Stoke City U23 - N 0-4 (played at St Georges Park)
25/7: Rotherham United - H 1-3
29/7: Doncaster Rovers - H 4-0

Commentary: The last twelve months have proved something of a disaster for Chesterfield. Not only were they relegated from League One in abject fashion, off-field shenanigans including a deeply embarrassing supporter competition did nothing to enhance their image. Rumours of a dire financial situation gained momentum with wholesale resignations from the board after chairman and main financier Dave Allen quit the club in November following a row over writing off interest payable on director loans. None of which was the way they envisaged celebrating their 150th-year in existence. As expected following relegation, there have been major changes to the playing side, with 15 of last season's poor squad moving out. Some tightening of the belt during the summer might have been expected, but this is Chesterfield we are discussing. The club admits that the contract given to Chris O'Grady is the biggest in the history of the club, and has been rumoured to consist of a £50,000 signing-on fee plus £4,500 per week in wages. Not bad for a club allegedly £12 million in debt. Taking into account a pre-season training camp in Spain and Portugal for a week, there is obviously money there somewhere. The dangerous Gozie Ugwu from Woking may well prove to be the best signing of the lot, whilst the highly-rated Louis Reed has joined on loan from Sheffield United. Other than that, there appears to be very little to get excited about. Further scandal erupted over the club in July with news of an FA investigation into the payment of players and fielding one player under a false name in a reserve match. You really could not make this up. Pre-season results have been very mixed, with three wins over vastly inferior non-league opposition followed by four successive defeats with only two goals scored. Chesterfield have bounced back to League One at the first attempt twice in the last six seasons, both as champions; a hat-trick is clearly the intention, but they are going to be very disappointed this time.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 18/1

Prediction: Upper mid-table, just on account of the money spent.


COLCHESTER UNITED

Last season:
8th
P46 W19 D12 L15 F67 A57 Pts69
Average attendance: 3,973

Manager:
John McGreal, 45 (appointed May 2016)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.7: John McGreal (Colchester United)

John McGreal's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (12):

Goalkeepers (2):
Dean Brill, 31 (-)
Rhys Williams, 19 (-)

Defenders (7):
Lloyd Doyley, 34 (-)
George Elokobi, 31 (Leyton Orient)
Matthew Briggs, 26 (On trial at Lincoln City)
Richard Brindley, 24 (Barnet)
Dexter Peter, 21 (-)
Ben Wyatt, 21 (Braintree Town)
Brendan Ocran, 19 (Billericay Town)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (3):
Chris Porter, 33 (Crewe Alexandra)
Femi Akinwande, 21 (-)
Macauley Bonne, 21 (Leyton Orient)

Players in (4):

Goalkeepers (1):
Rene Gilmartin, 30 (Watford)

Defenders (2):
Ryan Jackson, 27 (Gillingham)
Cole Kpekawa, 21 (Barnsley)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
Mikael Mandron, 22 (Wigan Athletic)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 25

Number of players in squad: 28

Pre-season:
P7 W5 D0 L2 F13 A3

8/7: Maldon & Tiptree - A 2-0
11/7: Needham Market - A 4-0
14/7: Llandudno - A 1-0
18/7: West Ham United XI - H 2-0
22/7: Braintree Town - A 3-0
25/7: Ipswich Town - H 0-1
28/7: Gillingham - H 1-2

Commentary: The 2016-17 season could have been a testing one for Colchester after relegation from League One, but the record books show that only promoted Doncaster Rovers won more points at home in League Two last season than Colchester, and only champions Portsmouth scored more goals. That should have been more than enough to carry them to a promotion place, but a poor away record with only 5 wins proved costly. They acclimatised very well in the early stages and remained in the top six into September. Injury problems then caused a run of ten games without a win which dumped them into the bottom two, before seven wins from eight games carried them back up to sixth. The inconsistency continued after that, although a six-game unbeaten run at the end of the season saw them just miss a play-off place by a couple of points. It could certainly be viewed as a successful first season in management for John McGreal, and Colchester will be keen to build on a promising foundation. Top scorer Chris Porter has gone to Crewe, and has been replaced by Frenchman Mikael Mandron from Wigan; Lincoln fans may remember him starting last season for Eastleigh. There has been a significant overhaul at the back, with seven defenders and two goalkeepers departing during the summer. Colchester are another club completing a very undemanding pre-season schedule, but lost the two more meaningful games. Status quo would appear to be on the cards this time around, although Mandron could prove the difference between promotion and another near miss.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 22/1

Prediction: Play-off challenge again, will just miss out.


COVENTRY CITY

Last season:
23rd in League One (relegated)
P46 W9 D12 L25 F37 A68 Pts39
Average attendance: 9,118

Manager:
Mark Robins, 47 (appointed March 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.8: Mark Robins (Coventry City)

Mark Robins' managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Nathan Clarke, 33 (Grimsby Town)
Kevin Foley, 32 (-)
Cian Harries, 20 (Swansea City)
Jacob Whitmore, 19 (Barwell)

Midfielders (6):
Vladimir Gadzhev, 30 (Anorthosis Famagusta)
Andy Rose, 27 (Motherwell)
Gael Bigirimana, 23 (Motherwell)
Ruben Lameiras, 22 (Plymouth Argyle)
Kyle Spence, 20 (-)
Jack Finch, 20 (-)

Forwards (1):
Marcus Tudgay, 34 (-)

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (1):
Liam O'Brien, 25 (Portsmouth)

Defenders (3):
Rod McDonald, 25 (Northampton Town)
Jack Grimmer, 23 (Fulham)
Dominic Hyam, 21 (Reading)

Midfielders (3):
Michael Doyle, 35 (Portsmouth)
Peter Vincenti, 31 (Rochdale)
Liam Kelly, 27 (Leyton Orient)

Forwards (2):
Maxime Biamou, 26 (Sutton United)
Marc McNulty, 24 (Sheffield United)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 26

Number of players in squad: 23

Pre-season:
P7 W4 D1 L2 F9 A7

8/7: Sutton United - A 1-0
11/7: Valenciennes - N 2-3 (played in Murcia)
18/7: Barnsley - A 1-3
21/7: MK Dons - N 2-0 (played in Nuneaton)
25/7: Mickleover Sports - A 1-0
29/7: Liverpool XI - N 0-0 (played in Nuneaton)
30/7: Nuneaton Town - A 2-1

Commentary: Coventry City endured contrasting fortunes last season, winning the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy but suffering relegation to the bottom tier for the first time since 1959 after collecting just 9 league wins. The daily existence of the club continues to be blighted by supporter unrest over its ownership, unsuccessful takeover bids, court battles and doubts over the club's future at the Ricoh Arena. Plans to build their own ground are still in their initial stages, whilst the presence of Wasps RUFC offers serious competition for support: in 2016-17, the average attendance at Wasps home games was more than double that of the Sky Blues. Other than the unexpected loss of the promising Cian Harries to Swansea, few tears will have been shed over the players departing during the summer. Manager Mark Robins has signed a very experienced midfield trio in Peter Vincenti, Michael Doyle and the ball-boy bashing Liam Kelly, but goals are likely to be a rare beast after a meagre 37 last season. It is 16 years since Coventry were relegated from the Premier League, and a place back in football's basement was the last thing supporters expected to witness. Now they have finally reached the bottom, they will be hoping to commence their journey back towards the elite immediately, but manager Mark Robins has never won promotion. Only time will tell whether he ends that unenviable record this season, as Coventry would appear to be the classic unknown quantity.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 9/1 (third favourites)

Prediction: Play-offs.


CRAWLEY TOWN

Last season:
19th
P46 W13 D12 L21 F53 A71 Pts51
Average attendance: 2,492

Manager:
Harry Kewell, 38 (appointed May 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.9: Harry Kewell (Crawley Town)

Harry Kewell's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (4):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (3):
Conor Henderson, 25 (-)
Jason Banton, 24 (Woking)
Bobson Bawling, 21 (Woking)

Forwards (1):
James Collins, 26 (Luton Town)

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Cedric Evina, 25 (Doncaster Rovers - season-long loan)

Midfielders (4):
Dannie Bulman, 38 (AFC Wimbledon)
Mark Randall, 27 (Newport County)
Moussa Sanoh, 22 (RKC Waalwijk)
Dennon Lewis, 20 (Watford - on loan until January)

Forwards (2):
Thomas Verheydt, 25 (MVV Maastricht)
Panutche Camara, 20 (Dulwich Hamlet)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 25

Number of players in squad: 25

Pre-season:
P8 W5 D1 L2 F25 A13

8/7: East Grinstead Town - A 6-1
11/7: Oakwood - A 2-0 & 9-0 (two 60-minute games)
15/7: Chelsea XI - H 1-1
18/7: Dulwich Hamlet - A 4-2
22/7: Brighton & Hove Albion - H 0-6
26/7: Bognor Regis Town - A 2-1
29/7: Portsmouth - H 1-2

Commentary: Crawley Town found themselves involved in the mix at the foot of League Two towards the end of last season despite occupying a play-off spot after 10 games. Manager Dermot Drummy had brought in an incredible 17 players ahead of the August 2016 transfer deadline including striker James Collins from Shrewsbury, and appeared to have moulded them immediately into an effective unit. Unfortunately it was not sustained, and Crawley had slipped into the bottom half by mid-season. They won just 5 more games after that, and were only certain of staying up with three games to go. Drummy departed by mutual consent in May and was replaced by former Liverpool and Australia star Harry Kewell, taking his first steps in professional management. The main problem last season came up front with only 53 league goals scored, 20 of which came from the now-departed Collins. More than 70 were conceded, and manager Kewell has sought to overhaul his midfield this summer in an attempt to cure both ills. The loss of Collins is a major blow - 20-goal strikers are hard to come by at this level, and no other striker managed more than 2 last season. Giant Dutch striker Thomas Verheydt could do well after scoring 11 goals last season in the Dutch second tier with MVV, but there appears to be a shortfall in striking options. Kewell is something of an unknown quantity, a big-name appointment in a relatively minor league. Success as a player is no guarantee in management, and life at the bottom end of the Football League is an unforgiving environment. Kewell put Crawley's 6-0 pre-season home defeat by Brighton down to individual mistakes, which is either slightly naive or a precursor to disasters to come. Although they will not be meeting the likes of Brighton every week, Crawley come into the 2017-18 season on a run of 1 win in 14 games, and no win in 7. Kewell's appointment at Broadfield Stadium could prove to be brilliantly imaginative, but he needs to reverse that negative momentum quickly if another relegation battle is to be avoided.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 80/1

Prediction: Relegation battle, may stay up by the skin of their teeth.


CREWE ALEXANDRA

Last season:
17th
P46 W14 D13 L19 F58 A67 Pts55
Average attendance: 3,882

Manager:
David Artell, 36 (appointed January 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.10: David Artell (Crewe Alexandra)

David Artell's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (1):
Andrew Dawber, 22 (-)

Defenders (5):
Harry Davis, 25 (St Mirren)
Jon Guthrie, 25 (Walsall)
Ollie Turton, 24 (Blackpool)
Ben Nugent, 23 (-)
Marcus Poscha, 20 (-)

Midfielders (2):
Danny Hollands, 31 (Eastleigh)
Billy Bingham, 27 (Gillingham)

Forwards (1):
Callum Saunders, 21 (Notts County)

Players in (5):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Michael Raynes, 29 (Carlisle United)
Eddie Nolan, 28 (Blackpool)

Midfielders (1):
Brad Walker, 21 (Hartlepool United)

Forwards (2):
Chris Porter, 33 (Colchester United)
Jordan Bowery, 26 (Leyton Orient)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 27

Number of players in squad: 24

Pre-season:
P8 W3 D3 L2 F17 A12

11/7: Buxton - A 3-1
11/7: Kidsgrove Athletic - A 7-2
18/7: Barrow - A 0-0
19/7: Alsager Town - A 1-1
22/7: Bury - A 1-1
25/7: Macclesfield Town - A 0-3
26/7: Bala Town - A 2-3
30/7: Stoke City XI - H 3-1

Commentary: Crewe are yet another side who got off to a false start in 2016-17, occupying a top-seven spot towards the end of November. Their dire relegation from League One at the end of 2015-16 seemed to have been forgotten, but a run of seven games without a win into the new year spelled the end for long-serving manager Steve Davis at Gresty Road. Former Alex centre half David Artell stepped up from his role as operations manager, but there was to be no instant fix. Crewe were only 4 points clear of the bottom two at the beginning of February after taking just 3 points from 11 games when a 5-0 win over Grimsby kick-started a revival which took them clear of any risk of relegation with two games to spare. The 17th-place finish came at the end of a very poor four-season period which has seen relegation battles in all four. Fans will be hoping the club's descent has been arrested, and season ticket sales are showing a very welcome 10% increase. Top scorer Chris Dagnall has been joined over the summer by Chris Porter from Colchester, while experienced defenders Michael Raynes and Eddie Nolan should create a more solid back four. Crewe have the advantage of starting with 3 home fixtures after their scheduled visit to Newport on 12 August was switched to Gresty Road due to pitch work at Rodney Parade. Artell is another manager in League Two entering his first full season in management, which adds an element of the unknown to the mix. He believes his side can compete, although he omitted to say at which end of the table.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 33/1

Prediction: Mid-table if the strike partnership of Dagnall and Porter delivers.


EXETER CITY

Last season:
5th (lost in play-off final)
P46 W21 D8 L17 F75 A56 Pts71
Average attendance: 4,303

Manager:
Paul Tisdale, 44 (appointed June 2006)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.11: Paul Tisdale (Exeter City)

Paul Tisdale's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (6):

Goalkeepers (1):
Robert Olejnik, 30 (Mansfield Town)

Defenders (1):
Connor Riley-Lowe, 21 (-)

Midfielders (2):
Tom McCready, 26 (-)
Ethan Ampadu, 16 (Chelsea)

Forwards (2):
Joel Grant, 29 (Plymouth Argyle)
Ollie Watkins, 21 (Brentford)

Players in (3):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Dean Moxey, 31 (Bolton Wanderers)
Luke Croll, 22 (Crystal Palace)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
Ryan Brunt, 24 (Plymouth Argyle)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 26

Number of players in squad: 26

Pre-season:
P5 W3 D0 L2 F11 A4

14/7: Bath City - A 2-0
18/7: Weymouth - A 0-1
20/7: Taunton Town - A 3-0
25/7:Poole Town - A 0-2
29/7:Dorchester Town - A 6-1

Commentary: Exeter City had a very eventful 2016-17. A 3-2 defeat at Carlisle on 19 November left The Grecians bottom of the Football League and staring trips to Boreham Wood and Solihull in the face. Even the most die-hard supporters of long-serving manager Paul Tisdale were doubting his future at St James Park, but a 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Leyton Orient in the next game was the start of a 12-match unbeaten run which carried them to 4th place in the table and a sustained play-off challenge. A 6-5 aggregate win over Carlisle in the play-off semi-final took them to a largely empty Wembley Stadium where they were beaten 2-1 by supporter-less Blackpool. The estimated £150,000 to £200,000 earned from the play-off campaign will not benefit the team, however, as it has been earmarked for the extensive redevelopment of the ground currently under way. Two star players have departed during the summer: highly-rated 16-year-old Ethan Ampadu has moved to Chelsea for limited compensation only, while 16-goal Ollie Watkins has been sold to Brentford for a rumoured £1.8m, payable in instalments. Exeter chairman Julian Tagg says the money will be used to underpin the budget for the next four seasons and will not result in any spending sprees. Striker Joel Grant has also departed for Plymouth, although top scorer David Wheeler remains. The decision to play every pre-season friendly against sides from two or three tiers below them looks to have backfired a touch, with two defeats from five games. Another promotion challenge looks unlikely this time around unless Tisdale can replace those key departures.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 14/1

Prediction: Mid-table.


FOREST GREEN ROVERS

Last season:
3rd in National League (promoted via play-offs)
P46 W25 D11 L10 F88 A56 Pts85
Average attendance: 1,753

Manager:
Mark Cooper, 48 (appointed May 2016)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.12: Mark Cooper (Forest Green Rovers)

Mark Cooper's managerial record:

League games only - play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (8):

Goalkeepers (1):
Simon Lefebvre, 20 (-)

Defenders (1):
Ethan Pinnock, 24 (Barnsley)

Midfielders (6):
Darren Carter, 33 (Solihull Moors)
Marcus Kelly, 31 (Wrexham)
Sam Wedgbury, 28 (Wrexham)
Mohamed Chemlal, 22 (-)
Anthony Jeffrey, 22 (Sutton United)
Louis McGrory, 20 (-)

Forwards (0):

Players in (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Bradley Collins, 20 (Chelsea - season-long loan)
Harry Pickering, 19 (Port Vale)

Defenders (5):
Scott Laird, 29 (Scunthorpe United)
Lee Collins, 28 (Mansfield Town)
Callum Evans, 21 (Barnsley)
Jack Fitzwater, 19 (West Bromwich Albion - on loan until January)
Alex Iacovitti, 19 (Nottingham Forest - season-long loan)

Midfielders (3):
Reece Brown, 21 (Birmingham City)
Charlie Cooper, 20 (Birmingham City)
Jordan Simpson, 18 (Swindon Town)

Forwards (1):
Luke James, 22 (Peterborough United)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 21

Number of players in squad: 24

Pre-season:
P9 W7 D0 L2 F19 A8

11/7: Bishop's Cleeve - A 2-0
14/7: Shortwood United - A 4-0
15/7: Brimscombe & Thrupp - A 3-0
18/7: Weston-super-Mare - A 2-1
22/7: Bristol Rovers - H 2-0
25/7: SC Farense (Portugal) - A 1-2
29/7: Kidderminster Harriers - H 1-0
31/7: Swindon Supermarine - A 3-1
1/8: Worthing - A 1-4

Commentary: Love them or loathe them, Ecotricity FC and their controversial owner are in the Football League. The embarrassingly predictable references to fairy tales have been quietly consigned to the rubbish bin together with the ill-informed journalists who wrote them, and it is now time to deal with the reality. This season is an entirely new ball game for Forest Green, as they are suddenly competing against clubs with similar wherewithal: Dale Vince's millions no longer give them an outrageous advantage, and the Football League's financial fair play rules now come into play. On the field, Forest Green will have to fix their defence. Last season they were promoted having conceded 56 goals - only two teams have ever won promotion to the Football League having conceded more. Similar frailty this season will undoubtedly see them relegated straight back to the National League, as League Two forwards will be less forgiving. The loss of star defender Ethan Pinnock to Barnsley has been offset by the acquisition of the experienced Scott Laird from Scunthorpe, but last season's naive defending could still prove their Achilles heel. The forward line which scored 88 league goals last season has been retained and should produce enough goals to ensure survival. The most striking thing about FGR's 11 summer acquisitions is their average age of just 21, and 9 of the 11 are aged 22 or under. As usual, there has been a fair sprinkling of eccentricity over the summer. Their pre-season schedule was curious to say the least - apart from Bristol Rovers, no opponent was higher than two divisions below them. Furthermore, their final home friendly was moved to an alternative venue in case it harmed their new organic pitch. Off-field developments include a move to training facilities in Chippenham, 21 miles away, which is the equivalent of Lincoln building their new training ground in Horncastle. At least they keep us entertained.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 20/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table.

Vital Lincoln City - League Two Season Preview 2017-18 (Part 2)






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Writer:Scotimp
Date:Friday August 4 2017
Time: 5:00AM

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