League Two 2017/18 | Preview & Outright Bets
Wednesday 5 July 11:40 Tweet
Steve Evans' Mansfield Town are pre-season favourites with the bookmakers for promotion to League One this season following an 11th place finish in the 2016/17 campaign. Excluding a near miss from relegation in 2016, The Stags have found life in League Two comfortable since promotion from the Conference in 2013 - they've finished 11th, 12th and 12th in three of the four seasons since.
Ex-Leeds and Rotherham boss Evans has improved things at Field Mill following his appointment in November 2016. Town had managed just four wins from their opening 16 matches of the season but ended the season with 13 wins from 30 as they finished in a comfortable 12th place.
Evans has lead Boston, Crawley Town and Rotherham (x2) to promotions in recent seasons and is currently enjoying his second highest managerial win rate (45.5%) since 2002.
One of the main reasons for Manfield's 'pre-season favourites' status is because of the swarm of early summer signings. 13 new players have arrived at the One Call Stadium so far this summer, many having made the drop down from League One. The Stags have already added quality to their side, and with a full pre-season schedule under serial promotion-winning boss Steve Evans, you can see why the bookmakers fancy them for promotion this season.
Our Prediction: 1st
After near misses from automatic promotion last season and via the play-offs in 2015, Luton Town are second favourites with the bookmakers for promotion to League One this season.
The Hatters have established themselves as a comfortable League Two side since promotion from the Conference Premier in 2014 following 8th, 11th and 4th place finishes. The 2014/15 campaign saw them finish within three points of the final play-off spot whilst their automatic promotion push last season went down to the final few weeks before they were beaten by Blackpool in the Play-Off Semi Final.
Town have made early summer improvements to their squad with frontman James Collins making the switch from strugglers Crawley. 26 year old Collins has won promotion from League Two three times in his career and scored an impressive 20 goals in 44 league appearances for Crawley last season. Collins, along with last season's top scorer Danny Hylton means the Hatters have plenty of goals in their side.
With so much firepower at their disposal, Luton should cause teams plenty of problems this season.
Our Prediction: 4th
Following a disastrous 2016/17 campaign which saw them finish 23rd in League One, Coventry City are among the favourites to bounce back with promotion from League Two this season.
Mark Robins has drafted in eight new signings already this summer with the prospect of five more permanent arrivals to come plus the possibility of loan signings. It has to be said his side is shaping up nicely ahead of their first campaign in the English fourth tier since 1964.
The Sky Blues did improve after Robins took over in March, despite the fact he got off to a tricky start with three straight defeats. City went on to win five of their final nine League One matches but even that spirited turnaround wasn't enough to avoid a 23rd place finish.
Coventry have strengthened already this summer and looked much better in League One since Mark Robins' appointment earlier this year.
Our Prediction: 2nd
After promotion from the National League and a spirited FA Cup run which saw them make the quarter-finals, Lincoln City are among the favourites with the bookmakers to make it back to back promotions under Danny Cowley this season.
The nation had one eye on Lincoln for the early stages of 2017 because of FA Cup victories over Championship Ipswich and Brighton plus Premier League Burnley, but their league form didn't suffer as a result - they finished the season as National League Champions and earned promotion to League Two.
The Imps have already strengthened ahead of their first League Two campaign since 2010/11. Cowley has brought in Mansfield's Matt Green who has scored 29 goals for the Stags over the last two seasons and Gillingham's Billy Knott has also made a permanent move to Sincil Bank following a promising loan spell towards the end of last season.
The Imps didn't really have an out and out goalscorer in the National League last season. Matt Rhead and Nathan Arnold managed 28 goals between them, but neither managed to edge into the top nine league goalscorers list. League Two defences will prove a tougher test for the Imps, so the pressure is on Matt Green & any other incoming forwards.
We expect Lincoln to have a solid season under the Cowley brothers, but promotion looks unlikely.
Our Prediction: Mid table
Swindon will compete in League Two for the first time since 2012 this season following a 22nd place finish in League One in 2016/17. The Robins were knocking on the door of promotion to the Championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015 but a demise under Luke Williams saw them finish 15th in 2015/16 followed by relegation last season.
The Robins struggled to get any sort of form going last season and won back to back league matches just twice all campaign. A particularly bad run of form since late January ultimately condemned them to League Two - they lost 12 of their last 19 league matches.
Goals, or lack of, were a huge problem for Swindon last season as top scorers Jonathan Obika and Nicky Ajose netted just 11 between them. Obika left the club on expiration of his three-year deal in June and Nicky Ajose has returned to parent club Charlton following a loan deal. They will need to seriously strengthen up top before they even think about a promotion challenge.
Ex-Barnsley and Bury boss David Flitcroft was appointed as manager of Swindon in June. He led the Shakers to promotion from League Two in 2015 and will be looking to do the same with Swindon at the first time of asking.
Our Prediction: 9th
After really disappointing seasons in 2015/16 and 2016/17 which has seen them finished 17th and 16th respectively, Notts County are among the favourites for promotion to League One this season following an upturn in form under Kevin Nolan.
The ex-Bolton, Newcastle and West Ham man took over as manager at Meadow Lane in January following County's run of 10 straight defeats since early November. He instigated an impressive turnaround which saw his side finish sixth in the form table over the final 19 matches of the season - winning 10 and drawing three.
The Magpies' form tailed off towards the end of the season once their safety had been confirmed, but nine wins from 14 between January 28th and April 8th really does speak volumes ahead of Nolan's first full campaign as boss.
A goalscorer really would help County, veteran Jon Stead has finished as their top goalscorer in each of the last two seasons with 14 scored in both 2015/16 and 2016/17, with the last Magpies player to surpass the 15 goal mark being Lee Hughes eight seasons ago.
With a few key signings, we fancy Notts County to have a solid season under Kevin Nolan. If they were to maintain their impressive 2017 form for the 2017/18 campaign, then promotion is in sight.
Our Prediction: 6th
Following defeat in last season's Play-Off Final against Blackpool, Exeter will go for promotion once again this season as they strive for League One status for the first time since 2012.
The Grecians finished 5th in League Two last season and managed to make it through to the Play-Off Final following a 6-5 aggregate Semi-Final win over Carlisle, but a 2-1 defeat against Blackpool at Wembley means Paul Tisdale's men will compete in the fourth tier for the sixth successive season in 2017/18.
City have plenty of goals in the side with David Wheeler, Ollie Watkins and Reuben Reid chipping in for a combined 48 goals and 17 assists last season - with Champions Pompey (79) and promoted Doncaster (85) the only teams to outscore the Grecians (75) last season.
One major area for improvement this season has to be their home form. Tisdale's men managed just eight wins from 23 at St James Park last season despite winning an impressive 13 from 23 on their travels. Plymouth (45) were the only side in League Two who earned more away points than Exeter (42) last season, but relegated Hartlepool managed to match their home points tally (29).
If Exeter manage to improve their home form this season, promotion could be on the cards.
Our Prediction: 3rd
Chesterfield were relegated in May following a three-season stay in League One after Gary Caldwell failed to make an impression at the Proact following his appointment as boss in January.
The Spireites managed just two wins in the final 19 matches of the season, a costly run which saw them finish bottom of the league. However, the Derbyshire side have enjoyed good times in the fourth tier over recent years having won the title in both 2011 and 2014, fans will be hoping Gary Caldwell can make it a hat-trick of promotions in 2017/18.
We've seen nothing in 2017 that suggests Gary Caldwell's Chesterfield are any better than Danny Wilson's, we can't see them making a return to the third tier this season.
Our Prediction: Mid table