The League Two campaign starts on Saturday 8th August, and there’s just over a week for the teams to prepare for the opening fixtures. That also gives us a week to finalise our season predictions, and we’ve got a couple of corking value bets in the shape of Luton and Crawley.
The Hatters only returned to League Two last season from the conference, but they gave a good account of themselves, and can go on to better things this time around. At the other end of the scale Crawley could be in for a long, hard season in the lower reaches, and appeal as an outsider for the dreaded drop. Let’s start with a look at the teams who are heading the preseason betting for the title:
Since we tipped Pompey to win the league at +900 , they have been on a big recruitment drive over the summer, bringing in several players with League One experience, and they are now a short price to take the title as the club try and rebuild what has been a horrific few years. However, they were also among the favourites last season and only managed to finish 16th, so there is plenty of doubt about their chances this time round.
Manager Paul Cook has already brought in ten players, and although he’s admitted they need time to gel, expectations are high on the South Coast this season. The likes of Michael Doyle, Gary Roberts and Adam Barton have joined, while latest signing Gareth Evan’s declared the intention is to win promotion after joining from Fleetwood Town. If the new players hit the ground running Portsmouth could run away with the league, but the price looks a bit too short at this stage, so we’re looking elsewhere for value for our followers if they missed out on our earlier tip.
Oxford are another club on the up, with investment in the playing staff and ambitions for a new stadium. They are another side with promotion aspirations, and manager Michael Appleton has a good squad at his disposal. They finished 13th in the division last season, some ten points off the play-offs, and they’ll need to improve this time around to challenge for the title. At the moment they rent the Kassam stadium, along with London Welsh, and although the chairman has called on the players and fans to make it a fortress, it is still a temporary home. That could severely stifle their promotion challenge – they were 18th in the table for home form last season – and they don’t appeal from a betting point of view.
Luton – +800 with Bet365
The side that do look worth a bet for the title is Luton, and they’ve quietly added some quality to a squad that only finished three points outside the play-offs last season, following promotion from the conference. Manager John Still has brought in Danny Green and Josh McQuoid from higher divisions, and secured the services of Cameron McGeehan on a permanent basis. The core of last year’s squad has been retained, and they can push on this season in search of glory.
Josh McQuoid has come in from Bournemouth, although he spent much of last season on loan at Coventry in League One; he should add some firepower to the Luton attack. Winger Danny Green has also joined from MK Dons, and he’ll be hoping to provide the ammunition, and his experience of promotion with the Dons last year. The latest signing is defender Mark O’Brien who comes in from Derby County, although he also spent last season on loan playing in the Scottish Premiership for Motherwell.
With the extra experience that Luton have added to what was already a very good squad, they can make a charge for the title this season. There are enough doubts about Portsmouth to oppose them, and Luton could be the team to take advantage.
The other side heading the betting is one of the relegated teams from League One last season, Leyton Orient. The previous year they went close to being promoted to the Championship via the play-offs, but the hang-over lasted for the entire 2014/15 season and they ended up in 23rd position.
Manager Ian Hendon has overseen plenty of ins and outs in the close season, with the loss of captain Nathan Clarke a particular blow. He will have to put together a side that can gel quickly and compete if they are to mount a serious title challenge, and it’s difficult to predict which way it will go for the East London team.
The Relegation Battle
At the other end of the table there are several clubs who are rated as relegation candidates by the bookies, with Accrington, Dagenham and Redbridge, Newport and Morecambe heading the market. We prefer the look of an punt on Crawley at a big price, as they appear to be on something of a downward spiral.
Crawley – +900 with Bet365
Successive relegations seem to be more common in today’s game, as clubs experience financial highs and lows, and Crawley were only demoted from League One last season. Dean Saunders tried in vain to keep them up but the damage had already been done earlier in the season, and his successor Mark Yates has his work cut out for him. No fewer than 15 players have left the club since the end of the season, and he faces a rebuilding job on a very small budget. It would be no surprise to see them struggling at the foot of the table come next spring, and it might eventually prove to have been a short stay in the Football League for Crawley.
Skybet League Two
Luton to Win the Title – +800 with Bet365
Crawley to be Relegated – +900 with Bet365
Once or twice per month we will provide you with the latest sports tips and keep you updated about the biggest events.