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ODDSbible Football: League Two 2017-18 Betting Preview

ODDSbible Football: League Two 2017-18 Betting Preview

It's shaping up to be an exciting season in the basement division.

Joshua Jones

Joshua Jones

The beginning of the Football League season is fast approaching and it's getting to the time where we should start placing our outright bets.

League Two had one of the most exciting climaxes to a season in 2015-16, with last-minute goals in both Play-Off semi-finals with each tie finishing 6-5 before Blackpool beat Exeter in the final. It must have been tough to take for fans of Carlisle and Luton alike, and both will be looking to put themselves back in the mix for the upcoming season.

They'll have a tough time of it though, with the additions to the league looking dangerous from both above and below. Port Vale, Swindon, Chesterfield and Coventry were all relegated from League One, whilst Lincoln City and Forest Green join from the National League.

Image result for Blackpool Play-Off final
Image result for Blackpool Play-Off final

Installed in the market at 10/1 when the season finished, Mansfield Town are now as short as 9/2 to win the league having signed well over the summer. Despite only finishing 12th last season, The Stags don't look likely to settle for anything less than promotion this season and with Steve Evans at the helm, it's hard to imagine them not being in the mix.

The Stags have been heavy on recruitment ahead of Evans' first full season in charge of the club, and the former Rotherham manager is no stranger to moving up the leagues. He's made no secret of his ambitions for Mansfield and is looking to make it promotion number 10, having had success with both the Millers and Crawley Town in the past. With 13 new additions to the squad, and many with the caliber to potentially play at a higher level, it would be unwise to snub their chances.

Jacob Mellis, formerly of Chelsea, and the ex-Ipswich Pauls, Anderson and Digby, both have Championship experience, whilst Will Atkinson played in the Premier League for Hull and Zander Diamond featured in the SPL for nine years at Aberdeen, as well as winning League Two whilst at Northampton in 2016.

Potentially their best signing of the summer though is Lee Angol from Peterborough United. Signed by Posh after scoring 33 goals in 49 games for Boreham Wood in 2014/15, it never really clicked for the Tottenham youth player. He scored 12 times in 46 League One games at the ABAX before breaking his leg in the Summer of 2016, a move to Lincoln City at the back-end of last season was his way back into football and six goals in 13 prompted Mansfield to come calling.

It remains to be seen whether this mix is enough to win them the league, but as it stands they're the side to beat.

Image result for Lee Angol
Image result for Lee Angol

According to the bookies, their closest challengers are last season's beaten Play-Off semi-finalists Luton Town (8/1).

Despite losing Cameron McGeehan and Jack Marriott to Barnsley and Peterborough respectively, Nathan Jones should still be confident of achieving this season. The Hatters already had the league's 3rd top scorer in Danny Hylton last season, but have added 5th top scorer James Collins from Crawley. The duo bagged 42 between them in the league last year and definitely look likely to be dangerous again this upcoming season.

The shrewd additions of Jones's former Yeovil Town team-mate Marek Stech and former-Reading defender Jack Stacey, who scored the winner for Exeter in last year's Play-Off semi-final, look like they have the potential to help Luton do what they couldn't last season.

Three new additions to the league in Coventry, Lincoln (both 12/1) and Swindon (14/1) make up the five favourites for the league.

The Sky Blues spent most of last season rock-bottom of League One but saw an upturn in form towards the end of last season, winning four of their last eight games and dragging themselves away from the foot of the league.

This was largely thanks to the arrival of Mark Robins in March and now given a full summer to build his own squad. He's got the club at his heart and now re-joined by captain Michael Doyle following his promotion with Portsmouth last season, the duo have potential to drag Coventry back into the higher leagues.

Lincoln won the National League at a canter last season and the additions of the likes of Michael Bostwick and Billy Knott should be enough to see them comfortable enough to retain their position in the Football League but might not be enough to take them up a division.

Image result for Lincoln City FC
Image result for Lincoln City FC

Swindon are a similar case in that they may not have enough to take them up this season either. The additions of Donal McDermott from Rochdale and Olly Lancashire from Shrewsbury should be enough to ensure they don't make it back-to-back relegations. David Flitcroft is ambitious and will push his players hard to at least make the play-offs, though he never struck me as consistent enough at Bury - where he was sacked following a run of 11 winless games in League One.

It seems that it could be now-or-never for Carlisle (20/1), whilst beaten Play-Off Finalists Exeter (17/1), Kevin Nolan's Notts County (22/1) and Cambridge United (20/1) will all be looking to end prolonged stays in the basement division.

For the Cumbrians, 20/1 on a side that made the Play-Offs last season (and only cruelly missed out on the final due to a last minute winner) might look a little steep at first glance, but their form in the second half of the season was nothing compared to the blistering pace with which they started their campaign - going unbeaten in the league until mid-November. This seemed to be largely down to the loss of 14-goal striker Charlie Wyke to Bradford in January.

Carlisle earned just 22/54 points available following his departure, including a seven game winless run, compared to 49/84 before that. They've also lost the services of Jabo Ibehre over the summer, who chipped in with seven last season. They don't look to have completely replaced Wyke or Ibehre, though Richie Bennett from Barrow could go some way to filling that 21-goal gap - having scored 15 in the National League last season.

Image result for Keith Curle
Image result for Keith Curle

The side that beat Carlisle to the final, Exeter, are likely to be hit hard by the loss of Ollie Watkins to Brentford. The 21-year old, that's been at St. James Park since 2004, was snapped up for well over £1.75 million by the Bees following his impressive performances last season.

They've replaced him with Ryan Brunt of Plymouth, who missed all of last season with a serious knee injury but scored nine times in 34 games the season before. The former Stoke City man knows the league well, having played for Bristol Rovers, York City, Stevenage and the Pilgrims since 2012. He hit five in 18 games for Rovers in his first year there but hasn't really made his presence felt anywhere else, whilst it's also a worry whether he ever fully recovers from his injury.

County and Cambridge looked like finishing their seasons at opposite ends of the table last season, before both eventually settled for mid-table mediocrity. There's enough to suggest both sides could be strong enough this season to mount serious play-off challenges.

Under 39-year-old Shaun Derry, Cambridge only finished four points off of 7th and it could have been a different story had they not lost three of their final five fixtures, whilst a winless first eight games will also have cost them. Retaining the services of goalscoring midfielder Luke Berry will be crucial for the U's success next season, though they have bolstered their attack with the addition of journeyman striker Ibehre from Carlisle.

Another young manager at 35, Kevin Nolan took on his second managerial role with Notts County towards the back-end of last season and with stable ownership at Meadow Lane will look to kick on and mount a promotion push. They won 10 of their 21 games under Nolan last season, compared to six of their 25 under John Sheridan. That form took them from 23rd in the league to a comfortable 16th, eventually avoiding relegation by 10 points. There's potential in his squad and a return to League One might just be on the cards for The Magpies.

Image result for kevin nolan notts county
Image result for kevin nolan notts county

Two others that may be looking to the play-off spots are Gareth Ainsworth's Wycombe Wanderers (30/1) and Football League new boys Forest Green Rovers (33/1).

Having lost Aaron Pierre already this summer it looks a tough ask for Wanderers, though Adam El-Abd and Nathan Tyson look like they have potential to be very shrewd additions indeed.

The success of Forest Green will rely heavily on whether or not they can retain their captain, Liam Noble, whilst striker Christian Doidge will need to make the step up and prove he can cut it at this level. Reece Brown (Birmingham) and Scott Laird (Scunthorpe) could prove to be great acquisitions, though the loss of Ethan Pinnock to Barnsley will be a tough one to take.

At the other end of the table, Morecambe (9/4) are clear favourites for relegation out of the Football League's back door - whilst the bookies make it any one from three with Crawley (4/1), Yeovil (9/2) and Newport County (7/2) looking most likely to join them, with Cheltenham Town a little further out at 7/1 to return to the National League.

Morecambe have finally managed to put their off-field struggles behind them, though the bookies don't look like giving them any leeway in the markets. Jim Bentley did a fabulous job to steer The Shrimps to safety last season, but the departures of Ryan Edwards and Paul Mullin from the Globe Arena will make it difficult for Bentley to ensure they make it twelve consecutive seasons in League Two.

Image result for Jim Bentley
Image result for Jim Bentley

Newport County seem to be told they're at risk of going down every single year, and they genuinely are again, but it's the same old story there and not really worth delving in to.

Yeovil, who have arguably the best Social Media department in League Two, will be reliant on the goals of 19-year-old Southampton-loanee Olufela Olomola and 33-year-old François Zoko keeping them alive. Darren Wray will be desperate to get the best out of this potentially dangerous duo and looks to have signed well over the summer - with the arrivals of Rhys Browne and Jake Gray from Grimsby and Luton respectively and the acquisition of Alefe Santos, Connor Smith and James Bailey after they were released.

I'm worried for Gary Johnson's threadbare squad at Cheltenham and they strike me as a side that may succumb to the drop. The Robins have also lost Billy Waters - who was involved in 19 of their 49 goals last season - and even then his presence could only drive them to 21st. The signing of Kevin Dawson from relegation rivals Yeovil could be really important, whilst adding Jordon Foster to their weak defence could be crucial.

Johnson may just have enough experience to keep them up one more time, but someone that has next to none is Crawley manager Harry Kewell.

In what could be a real baptism of fire for the Australian, whose coaching experience consists of (and is limited to) a short stint with Watford U23s last year. The Reds ended up just five points above the relegation zone last season, finishing the campaign with just one victory in their final 14 games. Their away form proved to be their downfall last season, winning just five of their 23 games away from the Broadfield Stadium.

Their biggest problem though, is the loss of 20-goal striker James Collins to Luton Town over the summer. He almost trebled the output of their 2nd top scorer and replacing him will be key to their survival hopes. Kewell has turned to Eerste Divisie duo Moussa Sanoh (RKC Waalwijk) and Thomas Verheydt (MVV Maastricht) to help provide a solution, with the duo scoring a combined 16 times for their clubs last season.

(via Ben Mayhew)


Luton Town to be Promoted - 13/8

Retaining Danny Hylton and adding James Collins to their already impressive squad should be enough to see Luton occupying one of the three spots at the top of the league. If they can find an adequate replacement for Jack Marriott, I see no reason why Luton can't win the league.

Crawley Town to be Relegated - 4/1

On a similar note to above, the loss of James Collins looks like it could hit the inexperienced Kewell hard in his first full season of management. Keeping Crawley up is a mammoth task and I'm not sure he's up to it just yet.

James Collins to be Top Scorer - 9/1

Scoring 20 goals in a side that struggled to create chances is no mean feat. Only Hartlepool took less shots per game than Crawley last season, and it was only Collins' decisiveness in front of goal that saw those converted into points.

Image result for James Collins Luton
Image result for James Collins Luton

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