Part two of the pre-season preview features League One’s Houdini club, two outsiders for promotion and three sides who might have to be content with mid table. Can you guess which teams fall into which categories?
The prices mentioned were the best prices for each team in each scenario on 1st July 2015 and were taken from the Oddschecker website. They may not be available now and will fluctuate throughout the season.
Fourth consecutive season in League One
Manager: Steve Davis
Last ten games: 2-4-4
Relegation: 11/8 second favourites
The annual Great Escape was even more baffling than last season: how do you lose almost half of your games and still stay up? The answer was a burst of short term form that included just two defeats in their last eight matches, which meant that Notts County and Leyton Orient (who both lost fewer games) were relegated. The big worry is the lack of goals: only Yeovil netted fewer times and the Alex failed to find the back of the net in just over a third of their games, including two separate three game streaks without a goal. The last time they finished 20th at this level (2007-2008) they were relegated at the end of the following season. They’ll always try to play a decent standard of football and that’s enough to win over most neutrals, if not actually the three points available.
Second consecutive season in League One
Manager: Paul Dickov
Last ten games: 3-2-5
Just like so many clubs last year, Rovers experienced an up and down season – which seems fitting as over the last three seasons they’ve been yoyoing between the Championship and League One. At the end of October Donny were flirting with relegation but by March they were challenging for the playoffs and only a very indifferent run of form put the brakes on a return to the Championship. Patchy home form at the Keepmoat needs to improve to the level of their away form in 2014/15 if they’re even going to make a genuine run at the playoffs: they only beat the sides that finished above them twice at home but three times on the road. If Dickov can iron out the inconsistencies then Donny could go up, otherwise another unremarkable season is on the cards.
Second consecutive season in League One
Manager: Graham Alexander
Last ten games: 3-3-4
The club’s highest ever league finish was due to a very good defensive display as only three promoted clubs conceded fewer goals than Town. A bright start was deceptive (two of their three wins at the start of the season were against teams that will be playing in League Two this season) and although they fall back into the chasing pack, for the most part Fleetwood stayed in the top half of the table and look suspiciously like one of those sides that could have a real go at promotion in 2015/16 if no clear cut contenders emerge by the autumn. Like Chesterfield, the bookies are unsure what to make of them but one of the reasons they’ve got this far is a superb record in their second seasons at new levels.
Third consecutive season in League One
Manager: Justin Edinburgh
Last ten games: 4-3-3
The most improved side from New Years Day onwards were particularly impressive at home against the other teams in the bottom half of the table but also managed to avoid defeat to four teams that finished in the top ten. Paul Scally’s rather hit and miss strategy in managerial appointments can be a haphazard one but recruiting Justin Edinburgh from Newport in February is beginning to look like a hit. Now that some of the more prolific strikers at other clubs have departed for the Championship, they could have the division’s top scorer in Cody McDonald. My official ‘dark horse’ pick for promotion this season.
Relegated from League One
Manager: Neil Harris
Last ten games: 2-4-4 (in the Championship)
Promotion: 7/2 third favourites
Back in the third tier after five seasons, but it’s been 40 years since the Lions were promoted immediately after relegation and I would expect that record to continue. Millwall were awful last season and despite the optimism coming from Bermondsey, it’ll take at least a season to finish the rebuilding job at the New Den. Neil Harris was an intriguing – if rather obvious – choice to replace Ian Holloway, but although the ‘club legend returns as manager’ scenario usually ends badly, it might not turn out that way for Harris in the medium to long term but he may need to accept that bouncing straight back from relegation is unlikely in 2015/16.
Twelfth consecutive season in League One
Manager: Darren Kelly
Last ten games: 2-5-3
Yet another one of those sides that weren’t consistent enough to be playoff contenders or weren’t bad enough to be relegated last season. 2014/15 petered out disappointingly over the last quarter of the campaign, which seemed to be related to the departure of Lee Johnson to Barnsley: the Latics were in the playoff positions in mid February but six defeats in their next seven finished that dream off. Haven’t finished in the top half of the table since 2008/09 and haven’t been in the playoffs for eight years. To be honest there wasn’t much last season to indicate that 2015/16 will be any different but Oldham weren’t that bad against the teams that finished immediately above them and that price for relegation looks rather harsh.