Big League Two Preview – The Also Rans

After part one of Jacob Daniel’s Big League Two Season Preview looked at who he expects to be battling relegation, we work our way up the table to assess the sides he expects to be destined for mid-table.

Cambridge United

Manager – Joe Dunne
Best signing – George Taft
Biggest strength – Continuity
Biggest weakness – Continuing with what wasn’t working

Cambridge have made the fewest signings of any League Two side, presumably having been hamstrung by the fairly lavish spending that Shaun Derry has been allowed over the last couple of years. Derry has moved on, having offered no real return on that investment, but promoting his assistant probably wasn’t the clean break that they needed. With one of their three signings, George Taft, already having been at The Abbey on loan, it’s hard to see past more of the same for Cambridge, which means that they’ll be utterly forgettable.

Crawley Town

Manager – Harry Kewell
Best signing – Filipe Morais
Biggest strength – Held onto their impressive young manager
Biggest weakness – A lack of goals

It’s only really the realities of mathematics that have led Crawley Town to this section – I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were an outside bet for a top seven finish. We’ve given them money to play with having signed Enzio Boldewijn, and they’ve spent it pretty well, particularly on Romain Vincelot and Filipe Morais. Ollie Palmer is also a decent option to have as a target man, which may provide a decent plan b to the passing style that Harry Kewell tried to use last season. Like a few teams in this mid-table region, it may be the lack of a regular goalscorer that lets them down – a lot of pressure is on Dominic Poleon to fulfil some of his potential having dropped down the leagues.

Crewe Alexandra

Manager – Dave Artell
Best signing – Shaun Miller
Biggest strength – Kept hold of their best young players
Biggest weakness – Dave Artell

I thought that Crewe were going to do well last season – Dave Artell had led them to safety in a similar way to Kevin Nolan at Notts, whilst they made a few decent signings. It didn’t really work out, with a plodding mid-table finish. Artell has kept his job, as Crewe managers always do, but it’s hard to have much faith in him getting them any closer to the top seven this season. Keeping Callum Ainley and James Jones is a big plus, and on paper Chris Porter, Jordan Bowery and Shaun Miller is a decent trio of strikers for them to be supplying. It’s at the other end of the pitch where they may have more issues.

Newport County

Manager – Mike Flynn
Best signing – Jamille Matt
Biggest strength – Mike Flynn
Biggest weakness – A very small squad

It was probably a lack of depth that saw Newport’s fine start tail off last season, and I could see something similar happen again. Mike Flynn has done a fine job, but it’s hard to see that he has the resources to achieve much more than treading water in this league. Jamille Matt is just the kind of player that he could revitalise, however, in much the same way that Frank Nouble was last season. That he has since moved on to Colchester pretty much sums up the problems that Newport and Flynn are always going to have.

Forest Green Rovers

Manager – Mark Cooper
Best signing – George Williams
Biggest strength – Another summer of good signings
Biggest weakness – They’re not very scary

Forest Green have added a star to their shirts in honour of their Conference play-off win over Tranmere. That, in itself, is funny – it’s even funnier that there are two greyed out ones on there to symbolise their upcoming romp to the Championship. Dale Vince really doesn’t help himself sometimes. On the pitch, Rovers look to have improved slightly, with Carl Winchester a great signing from local rivals Cheltenham, and George Williams a player who has the potential to light (solar powered, obviously) up this league. Is Mark Cooper flexible enough, with the man management skills on top, to lead a team to promotion in the Football League, though? I would guess that he probably isn’t.

Exeter City

Manager – Matt Taylor
Best signing – Nicky Law
Biggest strength – Stockley is still there
Biggest weakness – Upheaval rarely leads to instant success

Be careful what you wish for. I don’t know who originally said that, but it seems relevant to Exeter. From the outside, it seemed difficult to see what more Paul Tisdale could do, having turned a traditionally small team into perennial challengers, playing an attractive brand of football and making a fortune from developing players. Whilst the decision to go to Tisdale was ostensibly his own, there’s no doubt that a section of fans at Exeter were pretty happy with it. Promoting Matt Taylor from within may give some degree of continuity, but it is also a significant risk. They’ve backed him by resisting any interest in Jayden Stockley, whilst Jonathan Forte, Nicky Law and Lee Martin are all much more experienced than the players Exeter usually sign, but I can see them slipping back after two successive play-off defeats.

Look out for the next part of the Big League Two Preview as we count down to Notts County’s opening day encounter with Colchester. 

Jacob Daniel

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