Who will win League 2?

Promotion from League 2 can be difficult as it is one of the more unpredictable leagues and the fact that a lot of teams that are promoted from the Blue Square Premier do really well makes it even more difficult but there are three spots automatically.

The teams that are relegated into League 2 are sometimes inconsistent too and can sometimes become a mid table team and not really make an impact. Experience is vital in this division and the way to win it is by signing players that know what it takes to win matches the hard way.

Rotherham United under former Crawley manager Steve Evans will be the favourites because of the persona of the manager who will do everything for his team to secure the title and obviously knows how to build a squad with his former club getting promoted. They have made some good signings in Ian Sharps who has returned to club and Daniel Nardiello who has at times in his career looked like the player that was good enough to play for Manchester United’s youth team.

Fleetwood Town will be looking to follow in Crawley Town’s footprints by getting two promotions in a row and even though they may be one of the favourites their team may be happy with just challenging for a place in the playoffs seen as though it is their first year in League 2. They have also lots Jamie Vardy who was prolific so they definitely need to find goals from elsewhere.

Chesterfield Town have been relegated back to League 2 and they will be hoping to return to League 1 at the first time of asking but they know this won’t be easy and they will be hoping that young striker Jordan Bowery continues his development and adds to his impressive 12 goals last season. Also they have two very good goalkeepers in Tommy Lee and Richard O’Donnell so if their defence remains tight I think they will get the most clean sheets.

Bristol Rovers didn’t quite perform as well as they would have hoped last season but this year they will be looking to push on and win the league. The loss of Carayol could be massive as he provided a lot to their team and was a constant threat to the opposition but manager Mark McGhee probably made the right decision to let him leave. Matt Harrold, Eliot Richards and Joe Anyinsah will need to play to at least the same level as last year especially Harrold who got 18 goals.

Oxford United should also be considered to be in the mix as they have a very hardworking team and they all seem to want to play for each other which is a very big thing in this division. They may not have that many standout players but they are a good team that have ability and with James Constable and Tom Craddock upfront I expect them to take a lot of their chances this season.

I think it is hard to look past Rotherham United but who knows maybe they won’t quite gel under Steve Evans and not agree with his methods, I can’t see this being the case but if it is then Chesterfield are the team to watch for me.

 

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Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be contested by Southend United, Torquay United, Cheltenham Town and Crew Alexandra with all four teams hoping to end the season on a high.

Southend and Torquay narrowly missed out on the automatic promotion spots and this could have damaged morale within the squad as Crawley Town took the final spot but I am sure they would have already put that behind them and will be hoping for a chance to play in League 1 next season. Cheltenham Town were out of the automatic promotion race and were safely in the playoffs so they have had a lot of time to prepare for these games coming up and Crewe had to secure their place on the final day.

Southend under Paul Sturrock have been magnificent this season and their form towards the end of the season has been sensational with the amount of clean sheets they are keeping, which could be vital in these playoffs. If they keep three clean sheets they are guaranteed promotion in my eyes because they do have goals and enough experience to get them through. The key player for me has got to be Freddy Eastwood who has recently rejoined the club and has the ability to play at a higher level. Although it didn’t quite work out for him at Wolves or Coventry City, I think he has enough to cause teams problems in the playoffs and could just snatch a very important goal.

Torquay lost their last game of the season against Hereford United to end any hopes of finishing in the top three. But, they shouldn’t let this result affect them as they have had a good season under Martin Ling and he will have them well organised for the playoffs, with each individual player knowing exactly what they need to do. Their form going into the playoffs has not been great and there has been worries of fatigue in the squad but there is a big prize at the end of it so I am sure the players will be up for the challenge. Eunan O’Kane is a key player for me as the 21 year old has been playing magnificently all season and looks like a seasoned pro rather than just a youngster. He has remarkably already played 120 games for the club, adding another 49 to that tally this season and has been linked with a move away.

Cheltenham Town have surprised me this season as I did not expect them to be this high up the table but fair play to them as they deserve it and manager Mark Yates also deserves a lot of praise for what he has done at the club. Their win in the final league game of the season against Plymouth Argyle will have given the fans a little bit of optimism going into the playoffs as they had to work hard for their victory and it won’t be easy to get through to the final. Marlon Pack is someone who I think could be very influential in the possible three games as he is very good on the ball and for someone so young he looks like he could play at a much higher level than League 2. He has scored six times in his 50 games this season and could easily be the one that makes the difference.

Crewe just secured their place in the playoffs on the final day and will be hoping that their players will take confidence from that and use it to their advantage. They have a lot of young talent in their side and this could work out well for them as they will go out onto the pitch with no fear, however, they may not be used to playing in games that are so important and may freeze under the pressure. I don’t think manager Steve Davis will allow that to happen and will make sure they are focused on their football rather than the occasion. It is difficult to choose a key player for Crewe because they have so much talent in their squad but it will be a tough test for them and their inexperience may work against them but Nick Powell is a sensational footballer and will one day I am sure play in the Premier League and if he progresses the way he has so far, then he will surely be an international footballer too.

I think this is the hardest of the playoffs to call as each team has a good chance of winning it but I think Crewe will beat Southend just because Southend may not have got over the disappointment of not getting automatic promotion and if they concede the first goal their heads may drop. The other semi final I just think that Cheltenham will win as Torquay have had problems with fatigue and it seems like the stress will get to them the most. The final will be very interesting but I think Crewe may just take it although I do imagine all the games to be very close and only won by the odd goal.

Can Wolves bounce straight back to the Premier League?

Wolves will be playing in the Championship next season but at least away to Swansea they gave their fans something to shout about.

When they were 4-1 down they must have thought could this season get any worse but the players have done the club proud and managed to salvage a point which seemed very unlikely after the Danny Graham goal. Out of the three goal scorers for Wolves I only expect one of them to be there next season. Steven Fletcher has got 11 goals in the Premier League this season and in a struggling side that is enough to convince someone to take a chance on him, Fletcher is one of the best in the air and a lot of teams will be interested in the summer and unfortunately for Wolves he will probably be sold quite cheaply. Matt Jarvis scored two of the goals in the game and he is another that should be in the Premier League because he has a lot of ability and can take players on, occasionally though his final delivery can let him down. The other goal scorer on the day was Dave Edwards who has actually had an ok season in my opinion although I don’t think he is that great. He has only managed to get three goals this season and maybe he should have contributed more.

But now it is time to look into the future and the team seem pretty set to challenge for promotion next year because they have a lot of players that are very good in the Championship but have been unable to show their talents in the Premier League. In goal they will have Dorus De Vries who proved at Swansea that he is very good and kept a lot of clean sheets when he was at the club, he will probably be first choice as Wayne Hennessey is injured and could even be sold in the summer. It is in front of the goalkeeper that has been the problem, they have looked awful at times and Roger Johnson is clearly not happy at the club which hasn’t helped his performances and may have even disrupted the dressing room. But Stephen Ward has performed admirably at left back and will continue in that position next season and probably be a lot more effective. In the middle of the back four though they need some changes, Richard Stearman and Christophe Berra are lucky to be Championship defenders never mind first choice in the Premier League with them playing 31 and 33 games each.

At least they have some potential in the midfield with youngster David Davis who has been quite impressive in recent weeks and should be a first team regular next season. In my opinion Jamie O’Hara and Michael Kightly should also stay as they have had injury problems and the club have stuck by them so they should show some loyalty to the club. However, loyalty goes out the window sometimes when it comes to relegation. One player I do think they should get rid of is Karl Henry because he isn’t very good and it isn’t surprising that the team has struggled every year when he is their main midfielder, he is poor on the ball and dives into stupid tackles and picks up needless bookings.

Up front with the expected departure of Steven Fletcher they may struggle especially if Kevin Doyle also gets a move away but he is another that I think should show some loyalty as hasn’t really shown his best during his time at Molineux only scoring 21 goals in 102 games. One positive is that Sylvan Ebanks-Blake can score goals in the Championship and will perform a lot better than he has done in recent seasons. He only has one goal in the Premier League this year but has scored a lot of goals in the division below.

I believe whoever the manager is next year, I think they do need more experience than Terry Connor but he could still do a decent job, needs to bring in a few players especially in key areas such as centre back and centre forward but other than that I expect Wolves to be knocking on the door of the Premier League at this stage next year.