Who will be the top goalscorer in League 2?

Finishing top scorer in any division would be a very good achievement and for the players in League 2 their goals could get their team promoted.

It is always difficult to predict who is going to finish top scorer because it is impossible to predict what injuries will occur and whether players will be able to maintain their form for a whole season but it can always be fun to try and choose.

The first player that caught my eye is the Portsmouth striker David Connolly because he has a lot of experience and knows where the back of the net is. I think Portsmouth will be the team to beat in League 2 and he will get a lot of chances to score so as long as he manages to be first choice then he will definitely be a contender. Seven goals in 17 games was not a bad return for the 36 year old in the league above so he should be confident this season.
David Connolly
Fellow Portsmouth striker Tom Craddock may also be in the running for exactly the same reasons. Portsmouth are expected to challenge and this is because they have a talented strike force and will cause everyone in the division problems. At Oxford United he had a pretty good record although not as prolific as he would have liked he still showed his potential and 10 in 32 league games last year is not a bad return but I am expecting a lot better this season.
Tom Craddock
Deon Burton is another experienced striker that knows where the back of the net is and he will probably feel a little disappointed that he is not playing in League 1 next season because he helped Gillingham to promotion by scoring 11 times in 37 games. Burton has nearly 150 career goals and I am certain he will surpass that mark comfortably next season as he has had success before under manager Brian Laws.
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Chesterfield’s new signing Eoin Doyle will be hoping to make a positive impression in England after signing from Hibernian in the summer. I haven’t actually seen Doyle play that much but he did reach double figures in the SPL last season in a team that struggled for long periods so he obviously can be a threat to League 2 defences. His time at Sligo Rovers was successful and if he can get close to his tally of 25 in his last season at the club then he will be near the top of the scoring charts.
Eoin Doyle
My final choice is yet another older professional but I just think experience could be more vital than ever in the Football League this season. Jamie Cureton is a goal scorer and has proved it time and time again throughout his career and had another phenomenal season last year with Exeter City and I think he will do even better at Cheltenham Town with them being one of the most consistent teams in the division. They will be a good shout for the playoffs and if Cureton is on form then they could even finish in the top three this year.
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I think Jamie Cureton will finish as top scorer this year with Tom Craddock not too far behind.

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Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be very exciting this year and it is one of the toughest to call.

Burton Albion, Cheltenham Town, Northampton Town and Bradford City are all hoping to get through the semi finals and win the playoff final so they can be competing in League 1 next season. They will be hoping to join Gillingham, Rotherham United and Port Vale in getting promotion this year and now I will look at each team and give my verdict on who I think will go up. Each team could easily win it so it is quite difficult to choose.

Fourth place Burton Albion should be confident going into the playoffs as they were the closest to getting automatic promotion and have just beaten Gillingham 3-2. However, in recent weeks they did also lose 7-1 to Port Vale. I am surprised that they are actually in the playoffs because I expected them to struggle this season but they have proved me and many others wrong. One thing that has been impressive is the amount of goals they have scored, particularly at home. Jacques Maghoma has scored 15 league goals this year with Billy Kee and Calvin Zola also scoring double figures this year.

Next are another team that have a fantastic home record but for a completely different reason. Cheltenham may not score as many goals as their rivals but they certainly have a very good defensive record. They also have some good midfielders and I believe they have the ability to play at a much higher level. Marlon Pack is the standout player for me and has already played over 150 games in his club career even though he is only 22. Darren Carter and Jermaine McGlashan will also be key in these playoffs. The club are hoping to go one better than last year when they were beaten in the final.

Northampton Town are probably the most out of form team in the playoffs but that does not mean you can count them out. With a striker like Adebayo Akinfenwa they will also cause problems to any defence even though he is not in the greatest form himself. Getting a victory over Barnet on the final game of the season will also give the team confidence. They have a good manager in Aidy Boothroyd and I would like to see him managing higher up in the English leagues once again.

Bradford City will be hoping they can visit Wembley for the second time this season after getting to the League Cup Final earlier this year. Phil Parkinson has done a fantastic job and to get a promotion would be just a cap off an amazing season for the fans and the players. I do like their attacking players, especially Nahki Wells who has scored 18 goals in 39 league games. But they also have James Hanson who adds more than just goals to the side and he will be vital. I would like to see Bradford go up and get back to where they once were.

I think Bradford will beat Burton Albion and Cheltenham will beat Northampton in the semi finals. So the final will be against two teams that have lost at Wembley in the last year. But, I think this time Cheltenham will come out on top.

Gillingham are promoted to League 1

Gillingham are the first team in England to gain promotion this season and they will now have eyes on the League 2 title.
Gillingham
I expected Gillingham to do well this season, especially with Martin Allen in charge because he is a very good manager in League 2 and has produced many times in the division, particularly in relegation battles with Barnet but he has made the step up. In all competitions he has been in charge of 48 games, winning 25 of them and only losing 10 which is a fantastic record and I believe he should be managing at a higher level anyway.

But onto the team and what has been successful this year is the strike force because even though they haven’t exactly put much pressure on the top scorers in the division they have been very consistent. Danny Kedwell has got 13 league goals in 36 games and Deon Burton has 11 in 38 therefore they have caused defences problems and have each popped up with important goals and whenever the score has been 0-0 you would always expect either of them to produce something. The only problem with Burton is the fact that he is 36 and the big question is whether he will be good enough to compete in League 1, however his experience could be vital.
Deon Burton
Winger Myles Weston is another that has contributed goals to the team and sometimes these goals from wide players are actually more important for the strikers because you expect the wingers to cause problems and if they can add goals then they are worth their weight in gold. 7 goals in 35 games is quite an impressive return. Another player that has got 7 goals from midfield is Chris Whelpdale and since he has joined the club permanently, he is another player that has consistently found the net with 19 goals in 78 league games. Both of these players will be very important in League 1 and if they are to succeed they certainly need to keep up their goal scoring form.

In goal they have Stuart Nelson who I actually rate quite highly and have liked him since his days at Brentford. Unfortunately his career has quite blossomed as well as some hoped but now it seems like he is getting it back on track under Martin Allen. But a defender that has impressed a lot this season is Matt Fish, the 24 year old right back has been very consistent defensively and has also grabbed two goals this season. Defensively I think they are a little light and will need to bring in some more experience but they have only conceded 33 goals in their 43 games so they all know what each other are doing and have been solid all year.
Matt Fish
Do I think they will succeed in League 1? I think they will but only if they improve their home form because even though it does look quite good if they had a similar record to their away form they would have ran away with the league more than they have. They have only lost one game away from home and concede just 14 which is impressive in any division.

August Players and Managers of the month

The first awards of the seasons have been announced and they are the player and manager of the month awards in the Football League.

First, let’s look at League 2 and the winner of the manager of the month award went to Martin Allen who has had a fantastic start to life as manager of Gillingham. The club are sitting top of the table after five games with 13 points and if they can continue this sort of form they will comfortably win promotion back to League 1 although it is early days yet and anything could happen. Allen finished the last season very well keeping Barnet in the Football League so it is no surprise at a club with a bigger budget he is surpassing expectations slightly. Player of the month for League 2 has went to Oxford United captain Jake Wright and the defender has been in impressive form so far this year helping Oxford start the season very well winning their first three games and only conceding one goal. Unfortunately for them their form has dipped slightly but I believe they will be in the promotion shake up come the end of the season.

In League 1 the awards went to a player and the manager of Tranmere Rovers as they also started the season very quickly and have surprised a lot of teams already. Ronnie Moore is in his third spell at the club as manager and are still unbeaten in League 1. They have already scored 11 goals and only conceded 2 so their goal difference is already very healthy (some of these have came in September but it is still worth noting). They were seen as outsiders for the playoffs this year because they don’t have as big a budget as some teams but that hasn’t stopped them so far and they may be a shoe in for the playoffs if not more. Andy Robinson won the player of the month award after scoring a hatrick against Carlisle United. The 32 year old has been named in the team of the year in League 1 twice before so he is no stranger to the division and will need to continue to be as influential in the coming months if they want to get out the league.

The Championship awards followed the same pattern as the league before as both the awards went to player and manager of the same club. Blackpool were the beneficiaries of the awards and Ian Holloway is looking to guide his team back to the Premier League. He is still doing a magnificent job in my opinion as they had no right to get promoted in the first place and after losing so many players has still managed to challenge at the very top of the league. Holloway is an entertaining man on the sidelines and his team are very attacking on the pitch so they are a perfect combination and he seems to get the best out of every player. One of these is Thomas Ince who was linked with moves away in the summer and it is no surprise after his performances in August. In the first three games the young winger scored four goals and got four assists so there doesn’t need to be any explanation why he won it really.

Who will be relegated from the Championship?

A lot of big teams have been relegated from the Championship over the years including Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Southampton so nobody is safe really and anything could happen. Last year we saw Coventry City, Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers were unable to stay up so who will it be this year?

Barnsley struggled in the second half of last season especially after the departure of Ricardo Vaz Te who was their talisman and top scorer so it is easy to see why they are one of the favourites for the drop. Losing Jacob Butterfield will also be a blow and they will need their experienced players to perform well if they are to stay up. One of their main signings of the summer Mido has also been injured and he is unpredictable anyway so they may to rely on the goals from Marlon Harewood and Craig Davies to keep them up.

Peterborough United did ok last year and manager Darren Ferguson will want them to push on however I see this as a season of struggle for them. They did ease past Southend United in the Capital One Cup beating them 4-0 so that will give them confidence but I think they may have took a little risk this year especially in the goalkeeping department as they have signed Robert Olejnik who was one of the best keepers in League 2 last year but he may struggle to step up and with their defence also not being the best it could be their downfall this year.

Another team that struggled for large periods of the season were Bristol City and they were defeated by Gillingham in the Capital One Cup so optimism can’t be high among supporters at the minute. They also lost one of their main strikers when Nicky Maynard decided to leave which leaves them with only three out and out strikers in Jon Stead, Brett Pitman and Ryan Taylor and none of these have ever been considered prolific. They do however have strength on the wings in Paul Anderson and Albert Adomah so if they can get these playing to the best of their ability then they do have a good chance of staying up.

Dougie Freedman in my opinion overachieved at Crystal Palace last year and I think it will be very difficult for them to achieve what they did last season and finish as high up the table and 21st place could be seen as an achievement this year. They have so far kept hold of Wilfried Zaha but I do expect a few teams to be interested in him before the end of the transfer window. He is key to them and I hope he doesn’t feel the weight of the expectation on his young shoulders and have a bad season.

Nigel Clough must be tearing his hair out at the moment after witnessing his team throw away a 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 lead and still failing to beat Scunthorpe United in the Capital One Cup and eventually going out on penalties. I always thought they would struggle and I know it is only the cup but there is clearly something wrong at the back or at least in the confidence and concentration of their players. I doubt they will score five past many Championship teams but I do think they could ship five past quite a lot of them.

Who will be Gillingham’s next manager?

Andy Hessenthaler has agreed to join the board of directors after stepping down from his post as manager of Gillingham.

Gillingham picked up 70 points from their 46 games

One of his first tasks will be to find a manager to lead the club back into League 1 which he unfortunately failed to do. They only finished one place and two points off the playoffs but this was deemed a failure because the club were expecting to get promoted this season. But if they can keep hold of most of their players they do have a squad good enough to achieve their ambitions in particular I think if Danny Kedwell stays then he can score a lot of goals and win them a lot of games.

So choosing a new manager with similar ambitions is vital and the favourite for the job is Martin Allen who will get the respect of the players and is arguably too good to be a manager in League 2 anyway but that is where he finds himself as he is currently the manager of Barnet where he is in is third spell. He kept them up this season with an impressive two wins out of three and as his past shows he doesn’t mind leaving clubs, especially Barnet, after only a few games. In his second spell as manager he was only in charge for three games. In my opinion he would be a good choice as all through his career he has won a lot of games and makes his teams difficult to beat. However, a word of caution would be that if a better opportunity comes up he will leave, no matter what position his club are in.

The man who Allen replaced at Barnet is also linked with the role. Lawrie Sanchez, the former Northern Ireland manager has had an interesting managerial career and I think he believes he is a lot better than what he actually is. Yes he did well with Northern Ireland and achieved a lot when there were such low expectations on the team but looking at the rest of his career, he has been average at best. At Fulham, he only won four of his 24 games in charge. At Barnet he probably was going to keep them up anyway and was harshly sacked by the board but they struggled all season and you can defend him and maybe say he didn’t have the players or the funds but only winning 15 of his games out of 53 is not good enough. So why should he get given the job of a team that is going for promotion?

Finally, Paul Ince should be in with a shout for the job because even though his career got damaged slightly by his time at Blackburn Rovers, he has achieved some good things in the lower leagues and maybe tried to go to the Premier League too quickly. He saved Macclesfield Town from relegation after they looked dead and buried winning 14 of his 35 games in charge. It was a remarkable effort and shows that he can do a good job in League 2. Add this to the fact that he won League 2 with MK Dons and I think Ince deserves another shot at League 2 and could bring glory to Gillingham. After Blackburn, his second spell at MK Dons and Notts County were solid but not very spectacular and he was doing a good job for both in my opinion.

I would like to see Paul Ince get the job and hopefully get Gillingham promoted because the club deserve to be in a higher division and he deserves to manage at a higher division so it could be a match made in heaven.

Coventry City are relegated to League 1

Coventry City have been relegated to League 1 after being beaten by already relegated Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City’s 2-0 win over Barnsley.

Coventry have only picked up 40 points this season

So what went wrong at Coventry this season was it the fact that they have an inexperienced manager in charge or was it simply that they have struggled with financial problems and relegation was inevitable this year? It is obvious that they were going to struggle especially when they haven’t got a player that has got into double figures this season, their current top scorer being Gary McSheffrey only getting nine goals. However if Lukas Jutkiewicz had stayed then they may have had a better chance to stay up but it was obvious that the club couldn’t afford to keep him for the rest of the season and in fairness did accept a good offer from Middlesbrough for the player. The 23 year old had scored nine goals in 25 games this season and this is quite an impressive record for a team that have been at the bottom of the table all season.

Looking to the future though, if they keep most of the squad together do they have enough quality to return to the Championship at the first time of asking? First of all should they keep Andy Thorn in charge next season? His win record at Coventry is awful and he has only won 12 of his 55 games in charge, so in my opinion Coventry should probably get in someone else with a bit more experience if they are really wanting to challenge for promotion. Maybe he has been unfairly criticised as off field problems have forced his hand into playing youngsters and he has had to sell experienced players.

Now is the team good enough? In goal they have Joe Murphy who is very experienced and has got two international caps to his name so he must have some ability. At Scunthorpe United he was very good and helped them to promotions which will obviously help the younger players in the team next year. In defence they do have some talented players, Richard Wood is one that has suffered with injuries throughout the season and he has been a big miss because he was very highly rated at Sheffield Wednesday and looked like he was going to play at the highest level. Jordan Clarke is only 20 but has nearly played 50 games for Coventry already and will now be needed more than ever and he will have to deal with this kind of pressure next year. Nathan Cameron is very similar but the one they have to hold onto is most certainly is Cyrus Christie who has played nearly every game this season and has not looked too fazed, although he has made mistakes which are expected he has dealt with most things pretty well.

The midfield does have some quality in there but maybe they haven’t shown it enough this year. Sammy Clingan is another player with international experience and does have a very good passing range to his game. The problem has been that they have some good passers in their midfield but not enough goals from there, David Bell is another intelligent footballer and is good enough for the Championship but hasn’t scored, Gary Deegan is again another decent footballer but only has three goals.

Gary McSheffrey can play left wing or upfront and he is easily the most talented player in the squad and you can tell that he wanted to get the club out of the position that they are in. Even upfront they do not have a lot of firepower, Clive Platt can be effective but he will not really get the goals needed, a return of four goals just isn’t sufficient enough and he will be hoping for more success next season. Cody McDonald signed for the club after hitting 25 league goals for Gillingham but that was in League 2 and he hasn’t quite stepped up to Championship level with only four goals but he is only 25 so his time at that level may come again.

It is disappointing to see a club like Coventry City in League 1 especially when they were in the top division for a long time but times have changed and the team hasn’t really looked like returning there anyway. The fans need to stick with the club as they need as much help as they can get and they have a fantastic stadium so I hope they do make a return to the Championship as soon as possible.