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Jul 27, 2006

League Two preview 2006/7


Coca Cola Football League Season 2006/7
Championship | League 1 | League 2

Accrington Stanley

Last season: 1st (Conference, promoted)
Manager: John Coleman

In: Andy Todd (Burton Albion), Sean Doherty (Port Vale), Julian N'da (Rouen FC).

Out: Steve Jagielka (released), Danny Alcock, Mark Boyd (Southport).

Back in the Football League after a 44-year absence, the team with the most idiosyncratic name in English football ran away with the Conference last year.

Unsurprisingly, then, continuity is the order of the day in a division where promoted sides have often enjoyed success in recent years.

Strikers Gary Roberts and Paul Mullin were regular scorers last season but Ian Craney - with 13 from midfield - was the outstanding performer; much will depend on whether he can be as prolific against superior opposition.

Key man: Ian Craney.


Barnet

Last season: 18th
Manager: Paul Fairclough

In: Lee Harrison (Peterborough), Justin Puncheon (free), Paolo Vernazza (Grimsby).

Out: Simon Clist, Damian Batt, Ben Strevens, Lee Roache, Dwane Lee, Ben Bowditch, Louie Soares, Luke Hickie (all released), Stev Angus (Torquay).

They proved tough to beat, but an inability to win games and a lack of goals dragged Barnet into the relegation battle in their first year back in the Football League.

Joint top scorers Giuliano Grazioli and Nick Bailey managed just seven apiece, though the latter was from midfield, and more will be expected from the strikers, in particular.

The defence, who just conceded 57 goals, should be less of a concern but as only Macclesfield won less on their travels, there is plenty of scope for improvement in Paul Fairclough's side's away form.

Key man: Giuliano Grazioli.


Boston United

Last season: 11th
Manager: Steve Evans

In: Mark Albrighton (Doncaster), Tim Ryan (Peterborough), Francis Green (Lincoln), Anthony Elding (Stevenage), David Farrell (Peterborough), Andy Marriott (Torquay), Paul Tait (Rochdale), Richie Ryan (Scunthorpe) .

Out: Alan White, Austin McCann, Lawrie Dudfield (all Notts County), Steve Melton, Danny Thomas (all released).

York Street was something of a fortress as only two League Two teams won more often at home, but it was a dismal away record that cost Boston a play-off place.

Steve Evans has been typically busy in the summer transfer market, with winger David Farrell and striker Paul Tait bringing experience in the final third, but the addition of three defenders could prove more significant.

Julian Joachim, returning to his home town, led the attack last year but, with Noel Whelan sidelined by off-field problems, he needs more support.

Key man: Paul Tait.


Bristol Rovers

Last season: 12th
Manager: Paul Trollope

In: Sammy Igoe (Millwall), Ryan Green (Hereford), Andy Sandell (Bath), Ollie Barnes (Bristol City), Steve Phillips (Bristol City).

Out: Christian Edwards (retired), Jamie Forrester (Lincoln), Ben Wiltshire, Martin Horsell, Jon Bass, Mark Preece, Matt Thorne (all released).

Despite boasting one of the division's most feared strike partnerships, Bristol Rovers had to settle for a mid-table finish after a slow start last time around.

With Junior Agogo - who scored 16 goals to Richard Walker's 20 - in demand elsewhere, manager Paul Trollope's major task is to either keep or replace the forward.

That, and improved form at the Memorial Stadium, is required if Rovers are to swap mid-table for a promotion push.

Key man: Richard Walker.


Bury

Last season: 19th
Manager: Chris Casper

In: Andy Bishop (York City), Richie Baker (Preston), Alan Fettis (Macclesfield), Marc Goodfellow (Grimsby).

Out: Neil Edwards, Craig Dootson, Jon Newby, Allan Smart, Steve Burke, Russell Hitchen, Vassos Theophanous (all released).

Between them, Graham Barrow and Chris Casper turned to 40 different players last season before the latter, the division's youngest manager, just guided them to safety.

Now he has trimmed the squad down while introducing a few new faces. Goalkeeper Alan Fettis is certainly the most experienced, and perhaps the most judicious, signing.

Matthew Tipton and Tom Youngs, who both struggled to find the net regularly, seem the probable strike partnership, with Marc Goodfellow joining their supply line, and more goals are required. That Bury averaged less than one a game last year was part of their problems.

Key man: Matthew Tipton.


Chester City

Last season: 15th
Manager: Mark Wright

In: Roberto Martinez (Swansea), John Danby (Kidderminster), Glenn Cronin (Exeter), Ashley Westwood (Northampton), Paul Linwood (Tranmere), Simon Marples (Doncaster), Phil Bolland (Peterborough), Dean Bennett (Wrexham), Jon Walters (Wrexham), Kevin Sandwith (Macclesfield), Drewe Broughton (Rushden & Diamonds), Jermaine McSporran (Doncaster), Graham Allen (Rushden & Diamonds), Jamie Hand (Watford).

Out: Ben Davies (Shrewsbury), Paul Tait (Boston), Wayne Brown (Hereford), Carl Regan (Macclesfield), Tom Curtis (Notts County), Chris McKenzie (Shrewsbury), Ryan Brookfield, Luke Dimech, Abdou El Kholti, Stuart Drummond, Scott Harrison, Craig McNiven, Craig Dove, Justin Walker (all released).

He is hardly the prodigal son, but Mark Wright's return revitalised Chester. It proved timely, too, rescuing them from a relegation battle they seemed doomed to lose.

Wright has spent the summer overseeing a major overhaul of his squad with the signings of the uncompromising Drewe Broughton in attack and the combative Jamie Hand in midfield an indication of his approach this season.

The loss of Ben Davies' skill on the flanks and Ryan Lowe's goals might be felt, but Wright's record at Chester is excellent, so talk of demotion should be consigned to the past.

Key man: Ashley Westwood.


Darlington

Last season: 8th
Manager: David Hodgson

In: Gaetano Giallanza (unattached), Patrick Collins (Sheffield Wednesday), Martin Smith (Northampton), Michael Cummins (Port Vale), Barry Conlon (Barnsley).

Out: David McGurk (York), Matt Clarke (Bradford), Ryan Valentine (Wrexham), Joe Kendrick (released), Matty Appleby (released), Adrian Webster (released), Akpo Sodje (Port Vale), Guy Bates (released), Jonjo Dickman (released).

A cast of thousands fell just short of a play-off place, but, with a squad of a more manageable size now, David Hodgson may be looking for more stability.

An audacious bid for Michael Bridges failed so the direct Barry Conlon, returning for a second spell, is the main addition to the forward line.

Micky Cummins provides an injection of experience in a midfield where Shelton Martis impressed last time and, after two near-misses, the top seven must be the target this year.

Key man: Barry Conlon.


Grimsby Town

Last season: 4th
Manager: Graham Rodger

In: Peter Beagrie (Scunthorpe), Gary Harkins (Blackburn), Phil Barnes (Sheffield United), Isaiah Rankin (Brentford).

Out: Marc Goodfellow (Bury), Steve Mildenhall (released), Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala (released), Rob Jones (Hibs undisclosed), John Lukic (released), Glen Downey (released), Jermaine Palmer (released), Thomas Pinault (Brentford), Curtis Woodhouse (retired).

The long-serving Graham Rodger replaces Russell Slade in charge of the play-off finalists, but continuity is not an option for Grimsby.

The competitive Curtis Woodhouse has taken up boxing, while Rob Jones' height and Andy Parkinson's pace will be deployed elsewhere this season.

At least top scorer Michael Reddy remains while John McDermott, Grimsby's right-back since before the fall of the Berlin Wall, is another constant. But despite the signing of Isaiah Rankin to strengthen the forward line and the presence of 40-year-old Peter Beagrie on the left wing, Rodger could struggle to emulate Slade.

Key man: Michael Reddy.


Hartlepool United

Last season: 21st (League One, relegated)
Manager: Danny Wilson

In:

Out: Adam Boyd (Luton, £500,000, Chris Llewellyn (Wrexham), Darren Craddock (York), Neil Wilkinson, Steven Istead, Jack Wilkinson, Hugh Robertson, James Winter, Andy Appleby (all released).

After a brief flirtation with the League One play-offs, Hartlepool are sadly restored to their natural habitat, the basement division.

Danny Wilson, their fourth manager in 15 months, boasts basically the same side who almost won promotion to the Championship, and then slumped into League Two. The exception is Adam Boyd, since by former Pools boss Mike Newell.

A fit Joel Porter, and spending some of the proceeds of Boyd's sale on a goalscorer, would make a difference for a side whose lack of firepower proved costly last time around. With it and with Wilson in charge, they could challenge.

Key man: Adam Boyd.


Hereford United

Last season: 2nd (Conference, promoted)

In: Richard Rose (Gillingham), Jon Wallis (Gillingham), Tim Sills (Oxford), Glyn Thompson (Shrewsbury), Gareth Sheldon (Kidderminster), Wayne Brown (Chester), Phillip Gulliver (Rushden & Diamonds).

Out: Craig Stanley, Adam Stansfield, Daniel Carey-Bertram, Ryan Green, Jamie Pitman, Stacy Coldicott, Tony James, Guy Ipoua (all released).

Graham Turner finally ended his long quest to return league football to Edgar Street in the Conference play-offs.

The veteran manager has preserved the core of the promotion-winning side while adding a sprinkling of league experience.

Much rests on Tamika Mkandawire, their outstanding player last year, but it will take all Turner's nous to prevent a battle for survival.

Key man: Wayne Brown.


Lincoln City

Last season: 7th Head Coach: John Schofield

In: Jamie Forrester (Bristol Rovers), Adie Moses (Crewe), Mark Stallard (Shrewsbury).

Out: Francis Green (Boston), Jamie McCombe (Bristol City), Simon Yeo (Peterborough), Gareth McAuley (Leicester), Marvin Robinson (Macclesfield), Jude Stirling (Peterborough), Steve Robinson, Chris Gordon, Matt Bloomer, Derek Asamoah (all released).

A fourth successive play-off defeat brought an end to an era of over-achievement - without quite yielding promotion - under Keith Alexander.

His successors are the two Johns, Schofield, and Deehan, but the squad is weakened by the departures of strikers Simon Yeo and Francis Green and giant defenders Gareth McAuley and Jamie McCombe.

Time will tell if that means less direct football but, though Mark Stallard has the pedigree to get goals at this level, it is hard to see Lincoln's new management team enjoying the success Alexander did.

Key man: Jeff Hughes.


Macclesfield Town

Last season: 17th
Manager: Brian Horton

In: Jonny Brain (Port Vale), Tommy Lee (Manchester United), Carl Regan (Chester), Marvin Robinson (Lincoln), Colin Heath (Chesterfield), Alan Navarro (Accrington), Matty McNeil (Hyde).

Out: Alan Fettis (Bury), Danny Whitaker (Port Vale), Paul Harsley (Port Vale), Mark Bailey, Kevin Sandwith, Kevin Townson, Michael Briscoe, Neil Morgan, Tim Deasy, Clyde Wijnhard (all released).

The January sale of Jon Parkin - to pay off debts that threatened the club's existence - made Brian Horton's job all the harder.

Without Parkin - plus Danny Whitaker and Clyde Wijnhard, two of their stars of last season - it is hard to see where the goals will come from if Marvin Robinson is not prolific, while low attendances hardly generate the kind of funds to enable Horton to buy replacements.

A midfield including Martin Bullock provides more cause for optimism, but Macclesfield need to improve on a dreadful away record (just two wins last year) and Horton may have to draw on all of his experience to keep them out of trouble.

Key man: Marvin Robinson


Mansfield Town

Last season: 16th
Manager: Peter Shirtliff

In: Matt Hamshaw (Stockport County), John Mullins (Reading), Carl Muggleton (Chesterfield), Michael Boulding (Rotherham)

Out: Kevin Pressman (retired), Jason Talbot (Port Vale), Adam Rundle (Rochdale), Rhys Day (Aldershot), Gus Uhlenbeek, Fraser McLachlan, Kyle Jacobs, Allan Russell (all released).

That Mansfield reached the dizzy heights of 16th last year owed much to Richard Barker, scorer of 23 goals in all competitions.

With only Simon Brown (12) providing much assistance, he may need to be as prolific again. At least, in Matthew Hamshaw, he has a new recruit to provide service from the flanks while former tennis player Michael Boulding will be looking to find the net.

The loss of three regulars, two of them defensive, means manager Peter Shirtliff has to reorganise at the back. But, after the end of the Carlton Palmer era, survival should be on the cards for the Stags.

Key man: Richard Barker.


MK Dons

Last season: 22nd (League One, relegated)
Manager: Martin Allen

In: Jon-Paul McGovern (Sheffield Wednesday), Drissa Diallo (Sheffield Wednesday), Sean O`Hanlon (Swindon Town), Joe Tillen (Chelsea), Jamie Smith (Bristol City), John Hastings (Tooting & Mitcham).

Out: Malvin Kamara, Nick McKoy (both Cardiff).

Their plummet through the divisions continued last year, even though Danny Wilson almost averted an otherwise predictable relegation.

Now Martin Allen, surprisingly leaving Brentford to drop a division, has the task of ending the slide, a task that could be harder if he cannot prevent the highly-rated striker Izale McLeod moving to a bigger club.

A young defence proved too easy to breach, so summer signings Jamie Smith, now approaching veteran status, Sean O'Hanlon and Drissa Diallo have an important role there. But despite Allen's excellent record, turning MK Dons into promotion contenders straight away would surely rank as his greatest achievement to date.

Key man: Sean O'Hanlon.


Notts County

Last season: 21st
Manager: Steve Thompson

In: Saul Deeney (Burton Albion), Dan Gleeson (Notts County), Tom Curtis (Chester), Junior Mendes (Huddersfield), Tcham N`Toya (Chesterfield), Austin McCann (Boston), Gary Silk (Portsmouth), Stephen Hunt (Colchester), Alan White (Boston), Jason Lee (Northampton), Matt Somner (Aldershot), Lawrie Dudfield (Boston), Ian Ross (Sheffield United).

Out: Steve Palmer, Steve Scoffham, Lewis McMahon, Emmet Friars (all released), Julien Baudet (Crewe), Chris Palmer (Wycombe).

The league's oldest club come ever closer to losing their status among the football elite; they only stayed up by three points last season.

With Gudjon Thordarson's Icelandic revolution deemed a failure, in comes Steve Thompson with a radically different team.

Most significant is the introduction of a new strike partnership, with Jason Lee's size complemented by the speed of either Lawrie Dudfield or Junior Mendes. Quicker still is the lively Andy Parkinson and, on paper, that bodes well. But much will depend on if, and how quickly, a new-look team gel.

Key man: Andy Parkinson.


Peterborough United

Last season: 9th
Manager: Keith Alexander

In: Richard Butcher (Oldham), Justin Richards (Woking), Jude Stirling (Lincoln), Simon Yeo (Lincoln), Guy Branston (Oldham).

Out: Peter Kennedy, Lee Harrison, Dave Farrell, Richard Logan (all released), Sean St Ledger (Preston, undisclosed), Alan Haine (Huntington).

Mark Wright came and went in typically eventful fashion. Now it is up to play-off specialist Keith Alexander to try and end Peterborough's stay in the league's lowest division.

Though his methods are rarely pretty, Alexander's record at Lincoln suggests Posh could escape League Two. Richard Butcher is the first arrival with a past at Sincil Bank with Simon Yeo, a regular scorer for Alexander, the second.

The sale of the talented Sean St Ledger is a blow, but should boost Alexander's budget and with Peter Gain - another Lincoln old boy - and 15-goal Danny Crow remaining, they look well-placed to target promotion.

Key man: Danny Crow.


Rochdale

Last season: 14th
Manager: Steve Parkin

In: Adam Rundle (Mansfield).

Out: Neil Briscoe, Lee Cartwright, Scott Warner, Ben Kitchen, Blair Sturrock, Alan Goodall, Tommy Jaszczun, Tony Gallimore (all released), Gareth Griffiths (retired).

The sale of Grant Holt last season forced Rochdale to be more modest in their ambitions. Despite Rickie Lambert's 22-goal haul, promotion was never a possibility thereafter.

Steve Parkin has excelled with limited resources at Spotland, but his is one of the smallest squads in the division, and weakened further by Gareth Griffiths' retirement.

With Adam Rundle the only summer signing to date, it is hard, once again, to see Dale aiming above mid-table.

Key man: Rickie Lambert.


Shrewsbury Town

Last season: 10th
Manager: Gary Peters

In: Ryan Esson (Aberdeen), Dave Williams (Yeovil), Ben Davies (Chester), Chris McKenzie (Chester), Danny Hall (Oldham), Andy Cooke (Bradford).

Out: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Stuart Whitehead (released), Mark Stallard (Lincoln).

Gary Peters' side were quiet achievers last year, advancing from relegation contenders to play-off outsiders without a great deal of fanfare.

Peters seems to have recruited well over the summer, with Stuart Drummond and Ben Davies both strengthening the midfield.

But Colin McMenamin led the scorers' chart with just 10, so it may take the emergence of a more regular scorer for Shrewsbury to reach the play-offs.

Key man: Ben Davies.


Stockport County

Last season: 22nd
Manager: Jim Gannon

In: Michael Rose (Yeovil), Tony Dinning (Port Vale).

Out: Matt Hamshaw (Mansfield), Ross Greenwood (York), Danny Boshell, David Beharall, Harpal Singh, Mickael Wolski, Zeke Tomlinson, Jamie Kay.

It took a change of management and the galvanising powers of Jim Gannon to save Stockport from Conference football.

Preventing another relegation battle is Gannon's next task and, lacking new faces, it is unlikely to be easy.

Stockport shipped 78 goals last season so bettering a dreadful defensive record is essential while there is a need for someone to take on the mantle of leading the attack: Adam Le Fondre, usually a substitute, at least had a goals-per-game record that suggests he deserves the chance to stake his claim.

Key man: Ashley Williams.


Swindon Town

Last season: 23rd (League Two, relegated)
Manager: Dennis Wise

In: Andy Monkhouse (Rotherham), Jamie Vincent (Yeovil), Ady Williams (Coventry), Fola Onibuje (Cambridge), Curtis Weston (Millwall), Phil Smith (Crawley).

Out: Rhys Evans (Blackpool), Jamie Cureton (Colchester), Matt Bulman, Kyle Lapham, Kris Taylor, Steve Jenkins, Paul Smith, Stefani Miglioranzi (all released), Sean O`Hanlon (MK Dons).

In his second managerial job, Dennis Wise could find League Two a nasty culture shock. And even if he doesn't, assistant manager Gustavo Poyet might.

That last season's top scorer (Rory Fallon) left in February highlights the need for more goals from Lee Peacock and Christian Roberts.

Though goalkeeper Rhys Evans has left and the veteran defender Adrian Williams heads the list of arrivals, Swindon's chances of an immediate return to League One may rest with the management team more than the playing staff.

Key man: Lee Peacock.


Torquay United

Last season: 20th
Manager: Ian Atkins

In: Lee Andrews (Carlisle), Steven Reed (Yeovil), Jamie Ward (Aston Villa), Micky Evans (Plymouth), Lee Thorpe (Swansea), Lee Mansell (Oxford), Stev Angus (Barnet).

Out: Tony Bedeau (Walsall), Jo Kuffour (Brentford), Andy Marriott, James Sharp, Alan Connell, Anthony Lloyd, Morike Sako, Alex Lawless, Richard Hancox, Paul Robinson, Brian McGlinchey, James Bitner, Liam Coleman (all released).

Ian Atkins' Houdini act kept Torquay alive last season and earned one of League Two's journeymen managers yet another job.

Atkins has added to defence, midfield and attack respectively with Stevland Angus, Lee Mansell and Micky Evans, though the latter offers more in terms of effort than goals.

A regular partnership in attack, presumably with Lee Thorpe, would help.

Though there is a sense that, after Torquay's comeback last year, anything else would be anti-climactic, if they continue their progress under Atkins, a play-off place cannot be ruled out.

Key man: Kevin Hill.


Walsall

Last season: 24th (League Two, relegated)
Manager: Richard Money

In: Clayton Ince (Coventry), Michael Dobson (Brentford), Martin Butler (Rotherham), Tony Bedeau (Torquay), Hector Sam (Port Vale).

Out: Daryl Taylor (Bournemouth), Michael Standing, Simon Osborn, Andy Oakes, Taiwo Atieno, Dean Coleman (all released).

There was a certain predictability about Paul Merson's first managerial job ending in tears, or relegation, or both.

New manager Richard Money is charged with restoring League One football, and has made little time in making his mark. Trinidad & Tobago's Clayton Ince arrives at the Bescot from the World Cup while Michael Dobson should bolster the defence.

A new forward duo have also arrived, in the shape of Martin Butler and Tony Bedeau, and Walsall's chances of promotion may depend on how rapidly a seemingly promising group of signings form a team.

Key man: Chris Westwood.


Wrexham

Last season: 13th
Manager: Denis Smith

In: Chris Llewellyn (Hartlepool), Neil Roberts (Doncaster), Steve Evans (TNS), Ryan Valentine (Darlington), Juan Ugarte (Crewe).

Out: Jon Walters (Chester), Andy Holt (Northampton), Dean Bennett, Jim Whitley, Dave Bayliss, Alex Smith (all released).

Only Carlisle and Grimsby won more home games last season, but poor away form cost Wrexham the chance of a play-off place.

The return to the Racecourse Ground of Chris Llewellyn and Juan Ugarte are the most eye-catching of the summer signings Denis Smith has made and it is imperative that, with on-loan Matt Derbyshire back at Blackburn, the Basque provides the goals to support Mark Jones.

Elsewhere, Smith's squad is relatively unchanged and, if they can do better on English soil and Ugarte can recapture his prolific form of his first spell with Wrexham, a play-off place should be a possibility.

Key man: Juan Ugarte.


Wycombe Wanderers

Last season: 6th
Manager: Paul Lambert

In: Chris Palmer (Notts County), Sam Stockley (Colchester), Anthony Grant (Chelsea).

Out: Roger Johnson (Cardiff), Clint Easton (Gillingham), Joe Burnell (Northampton), Charlie Griffin (Forest Green), Rob Lee, Danny Senda (both released).

Automatic promotion seemed a certainty until Wycombe's season fell to bits after the death of manager John Gorman's wife.

Now Paul Lambert, one of the more intriguing appointments of the summer, but untried south of the border inherits one of the strongest squads in the division.

Tommy Mooney, in particular, promises goals and if Wycombe can play the way they did for the first six months of the last campaign, League One could beckon.

Key man: Kevin Betsy.


Coca Cola Football League Season 2006/7
Championship | League 1 | League 2

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