League Two 2013-14 season: Club-by-club preview

 

Portsmouth begin the League Two season as favourites for promotion, having been a Premier League side as recently as 2010.

Pompey, who were relegated last season, start their campaign at home to Oxford United.

Northampton Town will also be hoping to challenge for automatic promotion, looking to overcome the heartache of last season's play-off final defeat by Bradford City.

Chesterfield, who just missed out on the top seven, Fleetwood (13th) and Bristol Rovers (14th) are also expected to compete for a place in League One.

Last season Torquay, AFC Wimbledon, Plymouth and Dagenham and Redbridge all narrowly avoided relegation - but how will they fare this time?

AFC Wimbledon

Manager: Neil Ardley

Last season: 20th

Best summer signing: Ashley Bayes

One to watch: Kevin Sainte-Luce

AFC Wimbledon

BBC London 94.9's Alan Seabrook: "Dons manager Neil Ardley will be hoping that his first full season in charge will be less eventful than the last campaign, when his side only avoided relegation on the final day.

"Ardley, who took over from the long-serving Terry Brown early last season, has built the club both on and off the pitch and brought in numerous new recruits this summer.

"Ashley Bayes and Ross Worner will look to solve the goalkeeping conundrum, while Charlie Sheringham will seek to take the pressure off Jack Midson up front as the Dons look to reproduce the form that got them out of trouble over the second half of last season."

Accrington Stanley

Manager: James Beattie

Last season: 18th

Best summer signing: Nicky Hunt

One to watch: Tom Aldred

Accrington Stanley

BBC Radio Lancashire's Dan Jewell: "James Beattie embarks on his managerial career at a club regularly tipped to be relegated from League Two. But the new manager certainly doesn't share the pessimism of pundits and is aiming for his side to be the surprise package of the season.

"He has his focus on building a mean-looking defence, with the class of Rob Atkinson and Nicky Hunt being added to an already useful backline that includes Laurence Wilson and Tom Aldred.

"Summer departures have left the Reds more than 30 goals down from last season but Beattie will hope that former Sheffield United striker Danny Webber can provide a threat, and that young prospects Shay McCartan, James Gray and Marcus Carver can step up. Safety is always the aim but Beattie will demand more than just survival."

Bristol Rovers

Manager: John Ward

Last season: 14th

Best summer signing: John-Joe O'Toole

One to watch: Ellis Harrison

Bristol Rovers

BBC Radio Bristol's Ed Hadwin: "For the third year in a row, Rovers will start the League Two season as one of the favourites to win promotion. But after two disappointing campaigns, perhaps there's a little more realism among the fans.

"With seven first-team players starting the season suffering from injuries, manager John Ward is again going to have to rely on a crop of promising youngsters. In particular, Ellis Harrison and Ollie Clarke will be looking to build on their impressive performances from last season.

"If Rovers can avoid a third consecutive slow start, this might just be the year they come good on the promise they've shown."

Burton Albion

Manager: Gary Rowett

Last season: 4th

Best summer signing: Rory Delap

One to watch: Billy Kee

Burton Albion

BBC Radio Derby's Charles Collins: "After losing Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma in the close season, Gary Rowett has pulled off two more superb signings in Rory Delap and Rene Howe.

"With Ian Sharps, Michael Symes and Alex MacDonald making their moves permanent, he has further strengthened an already powerful squad. The Brewers look good enough to challenge again for a play-off spot, but they will miss Maghoma's flair and goals.

"Good home form will again be key to the chances of success but opponents will no longer underestimate Burton. They will be regarded as a sizeable scalp."

Bury

Manager: Kevin Blackwell

Last season: 22nd (League One)

Best summer signing: Tom Soares

One to watch: Anton Forrester

Bury

BBC Radio Manchester's Nathan Middleton: "Following a miserable season, which included relegation from League One and a host of financial problems that raised questions over the club's existence, Bury fans will just be happy to have a team to support.

"Kevin Blackwell remains in charge and has been using his contacts book to rebuild a squad that had only seven first-team professionals when they returned for pre-season.

"Port Vale had a similar start to the 2012-13 season, having to completely rebuild a squad, and they were promoted.

"The Shakers will be hoping Blackwell can weave some similar magic, but it will depend on who else arrives at Gigg Lane before the end of August."

Cheltenham Town

Manager: Mark Yates

Last season: 5th

Best summer signing: Jamie Cureton

One to watch: Joe Hanks

Cheltenham Town

BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Paul Furley: "Expectations are high around Whaddon Road that Cheltenham can win automatic promotion to League One after two successive runs to the play-offs.

"The Robins only scored 58 goals in 46 league games last season but the signings of Jamie Cureton, Terry Gornell and Ashley Vincent could remedy that.

"Troy Brown was part of an Aldershot defence that kept plenty of clean sheets despite their relegation last season. He, together with Matt Richards, will ensure Cheltenham remain strong at the back and in midfield."

Chesterfield

Manager: Paul Cook

Last season: 8th

Best summer signing: Gary Roberts

One to watch: Tendayi Darikwa

Chesterfield

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "Big things are expected at the Proact Stadium after last year's promotion challenge fell short.

"Keeping Tommy Lee and Tendayi Darikwa in the squad is a huge boost and the top three has to be the target.

"Paul Cook will be pleased with his work this summer, having brought in a number of key signings, including the headliner - Gary Roberts from Swindon.

"If the Spireites are looking for a talisman to replace the retired Jack Lester, Roberts could fit the bill."

Dagenham & Redbridge

Manager: Wayne Burnett

Last season: 22nd

Best summer signing: Brian Saah

One to watch: Luke Wilkinson

Dagenham & Redbridge

BBC London 94.9's Stuart Smith: "When the bookies have you as favourites for relegation, you know it's going to be an uphill struggle.

"But in his first full season in charge, young boss Wayne Burnett is ready for the challenge and is going to do it his way. Escaping the drop on goal difference last season is not a scare that the club want to see repeated.

"Burnett has set about transforming the style of play in order to get the Daggers moving in the right direction once more, in the hope that a more fluid approach will bring success. They are reasonably strong defensively, but in midfield they need to unearth a player who can dictate the game and create chances.

"It's vital that they get off to a good solid start, otherwise it'll be a very long season."

Exeter City

Manager: Paul Tisdale

Last season: 10th

Best summer signing: Sam Parkin

One to watch: Jamie Reid

Exeter City

BBC Sport's Brent Pilnick: "Exeter City may have just missed out on the play-offs last season, but few expect them to repeat the feat this term.

"Tight finances saw boss Paul Tisdale forced to release top-scorer Jamie Cureton and longest-serving player Steve Tully, while just two new faces, striker Sam Parkin and defender Doug Bergqvist, have joined up. Bergqvist has since moved to non-league Welling on a season's loan.

"It will mean a greater emphasis on the Grecians' crop of young players, while Tisdale will hope his key experienced men can stay away from injury."

Fleetwood Town

Manager: Graham Alexander

Last season: 13th

Best summer signing: Mark Roberts

One to watch: Antoni Sarcevic

Fleetwood Town

BBC Radio Lancashire's Gary Hunt: "Fleetwood were disappointed with finishing 13th last season and will be keen to improve dramatically this term.

"Manager Graham Alexander has been very active in the transfer market, adding a mixture of experienced professionals and some exciting youngsters.

"The stand-out signing is probably Mark Roberts from Stevenage, a player who will add some badly-needed leadership to the defence, while another to keep an eye on will be free-scoring midfielder Antoni Sarcevic, signed from Chester.

"The quality left from last season, added to the new faces brought in, should ensure Fleetwood are in the mix for promotion."

Hartlepool

Manager: Colin Cooper

Last season: 23rd (League One)

Best summer signing: Jack Compton

One to watch: Luke James

Hartlepool United

BBC Tees' Paul Addison: "The gloom surrounding Hartlepool's relegation to League Two and the departure of John Hughes has been replaced by optimism following the appointment of Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett as the club's new management team.

"The last time Pools dropped into the basement division, in 2006, they made an instant return to League One. The pressure is on Cooper and Hignett to deliver promotion after the club's record-breaking six successive seasons in League One.

"They know they don't have a massive budget to work with, so they may find the going tough. But if the positive off-field mood can be matched by events on the pitch, then they will be in the promotion shake-up come May."

Mansfield Town

Manager: Paul Cox

Last season: 1st (Conference Premier)

Best summer signing: John McCombe

One to watch: Sam Clucas

Mansfield Town

BBC Radio Nottingham's Charlie Slater: "Strong late runs are becoming a habit for Paul Cox's teams, and he did it again with Mansfield - who won 20 of their last 23 games in the Conference Premier to seal promotion and end a five-year absence from the Football League.

"Cox has kept the spine of this promotion-winning team intact and has also strengthened his defence, adding experienced former Port Vale man John McCombe along with a handful of others, including promising youngster Sam Clucas, who was at Hereford last term.

"But with last season's star striker Matt Green signing for Championship side Birmingham City, the Stags will need to find goals from somewhere else if they are to flourish in their first season back in the Football League."

Morecambe

Manager: Jim Bentley

Last season: 16th

Best summer signing: Mark Hughes

One to watch: Ryan Williams

Morecambe

BBC Radio Lancashire's Derek Quinn: "As Jim Bentley prepares for his third season in charge, Morecambe will once again start the season as one of the favourites for the drop. But even as he deals with a reduced wage bill, he remains a hungry manager who is definitely up for the fight.

"Last season's top scorer Jack Redshaw is out for five to seven months following a hip operation, so the more experienced players such as Barry Roche, Andy Wright, Stewart Drummond and Mark Hughes will need to lead from the front.

"On their day, Morecambe will give any team a game - but they will be reliant on keeping their players fit with such a small squad."

Newport County

Manager: Justin Edinburgh

Last season: 3rd (Conference Premier)

Best summer signing: Chris Zebroski

One to watch: Aaron O'Connor

Newport County

BBC Radio Wales' Simon Davies: "After a quarter of a century in the wilderness, Newport County grace the Football League once again.

"Managed by the highly-rated former Tottenham favourite Justin Edinburgh, County will be looking to continue the form from the end of last season - a run that gave them Wembley play-off glory over Welsh rivals Wrexham.

"New arrivals include nomadic striker Chris Zebroski, but Edinburgh has mostly kept faith with the squad that secured promotion.

"There's a buzz around Welsh club football at the moment, and Newport will enjoy passionate support at Rodney Parade. Don't be surprised if they make their mark this season."

Northampton Town

Manager: Aidy Boothroyd

Last season: 6th

Best summer signing: Matt Duke

One to watch: Lewis Hornby

Northampton Town

BBC Radio Northampton's Tim Oglethorpe: "The Cobblers had a serious off-day at Wembley in May, being well beaten by Bradford City in the League Two play-off final.

"But their form over the previous five months showed they have become more disciplined and resolute under manager Aidy Boothroyd.

"With many of the players remaining from the side that moved from mid-table in December to the play-off zone in April, Northampton should fancy their chances of once again competing in the play-offs."

Oxford United

Manager: Chris Wilder

Last season: 9th

Best summer signing: Johnny Mullins

One to watch: Dave Kitson

Oxford United

BBC Radio Oxford's Nathan Cooper: "With Oxford again missing out on the play-offs last season, it's been a summer of change at the Kassam Stadium.

"More than a dozen players have moved on, with manager Chris Wilder looking at recruits who are robust and know what it takes to get out of this division. David Hunt, Tom Newey and Johnny Mullins certainly fit that criteria, and will form an enviable back line with skipper Jake Wright.

"Up front, Dave Kitson will add experience, guile and goals, and with the club investing in a youth development squad as back-up to the first team, several talented youngsters could well get their chance during the season."

Plymouth Argyle

Manager: John Sheridan

Last season: 21st

Best summer signing: Marvin Morgan

One to watch: Tyler Harvey

Plymouth Argyle

BBC Radio Devon's Drew Savage: "Many say the Argyle board left it far too long before sacking Carl Fletcher in January, but John Sheridan arrived in the nick of time as relegation was avoided on the last day of the season.

"The dead wood signed by Fletcher has been shown the Home Park exit door and replaced by players capable of scoring goals, such as Marvin Morgan, Romuald Boco and Lewis Alessandra - as well as a decent midfielder in the shape of Dominic Blizzard.

"After the stress of five years of relegation battles, plummeting from the middle of the Championship to the bottom of League Two, and nearly going out of business in 2012, most Argyle fans would settle for a comfortable season in mid-table. But they may well be pleasantly surprised."

Portsmouth

Manager: Guy Whittingham

Last season: 24th (League One)

Best summer signing: Joe Devera

One to watch: Jed Wallace

Portsmouth

BBC Radio Solent's Andrew Moon: "After a traumatic season, which included the club's longest-ever winless streak and inevitable relegation, Portsmouth look ready for a new start.

"The club, now owned by the Supporters Trust, have sold more than 10,000 season tickets already, the most since their Premier League days.

"Boss Guy Whittingham has added a number of new faces with plenty of League Two experience - and has managed to keep hold of experienced strike pair David Connolly and Patrick Agyemang, who should provide goals if they can stay fit. Young midfielder Jed Wallace, who excelled at the end of last season, is a serious prospect.

"Expectation around the city is high with many fans optimistic of a swift return to League One, although simply starting a season without any major off-field concerns feels like a success for Pompey."

Rochdale

Manager: Keith Hill

Last season: 12th

Best summer signing: Matt Done

One to watch: Matty Lund

Rochdale

BBC Sport's Phil Cartwright: "When Keith Hill returned for a second spell as Rochdale manager in January, he said he was surprised by the scale of the task ahead of him. Having successfully guided Dale to League Two safety, his next goal is to turn them into promotion contenders.

"To do so, he must address the poor home record - eight wins from 23 league matches - that left Dale in a slightly perilous position last term.

"Hill, who has brought 2010 promotion-winner Matt Done back to Spotland, is a hero with the Rochdale supporters and he is likely to be given more time than his predecessors to get things right."

Scunthorpe United

Manager: Brian Laws

Last season: 21st (League One)

Best summer signing: Terry Hawkridge

One to watch: Sam Winnall

Scunthorpe United

BBC Radio Humberside's Matt Dean: "Scunthorpe boss Brian Laws has surpassed expectations with his summer signings, which has given fans much needed hope after a few seasons of misery and decline.

"Former Premier League players Chris Iwelumo, Andy Dawson and Deon Burton have all been recruited and it's hoped they'll help the Iron make an immediate return to League One. Experienced players helped Laws win promotion from League Two in 2005 and it's a model he's putting faith in to try to do it again.

"But Glanford Park must be where it starts. The fans have suffered by watching poor recent home form as the team have declined. Remedying that will go some way to getting the supporters back onside and moving the club forward again."

Southend United

Manager: Phil Brown

Last season: 11th

Best summer signing: Barry Corr

One to watch: Ben Coker

Southend United

BBC Essex's Glenn Speller: "Still beset by financial problems, the Blues (at the time of writing) are under a transfer embargo which means they can only register 20 players. The club and fans will therefore be approaching the season with a degree of trepidation.

"Manager Phil Brown has tried desperately to strengthen his squad - but was unsuccessful in his battle to retain inspirational defender Ryan Cresswell. The departure of Cresswell for Fleetwood is a major blow for Southend.

"Convincing Barry Corr to sign a new two-year-contract in the face of competition from elsewhere is a big plus for Brown. Getting Southend challenging for a top-seven place is asking a lot, but not impossible with the right blend."

Torquay United

Manager: Alan Knill

Last season: 19th

Best summer signing: Ben Harding

One to watch: Ashley Yeoman

Torquay United

BBC Radio Devon's Alan Richardson: "After last season's desperate post-Christmas slump, which saw the Gulls survive by the skin of their teeth on the final day, manager Alan Knill - now in permanent charge following the departure of Martin Ling - will probably settle for a season of consolidation.

"Gulls fans will have been worried about the lack of new arrivals in the early summer, but Knill was just keeping his powder dry and has started to bring in some exciting youngsters, as well as Ben Harding from Northampton.

"The big question - in the absence of top scorer Rene Howe, who has moved to Burton - is: Will they score enough goals? The pressure there is likely to fall on the returning Elliot Benyon and young Ashley Yeoman."

Wycombe Wanderers

Manager: Gareth Ainsworth

Last season: 15th

Best summer signing: Jon-Paul Pittman

One to watch: Matt Ingram

Wycombe Wanderers

BBC Three Counties Radio's Phil Catchpole: "As Gareth Ainsworth enters his first full season as a manager, there is an air of unity and optimism around Adams Park.

"With top goalscorer Joel Grant joining Yeovil Town, the Chairboys brought in Paris Cowan-Hall, a rough diamond who fans will hope can fulfil his potential under the guidance of Ainsworth.

"Youth will feature heavily this campaign, with talented centre-backs Kortney Hause and Anthony Stewart looking to fill the void left by the departure of Dave Winfield for League One side Shrewsbury.

"With Stewart Lewis and Josh Scowen in midfield epitomising the Ainsworth spirit and work ethic, the Chairboys will be tough to beat and a top-seven position is not out of the question."

York City

Manager: Nigel Worthington

Last season: 17th

Best summer signing: Wes Fletcher

One to watch: Michael Coulson

York City

BBC Radio York's Barry Parker: "This will be York's second season back in the Football League after a curious campaign last term.

"Manager Gary Mills was dismissed in March to prevent an instant return to the Conference and the experienced Nigel Worthington was brought in to turn things around.

"Worthington's arrival looks like an astute move and the board have a feeling of confidence that this could be a season to remember.

"The former Northern Ireland boss has shown a willingness to push home-grown youngsters into first-team action, a policy that looks like continuing, and has added eight new signings of his own. Time, as they say, will tell."

BBC Sport's League One and Championship club-by-club guides will be published on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.