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League Two season review: Leyton Orient worthy champions after flying start to the campaign

Leyton Orient made a stunning start to the 2022/23 League Two season, winning 16 of their 21 matches before Christmas on their way to the league title.

While Orient were always in control of the title race, there was plenty of drama beneath them as Stevenage defied the odds to finish second and Northampton made up for their near miss in 2021/22 by securing the third automatic-promotion spot.

Rochdale and Hartlepool were relegated to the National League, while Carlisle beat ante-post favourites Stockport on penalties in the play-off final.

Stockport are 8/1 to win League Two in 2023/24, but they are expected to face stiff competition from the two clubs promoted from the National League as Wrexham are 10/3 for the title and Notts County are 11/1.

ChampionsLeyton Orient
Runners-upStevenage
Third PlaceNorthampton
Play-off winnerCarlisle
RelegatedHartlepool and Rochdale

Stevenage stun rivals thanks to superb home record

Stockport, Bradford, Salford and Mansfield were among the pre-season favourites for League Two, but it didn't take long for Leyton Orient to establish a commanding lead at the top of the table.

Orient won nine of their first 10 games, drawing against Swindon in the other one, and they kept clean sheets in seven of those victories.

That set the tone for an outstanding defensive campaign from Richie Wellens' side, who conceded just 13 goals in 23 home matches and lost only twice before the turn of the year.

The champions rarely blew away opposing teams and they failed to score in four meetings with their fellow top-three clubs Stevenage and Northampton, but their fast start and rock-solid defence helped them win the league by six points.

Steve Evans arrived at Stevenage in March 2022 with the club mired in a relegation battle and they were 8/1 for promotion at the start of his first full season in charge.

The experienced Scotsman led Boro to second place, clinching promotion at the end of April, and they had the best home record in the division, winning 17 matches out of 23 on their own patch, including a 3-0 victory over champions Orient.

Stevenage also had a memorable FA Cup third-round triumph at Aston Villa, where late goals from Jamie Reid and Dean Campbell sealed a 2-1 victory against their Premier League hosts, and Evans will be aiming to upset the odds again in League One next season.

Cobblers keep their cool to clinch automatic promotion

Northampton missed out on automatic promotion in heartbreaking fashion on the final day of the 2021/22 season when Bristol Rovers pipped them on goals scored after a 7-0 rout of Scunthorpe.

The Cobblers' promotion challenge came down to the wire again, but a goal from Sam Hoskins was enough to see off Tranmere on the final day and clinch third place at the expense of Stockport.

Hoskins, with 22 goals, finished second to Bradford's Andy Cook, on 28, in the scoring charts but Cook's Bantams lost to Carlisle in the play-off semi-final, while Salford were beaten by local rivals Stockport.

Pre-season promotion favourites Stockport couldn't finish the job at Wembley, however, as Carlisle held their nerve in the penalty shootout, while it was also a disappointing end to the campaign for Mansfield.

The Stags missed out on the play-offs on goal difference, finishing eighth, 13 points clear of Barrow in ninth, and they are 3/1 to be promoted in 2023/24.

Defensive woes hurt Hartlepool in survival scrap

While ante-post relegation favourites Barrow eased to a top-half finish, Hartlepool and Rochdale, the next two in the pre-season betting, ended up as the bottom two.

Dale took just two points from their first nine matches and had a run of seven defeats in eight in January and February, leaving them with too much ground to make up in the race for survival.

Hartlepool held promoted Orient, Stevenage and Northampton to draws at home and took a point off Stockport on the final day, but they had the worst defence in the division, conceding 78 goals.

Crawley finished 22nd, three points above the relegation zone, but Gillingham pulled off a far more impressive escape act, having been five points adrift at the bottom at the halfway point of the season.

The Gills had just 14 points from 23 games, scoring only seven goals, but they picked up 41 points in the second half of the campaign and are 11/4 to be promoted next term.

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