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League Two - Football: Season preview

The 2022/23 League Two season gets under way this weekend, but what lies in store for the 24 clubs all hoping to challenge for promotion up the ranks?

(This article was originally published on 25.07.2022)

For the majority of teams challenging at the right end of the table will be a realistic hope heading into the campaign, but this is a division which is notoriously unpredictable and there are sure to be plenty of twists and turns as the season unfolds.

What

League Two

Where

England and Wales

When

30th July 2022 - 6th/7th May 2023

How to watch

Sky Sports

Odds

Stockport 6/1, Bradford 7/1, Salford City 8/1, Mansfield 9/1, Northampton 12/1

Newly-promoted Hatters the team to beat?

It is widely believed that there is not too much difference in quality between the teams in League Two and the sides at the top of the National League, a theory Stockport County will be keen to prove right this season.

The Hatters secured a return to the EFL following an 11-year absence by winning the National League title last term and they have quickly been installed as one of the favourites to secure back-to-back promotions.

It is easy to see why many people are tipping Stockport as manager Dave Challinor is a proven winner, and he has added quality to his squad, particularly in the shape of former Fleetwood star Callum Camps and ex-Northampton defender Fraser Horsfall.

Camps and Horsfall have joined a squad on an upward trajectory, but it may well be too much to ask for Stockport to waltz through League Two, with perhaps the better value promotion options lying elsewhere.

Bradford could finally live up to expectations

Bradford City have been among the favourites to be promoted from League Two ever since dropping into the fourth tier in 2019, but after back-to-back bottom-half finishes, this new-look Bantams side could now be ready to live up to those expectations.

Boss Mark Hughes had a settling in period after taking over back in February and the pull of the former Manchester United star has helped City land proven quality in the transfer market.

The Bantams will expect to challenge, as will last season's beaten play-off finalists Mansfield Town, who have kept the bulk of their squad together.

Northampton Town and Swindon Town also missed out in the play-offs last term, but they have both lost key players and in the latter's case manager Ben Garner, so it is difficult to see either bettering last season's performance.

Salford City will also be expected to contend given their resources, but the appointment of former Man Utd under-23s boss Neil Wood appears something of a risk.

As for the four sides relegated from League One last season, Gillingham, AFC Wimbledon, Doncaster Rovers and Crewe Alexandra, they all seem to be in periods of transition, meaning they are unlikely to challenge for automatic promotion.

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Walsall saddle up to be dark horses

There are always dark horses who emerge from nowhere in the League Two promotion race and there are plenty of potential candidates to take up that role this term.

Crawley Town have been busy in the transfer market, including landing last season's League Two top scorer in Dom Telford, while Carlisle United ended last term strongly under Paul Simpson, who has previous experience of guiding the Cumbrians to promotion from this level.

Both those sides could challenge, but perhaps Walsall, who finished 16th last season, are the team most likely to emerge from the pack.

Boss Michael Flynn steadied the ship after arriving at the Bescot Stadium last season and has added experience to his squad - notably the capture of Peter Clarke from Tranmere Rovers.

While winning the title, at odds of 20/1, may be too much to ask of the Saddlers, they do look well placed to challenge and can be backed at 9/2 to go up.

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National League could be looming for Barrow

Barrow have finished 21st and 22nd since earning promotion to League Two in 2020 and they have gone through five managers during that time.

Former Halifax Town boss Pete Wild is the latest man tasked with keeping Barrow in the EFL, but his lack of managerial experience at this level, coupled with the loss of several key players, means there could be another season of struggle ahead, with the club priced at 11/4 to go down.

Harrogate Town were promoted alongside Barrow and like the Bluebirds have spent the majority of their time in League Two in the bottom half of the standings.

Three wins from their final 15 matches last season suggests Town are heading in the wrong direction and their recruitment this summer has done little to change that feeling. Harrogate are 5/1 to go down.

Other sides who look set to struggle include Rochdale, Colchester United and Stevenage, while Crewe are 7/1 to suffer a second successive relegation - do not rule that one out.

Sutton United's debut season in the EFL saw them narrowly miss out on the play-offs, but the Us squad looks limited and they are 10/1 to go down.

Stockport pair could lead the scoring charts

The aforementioned Telford was League Two's top scorer last season, hitting 25 goals, but only one of those came across his final 13 games for Newport County.

Now with Crawley, Telford is 10/1 to top the scoring charts again this term, but that seems unlikely, with Stockport pair Paddy Madden at 8/1 and Kyle Wootton at 16/1 looking more likely contenders.

Experienced frontman Madden has scored over 100 EFL goals during his career, while Wootton has netted more than 40 over the past two seasons, albeit those goals all came in the National League for Notts County.

Other candidates include new Bradford signing Vadaine Oliver, who has previously stood out at this level and can be backed at 12/1, while, if Walsall are to challenge, then on-loan striker Danny Johnson could be amongst the goals - he is 25/1 to top the scoring charts.

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