League Two 2018/19 preview: Top tips for all outright markets
We assess the best bets for promotion, relegation and more before the start of the new Football League season this weekend.
All but one of the last 10 seasons in League Two have seen at least one team that finished between fourth and eighth the year before secure automatic promotion.
That probably helps explain why three of the four clubs to which that applies this time around are among the top four in the betting.
Of those, Notts County look the strongest shout to win the league.
The Magpies were unfortunate to be denied a shot at promotion last time around, having a harsh late penalty awarded against them in the first leg of their play-off semi-final against Coventry before seeing a legitimate goal ruled out for offside in the second that would have levelled the tie.
Despite that, Kevin Nolan showed promise in his first season of management, and has used the summer effectively to refine his squad.
Fifteen of 17 players to leave the club were released while, of the eight to arrive, four have been picked up from clubs higher up the pyramid and four more have been signed for fees.
A pre-season that has included fixtures against Leicester, Derby and Luton means they’ve been well-tested and, having scored the most and conceded the joint-fewest of any team still in the division last season, they’re bound to be in the mix.
Of the other three teams that fit our criteria, Exeter are the longest price to go up at .
Lee Martin and Nicky Law look like handy signings from Gillingham and Bradford respectively, but getting used to life without Paul Tisdale for the first time in 12 years is bound to take some time.
His replacement, Matt Taylor, knows the club well, having made 150 appearances as a player and been promoted from Under-23s coach, but a third successive promotion push looks a tough ask.
Mansfield , on the other hand, still have the majority of the same squad that were favourites to win the title this time last year.
Only Luton lost fewer games than the Stags last season, which would suggest they have the fortitude to last the distance.
And, while Steve Evans departed for Peterborough just as things looked to have clicked last season, David Flitcroft knows how to get out of this division, having guided Bury to a third-place finish in 2015 and achieved three consecutive top-six finishes as Keith Hill’s assistant at Rochdale.
Lincoln are another that ought to go close.
They weren’t far off a second consecutive promotion last time around and, having kept hold of the Cowley brothers and made some impressive signings, will be even stronger for the experience.
Nineteen of the 40 teams to finish in the play-off spots during the last decade finished in the bottom half of the table the season before.
Compare that to the fact that only six that had been playing in the division either above or below, and it makes sense to focus on last year’s underachievers rather than any of the new arrivals.
Colchester were the only team among any of last year’s bottom 14 to finish with a positive goal difference, and can build on that platform after strengthening their attacking options.
Aaron Collins has joined on a season-long loan from Wolves, Luke Norris was signed from Swindon for a fee, while Frank Nouble was pinched from Newport County, who finished two places above the U’s in May.
Cambridge United also look like a savvy bet.
They struggled to sustain any good runs of good form under Shaun Derry last term but, having acquired 40 per cent of their points in their final 16 games with Joe Dunne at the helm, should be far more consistent this time around.
No team promoted from the National League during the last decade has gone straight back down, so it’s best to ignore both Macclesfield and Tranmere.
Instead, it is those that have recently flirted with danger that tend to run out of luck, with 11 of the 20 clubs to go down during the same period finishing between 15th and 22nd the season before.
Morecambe only survived on goal difference back in May, and even that owed much to the fact that a 0-0 draw was enough for Coventry to secure a play-off spot and go through the motions on the final day.
Having won the fewest games and scored the fewest goals of any side left in the division, there’s a reason they’re favourites for the drop.
If you’re after a bit more value, then it’s well worth considering Bury .
Chesterfield suffered successive relegations last summer after finishing rock bottom of League One, and the Shakers – who ended up 15 points adrift after winning just eight games and scoring only 41 goals – are another that could struggle to stop the rot.
Kristian Dennis is a worthy favourite at following his move to Notts County.
He scored 19 goals last season for a hopeless Chesterfield side that only managed 47 in total, and is bound to get plenty more chances in a team that are joint-favourites for the title.
But a more eye-catching price is that of James Norwood .
Plenty of strikers have excelled when making the step up from non-league in recent years, with Matty Taylor topping the charts in 2015/16, John Akinde doing the same in 2016/17 having hit 23 the season before, and Christian Doidge scoring 20 for Forest Green last time out.
With Andy Cook, Tranmere’s top scorer last year, moving to Walsall, Norwood – who bagged 23 of his own – will relish leading the line.
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