2020/21 League Two preview: Best bets for outright markets
We assess the best picks for the 2020/21 League Two title, relegation and more ahead of the season getting under way on Saturday.
Salford to win the title
If last season was about consolidation for Salford, this one is an all-out attack on the promotion places.
And in a division with little in the way of financial muscle and even fewer star names, they could well have blown their competition out of the water with their business in the off-season.
Their most eye-catching signing is Ian Henderson, who was widely considered one of the best forwards in League One while at Rochdale.
Henderson has hit fewer than 16 goals in just one of his last six seasons in the third tier and joins target man Tom Elliott and former Manchester United forward James Wilson up top.
But almost everywhere you look, there are names that do not belong in League Two.
Centre back Tom Clarke was captain of Preston until last season, midfielder Jason Lowe has barely played below the Championship while Darron Gibson will need little introduction to anyone.
With an accomplished manager in charge like Graham Alexander, it is almost inconceivable that they will not improve on their 11th-placed finish from last season.
But they will justifiably be aiming much higher than that.
Cheltenham to be promoted
Cheltenham’s 3-0 defeat to Northampton in the second leg of the League Two play-off semi-final – having won the reverse fixture 2-0 – was one of the shocks of last season.
Up to that point, Michael Duff’s side had been one of the most consistent in the division – they lost fewer games than any other team in League Two and were just 0.06 points away from an automatic promotion spot on PPG.
The Robins also had the best defensive record in the entire EFL last term and, having managed to retain the same back five, have an encouraging platform to build from.
Much of their success last season came from manager Duff’s ability to pick out promising loanees from higher divisions.
So the arrivals of goalkeeper Joshua Griffith and midfielders Finn Azaz and Elliot Bonds on loan from West Brom and Hull should excite fans.
With the division looking weaker this season than it did last, there are plenty of reasons for Cheltenham to be optimistic.
Tranmere to finish in the top seven
Tranmere look well placed to right the perceived wrongs of last season.
They were relegated from League One via the unweighted points-per-game system, despite being just three points behind fourth-bottom AFC Wimbledon and having a game in hand over them.
But aside from losing manager Micky Mellon to Dundee United in the off-season, Rovers are looking in better shape now than when their fate was confirmed.
The signings of Jay Spearing and Otis Khan – both the subject of interest from League One – mean they will come into the season with one of the best midfields in the division.
Retaining striker James Vaughan, who spent the end of last season on loan there, looks like handy business, too.
The 32-year-old ended 2019/20 as Bradford City’s top scorer with 11 goals, despite leaving in January.
Southend to be relegated
At best, Southend look ill-prepared for the season to come. At worst, they are a disaster club stumbling towards a second successive relegation.
Unfortunately for the Shrimpers, it’s the latter that feels closer to the truth.
Last season’s horror show culminated in relegation as they finished second-bottom, just five points above a Bolton side that started on -12.
Since then, it’s hard to pinpoint an area where they have improved.
Following an exodus of experienced professionals during summer, they come into this season resting heavily on inexperienced youngsters.
Rookie manager Mark Molesley, meanwhile, joins from Weymouth to replace Sol Campbell.
In isolation, these aren’t necessarily bad things. But at a club trending so dramatically downwards, it is questionable whether this is the right set-up to stop their slide.
Eoin Doyle to be top goalscorer
A boring pick? Maybe. But one that makes complete sense? Definitely.
Doyle took League Two by storm while on loan at Swindon last season, scoring 25 league goals in 28 appearances.
The Irishman’s Golden Boot-winning haul proved that given service, he is simply too good for this level.
With the creativity provided by fellow new signing Antoni Sarcevic, who was directly involved with 18 goals for promoted side Plymouth last season, it could be another match made in heaven.
#BetYourWay: Salford to win the title, Southend to be relegated and Eoin Doyle to be top goalscorer
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