Tuesday, 28 August 2018

League 2 Discussion 5: Northampton, Notts County, Oldham, Port Vale

It was a miserable season last time out for the Cobblers of Northampton. The club struggled for vast amounts of last season and going through 3 different managers in one season is never a good sign. Both Justin Edinburgh and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink were sacked during the course of the season and the club finished the campaign with current boss Dean Austin. Despite some encouraging performances under Austin, the club were ultimately relegated. However, the fans and owners will expect promotion at the first attempt in the new season and their squad is more than good enough at this level. The likes of John-Joe O’Toole, Matt Crooks, Aaron Pierre, Ash Taylor and Daniel Powell are all excellent players at this level and should Northampton continue how they finished the previous season, they have every chance of competing for promotion. However, the common issue for any relegated team is adapting to their new league and Northampton will have to adapt quickly if their season is to end with success. Dean Austin has brought in new faces to freshen up the squad and his new recruits include proven goal scorers Andy Williams and Junior Morias as well as goalkeeper Lewis Ward and full back Hakeem Odoffin. Both Williams and Morias add much needed fire power to a pretty goal shy Northampton attack. Austin will be confident he can get a tune out of his new strikers. The promotion pressure will be on with the fans expecting promotion and Austin must have a good start to the season to install that belief into the players and fans.
I think Northampton will try to compete for promotion but like many relegated sides, adapting to a new league takes time and I feel Northampton will finish in mid-table this season and fall short of competing for a play-off spot.

My Predicted Finish: 13th

Notts County
It was an encouraging first full season in charge for Kevin Nolan after Notts County finished in the play-offs but lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners Coventry. Fast Forward 3 months and with a new squad and an incoming new manager following Kevin Nolan’s sacking, Notts County will feel their chances of promotion are much stronger this time around. County owner Alan Hardy has put his money where his mouth is after promising to bring Notts County back to where it should be and has recruited excellent players at this level including Enzio Boldewijn, Nathan Thomas, Kane Hemmings, Kristian Dennis and David Vaughan. Boldewijn joins after an excellent 2 seasons at Crawley and will be confident his good form can continue. While proven goal scorers Kane Hemmings and Kristian Dennis add dangerous firepower to Notts County and will both be crucial to their chances at promotion. Many of last seasons play-off semi finalists remain at the club with the likes of Richard Duffy, Matt Tootle and Jon Stead all hoping this season can bring the promotion they missed out on. The Notts County fans are optimistic, and promotion is no doubt high on their agenda. With a new manager on the horizon, the appointment must be spot on and keep that belief in the fans.
I would of said Notts County for automatic promotion had Kevin Nolan stayed in charge because he built an extremely strong squad but a poor start cost him and the new manager must hit the ground running to give Notts the best chance of keeping automatic promotion alive. I think Notts County will come good if the right manager is appointed and I still expect them to be finishing in the automatic promotion places.

My Predicted Finish: 2nd

It has been a fall from grace for Oldham. The club has sunk to the 4th tier of English football after consecutive fights against relegation in League 1 and now the club must rebuild and go again. The club begins the new season with a club legend as their new boss. Frankie Bunn has Oldham flowing through his veins and he will be determined to get Oldham back up at the first attempt. However, Oldham are taking a calculated risk with Bunn because this would be his first job as a manager of a football club having worked on the coaching staff of other clubs like Huddersfield and Manchester City. Oldham are in transition as much of the relegated squad has left the club with the likes of Craig Davies, Ryan McLaughlin, Aaron Holloway, Anthony Gerrard and Brian Wilson all leaving for new clubs and Bunn has had to completely build a new team to make Oldham competitive. Bunn has recruited 11 new faces so far in the transfer window and the likes of Jose Baxter, Andy Taylor, Chris O’Grady, Giles Coke and Ishmael Miller have signed up this season. Oldham fans want a football team to be proud off and just win some football matches. Too many draws, and poor defeats saw them relegated and the long-suffering fans just want to see a winning football team. Oldham will have expectations of being promoted at the first attempt and play-off spot would be the minimum expectation this season and anything less is a poor season for the club. Frankie Bunn will be confident he can deliver but like every new manager he must make a good start to give the fans and players he is the right man to lead them forward this season. The pressure is on the Lactics to perform this season and promotion will no doubt be the prime objective this season.
I think Oldham will be competitive this season and will be trying to compete for a play-off spot. However, I feel there are much stronger squads in the league and it is difficult to install a winning mentality, so I feel this is a transition season for Oldham and I expect them to finish in mid-table this season.

My Predicted Finish: 15th

Port Vale
It’s fair to say it has been a difficult couple of seasons for the Valiants. Relegated from League 1 and narrowly escaping relegation from League 2 last season, the club has underperformed for too long and the club will want to be competing at the right end of the table. Neil Aspin is Port Vale through and through and he will be desperate to get Port Vale challenging for a play-off spot and even promotion this season. Aspin has completely stripped the squad from last season with 11 departures and a total of 13 new faces have joined aiming to get Vale up the higher echelons of the table. However, not all last season’s squad have departed with the likes of Tom Pope, Michael Tonge and Anthony Kay still at the club and these three will be determined to get Vale competing for promotion. Pope has been brilliant for Vale over two spells at the club and he will be vital for Vale chances of success this season. As noted earlier, Aspin has brought in new faces and these include Luke Joyce, Ricky Miller, Louis Dodds, Leon Legge and Tom Conlon. All join with good experience at this level Both Joyce and Dodds know the club well and will be determined as ever to improve Port Vale’s league performances. As well as proven League 2 players, Aspin has also added non-league talent and young players such as Connell Rawlinson, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Idris Kanu and Mitch Clark. All join hungry to showcase their skills this season and it could be an exciting blend of players assembled by Aspin. The fans and Aspin will demand improvement from the Vale players this season and they will be demanding a minimum top half finish and hoping to push on for a spot in the play-off places and who knows where things could go from there.
I think Port Vale will be much improved this season and will be competing for a spot in the play-off places. However, I feel they will just miss out on the play-offs this season, but they could be a surprise package this season if they do get everything together nicely.

My Predicted Finish: 9th

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