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Who's New To League Two?

20 May 2017

Ryan Petterson gives us the low-down on the new clubs to League Two next season.

Grimsby Town’s first season back in the EFL is officially over as Russell Slade’s men finished 14th in League Two, and there will be plenty of changes regarding clubs involved in the league next season.

With Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Doncaster gaining promotion to League One – and the League Two play-offs currently in full swing – as well as Hartlepool and Leyton Orient getting relegated to the National League, there will be six new clubs in League Two for the 2017/18 campaign, so here’s our guide for you to familiarise yourself with the new boys.

Port Vale

The 2016/17 campaign was the Valiants’ fourth successive season in League One, but they were relegated on the final day after their 0-0 draw away at Fleetwood left them 21st-placed on 49 points – one from safety.

They had a decent start to the season under new boss Bruno Ribeiro and were still in a play-off position until November 19, 2016, before they lost three of their important players mid-season as goalkeeper Jak Alnwick departed for Rangers, midfielder Anthony Grant signed for Peterborough United, and top scorer, with nine goals, ex-Town striker Alex Jones went back to Birmingham City after his loan ended in January before joining Bradford City.

Ribeiro left the club in December and Michael Brown took charge, but the new manager failed to make it work as they won just five of their 23 league games under him.
And at the end of the season, Chairman Norman Smurthwaite announced that he would be stepping down from his role.

They now have just nine players under contract including their Player of the Year, defender Nathan Smith, as they look to gain promotion back to League One at the first time of asking.
The last time we met: Grimsby Town 1-0 Port Vale. This was an FA Cup first round replay on November 22, 2011, as Serge Makofo scored the only goal of the game.

Swindon Town

The 2016/17 campaign brought Swindon’s five-year stay in League One to an end as they finished 22nd with 44 points – six from safety.

The Robins’ season pre-Christmas was inconsistent, but wasn’t too bad until January, 2017, when they went six games without a win and picked up just one point from the run, in a 0-0 draw at home to Oldham Athletic.

And just when manager Luke Williams seemingly had his side back on track with their first back-to-back wins of the season against fellow relegation rivals Coventry City and Gillingham, they suffered another run of four straight losses in March, which all but sealed their fate.

The side’s inability to score goals – their top scorers, Jonathan Obika and Luke Norris notched six and five, respectively – was eventually their downfall as they were relegated in their penultimate league fixture on April 22 when they lost 2-1 at home to Scunthorpe United.

At the end of the season, the club announced that Luke Williams wouldn’t be their manager for the 2017/18 campaign, but they’re yet to get a replacement.
The last time we met: Grimsby Town 1-0 Swindon Town. This was a League Two fixture on March 17, 2007, with Ciaran Toner’s goal being the difference between the two sides on the day.

Coventry City

The 2016/17 season was also Coventry’s fifth term in League One, and their 23rd-place finish meant they were relegated to League Two – a league they haven’t competed in for 53 years.
The Sky Blues, who ended up 11 points off safety, didn’t manage a win until October 2016 when they beat Port Vale 2-0 at Vale Park, and they only picked up eight more league victories before the end of the season.

Coventry didn’t make it out of the relegation zone again after entering it in November, and their 15-game winless, run which spanned from then until February, helped ensure that they would be joining Town in League Two for the 2017/18 season.

But despite relegation, Mark Robins’s side did enjoy some success as they won the Checkatrade Trophy, beating Oxford United 2-1 in the final at Wembley last month.
George Thomas, 20-years-old, who came through Coventry’s youth system, bagged their second goal in the final, and went on to become their top scorer for the season, scoring nine goals in all competitions.

The last time we met: Grimsby Town 0-2 Coventry City. This was a Championship fixture on March 1, 2003, as Simon Ford’s own goal and John Eustace’s penalty earnt the visitors all three points at Blundell Park.

Chesterfield

The Spireites finished bottom of the League One 2016/17 table last month on 37 points, bringing an end to their three-year stay in the division.

Danny Wilson’s men, with ex-Town midfielder Jon Nolan in their ranks, started the season off well, picking up seven points from their first three games, but their form soon dropped and they suffered eight consecutive defeats through October and November.

And after picking up just six league wins, Wilson was replaced by Gary Caldwell in January, 2017.

But the Spireites’ results didn’t improve under their new boss as they recorded just two wins in 19 games, and a 3-1 defeat at Scunthorpe officially sent them down with two games still left to play on April 17.

Kristian Dennis found the net ten times in all competitions for Chesterfield, but his goals ultimately weren’t enough to secure League One football for another season.

The last time we met: Grimsby Town 2-2 Chesterfield. This four-goal thriller was a League Two fixture on April 13, 2010. Town went 2-0 up just before the hour-mark through goals from Tommy Wright and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, before Mariners legend Jack Lester inspired the Spireites’ comeback with goals on 65 and 75 minutes to stop his old club from picking up all three points at Blundell Park.

Lincoln City

The Imps gained promotion back to the Football League last month, ending their six-year non-League stay, after winning the National League title with 99 points – four clear of second-placed Tranmere Rovers.

Danny Cowley’s side, which included ex-Town men Bradley Wood and Nathan Arnold, had a tough start to the season, losing four of their opening 12 matches, but they subsequently went on a 14-game unbeaten run, which included 11 wins and three draws, between October and December, 2016.

And at the beginning of 2017, the Imps embarked on a successful FA Cup run, which saw them become the first non-League side to reach the quarter finals of the competition for over 100 years, beating Championship sides Ipswich and Brighton along the way before overcoming Premier League outfit Burnley with a 1-0 win at Turf Moor in the last 16. But the Imps’ cup success came to an end in March as they lost 5-0 away at Arsenal.

The Imps’ top form returned in their 3-1 home victory over fellow promotion rivals Forest Green at the end of March, which sparked an 11-game unbeaten run which remained intact until the end of the campaign.

Lincoln clinched the National League top-spot in their 2-1 home win over Macclesfield Town on April 22.

Centre-forward Matt Rhead was the club’s top scorer for a second successive season, bagging 15 league goals for the Imps – a decrease of eight from the previous campaign.

The last time we met: Grimsby Town 2-0 Lincoln City. Goals from Padraig Amond and Nathan Arnold ensured that Town were triumphant over 10-man Lincoln, who had Luke Waterfall sent off on the half-hour mark, in the Lincolnshire derby in the National League on December 28, 2015.

Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green won the National League 2016/17 play-offs last weekend to end their 19-year stay in the division and become a Football League club for the first time in their 128-year history.

Mark Cooper’s men only managed one point from their first two games, before six consecutive wins seemed to have put them back on track. But they couldn’t maintain the consistency, and picked up just three points from five games between November 2016 and January 2017.

They seemed to have got themselves back into the title race after five wins from six games during February before a 3-1 defeat at Lincoln at the end of March ended their hopes of winning the league.

Cooper’s side could have ended the season in better form, as they picked up just one win from their final four games and finished third – 13 points off the top-spot.

But they overcame Dagenham 3-1 on aggregate in the play-off semi-finals before beating Micky Mellon’s Tranmere Rovers 3-1 in the play-off final at Wembley last Saturday.

Striker Christian Doidge was the club’s top scorer, netting 27 goals in the league campaign, before adding another to his tally in the play-off final.

They will become one of the smallest ever Football League clubs, with Nailsworth – the town where the club is based – having a population of around just 6,000 people.

The last time we met: Forest Green Rovers 1-3 Grimsby Town. Town overcame Forest Green in the National League play-off final at Wembley on May 15, 2016 to regain their Football League status.

Omar Bogle bagged a quick-fire brace for the Mariners just before half-time, before Forest Green winger Keanu Marsh-Brown got one back on the hour-mark. But Town hung on and Nathan Arnold got the third in the 94th minute to secure the history-making win for the club.

You can find out when Town will face the new boys in the 2017/18 season on June 21, when the EFL will release all fixtures for the new campaign.


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