Following the conclusion of the Sky Bet League Two play-offs, the 2017-18 EFL season has officially come to an end, as Michael Jolley looks to rebuild his Grimsby Town side ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
And, with the close season now in full swing, the fate of all EFL clubs has been decided and the Mariners know which sides they will be competing against, and welcoming to Blundell Park, in League Two next season.
We’ve taken a closer look at Town’s League Two rivals for the upcoming season, which is set to commence on Saturday, August 4.
Bury were relegated to League Two at the end of last season, following a bottom-placed finish in League One with 36 points, and 15 adrift from safety. The side finished the season with one win from their final 12 games. The Shakers had three different managers throughout the campaign – Lee Clark started the season as boss before Chris Lucketti took charge in November 2017, but failed to stop the rot, and player-manager Ryan Lowe was at the helm for the final four months. Lowe has brought in winger Nicky Adams, from Carlisle, for the upcoming season.
Cambridge United finished their League Two campaign in decent form, with three wins in their final five games, which helped the U’s secure a 12th-place finish. Joe Dunne will be hoping his side can kick on next season, but they will have to replace top-scorer Uche Ikpeazu – who netted 14 times last term – as he heads to Scottish Premiership side Hearts for the 2018-19 campaign.
Carlisle United were in the League Two play-off chase until the final month of last season when a run of just one win their final six games saw them finish 10th and eight points outside the play-offs. The Cumbrians will be looking for a new manager this summer following Keith Curle’s departure at the end of the season.
Cheltenham Town finished 17th on 51 points last season, and above Town only on goal difference. The Robins have already started on a summer of change, as Gary Johnson has allowed 15 players, including loanees, to leave the club. Notable players released by the club this summer include Dan Holman, Danny Wright, and Jordan Cranston. But the Robins have top-scorer Mohamed Eisa, who bagged 25 goals in all competitions last term, under contract for next season.
Colchester United ended the season five games without a win in League Two, picking up just one point during that spell, as they finished 13th in the league. And John McGreal will be hoping the acquisition of ex-Town man Harry Pell, for an undisclosed fee from Cheltenham, will help his side improve on that position next season.
Crawley Town were hoping to sneak into the League Two play-offs after their brilliant form over Christmas and the beginning of 2018, but a subsequent run of just one win from their final 12 games saw the Reds finish 14th on 59 points. Harry Kewell will be looking to strengthen this summer and sustain a play-off push next season.
Crewe Alexandra finished the season in fine form, picking up four wins from their last five League Two games, as they secured a 15th-place finish. David Artell released experienced striker Chris Dagnall and left-back Zoumana Bakayogo earlier this month, but the Railwaymen still have 25 players under contract for the new season, including five first-year pros who have graduated from the club’s youth academy.
Exeter City recorded a second-successive League Two play-off final loss on Sunday after suffering a 3-1 defeat to Coventry City at Wembley. The Grecians were just four points off automatic promotion this season, as they finished fourth in the league, but followed up last season’s defeat to Blackpool in the play-off final with another near-miss at the national stadium. Paul Tisdale, who has been the club’s manager since 2006, is yet to accept the club’s new contract offer.
Forest Green Rovers finished their first-ever season in the EFL in 21st-place in League Two, and one point above the relegation zone. Mark Cooper’s side had been in a relegation battle for most of the season, but January signings Reuben Reid and Dayle Grubb helped Rovers secure their safety with two games to spare as they drew 0-0 with Yeovil. They will be hoping to avoid another relegation scrap next season, and have released Keanu Marsh-Brown, Omar Bugiel, and Cameron Belford, as well as allowing defender Dale Bennett to leave.
Grimsby Town ended last season as one of the in-form sides in League Two, picking up four wins and a draw from their final five games to secure their EFL safety for another season and finishing 18th in the league. Manager Michael Jolley brought the Mariners’ 20-game winless run to an end with a 1-0 win over Chesterfield at the beginning of April, and helped strengthen Town at the back as they recorded three clean sheets in the last five games. Jolley released 12 players, including captain Nathan Clarke, and full-backs Ben Davies and Zak Mills earlier this month. Left-back Andrew Fox signed a one-year contract extension for next season, while goalkeeper James McKeown penned a three-year deal at Blundell Park.
Lincoln City lost 3-1 on aggregate to Exeter in the League Two play-off semi-finals as Danny Cowley’s side finished seventh, the final play-off position, in their first season back in the EFL. The Imps released forward Cameron Stewart and midfielder Billy Knott following their unsuccessful play-off attempt, but have signed forward Bruno Andrade from Boreham Wood.
Macclesfield Town were promoted back to the EFL as they won the National League with 92 points last season. John Askey’s side ended the season with a nine-game unbeaten run as they finished 10 points better off than second-placed Tranmere Rovers. Goalkeeper Shwan Jalal and striker Diego De Girolamo were among six players to be released by the Silkmen ahead of the 2018-19 League Two campaign.
Mansfield Town finished eighth in League Two, on 72 points and three outside the play-off spots, last season. The Stags had seemed destined for at least a play-off place for most of the season, until a nine-game winless run saw them drop out in the final few weeks of the season. David Flitcroft has allowed six players, including Rhys Bennett, George Taft, and Jimmy Spencer, leave Field Mill this summer as he looks to assemble another promotion push in 2018-19.
Milton Keynes Dons were relegated to League Two after finishing 23rd, with 45 points and six from safety, in League One last season. The Dons endured a run of six-straight defeats, which condemned them to relegation, before a final-day consolation victory over Shrewsbury. The club are currently searching for a new manager for the 2018-19 League Two campaign, following the sacking of Dan Micciche last month.
Morecambe finished 22nd, with 46 points, in League Two last season, above the relegation zone only on goal difference as they avoided dropping out of the EFL with a goalless draw at Coventry City on the final day. Jim Bentley’s side ended the season with a 10-game winless run, and the Shrimps will be hoping for a change in fortunes in League Two next season to avoid another relegation battle. Bentley has released captain Michael Rose, vice-captain Dean Winnard, and striker Adam McGurk, along with five more players, as the Shrimps look to rebuild for the 2018-19 League Two season.
Newport County finished 11th in League Two, with 64 points, falling 11 points short of the play-offs as a result of inconsistent form towards the end of last season. The Exiles released five players, including striker Paul Hayes and winger Calaum Jahraldo-Martin, following the end of the 2017-18 season. Manager Michael Flynn will be hoping to make some creative additions to his strong squad to sustain a play-off push in the 2018-19 campaign.
Northampton Town were relegated to League Two at the end of last season, following a 22nd-place finish, with 47 points and four from safety, in League One. The Cobblers suffered a 10-game winless run towards the end of the season, which ultimately cost them their place in English football’s third tier. Dean Austin released Leon Lobjoit, Raheem Hanley, and Kevin Luckassen, but has 22 players, including Billy Waters, Kevin van Veen, and Dean Bowditch, under contract for the 2018-19 campaign.
Notts County were in and around the League Two automatic promotion places for the majority of last season, as a result of their brilliant start to the campaign, but the Magpies’ inconsistent result towards the end of the campaign saw them finish fifth on 77 points, and seven from third-place Wycombe Wanderers. Kevin Nolan’s side lost 5-2 on aggregate to Coventry City in the play-off semi-finals, as they were forced to settle for a third season in League Two. The Magpies have released 11 players, including Shola Ameobi, Adam Collin, and Nicky Hunt, as they look to fight for automatic promotion to League One in the 2018-19 season.
Oldham Athletic were relegated to League Two as they finished 21st, on 50 points and one from safety, in League One last season. Richie Wellens’s picked up just one win from their final 12 games, and a final-day 2-2 draw at Northampton wasn’t enough to secure their safety as Rochdale beat Charlton 1-0 on the same day. The Latics have released six players, including Brian Wilson, Tope Obadeyi, and Paul Green, as they look to gain promotion from League Two at the first time of asking in 2018-19.
Port Vale finished 20th in League Two, and one point above the relegation zone, last season as they avoided a second-straight relegation. But, despite avoiding dropping into the National League, the Valiants ended the campaign with just one win from their last six games, and boss Neil Aspin will be hoping to avoid another relegation scrap next term. He’s allowed 10 players, including Ryan Boot, Anton Forrester, and Kjell Knops, to leave Vale Park this summer, and has brought in experienced goalkeeper Scott Brown and defender Leon Legge, as he begins the rebuilding job ahead of the 2018-19 League Two campaign.
Stevenage finished 16th in League Two, on 55 points and four better off than Town, last season. But the Boro picked up just one win from their final five league games, and Dino Maamria will be hoping to improve his side’s form for a better 2018-19 League Two season. The Boro have released seven players, including Jack King, Fraser Franks, and Chris Whelpdale, but have strikers Alex Revell, Danny Newton, and Matty Godden under contract ahead of the 2018-19 League Two campaign.
Swindon Town finished ninth in League Two, on 68 points and seven outside the play-off places, last season. The Robins were on-course for a top-seven finish until a detrimental run of eight games without a win, in the final months of the season, prevented them from promotion back to League One at the first time of asking. Phil Brown has released five players, including Reice Charles-Cook, Ben Purkiss, and Donal McDermott, ahead of his side’s League Two promotion push in 2018-19.
Tranmere Rovers secured promotion back to the EFL as they beat Boreham Wood 2-1 in the National League play-off final at Wembley earlier this month. Rovers scored the most goals in the league, 78, and had the best goal difference, with 32, as they finished second on 82 points. Mickey Mellon has released seven players, including Andy Mangan, Jake Kirby, Mitch Duggan, Jack Dunn, Jay McEveley, Elliot Rokka and Drissa Traore, as well as losing striker Andy Cook, who scored 28 goals last season, to League One side Walsall. The club have signed midfielder Ollie Banks, from Oldham, as they prepare for life back in League Two in the 2018-19 campaign.
Yeovil Town finished 19th in League Two, on 48 points and two above the relegation zone, last season as the Glovers successfully avoided the drop into non-League. Darren Way has released Artur Krysiak, Nathan Smith, Ryan Dickson, and Dan Alfei, as he will look to consolidate again in the 2018-19 League Two campaign.
All Sky Bet EFL 2018-19 fixtures are released on June 21 – four days before the Mariners return for pre-season training.