Our club-by-club guide to the 2016/17 season
With preparations for the 2016/17 EFL Sky Bet League 2 season in full flow, we profile the twenty-three teams that Exeter City will face over the course of the coming campaign. Here, we bring you the second instalment of a five-part series.
Manager: Gary Johnson
Home: Whaddon Road
2015/16: 1st (National League)
Last season’s top-scorer: Daniel Wright (22)
After bouncing back to the Football League at the first time of asking, Cheltenham Town will take inspiration from Bristol Rovers that they too can take the fourth tier by storm in 2016/17.
Questions were asked of manager Gary Johnson last summer following his decision to sign fourteen new players, but the ex-Bristol City boss blended together a squad that would amass over one-hundred points and win the Conference title.
It’s been continuity rather than upheaval this time around with a number of key players singing contract extensions, and Johnson is keen to get the new season underway: “I always look at the first ten games, they will show you pretty accurately how things are going to pan out so they will be absolutely vital. We’ve got to believe we can push for promotion out of this league.”
Manager: John McGreal
Home: Weston Homes Community Stadium
2015/16: 23rd (League 1)
Last season’s top-scorer: George Moncur (14)
A Championship side as recently as 2008, Colchester United will be looking to return to EFL Sky Bet League 1 having fallen out of the third tier in 2015/16.
The U’s have lost Player’s Player of the Year Joe Edwards on a free transfer to League 1 side Walsall, but the singings of Luke Prosser, Denny Johnstone, Courtney Senior, Dexter Peter and Brennan Dickenson have given Colchester fans grounds for optimism.
Despite already securing the signatures of five new players, head coach John McGreal is keen to pursue additional targets: “Luke Prosser is a big plus for us after our defensive record and gives us good competition in those areas. I’m hoping to get more over the line and we will be in good shape for the new season.”
Luke Prosser in action against City for Southend United in 2014.
Manager: Dermot Drummy
Home: Broadfield Stadium
Last season’s top-scorer: Matt Harold (9)
After a disappointing twentieth-placed finish in 2015/16, Crawley Town boss Dermot Drummy has looked to put his stamp on things over the summer.
The former Chelsea reserve team manager, who took the hotseat at Crawley last April, has signed no fewer than nine players over the past two months including a loan deal for Blues youngster Mitchell Beeney.
Gwion Edwards, the club’s Player of the Year, has left to join Peterborough United for a six-figure sum, and Drummy hopes to reinvest the funds raised from Edwards’ transfer on a new striker: “Certainly goalscorers cost money. If we have to add a few extra pounds to get the guy then I think we now can.”
Ollie Watkins scored City's second goal at Crawley Town last March.
Manager: Steve Davis
Home: Gresty Road
2015/16: 24th (League 1)
Last season’s top-scorer: Bradden Inman (10)
Following a challenging 2015/16 season which saw Crewe Alexandra finish sixteen points adrift of safety at the bottom of EFL Sky Bet League 1, manager Steve Davis will be looking to steady the ship over the course of the coming campaign.
Last season’s joint top-scorer Brad Inman has departed for Peterborough United, with experienced striker Ryan Lowe, returning for his third spell as an Alex player, brought in to fill the void. Only Blackpool scored fewer than Crewe’s forty-six goals last season, so a lot will rest on Lowe's ability to hit the goal-trail.
Davis has introduced a league table to chart his players’ fitness levels during pre-season, and he says that pitting the players against each other will only serve to increase motivation: “People will be able to see who’s performing and at what level and if they’re a bit behind it’s up to them to get up with the ones that have looked after themselves over the close season.
Manager: Darren Ferguson
Home: Keepmoat Stadium
2015/16: 21st (League 1)
Last season’s top-scorer: Andy Williams (16)
Relegated from EFL Sky Bet League 1 on the final day of last season, Doncaster look primed and ready for a promotion push in 2016/17.
Manager Daren Ferguson has added some vital experience to his squad this summer as Rovers look to bounce back to the third tier at the first time of asking. Ex-Coventry City winger Gary McSheffrey has signed following a spell at Scunthorpe United, and striker John Marquis, who scored six goals in fifteen games to help Northampton Town to the League 2 title last term, has joined from Millwall.
Ferguson claims that he will keep an open mind heading into the new season, and base much of his approach on the success of other sides in 2015/16: “You’ve got to look at the teams that have come up from League 2 and what they did. Northampton played 4-4-2, Oxford were 4-4-2 and Accrington, who did really well, played a 4-2-3-1. You have to look at how other teams got out of the league.”
Doncaster's new signingJohn Marquis visited St James Park whilst on loan at Northampton Town last season.