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    League Two 2017/18 Season Review

    Accrington Stanley

    Position: 1st (Champions, promoted to League One)

    Grade: A*

    Champions and promotion to the third tier for the first time in their history. Also the fact that they’ve got one of the smallest budgets in the league makes this an even better achievement. Helped by an amazing run that saw them win 18 of their last 23 games.

    Billy Kee’s 25 goals this season made him the top scorer in League Two. Couple that with other good performances by key players as Kayden Jackson, Sean McConville, Seamus Conneely and Mark Hughes plus the amazing team spirit they have and they have had pretty much the perfect season.

    Barnet

    Position: 23rd (Relegated to the National League)

    Grade: F

    Getting relegated out of the Football League is horrendous for any club. However, this is the 2nd time in six seasons Barnet have suffered this fate. A decent start was washed away after a 12 game winless run sent them crashing into the bottom two. They never climbed out of it from then onwards.

    The signings of Shaq Coulthirst and Dave Tarpey, plus keeping John Akinde were a good sign for the season but Akinde and Tarpey would be out for most of the season with injury. Alex Nicholls contributed well but it was not enough to save The Bees from another relegation.

    Cambridge United

    Position: 12th

    Grade: C

    After almost making the play-offs the previous season, this feels like a bit of a step backwards for The U’s. They made some good summer signings in Gary Deegan and Jabo Ibehre and I was expecting them to push on a bit and try and make the play-offs.

    Shaun Derry resigned in February with the team 14th in the table. Joe Dunne was placed in caretaker charge and was eventually placed in permanent charge after a good run of form late in the season helped them finish in the top half. The U’s need to aim for the top 7 next season.

    Carlisle United

    Position: 10th

    Grade: D

    After the agony of going out in the play-offs last season, Carlisle dropped a few positions and they are expecting a summer of change with Keith Curle leaving the Brunton Park after almost four years. The Cumbrians did not make many summer signings with notable ones including Kelvin Etuhu and Richie Bennett who scored 15 for Barrow in the National League in the 16-17 season.

    They never had consistent enough form throughout the season to sustain a real challenge for the play-offs. A decent FA Cup run to the third round was the only real highlight in an otherwise uneventful season.

    Cheltenham Town

    Position: 17th

    Grade: C

    Survived comfortably with a small budget. Made improvements on the 16-17 season and with Mo Eisa, they have unearthed a gem. His 23 goals, second only to Billy Kee in the scoring charts, made him one of the standout players of the season.

    However, they had one of the worst defences in the league this season with 73 goals conceded. Something Gary Johnson has already tried to cover for next season, with the signing of Johnny Mullins from Luton.

    Chesterfield

    Position: 24th (Relegated to the National League)

    Grade: U

    Yes, it was that bad I couldn’t even give them an F or G. The club is a mess from top to bottom and were almost super-glued to 24th place all season long. The only team to not climb above 40 points, the worst defence in the league, the most losses, the worst goal difference and finally the least points. The Spireites’ season couldn’t have gone any worse.

    In the summer, I thought Chesterfield had bought well and despite how bad Ashley Carson and Dave Allen run the club, I expected them to be at least mid table. Gary Caldwell was sacked after only eight games and club legend Jack Lester couldn’t save the sinking ship.

    Martin Allen has been assigned to help them get back into the Football League.

    Colchester United

    Position: 13th

    Grade: D

    Another team who finished just outside the play-offs in 2016-17, finishing a bit lower this time around. The U’s occupied a play-off spot on two occasions this season, but otherwise it was a quiet season. Three wins from their last thirteen ensured they finished well outside the top seven.

    Sammie Szmodics was the standout player with 12 goals. He is sure to be a future star. Former Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron also had a good season notching 10 goals. Like Cambridge, play-offs must be the aim.

    Coventry City

    Position: 6th (Promoted to League One via the play-offs)

    Grade: A

    With the budget they had and the squad at their disposal, Coventry should have really gone up automatically but they got into the play-offs and proceeded to win them after getting past Notts County in the semi-finals and Exeter in the final.

    Despite all the trouble at board level over the past few seasons, Mark Robins has done a terrific job to steer the ship in the right direction and back to League One. Talisman Marc McNulty bagged 23 goals on their way to the play-offs and with a young core coming through the ranks, with players such as Tom Bayliss and Jordan Shipley; does the future finally look bright for the Sky Blues?

    Crawley Town

    Position: 14th

    Grade: C

    Harry Kewell did a brilliant job in his first season in management. It looked worrying for Crawley at the start of the season. The team struggled to score and wins and points just didn’t come. But a great run of form from December onwards helped them up into mid-table security where they stayed for the rest of the season.

    Key performers for The Reds were Jimmy Smith and Enzio Boldewijn who both scored 10 whilst Charlton loanee Karl Ahearne-Grant (signed in January) scored 9 goals in 15 appearances.

    Crewe Alexandra

    Position: 15th

    Grade: D

    At one point, Crewe looked in serious danger of dropping into the relegation zone, but a burst of form at the back end of the season helped them stay clear of the bottom two. Crucial performers over the season include Chris Porter and Charlie Kirk.

    Several youth players have broke through into the first team and a lot of them have signed new deals to remain at the club with The Alex hoping to have a good go at the play-offs next season.

    Exeter City

    Position: 4th

    Grade: C

    Once again they got to Wembley and once again they lost against a team who had been relegated the previous season and who have poor ownership. Paul Tisdale built on last season’s near promotion miss by once again being involved in the promotion race, once again qualifying for the play-offs.

    The Grecians started the season off well, topping the table for most of the first eight games and after, retained a play-off place for most of the season. They defeated Lincoln over two legs before another Wembley disaster and with that the Paul Tisdale era ended. He had been in charge for twelve years. He eventually moved on to Milton Keynes with ex City player Matt Taylor taking the reigns at St James Park.

    Forest Green Rovers

    Position: 21st

    Grade: C

    Forest Green achieved success staying in the Football League in their first season out of non-league. However, some might have expected more from them.

    Christian Doidge carried on from where he left of last season, scoring 20 goals and finishing 5th in the scoring charts. An influx of players in

    January and a good run of form in February, helped FGR avoid becoming the first club to go straight back down to the National League.

    Grimsby Town

    Position: 18th

    Grade: E

    It was almost curtains for Grimsby but three wins from their last four helped them keep their heads above water. After Matchday 21, The Mariners sat in a 11th placed but went on an abysmal run of 20 games without a win, a run that dropped the club into 21st placed.

    The bad run cost Russell Slade his job and he was sacked after a 3-0 away defeat to Crawley. Michael Jolley took over and led Town to safety after crucial victories against Chesterfield and Swindon.

    Lincoln City

    Position: 7th

    Grade: B

    A fantastic first season back in the Football League for Lincoln in which they finished in the play-offs and won the Checkatrade Trophy.

    Sincil Bank was a formidable place for opposition teams and they used their physical style to good effect. Matt Green and Matt Rhead were crucial in getting the Imps into the top seven in which they just missed out to Exeter. They will hope to go one better next season.

    Luton Town

    Position: 2nd (Promoted to League One)

    Grade: A

    The Hatters have had a brilliant season and have deservedly been promoted with their style of fast attacking football bringing great rewards for a team who looked certain of promotion. The signings of James Collins and Luke Berry added to the impressive squad, meaning they had three of the top nine goalscorers from 2016-17 (including Danny Hylton).

    They blew teams away including an 8-2 opening day win against Yeovil, a 7-1 win against Stevenage, a 7-0 win against Cambridge and a 5-0 win away at Swindon. Their grade though doesn’t hit A* level as they should have quite easily won the title.

    Mansfield Town

    Position: 8th

    Grade: D

    The grade given might be surprising, but with all the money spent last summer and with the good signings they made, Mansfield couldn’t even get into the play-offs, never mind the automatics. They failed.

    It took a while before they looked like they had gelled fully but when that looked like it had happened, Evans left for Peterborough. Swindon manager David Flitcroft was appointed and things went downhill with them winning only two of their last twelve games.

    Morecambe

    Position: 22nd

    Grade: C

    Morecambe once again defied the odds to stay up, but this time it went to the last game of the season where a point at Coventry was enough to keep them in League Two.

    The Shrimps went winless in their last nine and it almost cost them dear. On loan Wigan striker, Callum Lang stood out, scoring 10 goals. Jim Bentley has worked a miracle once again.

    Newport County

    Position: 11th

    Grade: B

    A massive improvement on the last few seasons for The Exiles. After narrowly escaping relegation the last two seasons (both 22nd placed finishes) this season was a lot quieter for Newport. An excellent FA Cup run helped in which they beat Leeds United and drew at home to Tottenham.

    The club went unbeaten in their first four games and were in and around the play-offs for the first few months. A bad run of form after Christmas, saw them win only twice in fourteen games and also meant that they would not extend their season. The 11th placed finish was a huge step forward for a club who badly needed stability.

    Notts County

    Position: 5th

    Grade: B

    The first full season under the stewardship of Kevin Nolan and Alan Hardy, saw Notts make a vast improvement on the previous two seasons, finishing comfortably in the play-offs. The season saw a good FA Cup run too, in which The Magpies made it to the fourth round.

    Notts made the play-offs, a great achievement but their inability to sign an injury-free quick goalscorer in January meant they missed out on an automatic promotion spot, one, which they held for fourth months. Whilst some decisions went against Notts in the play-off semi-final against Coventry at crucial points, we did not do enough over the two legs to warrant a place at Wembley. With an enthusiastic owner and a bright young manager at the helm though, the club looks to be on the up.

    Port Vale

    Position: 20th

    Grade: E

    A year after dropping out of League One, Vale nearly dropped out of League Two. An awful start to the season where they lost six of their first eight games cost Michael Brown his job. Former club legend Neil Aspin came in and rescued The Valliants from certain doom.

    They finished 20th, one point clear of the relegation zone (although they were safe with three games to go) after winning only twice in 2018.

    Stevenage

    Position: 16th

    Grade: D

    Yet another team who just missed out on the play-offs in the 16-17 season finishing a lot lower this time around. Stevenage had one of the best strike forces in the league in Danny Newton and Matt Godden but it never clicked for them and they spent the entire season in mid-table.

    Newton did still manage to score 14 goals but it was not enough to take Boro any higher. Former club striker Dino Maamria replaced Darren Sarll near the end of the season. Youth players have stood out

    for Stevenage this season with Ben Wilmot and Mark McKee breaking through into the first team.

    Swindon Town

    Position: 9th

    Grade: D

    Swindon had a big budget but eventually failed to reach the play-offs. The Robins started off well but there poor home form meant consistency was hard to find. Flitcroft left to join Mansfield in March and was eventually replaced by Phil Brown.

    By this point, the play-offs were all but gone. Key players hadn’t stepped up as much as they would have hoped. £350,000 was spent on Kaiyne Woolery but he only scored four goals. A leaky defence was also a big issue as they conceded 65 goals, more than any other team in the top half.

    Wycombe Wanderers

    Position: 3rd (Promoted to League One)

    Grade: A*

    Gareth Ainsworth guided Wycombe to promotion on a relatively small budget beating teams like Coventry, Mansfield and Swindon, all of whom had a lot more to spend. This also comes only four years after just escaping relegation to non-league.

    Adebayo Akinfenwa had his best season, scoring 17 goals and leading The Chairboys to a 3rd placed finish. They scored the second most amount of goals in the league (79) and had a tendency to score late goals to claim vital points. All in all, a brilliant season.

    Yeovil Town

    Position: 19th

    Grade: D

    Another season, another relegation avoided for Yeovil. Darren Way managed to get The Glovers over the line despite conceding the joint-third highest goals in the league. They recovered from their opening day 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Luton and good runs of form in December and again at the start of February helped push Yeovil away from the bottom two.

    Francois Zoko’s 13 goals were massive in keeping the team away from the relegation zone. More solid perfomers included Southampton loanee Olufela Olomola, Omar Sowunmi and Ryan Dickson.

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