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Match Previews

Sky Bet League Two Season 2021/22

21 June 2021

Match Previews

Sky Bet League Two Season 2021/22

21 June 2021

For the 2021/22 EFL Sky Bet League Two campaign, six sides have entered the division, four dropping down from Sky Bet League One and two coming up from the Vanarama National League as usual.

Bristol Rovers, Rochdale, Swindon Town and Northampton Town were all relegated from England’s third tier, with Sutton United and most recently Hartlepool United achieving promotion into the EFL after an extended non-league season.

League action returns on Saturday 7 August and here’s a run-down of every team in the division ahead of the campaign.

Barrow AFC
After a 48-year absence from the EFL, the Bluebirds returned in-style as they managed to secure their league status under caretaker manager Rob Kelly. 

In May, the club appointed Mark Cooper as manager following his departure from Forest Green Rovers. The 52-year-old guided Rovers to promotion in 2016 and led them to the League Two play-offs so Barrow will be hoping to improve on their previous league finish.

Scott Quigley showed his quality for the club last year as his 15 goals proved to be vital and he will be looking to back these numbers up again. The Bluebirds have added Offrande Zanzala to their ranks who could form a formidable partnership with Quigley.

Bradford City
The Bantams had an interesting 2020/21 campaign after the exit of club legend Stuart McCall, Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars became joint-managers after an incredible spell in caretaker charge with the pair picking up seven wins, three draws and just one loss.

They looked set to challenge for the play-offs, however, their form dipped which resulted in them finishing in 15th place. Latics faced Bradford on four occasions last season as we picked up three wins and a draw.

Derek Adams has taken the hot seat now at Valley Parade after a remarkable spell with Morecambe as he led the Shrimps, against all the odds, to promotion via the play-offs which means they will be playing third tier football for the first time ever.

They’ve added Abo Eisa to their squad recently, and he could prove to be an impressive piece of business with the winger able to cause defences endless problems on his day.

Bristol Rovers
Joey Barton’s side will be glad of a fresh start after a tough period, finishing bottom of League One, and the former Manchester City midfielder is determined to bounce straight back. 

The Gas have shown their intent for a productive 2021/22 announcing four signings at the same time with Paul Coutts, Sam Finley, Mark Hughes and Nick Anderton all putting pen-to-paper on deals with the club. In particular, Coutts could be an excellent addition to their squad as he has the capability to dictate the tempo of a game in the heart of midfield. 

The last time we met Bristol Rovers occurred in December 2017 at Boundary Park with the sides playing out a 1-1 draw. Billy Boden’s opening goal was cancelled out by Craig Davies’ 72nd minute strike earnt Latics a hard-fought point.

Bristol Rovers Ground.jpg

Carlisle United
The Cumbrians finished 10th in the league last season, just seven points away from a play-off spot under Chris Beech’s leadership. They spent time at the top of the table during the campaign, however, due to fixture changes they had a tough schedule in order to fulfil all of their matches.

Jon Mellish will be one to watch throughout this season as the former Gateshead man, impressively, netted 16 times in all competitions from midfield last campaign. The 23-year-old arrived at Brunton Park in May 2019 and has made 71 appearances for the club.

Last season, Latics beat Carlisle in the first round of the Carabao Cup with an inspiring 3-0 win courtesy of goals from Ben Garrity, Bobby Grant and Conor McAleny as well as picking up a 3-1 at Brunton Park in February.

Colchester United
The Essex based club managed to escape relegation to the Vanarama National League with their rivals Southend United filling the last spot. Hayden Mullins’ appointment proved to be a genius decision for Colchester’s survival as he picked up 12 vital points from the last eight games.

Last time out, Keith Curle’s men produced an exciting 5-2 win over the U’s at Boundary Park and, notably, Leeds United loanee Alfie McCalmont found the back of the net with an iconic free-kick routine.

Ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, they possess several promising youngsters in their squad such as Noah Chilvers, Kwame Poku and Brendan Wiredu, and the signing of Cole Skuse, Luke Chambers and Freddie Sears bringing much-needed experience into the dressing room.

Crawley Town
John Yems guided the Red Devils to a mid-table finish last season and made national headlines when he signed former Towie star Mark Wright, causing a major FA Cup upset in the third round against Premier League side Leeds in the process.

The sides played out two entertaining matches with Crawley picking up a 3-2 win at Boundary Park before Latics picked up an emphatic 4-1 win away from home.

Crawley have brought experienced midfielder Jack Payne to the club from Vanarama National League side Eastleigh and he will offer something different to their squad going into the new campaign. 

Exeter City
Last season, Matt Taylor’s side just missed out on a play-off space again with the Grecians finishing in 9th position. In our first fixture against each other last season, Latics earned a 2-1 win at St James’ Park with Danny Rowe smashing an unbelievable free-kick from 35-yards into the top corner.

After scoring 20 goals and being named in the PFA Team of the Year, Matt Jay will be an important player for the upcoming campaign and could be fundamental if the Devon side are to achieve promotion.

The fan-owned club has a fantastic reputation for producing exciting talent through the academy and, like Jay, there are multiple players from the youth ranks establishing themselves into starting XI like Joel Randell, Archie Collins, Joshua Key, Alex Hartridge and Jack Sparkes.

Forest Green Rovers
Forest Green suffered heartbreak in the play-off semi-final against Newport County with the second-leg being a compelling encounter. Nicky Maynard’s last-minute goal in extra-time ended their hopes of going to League One for the first time in their history.

Owner Dale Vince has appointed Rob Edwards as Head Coach ahead of the new campaign. He had a successful playing career with the likes of Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackpool before becoming England U16 Head Coach as well as U20 Assistant at the FA.

Aaron Collins could be a star player in the division next season with the attacker implementing his ability towards the end of the season including a brace on the last day of the season against Latics.

Harrogate Town
The North Yorkshire side enjoyed their first-ever campaign in the EFL last season in which Simon Weaver’s men finished 17th, one place above Latics.

In our first-ever meeting, Harrogate were victorious on Boxing Day with Bobby Grant also being shown a red card. However, in the reverse fixture Latics produced a dominant display in a 3-0 win at the EnviroVent Stadium.  

The Sulphurites are yet to announce a new signing, however, they will be without veteran Jon Stead as the striker confirmed his retirement. 

Hartlepool United
Dave Challinor guided the club back to the EFL in empathic style via the play-offs last weekend against Torquay United after three campaigns in the fifth tier.

Pools finished 4th in the Vanarama National League, and they have an abundance of talent within their squad such as Timi Odusina, the experienced captain Nicky Featherstone and their lead marksman Rhys Oates.

Latics last faced Hartlepool in March 2013 at Boundary Park as Lee Johnson began his managerial tenure with an impressive 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Robbie Simpson, Jean-Yves Mvoto and Jose Baxter.

Hartlepool United.jpg

Leyton Orient
Kenny Jackett will be in the O’s dugout for the upcoming season, the extremely experienced manager has two promotions and two EFL trophy on his CV. Most recently, the former Wales international was in charge of Portsmouth.

Leyton Orient had a late push for the play-offs under Jobi McAnuff’s interim reign with former Latics forward Conor Wilkinson hitting impressive form, however, they couldn’t quite make their intended target as they ended 11th in the table.

They’ve been shrewd in the transfer window with Darren Pratley, Omar Beckles and Connor Woods all signing for the club and look set to challenge at the top end of the table after a number of regulars have left, most notably their star striker Danny Johnson to Mansfield.

Mansfield Town
The Stags had a frustrating 2020/21 campaign after signing several high-profile players they finished 16th in League Two which was their second-bottom half finish in a row.

Nigel Clough currently occupies the dugout at Field Mill and the former Nottingham Forest striker will be keen to take the club back to the third tier since their relegation in 2003.

Tyrese Sinclair, who spent time in Latics’ academy at a very young age, broke through into the Mansfield first-team last year and showcased his colossal potential will be important for Clough’s side. The 20-year-old found the back of the net three times including against Oldham in May and now has the opportunity to get a full season of professional football.

Newport County
Once again, Michael Flynn’s side tasted play-off final defeat as Morecambe managed to pick up a 1-0 win at Wembley courtesy of Carlos Mendes Gomes’ penalty. To add to this, the final would be Josh Sheehan’s last game in a Newport shirt which will be a big miss for the Exiles.

Latics completed a resounding league double over the South Wales side last campaign with a 4-2 win at Rodney Parade and a 3-2 victory on home turf, Davis Keillor-Dunn netted three times across the two games.

Throughout the summer, Flynn has utilised the transfer window well in order to enhance the standard of his squad with the additions of Ed Upson, Joe Day and Cameron Norman all astute pieces of business.

Former Latics manager Darren Kelly has joined Newport as their first-ever sporting director ahead of the new campaign.

Northampton Town
The Cobblers spent just one season back in League One under John Brady after Latics Head Coach, Keith Curle, guided them to promotion via the play-offs with Nicky Adams in the season prior.

Latics last met Northampton in November 2019 which ended in 2-2 at Boundary Park as Scott Wilson and former fans favourite Jonny Smith netted in the last five minutes to secure a point.

Brady has already been busy throughout the transfer window as he set his sights on an instant return. 

Port Vale
After appointing Darrell Clarke in February, the Valiants finished the campaign with momentum following fears of relegation, the former Bristol Rovers gaffer led them to 13th just a point off being in the top half of the table.

Former Latics loanee Ben Garrity put pen-to-paper on a deal with Port Vale for an undisclosed fee. The hard-working midfielder made 38 appearances in all competitions for the club during the 2020/21 campaign. 

Alongside Garrity, Clarke has recruited smartly during the summer and, most notably, brought former Manchester United striker James Wilson to Vale Park.

Dale have returned to League Two after spending seven years in the third tier with Brian Barry-Murphy’s side ending the campaign 21st, just a point behind Wigan Athletic. After the relegation, the board confirmed that they will be keeping faith in their current manager. 

Our local rivals have several ex-Latics players in the squad which are Ryan McLaughlin, Eoghan O’Connell and Matty Lund.

They’ve yet to bring a new signing to Spotland, but Stephen Dooley and Jay Lynch committed their futures with the club as they put pen-to-paper on new contracts.

Rochdale Away.jpg

Salford City
On the last day of the season, the Ammies missed out on a play-off spot after relieving Richie Wellens of his duties in March to appoint Gary Bowyer to enhance their chances of going up. 

Latics beat Salford in the last fixture in January after Ian Henderson gave the visitors the lead, Dylan Bahamboula found an equaliser in the second half before Keillor-Dunn produced a wonder-strike in the 92nd minute to earn our first ever win over the opposition.

The hierarchy at Salford decided to reward Bowyer will a two-year deal after a promising start to his tenure which has given stability ahead of the new campaign. To add to this, left-back Ibou Touray has agreed a new two-year deal with the club.

Scunthorpe United
The Iron just about managed to retain their EFL status last season, finishing 22nd with three points more than relegated Southend.

Latics were left frustrated in our last encounter against Scunthorpe as McCalmont’s strike in the second half was cancelled out by Jordan Hallam’s 93rd minute goal to rescue a point for his side.

Alex Kenyon, who achieved promotion with Morecambe last season, has joined the club and the defensive midfielder is a great addition in order to improve their hopes of having a better campaign.

After struggling at the start of the campaign, Alex Revell’s side managed to have an impressive rise up to 14th, losing just 14 games throughout the full season which is the same amount as promoted Cambridge United and Morecambe.

Elliot List committed his future to Boro and that’s massive news for their supporters after scoring 11 goals and proving to be a handful for most League Two defences, he will fundamental if Stevenage are to progress up the division. And fellow striker Luke Norris also re-signed permanently for his hometown club.

Stevenage will be targeting the play-offs heading into the new campaign which would be great progression for the club after finishing bottom in 2019/20.

Sutton United
The U’s were crowned Champions of the Vanarama National League with 84 points which means they will be playing their football in the EFL for the first time in their 123-year history.

Latics have never faced Sutton in a competitive game so this will be a trip to the capital that fans can tick off their list.

Matt Gray’s number one Dean Bouzanis will be familiar face to Boundary Park as the Australian shot-stopper spent two years at Oldham and played a major part in Matt Smith’s last-minute equaliser against Everton in the fifth-round of the FA Cup.

Sutton United.jpeg

Swindon Town
It was a season to forget for the Robins last campaign, finishing 23rd in League One as well conceding 89 goals.

Swindon have appointed former Colchester United manager John McGreal in order to pursue an instant return to the third tier. To add to this, Rene Gilmartin has joined the club to be McGreal’s assistant.

The Robins have added Jojo Wollacott and Pierce Sweeney to their squad, however, talented prospect Scott Twine departed the County Ground to join MK Dons. 

Tranmere Rovers
Rovers reached the play-offs under the guideship of Keith Hill, however, they decided to part ways before they began the crucial games in which they suffered defeat in the semi-final against eventual winners Morecambe.

In the summer, Tranmere announced the return of fans favourite Micky Mellon as manager. Previously, the 49-year-old achieved two promotions at Prenton Park before leaving to join Dundee United.

The Super White Army have a host of vastly experienced talent within their squad providing an established spine to their starting XI to build from.

The Saddlers had a frustrating 2020/21 campaign which resulted in a 19th place finished under the temporary charge of Brian Dutton.

Their supporters have renewed optimism ahead of next season with the appointment of ex-Premier League midfielder Matty Taylor as Head Coach and the arrivals of Manny Monthe, Joss Labadie and Conor Wilkinson have further boosted their morale.

In our last meeting against the West Midlands club, Keillor-Dunn netted a 75th minute equaliser at the Bescot Stadium in January.

The new season promises to be another tight contest with a number of sides looking to finish in the top seven places, and alongside the hopeful return of supporters both home and away adding to the missed atmosphere, it's setup to be another interesting campaign.

A reminder, the new Sky Bet League Two fixture schedule will be released this Thursday morning (24th from approx. 9am) and will be available to view on the website in full shortly afterwards.

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