INTRODUCTION

The information in this preview is complete to 5pm on Wednesday 1 August 2018. Managerial data is as accurate as I can make it: it is almost impossible to identify the exact dates managers joined or left minor non-league clubs 25 years ago, and detailed statistical information for minor leagues is not readily available. Online statistics databases have not been used due to the errors they can contain. As I have compiled the figures myself, any errors, therefore, are my fault entirely. Firstly, sincere apologies to the subjects; secondly, any errors should be minor and not affect the overall impression; thirdly, it will be more accurate than Wikipedia.

An average points per game figure is given for each manager. In order to translate that into something more tangible, the table below shows how many points that figure equates to over the course of a 46-game season. Although other factors obviously come into play, it gives an indication of how likely that manager is to be involved in a relegation struggle (under 1.20 PPG), a play-off challenge (above 1.50 PPG needed) or an automatic promotion challenge (above 1.70 PPG needed).

As for the player sections, permanent transfers and longer-term loans in are included; shorter-term loans and season-long loans out are not included.

Only regular pre-season friendlies are listed. Those played behind closed doors frequently follow irregular formats and feature high numbers of trialists, rendering the results irrelevant.

MANSFIELD TOWN

Last season: 8th
P46 W18 D18 L10 F67 A52 Pts72

Average attendance: 4,308

Chairman: John Radford, 52 (appointed September 2010)

Manager: David Flitcroft, 44 (appointed March 2018)

David Flitcroft’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Johnny Hunt, 27 (Stevenage)
Rhys Bennett, 26 (Peterborough United)
George Taft, 25 (Cambridge United)
Paul Digby, 23 (Forest Green Rovers)

Midfielders (4):
Joel Byrom, 31 (Stevenage)
Alfie Potter, 29 (Untraced)
Jack Thomas, 22 (Untraced)
Lewis Collins, 21 (Cleethorpes Town)

Forwards (1):
Jimmy Spencer, 26 (Untraced)

Players in (5):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Matt Preston, 23 (Swindon Town)

Midfielders (2):
Neal Bishop, 36 (Scunthorpe United)
Otis Khan, 22 (Yeovil Town)

Forwards (2):
Craig Davies, 32 (Oldham Athletic)
Tyler Walker, 21 (Nottingham Forest – season loan)

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 27

Number of players in squad: 23

One to watch: Tyler Walker, 21 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 1,443

Pre-season:
P8 W5 D2 L1 F15 A4

7/7 Vitória Sport Clube N 0-1 (played in Albufeira, Portugal)
12/7 Bradford Park Avenue A 3-0
14/7 Retford United A 5-0
14/7 Hednesford Town A 0-0
18/7 DERBY COUNTY H 3-1
21/7 SHEFFIELD UNITED H 0-0
24/7 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY H 2-1
28/7 ROTHERHAM UNITED H 2-1

Commentary:

Here is the million-dollar question: do Mansfield have a similar budget to last season? Their bold and ultimately misguided attempt to buy promotion went horribly wrong of course, perhaps allowing Lincoln into the playoffs through that failure. The departure of controversial manager Steve Evans in March did not help that drive, although Mansfield presumably knew what they were getting when they employed him. A massive fine for owner John Radford from the Financial Conduct Authority set the seal on a year to forget at Field Mill, although there is no sign of it affecting his ability to invest in Mansfield Town.

With Evans gone, new manager David Flitcroft could not maintain the promotion push and now appears to be trying to sort out the mess left behind. Three Evans signings – Joel Byrom, Jimmy Spencer and Alfie Potter – have already been released, while six members of Evans’ 2017 summer spree were made available for transfer despite being under contract. Quite how much money he has in his budget may depend on how many of Evans’ expensive errors he can move on, but the evidence seems to suggest the coffers are not empty regardless. Highly-rated young striker Tyler Walker has arrived on a season loan from Nottingham Forest on wages rumoured to make Simon Cowell gasp, while industrious midfielder Otis Khan from Yeovil looks the best of the rest for a mere £100,000. The Stags suffered a blow late in the transfer window when Danny Rose handed in a transfer request after a number of offers for him were rejected.

Like the Imps, Mansfield are also developing their infrastructure through the construction of a new training ground. The £2m facility at Pleasley benefits from a £500,000 grant from the Premier League & FA Facilities Fund, a condition of which stipulates that the facility must be made available for local community use. It will also be used by the club’s academy and Mansfield Town Ladies. The rest of the money comes from a company owned by John Radford.

A highlight for many during the summer was an ill-advised appearance on BBC’s Question Time by CEO Carolyn Radford, who proved unequivocally that she is not Karren Brady. If nothing else, the Mansfield Town Theatre of the Bizarre promises to keep the rest of us entertained regardless of what happens on the pitch. And who knows? With the sorry Evans episode consigned to history, perhaps Mansfield can even become likeable again.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 10/1 (fourth favourites)

Prediction: Playoffs.

MILTON KEYNES DONS

Last season: 23rd in League One (relegated)
P46 W11 D12 L23 F43 A69 Pts45

Average attendance: 9,202

Chairman: Pete Winkelman, 60 (appointed March 2004)

Manager: Paul Tisdale, 45 (appointed June 2018)

Paul Tisdale’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (7):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Scott Wootton, 26 (Plymouth Argyle)
Ben Tilney, 21 (Larne)

Midfielders (5):
Nigel Reo-Coker, 34 (Training with West Bromwich Albion)
Ed Upson, 28 (Bristol Rovers)
Giorgio Rasulo, 21 (Untraced)
Connor Furlong, 20 (Untraced)
Hugo Logan, 19 (Untraced)

Forwards (0):

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Mathieu Baudry, 30 (Doncaster Rovers)
Mitch Hancox, 24 (Macclesfield Town)
Jordan Moore-Taylor, 24 (Exeter City)
Baily Cargill, 23 (AFC Bournemouth)

Midfielders (4):
Ryan Harley, 33 (Exeter City)
Lawson D’Ath, 25 (Luton Town)
Ryan Watson, 25 (Barnet)
Jordan Houghton, 22 (Chelsea)

Forwards (1):
Robbie Simpson, 33 (Exeter City)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 27

Number of players in squad: 31

One to watch: Kieran Agard, 28 (striker)

Season ticket sales:

Pre-season:
P7 W3 D1 L3 F10 A5

7/7 Newport Pagnell Town A 3-0
9/7 St Neots Town A 5-1
13/7 Brackley Town A 0-1
18/7 UD Almería N 0-0 (played at Pinatar Arena, Murcia)
20/7 FC Jumilla N 1-2 (played at Pinatar Arena, Murcia)
24/7 IPSWICH TOWN H 0-1
27/7 OXFORD UNITED H 1-0

Commentary:

Following a somewhat unexpected relegation in May, MK Dons find themselves having to rebuild from the bottom. Three wins from four games in March appeared to be carrying the side to safety, but a run of six successive defeats in April dumped them back into the basement division they left in 2008. Indeed, it is only two seasons since the club graced the Championship with ambitions of Premier League status, so they might be forgiven for blinking in surprise at their current plight.

However, the post-relegation mourning period was refreshingly brief. Owner Pete Winkelman moved quickly to resolve the problem of the revolving door to his manager’s office by bringing in an experienced manager: Paul Tisdale joins after twelve years at Exeter, accompanied by three of his better players in Ryan Harley, Jordan Moore-Taylor and Robbie Simpson. The core to the squad is a solid one, and certainly one that never should have been relegated. Kieran Agard, in particular, will prove too good for League Two, whilst Moore-Taylor, Baily Cargill and Mathieu Baudry should ensure a firm defence. Crowds look set to hold up well, and will easily top 10,000 if the side starts winning again.

In terms of support, management and players, MK Dons appear to have all the hallmarks of a successful season ahead. A club with a capacity of 30,500 would naturally expect to be playing at Championship level as a minimum, and MK Dons are a fish out of water in League Two. They will certainly be one of the big fish that every other team in the division will be angling for, but it is hard to see anything less than a successful challenge for promotion.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 13/2 (second favourites)

Prediction: Champions.

MORECAMBE

Last season: 22nd
P46 W9 D19 L18 F41 A56 Pts46

Average attendance: 1,492

Chairman: Peter McGuigan, 68 (appointed 2000)

Manager: Jim Bentley, 42 (appointed May 2011)

Jim Bentley’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Dan Nizic, 23 (Western Sydney Wanderers – Australia)
Niall Maher, 19 (Untraced)

Defenders (4):
Michael Rose, 36 (Macclesfield Town)
Dean Winnard, 28 (Untraced)
Patrick Brough, 22 (Falkirk)
Aaron McGowan, 22 (Hamilton Academical)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (5):
Adam McGurk, 29 (Untraced)
Rhys Turner, 23 (Barrow)
Reece Deakin, 21 (Untraced)
Luke Jordan, 19 (Ramsbottom United)
Steven Yawson, 18 (Untraced)

Players in (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Mark Halstead, 27 (Southport)
Dawid Szczepaniak, 18 (Airbus UK Broughton)

Defenders (2):
Zak Mills, 26 (Grimsby Town)
Jordan Cranston, 25 (Cheltenham Town)

Midfielders (2):
Andrew Tutte, 27 (Bury)
Lamin Jagne, 20 (Manchester College)

Forwards (5):
James Sinclair, 30 (GAIS – Sweden)
Jason Oswell, 25 (Stockport County)
Rhys Oates, 23 (Hartlepool United)
Liam Mandeville, 21 (Doncaster Rovers – season loan)
Carlos Mendes Gomes, 19 (West Didsbury & Chorlton)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 24

One to watch: Barry Roche, 36 (goalkeeper)

Season ticket sales:

Pre-season:
P4 W2 D1 L1 F8 A8

10/7 Bamber Bridge A 2-1
13/7 Alfreton Town A 3-2
24/7 Chester A 2-2
28/7 FLEETWOOD TOWN H 1-3

Commentary:

After years of financial struggle and inadequate cash flow, Morecambe FC was finally taken over by London-based Bond Group Investments Limited in May 2018. The new owners promised to pay off all significant debts and put money into the club, which they did in July (£750,000). The immediate future of the club is more secure, and at least the players may get paid regularly now. However, little money exists for building a squad capable of carrying the club away from perennial danger at the foot of the Football League, a challenge that has faced likeable manager Jim Bentley for the last seven seasons. Indeed, Bentley became the longest-serving manager in England after Paul Tisdale parted company with Exeter in June; considering Morecambe’s ongoing struggle for League survival, that represents a remarkable show of loyalty by both parties.

A mix of experience and youth has been brought in during the summer, with striker James Sinclair returning to the Football League after a spell in Sweden. Stockport’s Jason Oswell will be keen to make his mark in the League at last at the age of 25, whilst the signings of youngsters Lamin Jagne and Carlos Mendes Gomes from Manchester College are very imaginative. Perhaps the most important signings came with the retention of old stagers Kevin Ellison and Barry Roche on one-year contracts. One big omission will be striker Garry Thompson, who will be out until December with a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered against Crewe in April.

The club appears to have made some bargain basement signings again this summer, but it must be remembered that Morecambe are fishing at the very bottom of the professional pool. To have kept the club in the big time despite gates dropping into three figures at times is no mean achievement. By rights, Morecambe should not really have a League club at all, given its population of under 35,000. This is one of those rare occasions when the manager’s relatively poor statistical returns have to be ignored. The headline at the Globe Arena is that Jim Bentley has somehow kept the club out of League Two’s bottom two for seven seasons in a row: the question is, can he make it eight?

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 80/1 (favourites for relegation)

Prediction: Relegation.

NEWPORT COUNTY

Last season: 11th
P46 W16 D16 L14 F56 A58 Pts64

Average attendance: 3,489

Chairman: Gavin Foxall, 48 (appointed August 2015)

Manager: Michael Flynn, 37 (appointed March 2017 as caretaker, May 2017 permanently)

Michael Flynn’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
James Bittner, 36 (Retired)

Defenders (2):
Jamie Turley, 28 (Untraced)
Calaum Jahraldo-Martin, 25 (Untraced)

Midfielders (4):
Ben Tozer, 28 (Cheltenham Town)
Joss Labadie, 27 (On trial with Dagenham & Redbridge)
Lamar Reynolds, 22 (Dagenham & Redbridge)
Tom Owen-Evans, 21 (Falkirk)

Forwards (3):
Paul Hayes, 34 (Untraced)
Marlon Jackson, 27 (Untraced)
Frank Nouble, 26 (Colchester United)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Fraser Franks, 27 (Stevenage)
Tyler Forbes, 22 (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Midfielders (4):
Andrew Crofts, 34 (Scunthorpe United)
Keanu Marsh-Brown, 25 (Forest Green Rovers)
Charlie Cooper, 21 (Forest Green Rovers – season loan)
Tyreeq Bakinson, 19 (Bristol City – loan until January)

Forwards (2):
Jamille Matt, 28 (Blackpool)
Antoine Semenyo, 18 (Bristol City – season loan)

Average age of players out: 27
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 25

One to watch: Keanu Marsh-Brown, 25 (winger)

Season ticket sales:

Pre-season:
P5 W1 D2 L2 F4 A5

13/7 Undy AFC N 1-1 (at Chepstow Town FC)
14/7 Chippenham Town A 0-1
18/7 Penybont A 0-0
21/7 Hereford FC A 2-0
28/7 STOKE CITY U23 H 1-3

Commentary:

Perennial financial problems continue to dominate in South Wales. The supporter-owned club has been forced to consult fans regarding its future ownership model. The club recently posted a £351,456 loss in the latest accounts (to June 2017) but claim last season’s FA Cup run will offset that amount in this year’s accounts. However, the cost of playing at Rodney Parade has apparently increased by 100% due to increased rents by the ground’s owners (the Welsh Rugby Union) to cover the cost of extensive health & safety and pitch works. Doubts have been raised over the viability of remaining at the ground despite being committed to a lease until 2023. With average attendances continuing to struggle in this rugby heartland, the £50,000 per annum rent may prove increasingly hard to find.

It would be fair to say that Newport had a great season in 2017-18, finishing in the top half of League Two as well as earning a fourth-round FA Cup replay against Spurs at Wembley. Unfortunately, they have lost the heart of that team during the summer. Two of the better players in Frank Nouble and Ben Tozer rejected contract offers to move to other League Two clubs, while injured captain and convicted vampire Joss Labadie unexpectedly decided to do likewise. On the positive side, new signing Keanu Marsh-Brown can be a handful on his day, the problem being that his day does not come often enough. Fraser Franks will make the defence more secure, and new skipper Andrew Crofts from Scunthorpe will offer organisation and nous in midfield.

A very lacklustre pre-season schedule was far from being ideal preparation, and there is little to suggest that Newport can expect anything more than another mid-table season at best. But Michael Flynn has shown himself to be a clever manager despite his inexperience and appears unfazed by the ongoing financial challenges that remain. There will be no risk of relegation while he is in charge, and perhaps that is a reasonable enough ambition at present.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 33/1

Prediction: Mid-table.

NORTHAMPTON TOWN

Last season: 22nd in League One (relegated)
P46 W12 D11 L23 F43 A77 Pts47

Average attendance: 5,830

Chairman: Kelvin Thomas, 45 (appointed November 2015)

Manager: Dean Austin, 48 (appointed April 2018 as caretaker, May 2018 permanently)

Dean Austin’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (6):

Goalkeepers (1):
Richard O’Donnell, 29 (Bradford City)

Defenders (3):
Brendan Moloney, 29 (Untraced)
Raheem Hanley, 24 (Untraced)
Aaron Phillips, 24 (Untraced)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (2):
Kevin Luckassen, 25 (Almere City – Holland)
Leon Lobjoit, 23 (Untraced)

Players in (4):

Goalkeepers (1):
Lewis Ward, 21 (Reading – season loan)

Defenders (1):
Hakeem Odoffin, 20 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (2):
Andy Williams, 31 (Doncaster Rovers)
Junior Morias, 23 (Peterborough United)

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 28

One to watch: Junior Morias, 23 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 2,750 (11/6/18) 3,210 last season

Pre-season:
P5 W5 D0 L0 F12 A0

3/7 Sileby Rangers A 2-0
7/7 St Albans City A 4-0
10/7 Brackley Town A 1-0
24/7 BARNET H 3-0
27/7 MANCHESTER UNITED XI H 2-0

Commentary:

And so we welcome one of football’s yo-yo clubs back to League Two. Since the formation of the four-division league format in 1958, Northampton have been promoted from and relegated back to the basement division on no fewer than seven occasions. In the 1960s came that famous run to the First Division and back, perhaps setting the tone for what has happened since. One thing is for certain: Northampton will be looking for their eighth promotion from the fourth tier, and with immediate effect.

Placed into context against the environment the club has been operating within in recent times, that relegation in May was no surprise. The club was put up for sale in May this year following ongoing disputes with the council regarding the development of the troublesome East Stand. Northampton Borough Council is still trying to recover a £10.25 million loan granted to the club in 2013 for the redevelopment of Sixfields; the money has disappeared, and the council has spent a further £1 million plus in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the money. No one quite knows what the ultimate repercussions may be.

Against that background, Northampton also have a relatively new manager to lead them into their campaign in the shape of former Spurs right-back Dean Austin. Austin has very little experience of management, although he is very knowledgeable as a coach. Two of his better players in Brendan Moloney and goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell have moved on, but the retained list contained few surprises. Quite where the goals are going to come from is perhaps the main challenge facing Austin – last season’s top scorer Chris Long, on loan from Burnley, will not be there this time. Andy Williams, with over a hundred Football League goals to his name, has come in from Doncaster, while the speedy Junior Morias from Peterborough looks the pick of the signings.

Northampton were another side who undertook an underwhelming pre-season schedule. Having played a flurry of games against some minor non-league sides, Northampton allowed themselves just two official games in the final four weeks of pre-season, and one of those was at home to relegated Barnet. In short, Northampton is a relegated club that is up for sale, is embroiled in legal wrangling with the council, and has a new manager. However, they look in a better state than fellow relegated clubs Bury and Oldham in spite of the off-field shenanigans. They could be in for an interesting season at the newly-named PTS Academy Stadium.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 12/1 (joint fifth favourites)

Prediction: Playoffs.

NOTTS COUNTY

Last season: 5th
P46 W21 D14 L11 F71 A48 Pts77

Average attendance: 8,513

Chairman: Alan Hardy, 54 (appointed January 2017)

Manager: Kevin Nolan, 36 (appointed January 2017)

Kevin Nolan’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (13):

Goalkeepers (1):
Adam Collin, 33 (Carlisle United)

Defenders (3):
Mike Edwards, 38 (Untraced)
Nicky Hunt, 34 (Crewe Alexandra)
Carl Dickinson, 31 (Yeovil Town)

Midfielders (5):
Rob Milsom, 31 (Untraced)
Michael O’Connor, 30 (Lincoln City)
Liam Noble, 27 (Hartlepool United)
Curtis Thompson, 24 (Wycombe Wanderers)
Elliot Hodge, 22 (On trial at Burton Albion)

Forwards (4):
Alan Smith, 37 (Untraced)
Shola Ameobi, 36 (Untraced)
Jonathan Forte, 32 (Exeter City)
Callum Saunders, 22 (Untraced)

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Ben Hall, 21 (Brighton & Hove Albion – season loan)

Midfielders (7):
David Vaughan, 35 (Nottingham Forest)
Enzio Boldewijn, 25 (Crawley Town)
Andy Kellett, 24 (Wigan Athletic)
Nathan Thomas, 23 (Sheffield United – season loan)
Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20 (Portsmouth)
Tom Crawford, 19 (Chester)
Will Patching, 19 (Manchester City)

Forwards (2):
Kristian Dennis, 28 (Chesterfield)
Kane Hemmings, 27 (Oxford United)

Average age of players out: 31
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 23

One to watch: Enzio Boldewijn, 25 (winger)

Season ticket sales: 3,100

Pre-season:
P6 W3 D0 L3 F26 A13

7/7 Rolls Royce Leisure Select XI A 17-0
10/7 Basford United A 3-1
14/7 DERBY COUNTY H 1-4
21/7 LEICESTER CITY H 1-4
28/7 Luton Town A 0-2
28/7 Carlton Town A 4-2

Commentary:

And so the club with the fantasy football finances returns with a vengeance. Following owner Alan Hardy’s admission last season that the current wage structure and bonus scale was unsustainable, we might have been forgiven for thinking Notts County were about to cut their cloth this summer. The wage bill was certainly reduced by some significant departures – thirteen players have gone, including presumed high wage-earners Alan Smith, Shola Ameobi and Jonathan Forte.

However, it is the arrivals that have drawn a sharp intake of breath from the outside world. The significant signings of Kristian Dennis (transfer fee alleged to be £150,000) and Kane Hemmings on a lucrative three-year deal started the golden ball rolling. Enzio Boldewijn was then signed from Crawley for a substantial six-figure fee (rumoured to be £300,000), which represents the largest investment since County paid £1.5 million for Kaspar Schmeichel in 2009. The total transfer fee for the three players is believed to be around £550,000, and that is without taking into account the wages for the three or the cost of recent Welsh international David Vaughan from across the Trent. With Hardy desperately trying to flog season tickets under a variety of guises and making impassioned appeals for the fans to turn up, one wonders how secure the whole thing is. Again.

There is no doubt that County have conducted some excellent summer business, whatever the cost, and they appear to have a squad to envy. Further to those headline signings, there has been a huge reduction in the average age of player, suggesting that the legs may last further into the season than they did last time. One criticism of the County side was that they appeared to run out of steam mid-season, and manager Nolan has certainly taken steps to avoid a similar fate this time.

From a Lincoln City perspective, we should also mention that Hardy is relaunching the ladies’ team this season under the new name Notts County Women. That is a bit strange, as Hardy closed the Notts County Ladies club down last summer on the basis that to continue would be ‘little short of financial suicide’. At that time, they could not cover the £1 million needed to cover debts, a £350,000 tax bill and the £500,000 per year running costs of the club. Hardy also stated the projected revenue from sponsorship and attendances was only £28,000, so what makes him think it is suddenly more viable 12 months later? Hardy says they will start further down the women’s pyramid and play home games at the ground of financial disaster area Ilkeston Town, which Hardy also owns. Not much of this makes sense. In fact, none of it does.

Considering the astounding amount of money spent this summer, anything less than promotion next May will represent catastrophic failure. Watch this space.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 11/2 (favourites)

Prediction: Automatic promotion

One Reply to “Vital Lincoln City – League Two Season Preview 2018-19 (Part Two)”

  • Check Keanu Marsh-Brown stats at his Pro Clubs before you make a broad statement like this:-
    On the positive side, new signing Keanu Marsh-Brown can be a handful on his day, the problem being that his day does not come often enough. Rant over

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