League Two: Were we right, or what?
Back in August, Ryan Kelly stuck his neck out to predict how teams would fare in League Two. Even more bravely, he's come back to assess how he Ã¢ÂÂ and the teams Ã¢ÂÂ are doingÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Writing a season preview for League 2 proved to be quite difficult in August, considering the leagueÃ¢ÂÂs notoriety for inconsistency and surprises. Now just over a third of the way in to the season it might be interesting to see how accurate that preview was three months ago.
FEATURE 15 Aug 2012: League Two Preview Ã¢ÂÂ New faces, New York and old York
Since August managers, players and even owners have come and gone. Some bloke called Edgar Davids, who has won something called the Champions League, joined serial strugglers Barnet; James Beattie brought his five (!) England caps to Accrington Stanley; and Wirral businessman Paul Wildes completed his take over of Port Vale.
The league table is now starting to take shape, with promotion contenders and relegation candidates beginning to become a little clearer, but how predictable is League Two? Time to return to those August forecasts to see how they're faring Ã¢ÂÂ the teams and the predictionsÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Predected Title Challengers
Cash-rich Fleetwood Town were the early favourites to gain promotion during pre-season and that has certainly been justified. The Trawlermen currently sit fourth, one point off an automatic promotion spot and are unbeaten since early October. John Ã¢ÂÂThe BeastÃ¢ÂÂ Parkin has chipped in with six goals and it might have been more had Joey BartonÃ¢ÂÂs loan move materialised. Marseille is nice this time of year.
Barton's move to the Med cost him a possible trip to New York. The Statue of Liberty is slightly further away than Yorkshire but Rotherham UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs new ground is seen as an important ingredient if the club are to succeed. The Millers have won more home games than any other side so far but it is his teamÃ¢ÂÂs away form that Steve Evans will want to improve having only won once.
Cheltenham finished in the play-offs last year and look as though they will achieve at least that again in this campaign. Mark YatesÃ¢ÂÂ team sit in third and are among the early contenders.
Like the Robins, Torquay narrowly missed out on promotion last time out and are looking to avenge that. However, their start has not been what they would have hoped for and find themselves in mid-table despite Rene Howe netting 10 goals already.
After dominating gaining promotion from the league two years ago, Chesterfield find themselves back in it and perhaps under performing. Jack Lester has continued to net goals, eight so far, but The Spireites will feel they have had a less than mediocre season to date and will look push on over Christmas.
Many tipped Bristol Rovers to gain promotion this term after they failed to bounce back into League 1 last season. However, the Pirates have had a poor start to the campaign and are just two points off the bottom, with Mark McGhee come under severe scrutiny.
Predicted Promotion Challengers
Britt Assombalonga has notched 11 goals for Southend this season and the Watford loanee could be important to the Essex clubÃ¢ÂÂs success. They sit one point off a play-off spot after scoring more away goals (21) than any other side, but have only netted nine at Roots Hall.
Bradford City are always tipped to have a good season and it's so far so good for the Bantams. They're among the contenders for automatic promotion with Nakhi Wells looking dangerous up front.
Current table-toppers Gillingham finished 7th last year and have continued to build on the back of a promising season. Martin Allen is no stranger to leading clubs out of the lower leagues and his side might well last the distance.
At the other end of the spectrum, Oxford and Wycombe will be deeply disappointed with their starts to their respective campaigns, the latter sitting second from bottom and currently under the leadership of caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth. Oxford sit 18th but Tom CraddockÃ¢ÂÂs goals offer some promise.
Northampton and Aidy Boothroyd avoided relegation last year and were tipped by many to be dark horses this time around. There were a lot of ins and outs during the summer at Sixfields but it's one of the Ã¢ÂÂold guardÃ¢ÂÂ providing goals. Adebayo Akinfenwa has scored 13 times and the Cobblers will feel confident at this point.
A handful of clubs seen as mid-table candidates are proving they might have what it takes to go up Ã¢ÂÂ and none more so than Port Vale, who are second in the table with the leagueÃ¢ÂÂs top scorer in Tom Pope. The 27-year-old has 20 goals to his name so far and the Valiants will hope he continues that form to take them up.
Also having a decent season so far are Exeter. The Grecians were relegated from League One last time out but Jamie Cureton is proving to be a shrewd signing having netted 15 times. They will fancy their chances of bouncing straight back up.
Rochdale are level on points with Exeter and are also looking to get back in to the third tier after finishing bottom last season. Dale are second in the form table and will look to keep that going over a busy Christmas period.
Aldershot finished last season in good form but haven't been able to find any consistency and lie 22nd. Dean Holdsworth is confident that his side can turn their season around and, like Bristol Rovers, will look to replicate CreweÃ¢ÂÂs performances last year that saw them go up.
Over the past few seasons, there has been one surefire thing in League Two: Barnet get themselves involved in a relegation battle before surviving on the last day. They might be bottom, but the Bees have only lost one in their last seven and will look to climb up the league with the help of a proper football hero, Edgar Davids.
Accrington Stanley had their own Ã¢ÂÂbig nameÃ¢ÂÂ arrive recently in the form of James Beattie, a former England international. It's against Beattie that Davids probably had the lowest moment of his professional career when he was sent off for two bookings. Stanley have shown all the signs of a mid-table team with a lack of consistency and should be fine.
Burton might be surprising a few people. They sit 10th as Gary RowettÃ¢ÂÂs managerial career has had a promising start. They will feel confident of improving on their 17th-placed finish in 2011/12.
The other Ã¢ÂÂdrop-dodgersÃ¢ÂÂ in the season preview are faring pretty well. York City, Dagenham & Redbridge and Morecambe are all huddled together in 15th, 16th and 17th but have the potential to be sucked into a scrap. Like so many teams in and around that position, they will look to pick up some form and ensure that doesnÃ¢ÂÂt happen.
With a couple of obvious exceptions, the season preview is looking as though it is panning out the way many thought it would. There are a couple of clubs who find themselves at the opposite end of the table to what many may have predicted, but that's football Ã¢ÂÂ especially in League Two. Crewe showed last season that a run of form could change everything and in a league where anything can happen, it could look all so different in a few months' time. Expect another comparison then.