League Two preview

Date: 4th August 2015

The SPFL finally kicked off after it’s summer break and there have already been some huge results in the League. Calum McClurkin looks at the final division of our season preview feature and gives his opinions as to who he thinks will do best this season in League Two.

Annan Athletic: Lost 16 players and only brought in four and two of those are goalkeepers. It sounds like an imbalance, but like many League Two sides there will be more emphasis on quality than quantity. Jim Chapman’s men have acquitted themselves nicely since admission into League Two in 2008. Smart Osadolor looks a bright midfield talent from Tiffin University Athletics. Josh Todd scored an excellent hat-trick to knock out Airdrieonians and this may be the year he produces his excellent attacking potential. Alongside experienced club man Peter Weatherson, Annan should not find scoring goals difficult. Lack of depth is a worry, but the Galabankies should be thereabouts at the top end.

Arbroath: Looked shoe-ins for the title for long periods but a sensational collapse towards the end saw the Red Lichties blow it in the play-offs. Lost goalkeeper David Crawford to Alloa and the loan spell of their main man Simon Murray has ended, he is back to Dundee United. But if forwards Lewis Coult and Martin Grehan can get over their recent injury woes then they can provide Arbroath with goals. Lured a few young players from Dundee but have almost lost their entire defence. Time needed to settle in, but if they find their feet quickly enough, Arbroath should be near the sharp end again.

Berwick Rangers: One of the few teams who have brought in more than they have released. It appears that Colin Cameron is finally moulding his Wee Rangers together for a big push. Ian Black featured in pre-season but it looks like the former Rangers man has his eye on a return to the Championship. Berwick have signed many players (16 in and seven out) and that should see them have a deeper squad than most but in terms of quality there is not much that stands out. Ewan McNeil will shore up the defence from Brechin, but the loss of goalkeeper Michael Andrews, Paul Willis to Albion and David Gold to Arbroath are significant losses that may see Berwick come up a bit short this season.

Clyde: Barry Ferguson’s arrival to management made Clyde heavy favourites to win League Two but they flopped, and fell way short of the title and outside the play-offs. With a year under his belt, Ferguson is expected to make serious improvement. And he believes his mistake was quantity over quality. Clyde have a decent budget for this league, and his recruitment this year suggests the Bully Wee should step up on last year’s disappointing effort. John Gibson is an upgrade in the goalkeeping department. David Gormley is more than ready to return to senior football from junior champions Auchinleck and when supplemented by Archie Campbell and Sean Higgins up front, Clyde could terrorise opponents. Scott McLaughlin can also chip in with goals from the midfield. The squad is capable but it is up to Ferguson to step up.

East Fife: Another with high expectations but underachieved. Still made the play-offs but underwhelmed for much of the season under Gary Naysmith. A new season brings new optimism. The loss of defender, Julen Etxabeguren and Sean Dickson are major losses but Naysmith looks to have also recruited better than before and is settling in to management. He has taken chances on four Dunfermline players; Jonathan Page (defender), Ryan Goodfellow (goalkeeper), Scott Mercer (midfielder) and Declan O’Kane (midfielder). Craig Murray is a promising full-back at Aberdeen and that may be an inspired piece of business. Look really strong in defence but slightly weaker upfront. Success for Naysmith will be built on a defensive foundation, the question is do they have the fire power to gain promotion?

East Stirling: Whipping boys of the division once upon a time but have significantly improved in recent seasons. Reece Donaldson (defender) and Kris Faulds (midfielder) are two good solid additions from Peterhead this summer. However, they have lost a lot of players. A key figure in East Stirling’s radical improvement has been Michael Bolochoweckyj but he has joined Clyde, as has midfielder Steven Brisbane. An improving squad has been thinned out and that will see them struggle when the fixtures mount up. Loanees Alistair Roy and Jonny Court from Hearts and Raith respectively will need to hit the ground running up front. Tough ask to resume their drastic improvement this season.

Elgin City: Signs that they have turned a corner when Jim Weir took over in the middle of last season, helping steer Elgin to safety, and almost clinched the final play-off spot in that incredible bunched finish last season. Weir has given the club some much needed structure and discipline. However, the loss of a critical player in Shane Sutherland is a monumental blow to Elgin and will severely hamper their attacking pedigree. Marc McKenzie comes in upfront from Albion Rovers and along with consistent striker Craig Gunn, they could share the burden in attack. McKenzie is the only permanent signing at Borough Briggs, others are in on loan (three from St Johnstone) but Weir will have to work wonders to get Elgin in the play-off mix this season.

Montrose: A season of overhaul at Links Park with 18 players of last season’s rock bottom outfit leaving the club. Paul Hegarty has brought in Greg Cameron from Brechin City in an attempt to bolster the team and in a bid to avoid the dreaded play-off which they narrowly won last season. The loss of Leighton McIntosh to Peterhead is a blow whilst David Banjo put in a stellar performance in the League Cup for Berwick against Alloa, so there may be regrets in letting him go. Squad is still thin in numbers and lack of fitness told in a valiant defeat at Easter Road on League Cup duty. This team should offer more fight for Hegarty but they may still find themselves near the bottom of the table.

Queen’s Park: It has been a tale of so close yet so far for the Spiders. They have suffered so much play-off agony in their recent bids to get back into the third tier. Gus McPherson’s side should be involved at the top end again this year, even though there has been a number of exits from Hampden Park. A chance has been taken on Cammy Marlow in midfield who plied his trade in the USA with LA Wolves for a while. Jordan Moore has returned to parent club Dundee United and the Glasgow side have released a clutch of defenders without replacing them. Strong in midfield but suspect in other departments. Percentage call is more play-off woe.

Stirling Albion: Short-lived return to League One for the Binos, last term. Out of their depth but showed more under Stuart McLaren towards the end of the campaign. The board have fully backed an unconventional appointment and has made some impressive signings. Craig Beattie disappointed at Ayr United last season but still managed to score a few goals, and he should score his fair share at this level. Jon-Paul McGovern was the Honest Men’s captain last term and was inspired in possession and in set-plays from January onwards. He’ll be a key player this season. Sean Dickson is another highly regarded midfielder that has signed. Gordon Smith is a loss upfront for Stirling, after he joined Dumbarton. Should be one of the best in the league in terms of technique this term. However, McLaren will need to address his defence if they want to get back into League One.

 

Predicted table:

  1. East Fife
  2. Stirling Albion
  3. Clyde
  4. Queen’s Park
  5. Annan Athletic
  6. Arbroath
  7. Berwick Rangers
  8. Elgin City
  9. Montrose
  10. East Stirling

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