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League Two Preview and Best Bets

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Hartlepool v AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon and Draw 1.4

AFC Wimbledon made a winning start to their campaign as they saw off Gillingham on the opening day at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

Despite having gone 27 league games without a win, Johnnie Jackson’s new-look side scored in the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes and kept the visitors at bay to ensure the points.

They will seek to make it two games unbeaten when they head to Hartlepool, managed by Hartley, Paul, after a decade in management in his native Scotland, on Saturday. Pools were on the end of a 4-0 pasting at Walsall last weekend and live up to my billing as one of the teams likely to battle relegation this term.

You’d expect a response from Hartlepool in their first home game of the new season, under a new manager, but even so this should be one of their tougher tests of the season.

Ok Wimbledon might have been relegated last season, but they actually picked up more points away from home than they did infront of their own fans.

A new-look United named eight debutants at the Bescot but allowed two goals in either half and were only able to name six of their seven subs, not a good look on the opening day.

New signing Mikael Ndjoli looks set for a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury which kept him out of the Walsall game while Joe Grey was another absentee and forward Marcus Carver left the club for Scunthorpe this week after missing the Saddlers clash with injury.

Keeper Ben Killip was the only one to come out of the Walsall match with any real credit and I expect he’ll have to earn his money again this week.

Jackson has installed a back-three at Plough Lane with vastly experienced new signing Chris Gunter slotting in alongside skipper Alex Pearce and I can see them keeping it tight on their travels.

The 1.8 available on AFC Wimbledon, Draw No Bet, looks good value but one of my bankers of the day is the visitors to win or draw at 1.4.

Mansfield v Tranmere Rovers

Mansfield to win 1.85

Scorelines only tell part of the story. Look at Mansfield’s opening day 2-0 defeat at Salford. You’d think that’s one well-backed promotion-chaser overcoming last year’s beaten play-off finalists to set their stall out early.

It’s not untrue, however after being undone twice in the opening half-hour the Stags were the better side, they bossed the ball, claiming nearly 70% possession, won nine corners and mustered 14 shots on goal, the one thing they couldn’t do was beat Ammies keeper Tom King. 

So I have no concerns about backing Mansfield to get it right this weekend as they host Tranmere, a new-look side from the one which looked destined for promotion until the clocks went forward, and who also started slowly in their opening day defeat at home to Stevenage.

Rovers are no mugs, and have former Stag Kane Hemmings – who scored their only goal on Saturday – up front, which always provides an intriguing subplot to events, however I can see them remaining pointless come teatime on Saturday. Rovers were poor on their travels last year, taking 24 points from 23 road games and winning only five, by far the worst return of a top-half team – compare that to their 51-points and 16 wins at home to see the drop-off.

A 3-2 home defeat against Sutton in April was Mansfield’s only reverse at home since the first week of October, a span of 18 games, including their home play-off semi-final against Northampton Town.

Nigel Clough’s side also won the 12 matches either side of that blip, partly why they have sold a record number of season tickets this summer, and a solid foundation for another push for promotion this term.

Town have Oli Hawkins back after suspension and expect Rhys Oates to be fit and I’m going to keep it really simple, backing a home win at a chunky-looking 1.85.

Swindon Town v Salford City

Salford and Draw 1.62

These two teams have new managers this season, but for very different reasons.

Charlton swooped to whisk Ben Garner away from Swindon after he led their promotion-push last season while Salford fell short of expectations and have appointed Neil Wood from Man United’s academy set-up as the man to spearhead yet another assault on the title.

Although, as mentioned elsewhere, they rode their luck somewhat last weekend, their opening day 2-0 win against Mansfield was one of the day’s most eye-catching results and they bossed the opening half-hour, scoring both their goals which enabled them to sit back and soak up pressure in the latter stages.

Swindon, by contrast, got progressively worse in their 3-0 defeat at Harrogate, according to new boss, Scott Lindsay, who was promoted from the coaching staff this summer.

They had won nine-straight on the opening day but were undone by a goal from a corner on the stroke of half-time and were 2-0 down before Ben Gladwin hit the post with a penalty. The Sulphurites added a third late-on.

There are more off-field financial rumblings around the Wiltshire side this week and I just have a feeling the week might get worse. The Ammies aren’t bad travellers, claiming 31 points on the road last season while Swindon were far better on their travels than at home, earning 43 of their 77 points in away games.

Only eight teams won fewer than Town’s nine home wins and, given the amount of upheaval at the County Ground this summer, I honestly feel the bookies have got this one priced up wrong with Swindon as warm favourites.

I’d be very tempted to chuck in Salford win and BTTS in a long-shot acca at 6.0 and the 2.25 on Salford Draw No Bet looks a great punt to me too. My pick edges on the cautious side but the 1.62 on Salford win or Draw at 1.62 looks way too big, for me. It’s my pick of the day.

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