Support Stanley to surprise
Our Nick Hext thinks Accrington have been underestimated ahead of the new Sky Bet League 2 season.
- Related Content
There's one club I want to be with in the new Sky Bet League 2 season and that's Accrington.
I'm sure you don't need to ask 'who are they?'
Stanley have been priced up at the bottom of the title betting at 100/1. I can't agree with that assessment although there are better ways to get with the Crown Ground outfit in the wide variety of markets available.
Accrington won't end the season at the top of the table but I rate them as play-off outsiders and that means there's value aplenty to be had.
- 1pt e.w. Accrington (+26) to win on the handicap at 18/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4) - Stanley are a decent side and can surprise people this season
- 3pts Accrington to win Group F at 4/1 (Sky Bet) - expect Stanley to finish above Exeter, Morecambe and Wycombe
- 1pt e.w. Byron Harrison to be top goalscorer at 40/1 (General, 1/4 1,2,3,4) - Cheltenham striker was among the contenders last season
- 1pt e.w. Adebayo Akinfenwa to be top goalscorer at 50/1 (Coral, 1/4 1,2,3,4) - new AFC Wimbledon forward has a great record in League 2
The start of last season saw Accrington as an unknown quantity with the untried James Beattie appointed as manager after Leam Richardson opted to leave the club for a coaching role at Chesterfield.
It was a very, very tough baptism of fire for Beattie with Stanley's first win of the League 2 season not coming until their 13th game on October 22 as they beat Bristol Rovers 2-1.
Everyone had thought Accrington were destined for a return to non-league football until then but the next five games saw an upturn in fortunes with five wins and a draw secured.
The points continued to come for the rest of the campaign and Stanley ended up away from trouble in 15th after ending the season with a couple of wins to complete their revival.
Beattie has proved his worth as a manager and there's a lot to like from his vibrant youngsters once the League 2 action gets started again on Saturday.
The former Southampton and Everton striker is feeling confident.
"We shouldn't fear anyone as when we do things well and do things simply we are a very good team," he told the Lancashire Telegraph during pre-season.
"We are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination and there is a lot to work on but we have the core of a very good side.
"There are some great lads in there and it's all about them this season."
I agree with that verdict, so how best to support Stanley?
The most obvious way is via the handicap.
Accrington have been given a 26-point start and that is well worth an interest.
Stanley ended last season 27 points behind champions Chesterfield and I'll think they'll make a big jump towards the title contenders by flirting with the top seven.
It's certainly a bet that will provide you with interest as the months tick by.
I'm also going to back Accrington in Sky Bet's 'Group F' collection of clubs.
Stanley have been placed with Wycombe, Exeter and Morecambe - all sides they finished ahead of last season - and Sky Bet make them the outsiders of the quartet at 4/1 to finish higher up the table.
I expect the other three clubs to continue to struggle in the bottom third of the standings so that makes Accrington a cracking price to come out on top.
There are other markets to select Stanley in but those two make the most appeal to me.
So what of the teams at the top of the outright betting?
Portsmouth shouldn't be touched as 8/1 title favourites. They are the biggest club by far in the division but that doesn't mean a successful season is a certainty as the travails of last term proved.
Bury and Luton are more appealing options at 7/4 and 15/8 for promotion respectively.
I'd have tipped up Bury if this preview was written in the week after last season ended but since then an impressive summer of recruitment from manager David Flitcroft has made everyone aware of the transformation at the renamed JD Stadium.
The value has gone in backing the Shakers and I'd play a waiting game with Luton at the start of the season.
John Still is one of the best managers around at any level of football in England. His success against the odds with Dagenham and becoming the man to finally guide Luton back to the Football League has proved this in the last decade.
Luton will be challenging for the top seven but the loss of top scorer Andre Gray to Brentford and the adjustment to a higher level of football means it will take a little while to suss the Kenilworth Road club out.
Mansfield and Newport showed last season that it isn't a certainty promoted clubs from the Conference will be amongst the contenders.
Northampton are an outside shout for promotion at 5/1 but my worry for the Cobblers is manager Chris Wilder's record at Oxford of fantastic starts complemented by awful finishes to end up just outside the play-offs
It certainly would pay though to look at Northampton getting out of the blocks quickly.
My final two tips come from the top goalscorer betting.
Cheltenham striker Byron Harrison finished last season joint-fourth in the top scorer standings on 13 goals.
He will lead the line once again for the Robins and is now right at home in Gloucestershire after taking a while to get going following his move from AFC Wimbledon in January, 2013.
I expect Harrison to be in the goals again this season and reckon 40/1 is a great price to support the former Stevenage man with an each-way stake.
AFC Wimbledon striker Adebayo Akinfenwa is my second top goalscorer selection.
The burly 32-year-old is one of the more unconventional forwards in the Football League but don't let that stop you taking note of his great record in League 2.
Akinfenwa spent last season in League 1 with Gillingham and finished with 10 goals. That followed on from his two previous campaigns in League 2 for Northampton where he ended up with 16 goals in 2012/13 and 18 goals in 2011/12, making him joint-top scorer in the division.
The 50/1 for Akinfenwa to finish top of the shots this season really is a price worth snapping up given his previous performances in this division.