Home comforts for Cobblers
The new Sky Bet League 2 preview package has our two top tips for Saturday's action.
Nick Hext brings you his top tips for the opening weekend of the Sky Bet League 2 season. Match-by-match score verdicts and team news are also included for the first time.
Northampton stayed up on the final day of last season but I expect better from the Cobblers this season. Chris Wilder has taken charge of his first pre-season at Sixfields and I fully expect his men to be quick out of the blocks. That was certainly the case for Oxford during Wilder’s time in charge as they started like a train before running out of steam later in the season. Mansfield should occupy a mid-table slot and won’t return north with anything to show for their efforts on Saturday.
I’ve tipped Accrington to go well in my League 2 season preview so you shouldn’t be too surprised to see me back them to start the season with victory over Southend. Stanley bounced back last term after a horrific start and I think James Beattie’s got a decent squad at his disposal. Southend have made a lot of signings close to the start of the season and it may take them a bit of time to gel.
Team news and match-by-match score verdicts:
AFC Wimbledon manager Neil Ardley could hand debuts to as many as eight players, but will be without defender Andy Frampton after he suffered a broken ankle during pre-season training. Teenage striker George Oakley will not feature after picking up a hamstring strain, but fellow youngster Jake Nicholson will be available following a similar problem. Shrewsbury's new boss Micky Mellon has been busy this summer, bringing in 16 new faces to help boost the club's bid for an immediate return to League One. Strikers James Collins and Scott Vernon were playing in the Scottish Premiership last term, while Andy Mangan, Andy Robinson, Liam Lawrence and John-Louis Akpa Akpro are other experienced additions to the squad.
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)
Verdict: AFC Wimbledon 1 Shrewsbury 2
Accrington's Will Hatfield is carrying a knock and could miss out. Manager James Beattie has no other concerns, but striker Brett Ormerod, currently mulling over a move back to the Store First Stadium, is injured and receiving treatment at the club. Southend are without Michael Timlin, who is sidelined with a dislocated elbow. Defender Luke Prosser is back to full fitness after suffering injury problems at the end of last season.
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear)
Verdict: Accrington 3 Southend 0
Bury are without striker Clive Platt, who has been nursing a calf problem this summer. Midfielder Andrew Tutte has spent time on the treatment table too, but played 90 minutes in Bury's Lancashire FA Senior Cup final victory over Wigan on Wednesday. Matt Taylor is expected to be fit to skipper Cheltenham on his Robins debut. Fellow summer recruit Asa Hall has shaken off his Achilles injury and will also be in contention.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear)
Verdict: Bury 1 Cheltenham 0
Cambridge boss Richard Money has prepared for life in the Football League by bringing in some experienced new recruits, many of whom could feature. Johnny Hunt, Chris Dunn, Robbie Simpson, Luke Chadwick and loanees Kwesi Appiah and Harry Lennon have all joined the club. Plymouth will be without new signing Anthony O'Connor (suspension). Manager John Sheridan has a fully-fit squad at his disposal after Deane Smalley and Dominic Blizzard were passed fit. But both are unlikely to be considered to start due to lack of match action.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)
Verdict: Cambridge 1 Plymouth 1
Carlisle's summer recruit Troy Archibald-Henville will miss his new club's opening game of the season against Luton through suspension. Fellow new signing Danny Grainger, Courtney Meppen-Walter and Sean O'Hanlon will contest for the two centre-half berths. Winger David Amoo is doubtful as he recovers from an ankle injury, but otherwise manager Graham Kavanagh has a clean bill of health. Luton are likely to be without Alex Lawless, Shaun Whalley, Jonathan Smith and Andy Parry through injury when they return to Football League action. The Hatters will be boosted by the return to fitness of Luke Guttridge, who is available after a metatarsal injury sustained at the end of last season.
Referee: Nigel Miller (Durham)
Verdict: Carlisle 0 Luton 2
Dagenham will seek to build on last season's solid ninth-placed finish with Nathan Green, Bradley Goldberg and Frankie Raymond all stepping up from non-league clubs. Boss Wayne Burnett has also captured the signatures of several players proven at this level, most notably veteran striker Jamie Cureton. Morecambe's Ryan Edwards could be sidelined for the first eight weeks of the season, but otherwise manager Jim Bentley has no other concerns.
Last season: Dag & Red 1 Morecambe 1, Morecambe 2 Dag & Red 2 Last five league matches: Dag & Red L W L L W; Morecambe D D L W D Top scorers: ; Match Odds: H 5-4 A 9-4 D 9-4
Referee: Pat Miller (Bedfordshire)
Verdict: Dagenham 2 Morecambe 1
Exeter will be without Jordan Moore-Taylor due to a metatarsal injury. Liam Sercombe and Scot Bennett missed the defeat to Torquay last Saturday because of a bug, while David Wheeler, Arron Davies, Matt Oakley and Pat Baldwin were also affected. Portsmouth manager Andy Awford could hand a debut to new arrival Paul Robinson and James Dunne could face his old club. Patrick Agyemang is expected to miss out due to a thigh injury.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)
Verdict: Exeter 0 Portsmouth 1
Skipper Andy Sandell (hamstring) looks set to hand Newport an injury boost by declaring himself fit. Manager Justin Edinburgh will be without injured midfielder Max Porter and the suspended Ryan Jackson, while goalkeeper Jamie Stephens (quad) is a few weeks away from full fitness. Wycombe will check on Josh Scowen after he injured his ankle during pre-season. Stuart Lewis is also a doubt having sat out Wanderers' last two games, but manager Gareth Ainsworth may decide not to risk him and instead hand Peter Murphy his Chairboys debut.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)
Verdict: Newport 3 Wycombe 0
Northampton will be looking to kick on following their strong finish to last season when they won four of their last six games. New signing John-Joe O'Toole, who scored 13 goals from midfield for Bristol Rovers last season, is expected to start, while defender Zander Diamond brings experience to the back four. Mansfield manager Paul Cox should have a fully-fit squad available. Liam Hearn, Sascha Studer, Fergus Bell and Alex Fisher could all make their Football League debuts.
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)
Verdict: Northampton 2 Mansfield 0
Michael Appleton is waiting on the fitness of captain Jake Wright and Johnny Mullins ahead of his first match as Oxford boss. Goalkeeper Ryan Clarke is set to miss the opening weeks so Sheffield United loanee George Long will make his U's bow. There could also be debuts for Junior Brown and Carlton Morris. Burton look to have a clean bill of health. Last season's play-off finalists have strengthened over the summer and Albion boss Gary Rowett could hand debuts to most of them, including Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, signed on a permanent deal after his successful loan spell. He is likely to be partnered in central defence by George Taft.
Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire)
Verdict: Oxford 1 Burton 3
Influential Stevenage players Luke Freeman and James Dunne have moved on, but there have been new arrivals such as experienced defender Dean Wells, while Ron Henry returns from Luton. Striker Adam Marriott and Chris Whelpdale will also be keen to make their mark at the club, but Simon Walton will miss out against his former club through suspension. Hartlepool's two summer recruits Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby are both expected to make their competitive bows for the club as boss Colin Cooper has a fully-fit squad to choose from. Luke James, Jonathan Franks and Michael Duckworth are in contention to start, having impressed during pre-season and young midfielder Brad Walker and veteran forward Marlon Harewood also look set to start.
Referee: Mark Haywood (W Yorkshire)
Verdict: Stevenage 1 Hartlepool 0
Rookie Tranmere boss Rob Edwards will be without left-back Liam Ridehalgh (ankle) for his first game in professional management against York. Summer signing Matt Gill is expected to overcome a knee injury, but the new boss confirmed he has known his starting XI for well over a week. York could be without summer signing Luke Summerfield (knee). Wes Fletcher and Josh Carson both remain sidelined with the knee injuries they sustained last season, while Jake Hyde is hoping to overcome an ankle knock in time to make his debut.
Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset)
Verdict: Tranmere 1 York 1