Leyton Orient v Grimsby Town
Leyton Orient kick-start the new 2022/23 season at home to newly promoted Grimsby Town and will be looking to begin with a win.
The O’s finished the end of the past campaign strongly after Richie Wellens replaced Kenny Jackett in charge in March. They ended up winning seven out of his 13 games in charge and will be eager to carry on that momentum into next term. Speaking ahead of their first clash against the Mariners, Wellens has told fans to be ‘patient’ as his side look to get back up to speed with competitive football. On the transfer front, the London club have delved into the window to bolster their ranks this summer by bringing in midfielder George Moncur from Hull City, defender Angus MacDonald from Rotherham United, striker Charlie Kelman from QPR and winger Theo Archibald from Lincoln City on a permanent basis after his loan spell. They have improved their squad from last season and have added useful competition and depth ahead of a long 46+ game slog. In terms of injury news, Orient are expected to be without striking pair Aaron Drinan and Harry Smith this weekend after they picked up knocks over pre-season. Nevertheless, this won’t harm them too much as new addition Kelman can take their place and he will be keen to make an impact on his debut. Youngster Ruel Sotiriou, who is being tipped for a bright future in the game, scored 10 goals last season and will be looking to pick up where he left off.
Grimsby are back in the Football League after sealing an immediate promotion back from the National League. Paul Hurst’s side have managed to keep hold of key forward John McAtee, who fired 16 goals in all competitions to fire them to promotion via the play-offs, and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the step up a division. They are in for a difficult opening game though at Brisbane Road and speaking after their friendly against Lincoln City last week, Hurst admitted some of his squad are not up to scratch fitness wise yet. He said their players from last season are ‘further along’ than their new signings. Grimsby have signed defender Anthony Glennon, midfielders Bryn Morris and Kieran Green and forwards Danilo Orsi and Brendan Kiernan to inject some more quality into their team. They have also brought in right-back Niall Maher and Otis Khan, the latter from Saturday’s opponents Leyton Orient, but they are both definitely out for the opening day which is a blow.
Stockport County v Barrow
Stockport County are back in the Football League after 11 years away and take on fellow North West club Barrow this weekend.
The Hatters stormed to the National League title last season and will be looking to carry on their momentum head into League Two, with many tipping them for back-to-back promotions. They are backed by ambitious local businessman Mark Stott and have been busy bolstering their squad since sealing their promotion. Speaking over the summer, their popular boss Dave Challinor revealed their aim is to now ‘get out of that league (Two) as quick as possible’. Their ambition has been matched by the signing of striker Kyle Wootton from Notts County after he fired 26 goals in all competitions last term and he will compete with Paddy Madden and Scott Quigley for a place up top. County have also landed centre-back Fraser Horsfall from Northampton Town in an eye-catching deal following his nine goals from defence for the Cobblers in the last campaign. Midfielder Akil Wright has also joined from York City, whilst attacker Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and defender Joe Lewis have signed from Torquay United to add more depth to the squad. In terms of injuries, Stockport have a clean bill of health right now and are in a strong position to get their first win in front of a packed out Edgeley Park this weekend.
It has been a summer of transition at Barrow following the departure of Phil Brown. They have brought in Pete Wild from FC Halifax Town and he has said he has been ‘really pleased’ with the effort of his new team in pre-season. However, they have been dealt a couple of injury blows ahead of their first match which isn’t ideal. Striker Richie Bennett, who has played for Stockport in the past, is set to be out of action for up to 10 weeks, whilst midfielder Sam Foley is a slight doubt as he recovers from a swollen foot. Josh Gordon and new boy Billy Waters will be battling it out to replace Bennett in attack and the Bluebirds have a host of options to pick from in the middle of the park to step in for Foley including Jason Taylor, Tom White and Robbie Gotts. Barrow have a few new signings who will be in contention to make their competitive debut after landing right-back Tyrell Warren from Halifax, defender George Ray from Exeter City and Harrison Neal from Sheffield United. Winger Ben Whitfield has also joined from Stockport after helping them win the title last term and he is in line to make his debut against his former club. However, Barrow are in for a difficult afternoon and this season will surely be about survival for them again.
Salford City v Mansfield Town
Salford City and Mansfield Town will both have promotion aspirations this season.
The Ammies go into the new campaign with a new manager after replacing Gary Bowyer with Neil Wood from Manchester United U23s. The new boss has said his newly inherited side have played some ‘really good football’ over pre-season. He has wasted no time in bolstering his ranks and his side look like they will be strong in attacking areas. They have brought in Scottish forward Callum Hendry from St Johnstone after he scored eight goals in the second-half of last season and attacking midfielder Elliot Simoes, who played in the Championship with Barnsley a couple of years ago, from AS Nancy in France. They have also managed to keep hold of Matt Smith, Brandon Thomas-Asante and Conor McAleny, who scored a combined 22 goals last term, which means they are well stocked with quality in forward areas. However, their defence may still be an issue and leaking goals was the reason why they missed out on the play-offs last season. Richard Nartey and Ryan Leak have arrived from Burnley and Burton Albion respectively, but at the age of just 23 and 24, do they have the experience to lead from the back?
Mansfield lost in the play-off final last season to Port Vale at Wembley and although loan pair Nathan Bishop and Matty Longstaff have left now to return to their parent clubs, they still have a strong core of players for League Two level. Nigel Clough has also stayed put and has been pleased with their preparations over recent weeks and has said that they ‘can’t wait to get going’ now. The signing of midfielder Hiram Boateng could prove to be a masterstroke and he will compete with the likes of Stephen Quinn, George Maris and Ollie Clarke for a place in the middle of the park. He has arrived from MK Dons after helping them reach the League One play-offs and Clough has labelled him as their ‘outstanding performer’ from pre-season. Mansfield will fancy their chances of scoring a couple against Salford, especially with Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery, who fired a combined 22 goals last term, fit and ready to play. In terms of injury news, the Stags will be without Kieran Wallace for the trip to Salford and will make checks on James Perch, George Lapslie, Jason Law and Stephen Quinn. Nevertheless, they have 23 players in their squad and have options to pick from.
Northampton Town v Colchester United
Northampton Town start the new season at home to Colchester United this weekend and will fancy their chances of starting with three points in the bag.
The Cobblers missed out on automatic promotion to League One last term by a single goal and then lost in the play-offs to Mansfield Town. Nevertheless, they have had a strong pre-season and decent summer transfer window and will be in confident mood heading into their first clash. Boss Jon Brady, who has stayed put, says his side are ‘ready’ and ‘looking forward’ to returning. His side had the best defensive record in the division in the last campaign and only leaked 38 goals in their 46 league matches. Although they have lost centre-back Fraser Horsfall to newly promoted Stockport County, they have brought in two solid replacements in Sam Sherring from AFC Bournemouth and Akin Odimayo from Swindon Town, the latter of whom performed well in League Two last season. Experienced striker Danny Hylton has signed following his departure from Luton Town and knows what it takes to get out of this league, whilst new goalkeeper Lee Burge has joined from Sunderland and will be looking to make the number one spot his own after Liam Roberts’ exit to Middlesbrough. Northampton’s best business is arguably keeping hold of attacker Sam Hoskins and he has scored 53 goals in 296 games for the club so far. In terms of injuries, midfielder Ben Fox has a hamstring injury and striker Kieron Bowie has an ankle problem which rules them both out. Brady has depth in his squad though and won’t be too worried.
Colchester struggled last season but managed to stay up under Wayne Brown after the former Premier League defender took over from Hayden Mullins in January. It hasn’t been a very active transfer window for the Essex club and they have only added three new faces to their small squad of just 20. Brown himself has admitted that it has been a ‘very quiet one’ for his side. Winger Alex Newby has signed from Rochdale, goalkeeper Sam Hornby from Bradford City and midfielder Ossama Ashley from West Ham United. The U’s have also been a dealt a blow following key midfielder Brendan Wiredu’s departure to Fleetwood Town so from the outside looking in, they don’t seem like they will be pulling up any trees in the new campaign. They finished 15th last time around and only five teams out of the 24 scored less. Their lack of attacking arrivals so far suggests that their goal return won’t be much better. The U’s could be in line for a boost ahead of their trip to Northampton with defender Tom Dallison stepping up his recovery from injury last week in their friendly against Felixstowe & Walton United but they may need more than him to keep the likes of Hoskins and Hylton at bay.
Tranmere Rovers v Stevenage
Tranmere Rovers will be hoping it is second time lucky as they look to return to League One.
The Whites are in action this weekend at home to Stevenage and will be eager to kick-off the new season with a win. Micky Mellon remains in charge at Prenton Park and knows what it takes to get out of League Two after guiding the Merseyside club to promotion back in 2019. He says they will take more of a ‘risk’ in the new campaign, which suggests they will go more attacking in games to get fans off their seats. Tranmere had the second best defensive record in the division last term and only leaked 40 goals in 46 games. Ross Doohan, who was their goalkeeper from the last campaign, has signed on a permanent basis from Celtic which is a huge boost and he will be looking to have a similar impact. Mellon’s side struggled for goals though and were the lowest scorers in the top-half. They brought in Kane Hemmings from Burton Albion last January to try and solve and he has said he is ‘excited’ for the new season having scored eight goals since his move. On the injury front, Tranmere don’t have any injuries to contend with yet and will be hoping to give new signings like Jon Nolan, Jordan Turnbull and Paul Lewis their first competitive starts.
Stevenage have struggled over recent years and only Macclesfield Town’s demise back in 2020 saved them from being a non-league club. Steve Evans, formerly of the likes of Leeds United and Mansfield Town, is their boss these days and has a tough job on his hands as he looks to transform them from regular relegation fodders to a side who can compete in the higher reaches of the league. They have signed 11 new players this summer, including goalkeeper Aaron Chapman, defender Max Clark and striker Danny Rose, and have let 14 leave so it will take a while for their new-look squad to gel together. Evans has said ‘most’ of his squad are in good shape ahead of the weekend which suggests a couple may not be 100% ready just yet, which will play into Tranmere’s hands. He has also admitted his team are ‘lacking numbers’ and need a couple more acquisitions to beef up their ranks. New loan signing from Aberdeen Dean Campbell rolled his ankle over pre-season and will be checked ahead of the weekend with Jake Taylor, Jake Reeves and Jack Smith candidates to step in for him if needed.
Rochdale v Crewe Alexandra
Head back just two years and both of these sides were League One outfits. Now there are concerns that Rochdale and Crewe Alexandra could spend this season fighting to maintain their place in the Football League.
Rochdale, hit by the departure of talented players like Conor Grant, Eoghan O’Connell and Corey O’Keeffe to League One sides, have a manager in Robbie Stockdale’s whose 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 systems left a lot to be desired for the Dale last term. The return of goalscoring hero Ian Henderson will be a great life to those attending games at Spotland, but Rochdale will certainly hope that the signing of goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell and defenders Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Cameron John can strengthen a defence that looked exposed at times last season.
Crewe endured a truly forgettable 2021-22, finishing rock bottom of League One. The small gap in quality between the third and fourth tiers would suggest that that same side would finish bottom of League Two had it played there instead, and not much has been added to it. Striker Courtney Baker-Richardson, as well as midfielders Charlie Colkett and Conor Thomas should hopefully provide some quality, but the Carlisle pair of Rod McDonald and Kelvin Mellor aren’t likely to completely flip the fortunes of a young team that got far too used to losing last season.
Rochdale are a team who possess promising attacking threat, but in a formation that can leave them exposed to competent attacks when out of possession. Crewe Alexandra conceded 83 goals last season as they fell into the fourth tier. With two weak defences facing off on the opening day, there’s the potential for some goals to kick-off a new campaign at Spotland Stadium, and it could be a vital three points up for grabs even at this very early stage.
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