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SEASON PREVIEW

20 July 2022

It's a little over a week until we get the ball rolling in Devon, so we continue to take a look at our Sky Bet League One opposition.

Here are the next six teams forming part two of our season preview...

CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Last season: 13th (League One)
Manager: Ben Garner
Stadium: The Valley (189 miles)

Having suffered relegation from the Championship at the end of the curtailed 19/20 campaign – finishing one point behind the Reds in that incredible finale – the Addicks narrowly missed out on the play-offs via goal difference the following season before a somewhat disappointing mid-table finish last term.

Arguably one of the big hitters at this level, you don’t have to journey too far back in time to when Charlton were rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the Premier League – achieving their highest league standing since the 1950s as Alan Curbishley guided them to seventh in 2004.

A seven-season stay in the top flight ended three years later, and the south London outfit have since yoyoed between the second and third tiers of English football – a period of time that has seen unrest amongst supporters regarding ownership at the Valley.

At the helm this season following the departure of former Addicks midfielder Johnnie Jackson is Ben Garner, who has had previous stints with Bristol Rovers and Swindon Town. He guided the Robins to the League Two play-offs last term, losing on penalties to Port Vale in the semi-finals.

Our last meeting with Charlton ended in a 2-1 defeat at the Valley in February 2020, four months after we played out a 2-2 draw at Oakwell.

CHELTENHAM TOWN
Last season: 15th (League One)
Head Coach: Wade Elliott
Stadium: Completely-Suzuki Stadium (151 miles)

The Robins, fresh from their promotion as champions from League Two in 20/21, recorded their highest-ever league finish last term under new Reds Head Coach Michael Duff, who guided them to 15th.

In Alfie May, Cheltenham have a striker who ended the previous campaign bang in form with 16 goals in the last 18 games, taking his tally to 26 in all competitions – his best return since turning out for Erith and Belvedere in the Southern Counties East League.

This is only the Robins’ sixth season at this level overall, and Wade Elliott is a Head Coach who has been there and done it as a player with over 700 professional appearances to his name during a career that saw him compete in the Premier League with Burnley.

Within their ranks in former Barnsley left-back Ben Williams, who was at Oakwell for five years before moving to Gloucestershire in January 2022, and he doesn’t have to wait long for a return to South Yorkshire with Cheltenham visiting on 6 August – our first home fixture of the campaign.

We have only played the Robins twice in our history, drawing one and winning one of the Division Two encounters during the 02/03 season.

DERBY COUNTY
Last season: 23rd (Championship)
Interim manager: Liam Rosenior
Stadium: Pride Park (57 miles)

This is the Rams’ first campaign at this level since 1986 and it took them two attempts to get out of what was then the Third Division.

The two-time English champions have spent the past 14 seasons in the Championship – four of which ended in play-off heartache as they aimed to return to the Premier League following a dismal relegation in 2008.

Derby’s 21-point deduction last term ultimately proved to be fatal as they tumbled into the bottom three in mid-September and never managed to haul themselves out of danger as the mountain became unscalable.

A spell of form over the festive period yielded four wins from five games, with a dramatic late draw at Reading the only blot on that particular copybook. But a 2-1 defeat at fierce rivals Nottingham Forest proved to be the turning point as the Rams lost 12 of their remaining 20 fixtures.

They did, however, record a 2-0 victory over Barnsley at Pride Park in early March, gaining slight revenge after the Reds had triumphed 2-1 at Oakwell under interim charge of Jo Laumann four months earlier.

EXETER CITY
Last season: 2nd (League Two)
Manager: Matt Taylor
Stadium: St James Park

After a ten-year absence from the third tier of English football, Exeter roared to promotion from League Two – narrowly missing out on the title on goal difference to Forest Green Rovers, having lost 1-0 at home to Port Vale on the final day.

The Grecians have arguably been one of the more consistent performers at that level over the past few years, reaching the play-off final three times in four seasons only to lose out to Blackpool (2017), Coventry City (2018) and Northampton Town (2020).

In Matt Taylor, City have a manager who won back-to-back promotions with the club as a player in a four-year spell from 2007-2011, taking Exeter from the Conference to League One.

Attacking midfielder Matt Jay is the jewel in the crown at St James Park and has spent almost two decades with the club after progressing through their academy since joining as a seven-year-old. Now 26, he has finished as Exeter’s top scorer for the past two seasons.

It is more than 40 years since we last faced the Grecians, completing a league double with two 1-0 victories during the 80/81 Third Division campaign.

FLEETWOOD TOWN
Last season: 20th (League One)
Head Coach: Scott Brown
Stadium: Highbury (105 miles)

The Lancashire outfit survived by the skin of their teeth last season, courtesy of goal difference after finishing level on 40 points with 21st placed Gillingham.

Just one win in their last 21 league outings – a 3-1 triumph at Crewe Alexandra in early April – yielded 12 points, and it’s clear to see where Fleetwood’s problems were. Only Morecambe (88) and Crewe (83) conceded more goals than the Cod Army (82), but in the bottom half of the table, only Cheltenham Town (66) scored more than their haul of 62.

At the helm for the upcoming campaign is Celtic and Scotland legend Scott Brown, who is taking on his first head coach role since leaving Aberdeen, where his final season in professional football was spent as a player/coach.

He will be hoping to rediscover Fleetwood’s previous League One form, where they reached the play-offs in 2017 and 2020, losing at the semi-final stage.

We last met the Cod Army during the 18/19 campaign, completing a league double with a 3-1 victory at Highbury in September before securing a 4-2 win late in the season at Oakwell.

FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Last season: 1st (League Two)
Head coach: Ian Burchnall
Stadium: The New Lawn (170 miles)

Competing at this level for the first time in their history, it’s set to be a historic campaign for Forest Green Rovers in what is only their sixth season in the Football League – and it’s safe to say that they have ambitions to continue their foray up the pyramid.

They took League Two by storm last term and were worthy champions. Winning the title on goal difference perhaps doesn’t give them the credit they deserve as their form fizzled out somewhat in the final few months.

But the first two thirds of the campaign were virtually faultless with just two defeats in 30 league games an indication of their dominance – and they were unbeaten on the road until suffering a 2-1 loss at Crawley in late February.

In the dugout is former Viking, Östersund and Notts County head coach Ian Burchnall, who guided the Magpies to the National League play-offs two seasons running and arrives at the New Lawn with a burgeoning reputation.

When FGR visit Oakwell on 29 October, it will be a first ever meeting between the two sides, with the reverse fixture in Nailsworth taking place on 15 April.


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