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Club News

SEASON PREVIEW

29 July 2022

The new campaign gets underway this weekend and thus concludes our season preview.

Here, we look at the remaining six teams in Sky Bet League One...

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE
Last season: 7th (League One)
Manager: Steven Schumacher
Stadium: Home Park (302 miles)

It was final day heartbreak for the Pilgrims last term as they suffered a thumping 5-0 defeat at home to promotion-chasing MK Dons, meaning they dropped out of the play-off places at the expense of Wycombe Wanderers.

For large spells of the campaign, they had occupied a top six spot – even leading the division for the best part of a month between October and November – as they embarked on a 16-game unbeaten run, having lost the opening game at Rotherham United.

A mid-season blip yielded just two wins from 10 outings, but their form picked up once again – aided by a spell of six consecutive victories and clean sheets in March that looked to have reaffirmed their status as one of the promotion candidates.

However, just three points from their last five matches saw Plymouth fall at the final hurdle, and they will be aiming to go one better this time in their attempts to return to the Championship for the first time since 2010.

This is the Reds’ first trip of the season and we won on our last visit to Devon back in 2019 – a 3-0 triumph on Easter Monday – having drawn 1-1 at Oakwell in early October.

PORT VALE
Last season: 5th (League Two)
Manager: Darrell Clarke
Stadium: Vale Park (61 miles)

Perhaps one of the surprise packages last season, Vale secured promotion to League One via the play-offs – sweeping aside Mansfield Town 3-0 in the Wembley showpiece back in May. That was following a nerve-wracking penalty shootout against Swindon Town in the semi-finals, edging it 6-5 after 16 kicks.

They have come close to dropping out of the Football League on two occasions in the past five years – finishing 20th both times and surviving by just a point in the 17/18 campaign.

Vale rallied in the curtailed 19/20 term and, before football stopped in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, were in good form and looked likely to claim a play-off spot, but agonisingly missed out on points per game.

Up top, James Wilson enjoyed the best scoring return of his career, netting 15 goals in all competitions, while Jamie Proctor notched 12 for the Valiants en route to earning a third individual promotion.

Since 1898, there have been 111 meetings between the two sides with 46 wins apiece, so it won’t be a surprise to learn that the Reds won one and lost one the last time we were in the same division.

PORTSMOUTH
Last season: 10th (League One)
Manager: Danny Cowley
Stadium: Fratton Park (243 miles)

It’s strange to think that the end of this campaign will mark 15 years since Portsmouth lifted the FA Cup – on the of the Premier League’s great entertainers in the mid- to late-noughties.

But three relegations in four seasons saw Pompey topple into League Two, where they eventually escaped at the fourth attempt as champions – edging Plymouth Argyle to the title on goal difference in 2017.

They have finished in the top half of the League One table ever since, reaching the play-offs twice but coming unstuck at the semi-final stage on both occasions against Sunderland (2019) and Oxford United (2020).

Former Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley is about to embark on his second full season at the helm having taken over in March 2021, and he will be hoping to improve Pompey’s form on the road with just six wins away from Fratton Park last term.

There was nothing to separate Barnsley and Portsmouth the last time we were in League One, with a share of the spoils in both encounters. The south coast outfit came out on top when we met in the FA Cup in January 2020, securing a 4-2 victory.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY
Last season: 4th (League One)
Manager: Darren Moore
Stadium: Hillsborough (12 miles)

Our South Yorkshire rivals reached the play-offs last season, losing in the semi-finals against Sunderland courtesy of Patrick Roberts’ last-gasp winner at Hillsborough, which sparked scenes of mass jubilation in front of the travelling supporters.

Home form was crucial for Wednesday, who lost just twice in Owlerton, but draws on the road proved to be costly with eight in total – three of which were settled by conceding a goal in the 90th minute.

Those additional six points would have been enough to see Darren Moore’s side claim automatic promotion but, instead, they face another campaign in League One.

Lee Gregory finished as top goal scorer with 17, while Saido Berahino and Barry Bannan also notched nine each, and the Owls have added more firepower to their ranks with Michael Smith joining from Rotherham United.

We last faced Wednesday a couple of seasons ago, claiming a 2-1 victory at Hillsborough in December 2020 before losing by the same scoreline at Oakwell three months later.

SHREWSBURY TOWN
Last season: 18th (League One)
Manager: Steve Cotterill
Stadium: New Meadow (122 miles)

It’s an eighth consecutive campaign at this level for the Shrews who, barring reaching the play-offs in 2018, have flirted with relegation more often than not.

After a slow start to last season – losing their opening four games without scoring a goal – they spent the first few months in the drop zone. But a 1-0 victory at home to Charlton Athletic in late November saw Steve Cotterill’s side climb clear of trouble, and they never fell into the bottom four again.

That 93rd minute winner came from Daniel Udoh and was one of 16 the Nigerian forward scored all term has he registered his best goal return in professional football.

In Cotterill, Shrewsbury have a manager who is very familiar to our Head Coach, Michael Duff, who played under the 58-year-old at Cheltenham Town and was part of the team that won three promotions in six seasons from the Southern League Premier to Division Two.

We last met the Shrews in the 18/19 campaign, losing the first meeting 3-1 in Shropshire before claiming a 2-1 victory at Oakwell on Good Friday to boost our promotion bid.

WYCOMBE WANDERERS
Last season: 6th (League One)
Manager: Gareth Ainsworth
Stadium: Adams Park (169 miles)

The Chairboys were always there or thereabouts in the bid for promotion last season, only dropping as low as ninth as they aimed to make an immediate return to the Championship.

A tough outfit to beat, only champions Wigan Athletic lost less games than the Buckinghamshire outfit, but it was draws – particularly in the second half of the campaign – that prevented Wanderers from securing automatic promotion.

They had frustrating stalemates with teams struggling at the wrong end of the table – Shrewsbury Town, Lincoln City, Cheltenham Town, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon – and sneaked into the play-offs on the final day after Plymouth Argyle had been thumped 5-0 at home by MK Dons.

Wycombe went onto reach the final – at the expense of MK Dons, ironically – eventually losing out to Sunderland at Wembley.

We have won four of our eight encounters against the Chairboys, completing a league double in the 20/21 campaign with a 2-1 victory at Oakwell followed up by a 3-1 triumph at Adams Park.


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