Shrimps season preview: League 2 look ahead

Bury new boy Ryan Lowe.

Bury new boy Ryan Lowe.

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Portsmouth were supposed to run roughshod over League 2 last year.

But it didn’t quite work out for the division’s big boys as they went through two managers before a 13th-placed finish.

Guy Whittingham was gone by November before Richie Barker arrived with the ex-Crawley boss lasting just 20 games himself.

Fratton Park chiefs have finally settled on caretaker Andy Awford and as far and away the league’s biggest side, the 2008 FA Cup finalists have again been installed as favourites for the title.

Conference Premier champions Luton are also up there and as foremost amongst the number of sleeping giants that have fallen into non-league in recent years there is a chance the momentum of promotion could see them make it back-to-back ascensions.

Veteran former Dagenham & Redbridge boss John Still may have lost top scorer Andre Gray, who netted 30 goals in the title winning effort last season, to Brentford in a £500,000 deal, but he has recruited impressively, adding the experience of Paul Benson from Swindon after a successful loan spell as well as bringing back midfielder Andy Drury from Crawley for £100,000.

Relegated Shrewsbury, who have striker James Collins back at the club after a difficult spell at Hibernian, and Stevenage, under the guidance of Graham Westley, are also much fancied along with Bury who have strengthened well.

David Flitcroft has brought both veteran striker Ryan Lowe back for a second spell at the age of 35 and winger Nicky Adams, mostly recently with Rotherham, who has signed a three-year deal having started his career with the Shakers.

Elsewhere, both Morecambe and Carlisle will enjoy the two games between the sides, especially the Boxing Day meeting, with the Cumbrians having dropped down from League 1.

Oxford United’s appointment of Michael Appleton is a fascinating one with it seemingly being a last-chance saloon for a man once considered one of the brightest coaching prospects in England when in charge of Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers.

The most notable move player-wise at the Kassam Stadium has seen prolific front man James Constable turn down a new deal with the club to sign for ambitious newly-promoted Conference Premier side Eastleigh.

And that’s not the only striking shift that has caught the eye.

Neil Ardley has paired up Matt Tubbs and Adebayo Akinfenwa at AFC Wimbledon with Jamie Cureton, now 38, prolonging his career for another season at Dagenham & Redbridge.

His partnership with former Arsenal youngster Rhys Murphy, the subject of attention from Barnsley this summer, is also one to watch.

Wayne Burnett’s Daggers find themselves in a familiar trio towards the bottom of the bookies’ odds, along with Accrington Stanley and of course, the Shrimps.

All three however will relish attempting to shock the league’s perceived big boys once again.