After a two-month break, Sky Bet League Two football returns this weekend as a new campaign dawns. Following a chaotic season – which was mostly played behind closed doors – six new clubs from across the nation join the ranks competing for the title.
Sutton United achieved Football League status for the first time in their history as they earned passage into League Two as champions of the Vanarama National League – the top flight of non-league football. Over a gruelling campaign which had numerous teams vying for top spot until the very end, Sutton ran out as victors with a four-point advantage.
Accompanying the U’s from the National League are the familiar faces of Hartlepool United, who returned to the division following four years of exile to non-league. Pools booked their League Two spot with a Promotion Final victory over Torquay United, which is sure to go down as a classic after a last-gasp goal from Torquay ‘keeper Lucas Covolan saw the match into extra-time and subsequently a penalty-shootout. Hartlepool won the shootout 5-4.
Four clubs dropped from League One, each of whom had their fate decided before the final day of the 2020-21 season. Rochdale missed out on survival by a single point, despite bettering the result of survival-fighting Wigan Athletic in the last game. The Dale ended the season in decent form, but a home loss to Doncaster Rovers in the penultimate tie ensured that League Two football would be played at Spotland Stadium in the coming year.
Northampton Town suffered a woeful new-year at the business end of last season. The Cobblers won just five times in 19 matches from mid-January until the end of the campaign, dropping into the relegation zone and struggling to gather enough form to get a redeeming run going. Manager Jon Brady was placed at the helm in early May and will prepare a summer rebuild worthy of challenging for a direct path back into League One.
Swindon Town return to League Two after just a single season away, as an ill-fated campaign yielded just 43 points and an unruly goal difference of -34. Veteran striker Brett Pitman top-scored for Town with 11 goals – a fifth of their total tally. Pitman has since made a move for pastures new, joining fellow relegated side Bristol Rovers in July.
Bristol Rovers finished at the foot of the table. Rovers spent five years in League One following a third-place League Two finish in 2015-16, but fell from the division after a torrid run of 10 losses from their final 12 matches. Recently-appointed Gas boss, Joey Barton, will be hoping to turn the club’s fortune around with a flurry of new arrivals at the Memorial Stadium.