The 2021/22 season of EFL League Two kicks off on Saturday, August 7, with the opening round of play. This year will mark the 18th season of Football League Two since rebranding from Football League Third Division for the 2004/05 season and the 30th season under the league’s current division format.
EFL League Two 2021/22
Like any year before, the EFL League Two will welcome six new teams into the competition, including two sides that were promoted from the fifth division and four teams that suffered relegations from the EFL League One.
Sutton United and Hartlepool United join League Two from the National League. Meanwhile, Bristol Rovers, Swindon Town, Northampton Town and Rochdale will look to climb their way back into the third division of the English football pyramid.
The six teams will replace Grimsby Town and Southend United, who dropped down to the National League, and Cheltenham Town, Cambridge United, Bolton Wanderers, and Morecambe, who secured their spot in EFL League One.
Out of the four teams that got relegated into the EFL League Two, Bristol Rovers are the only team priced as one of the top-three favourites to win the league (13.00 at Bet365). They’re tied with Mansfield on the outright market and behind Branford (11.00 at Bet365) and Salford City (7.00 at Bet365) as the only single-figure team.
Whether Salford City really deserves to be considered as the main favourites is up to debate. They couldn’t make it work under Richie Wellens, who was quickly replaced by Gary Bowyer, who was rather unconvincing at Bradford and doesn’t seem like a man that can lead this team to glory.
Mansfield Could Be Very Good
Since we aren’t convinced with Salford and can hardly agree with the outright betting markets, it only makes sense to look at other contenders. And one team that stands out is Mansfield.
Nigel Clough joined Mansfield in November 2020 and has now had half a season to figure things out and put Mansfield into shape. 2021/22 seems like the season in which Mansfield finally achieve the status they should have long ago and become a team they should have been for the past four seasons.
Looking back, Mansfield underperformed under Steve Evans, although they came close to achieving a solid season. The story repeated itself under David Flitcroft, granted they came very close to securing automatic promotion – they have since been very underwhelming.
Mansfield were never considered a bad team, but they just couldn’t get it together and prove that they can achieve. Since the departure of Steve Evans in February 2018, Mansfield had five different coaches, different regimes and different personalities, which obviously isn’t great.
Clough now joins the team as the type of coach with the right personality for Mansfield to improve. Dempster has a very similar character but fell short on football knowledge, which Clough has plenty of in addition to a proven track record.
If we go back and compare Mansfield to Salford City, there isn’t really much to set these two teams apart in terms of resources. And we would rank Clough higher than Gary Bowyer, largely because Clough will have a chance to work freely and do what he has to do.
With the right manager and a decent roster, Mansfield have a complete package to compete for a solid finish to the season. A top-seven finish shouldn’t escape them, but we believe this team is capable of much more than that.
Another team we expect to do much better than many expect are Carlisle. Priced as high as 17.00 (Bet365) to win the league and at 2.87 to secure a spot in the playoffs, Carlisle seem a bit underestimated, considering they don’t really need to change much from last season to be competitive.
Carlisle ended the 2020/21 season in 10th with a 18-12-16 record and 66 points, just six short of a top-seven finish. Chris Beech has done an excellent job at Carlisle, particularly with recruitment during last summer.
One negative with Carlisle is their poor finish to last season, which likely left their fans a bit angry and frustrated. Getting their fans back on their side will be essential for Carlisle’s success, but this team has a solid foundation for a strong season.
Prediction: Mansfield top 3 finish – 4.50 at Bet365
Prediction: Carlisle top 7 finish – 2.87 at Bet365
Andy Cook Has Goals In Him
Last season was all about Cambridge, who took EFL League Two by storm, largely thanks to their goalscoring ability, provided by Paul Mullin. The 26-year-old, who decided to move to National League with Wrexham, scored 32 goals last term, which was 13 more than the second-best scorer Eoin Doyle (19).
It might be interesting to know that Mullin was priced at triple digits to end the season as the top goalscorer, which further proves that longshots can do well. The trick is finding the outsider who has goals in him.
We didn’t need to look far to find a man that suits that profile. Andy Cook, who is one of the recruits from the January transfer window, checks all the marks as the EFL League Two top goalscorer.
Former Tranmere man scored eight goals in 16 appearances for the Bantams and looks like a good fit for Bradford, especially under Derek Adams. The Scottish gaffer has had a phenomenal season with Morecambe, where he used 4-2-3-1 formation with Cole Stockton in front, who is a player with very similar traits to Cook.
This should obviously benefit Cook, who should fit right into Adams’ preferred style of play. And let’s not forget to mention Elliot Watt, Callum Cooke, Abo Eisa, Ollie Crankshaw, and Charles Vernam, who will offer plenty of support. From the flank, Cook be able to count on Liam Ridehalgh, with whom he has played in Tranmere a few years back.
Cook hasn’t had a proper chance to shine in the EFL. In seasons where he has played at least 40 games, he has netted at least 23 goals in four out of six occasions, which alone is a good indication that he can be deadly with the ball if given a chance. Now, he has an even better roster around him and is expected to be the go-to goalscorer for his side. A +20 goal season shouldn’t escape as long as Cook can stay fit.
Prediction: Andy Cook Top Goalscorer – 21.0 at Bet365