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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
League Two review 2004/05

BOSTON UTD 16th: (Last season 11th)

A season that looked like a backward step in fact gave Boston manager Steve Evans a chance to asses his squad.

Evans will look to bolster a defence that shipped too many goals on the road, negated a good home record and stumped any play-off hopes.

But Evans' main priority will be to find a striker to replace the goals provided by top scorer Andy Kirk who was sold to Northampton.

VERDICT: Boston appeared far too content in the mid-table comfort zone.

BRISTOL ROVERS: 12th (last season 15th)

Rarely in any danger of being sucked into the danger zone, a good finish glossed over an otherwise poor season.

Injuries to key players at the wrong time did not help Rovers' cause, and showed the thinness of the squad.

Boss Ian Atkins is a shrewd operator in the lower leagues and knows what is needed to turn Rovers round, starting with tightening the defence.

VERDICT: Rovers status as a big-city club dictates they again under-performed.

BURY: 17th (last season 7th)

A dark financial cloud loomed over Bury's fall from play-off contenders last season to mid-table anonymity.

Top scorer David Nugent was among the players off-loaded to keep the wolf from the door, and boss Graham Barrow was down to a 14-man first-team squad.

But Barrow and key players are set to sign new deals to raise hopes for improvement next season.

VERDICT: A season when performance on the field could not avoid being affected by events off it.

CAMBRIDGE: 24th (last season 13th)

Cambridge's 35-year Football League status ended in ignominy, laced with doom-laden portents.

Forced into administration with debts of 900,000, Cambridge do not even own their ground.

The close-season attempts to keep the club afloat promise to be as fraught as a season on the pitch in which the club had three managers.

VERDICT: Cambridge's financial ills spread to a gerneral malaise on the pitch that could not be cured.

CHELTENHAM: 14th (last season 14th)

Cheltenham have marked time during a season of frustration for all at Whaddon Road.

Boss John Ward used his Wolves connections to bring in players like JJ Melligan and Ashley Vincent.

But the Robins were always playing catch-up after a poor start which brought just two wins in the first 11 games.

VERDICT: Certain players failed to live up to their billing and the Robins never flirted with the play-offs.

CHESTER: 20th (last season 1st Conference)

Another season of drama at the Deva has seen three managers try their luck at consolidating Chester in League Two.

After Mark Wright's eve of season departure, Ian Rush returned to the club but some encouraging early form faded and Keith Curle is now in charge.

On the pitch, the 2004 Conference champions recovered from a dreadful start to the season, and enjoyed a solid if unspectacular year.

VERDICT: Managerial upheaval meant survival was as good as it got.

DARLINGTON: 8th (last season 18th)

Darlington bucked the pre-season odds with a season which pushed them unexpectedly towards the play-offs.

Looming financials problems earmarked Dave Hodgson for a season of struggle towards the basement end of the table.

Hodgson got the best out of his players at his disposal and a solid defence built around the impressive Matt Clarke meant they made huge improvements.

VERDICT: Final day woe as the Quakers fell just short of the play-offs.

GRIMSBY: 18th (last season 21st in League One - relegated)

Russell Slade can look back on his first full season in Football League management with a degree of satisfaction at a job well done.

Slade's task at the start of the campaign was simply to apply the brakes after two successive relegations.

Despite the Mariners' lack of a stand-out scorer, they never look like getting dragged into relegation.

VERDICT: Not a spectacular season for Mariners's fans, but a key one to arrest their slide.

KIDDERMINSTER: 23rd (last season 16th)

A huge influx of players pre-season not only raised false hopes but served to paper over some alarming cracks.

Jan Molby's exotic collection of players never gelled under any of the three managers during the season.

Unfortunately, Stuart Watkiss was bailing with a colander when he arrived, and Harriers lost their five-year-old League status.

VERDICT: The table does not lie and but for Cambridge's 10-point deduction, Kidderminster were the worst team.

LEYTON ORIENT: 11th (last season 19th)

A season that promised so much ended in mid-table mediocrity for Orient, but it was still a step forward from their struggles of the previous three years.

Promotion looked a possibility when the O's topped the table in October, but injuries to strikers Gary Alexander and Lee Steele saw their form dip.

Manager Martin Ling will have seen plenty of encouraging signs, but must also be aware that changes are needed.

VERDICT: Must become more consistent if they are to have a chance of going up.

LINCOLN CITY: 6th (last season 7th)

Keith Alexander's direct style does not win the Imps many admirers among football purists.

But it is hard to argue against the effectiveness of a system that has taken Lincoln into the play-offs for three successive seasons.

Whatever the system adopted, it helps to have a striker like Simon Yeo who weighs in with 20-plus League goals.

VERDICT: It was no surprise Lincoln made the play-offs, but can they go one step further this time?

MACCLESFIELD: 5th (last season 20th)

The pre-season talk at Moss Rose was full of doom, gloom and despondency after finishing 20th last season.

But having performed one miracle in keeping the Silkmen up last year, boss Brian Horton almost pulled off another.

A failure to take advantage of three of their last four games at home cost Macclesfield the unlikeliest of automatic promotions.

VERDICT: No matter what happens, a place in the play-offs represents a season that exceeded all expectations.

MANSFIELD: 13th (Last season 5th)

A hugely frustrating season for the Stags, they never recovered from losing in the play-off final the year before.

Liam Lawrence and Craig Disley were irreplaceable and manager Keith Curle left too, Carlton Palmer coming in and steadying the Mansfield ship.

Palmer has already stamped his mark on the team, bringing in a new crop of talented young players he hopes can push for the play-offs next time.

VERDICT: A season of transition, Palmer faces make-or-break time next term.

NORTHAMPTON: 7th (last season 6th)

A place in the play-offs represents something of a disappointment for Northampton boss Colin Calderwood.

The manner of their late surge into last season's play-offs made them many people's favourites for an automatic promotion spot this time round.

They had to overcome an injury-prompted mid-season slump to mount a similar rally to make the post-season again.

VERDICT: Having missed out on automatic promotion, nothing less than winning the play-offs will suffice.

NOTTS COUNTY: 19th (last season 23rd in League One)

The Magpies end the season in a similar state to their cousins across the River Trent, with uncertainty surrounding the future of the managerless club.

They started poorly, winning just one of the first nine league games, and Gary Mills was sacked, caretaker-boss Ian Richardson leading a mini-revival.

But County were dogged by inconsistency and a poor home record ensured they stayed around the bottom of the table.

VERDICT: The club's short-term future depends on the manager they appoint.

OXFORD UNITED: 15th (last season 9th)

Oxford compensated for Ian Atkins close-season departure with a rash of signings designed to improve on last term's ninth place.

But they failed to gel under Graham Rix, who was kicked upstairs and replaced as manager by Ramon Diaz.

Players like Lee Bradbury under-performed, although Tommy Mooney again proved his worth.

VERDICT: One of the strongest squads in the division badly under-performed in a disappointing season.

ROCHDALE: 9th (last season 21st)

Dale's narrow escape from relegation to the Conference last season certainly sharpened up their focus.

Boss Steve Parkin is a canny operator at League Two level and after a big clear-out made some shrewd signings.

His main priority was to tighten the defence, and in doing so certainly made Dale a harder proposition to beat.

VERDICT: After last season the play-offs would have been too much to hope for, but a big improvement provides a springboard.

RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS: 22nd (Last season relegated)

This season must have seemed a Groundhog Day style re-run of last term for Diamonds as they again slid towards a relegation battle.

A mid-season change of manager from Ernie Tippett to player-boss Barry Hunter was needed to change fortunes.

A 2-0 win over Yeovil proved the pivotal moment for Diamonds who survived with a bit of room to spare.

VERDICT: In another season of struggle Diamonds were largely kept up by the ineptitude of the two teams below them.

SCUNTHORPE UTD: 2nd (last season 22nd)

Scunthorpe's transformation from relegation-haunted ugly ducklings to championship-chasing swans has been little short of remarkable.

Brian Laws' reinstatement proved inspirational as a group of players skillfully assembled, patently played for their boss all season.

Iron had the division's best home record, and were the hardest to beat.

VERDICT: A fantastic season, and all the better for coming completely unseen out of left-field.

SHREWSBURY TOWN: 21st (Last season promoted)

Having won back their Football League place through the play-offs, Shrewsbury looked like losing it quickly.

Boss Jimmy Quinn quit just three months into the new season with the Shrews propping up the table.

New boss Gary Peters pulled things round, and although Luke Rodgers did not score the goals expected, Shrews survived comfortably.

VERDICT: The task at the start of the season was to survive. After a scare, the job was done.

SOUTHEND UNITED: 4th (last season 17th)

Southend were quietly confident of pushing on from their 17th place finish of last season.

Boss Steve Tilson was forced to carry out wholesale surgery on his squad after losing the likes of Leon Cort and Leon Constantine.

It paid off and Freddy Eastwood stood out with 18 goals in his first Football League season since signing from Grays.

VERDICT: A play-off place and a trip to the LDV Vans Trophy final speaks volumes for Southend's improvement.

SWANSEA CITY: 3rd (last season 10th)

Inspired by the thought of leaving the Vetch Field, Swansea finished strongly at home, winning five and drawing one of their last six at the old ground.

Coupled with a nervy 1-0 win away at Bury on the final day of the season, Swansea finally earned the promotion they have been so desperate for.

As expected, flamboyant striker Lee Trundle's goals were crucial to Swansea's quest for promotion.

VERDICT: Always in the mixer, they have waited patiently for this moment.

WYCOMBE WANDERERS: 10th (last season 24nd in League One)

After topping the table in September, an alarming slide triggered boss Tony Adams' resignation.

In came John Gorman, keen to prove his managerial worth, and he shrewdly added experience in Steve Claridge and Rob Lee to turn things round.

The old heads combined with younger legs combined to get Wycombe agonisingly close to the play-offs.

VERDICT: A case of what might have been had Gorman taken over the reins just a few weeks earlier.

YEOVIL TOWN: 1st (last season 8th)

As Yeovil's promotion challenge faded last season, manager Gary Johnson was making mental notes that a bit of steel was required.

Johnson's hefty contacts book brought in players from far and wide, as well as the lower leagues.

Phil Jevons' capture from Grimsby proved crucial as his goals fired Yeovil to promotion.

VERDICT: Expected to figure in the automatic promotion shake-up and did not disappoint.


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