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Fixture News

Meet Sky Bet League Two's newcomers

Find out more about the six new additions to Sky Bet League Two for the 2018/19 campaign

20 June 2018

The 2018/19 campaign will see Newport County AFC face six different teams after four were relegated from League 1 and two were promoted from the National League.

Some of those teams will be familiar foes for Exiles fans – County have played all six teams at-least once in past history – whilst others might not be as well-known. 

Ahead of tomorrow’s fixture announcement, find out more about the six new teams that Newport County AFC will encounter next season.

 

Macclesfield Town

 

Background

Having spent the past six seasons in the highest-tier of non-league, Macclesfield Town finally secured themselves a return to the Football League having won the league title by a clear ten points.

A record of 27 wins, 11 draws and eight defeats ensured they amassed 92 points from their league campaign – but it was the way that they managed to achieve this feat that has caught the attention.

The Silkmen had no reserve or youth teams to speak of last season, no money to spend on transfers, and the majority of ex-manager John Askey’s backroom staff were made up of volunteers – most notably former Premier League star Shay Given.

To put that into some greater context for the fifth-tier, Guiseley – who finished bottom of the table with 33 points – had a transfer budget alone within the lower regions of seven figures.

Macclesfield went from relegation favourites to title winners in a matter of months – and the club will need to replicate that unique team spirit if they want to remain in the Football League past just one season.

 

Previous meetings

Newport County AFC have never met Macclesfield Town in a Football League fixture, but did encounter the Silkmen twice during the 2012/13 promotion campaign.

The first of those meetings came on 13th October 2012 as part of ‘Non-League’ day. County were three points clear at the top of the table at the time; Macclesfield were ninth so the game was given the prime spot on the day.

That meant a 12:30 kick-off in Cheshire and an even earlier start to reach the Moss Rose on time. A total of 140 County supporters did make the trip that day and they would have seen a 1-1 draw against the Silkmen.

Exiles defender Tony James put County in-front just before half-time after reacting quickest amidst a host of bodies in the box following a Jake Thomson free-kick, a lead the Exiles kept until the 81st minute when Matthew Barnes Homer headed home the equaliser.

Watch the match highlights from the Moss Rose.

In the reverse fixture at Rodney Parade, County had to recover from conceding an early goal as they moved up to third place in the table with a convincing 4-1 victory on 11th April 2013.

Jay Burgess pounced on a rare County defensive error to open the scoring in the third minute, although the Exiles responded to amass a healthy half-time lead.

Christian Jolley drew County level with a close-range effort, before Andy Sandell’s penalty and Robbie Willmott’s decisive finish sent the Exiles back to the dressing rooms with a two-goal advantage. Willmott added the fourth late on.

Watch the highlights thanks to Glyn Neale’s video.     

 

Squad

Despite only filling the managerial void left by John Askey’s departure to League 1 Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday, the Silkmen have still moved to bring in some fresh faces.

New manager Mark Yates will arrive at the Moss Rose knowing that the first of those new additions was Miles Welch-Hayes from Bath City. The defender – formerly of League 1 Oxford United – featured in the National League South Team of the Season last campaign, and has made more than 100 career appearances at the age of 21.

Macclesfield have also turned Callum Evans’ loan deal into a permanent one. The versatile defender/midfielder joined midway through the last campaign from Forest Green Rovers, but has now penned a two-year contract.  

In terms of their retained list, they have managed to retain the services of top-scorer Scott Wilson – the striker scoring 14 goals from 36 appearances last season.

He said on signing the deal: “Since I’ve been a youth team player, it’s always been a goal for me to get back into the Football League and now it’s happened here at Macclesfield and I’m delighted. I’m looking forward to all the games, going into the League we may be underestimated a little bit, but I think we’ll be able to show teams what we’re all about.”

Midfielder Koby Arthur, striker Tyrone Marsh and defender David Fitzpatrick have all pledged their immediate futures to the Cheshire outfit – whilst they will surely be working hard on trying to renew contracts for key players such as Elliott Durrell, Danny Whitaker and Mitch Hancox.

 

Betting Odds

According to Sky Bet, Macclesfield Town are the least likely of the six newcomers to League 2 to win the division.

They can be backed at 50/1 to win back-to-back titles, whilst they are 14/1 to get promoted either automatically or via the play-offs.

The Silkmen are also third favourites for an immediate return to the non-league and that can be found at 4/1.

 

Tranmere Rovers

 

Background

Interestingly, Tranmere Rovers became the third side in succession to win the National League play-offs having fallen at the same hurdle in the previous campaign.

A 2-1 victory in that play-off final against Boreham Wood came after a 2nd place finish in the table, having accumulated 82 points across the campaign.

They were certainly made to work hard for that promotion, however, having to battle for 89 minutes with ten men following the dismissal of Liam Ridehalgh after just 48 seconds.

But Rovers possessed arguably the best strike partnership in the fifth-tier last season – Andy Cook and James Norwood scoring a combined 46 goals – and both were on target at Wembley to secure a return to the Football League.

Promotion came at the third time of asking, having finished 6th in 2015/16 before losing the play-off final to Forest Green Rovers in May 2017. Before that, Rovers had been a league side for 94 years and they will be hoping to reignite a run like that next season.

 

Previous meetings

Newport County AFC have met Tranmere Rovers on 24 previous occasions, but only twice since the reformation of the club in 1989.

Those meetings came in the 2014/15 campaign that saw Rovers relegated with a bottom placed finish, although they did manage two draws against the Exiles in that season.

A 0-0 draw at Prenton Park on 16th September 2014 was swiftly followed by a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade on 10th February 2015 – Mark Byrne scoring a late equaliser to cancel out Rory Donnelly’s opener in first-half stoppage time.

Watch the match highlights from the encounter in South Wales.

Looking further back in history, Tranmere edge proceedings against County having won against them on 10 previous occasions. The biggest win from a County perspective came during a 3-0 triumph in 1959, whilst Rovers secured themselves a 5-1 victory in South Wales on 3rd January 1976.

 

Squad

Unfortunately for Rovers so far this summer window, the most notable transfer has seen striker Andy Cook leave the club and join League 1 outfit Walsall.

Cook – who along with James Norwood contributed 59% of Tranmere’s goals last season – scored 51 times in two seasons at Prenton Park but left with the best wishes from everyone at Rovers.

Manager Micky Mellon said: “We’d have loved to have Andy with us for our first season back in League Two but recognise his desire to test himself at a higher level. We hope he is as successful at his new club as he was with us.”

In terms of incomings, Rovers have bolstered their defensive line with the addition of Mark Ellis. The 29-year old joins from Carlisle United and actually scored past the Exiles on the final day of last season.

They have also secured a return for midfielder Ollie Banks, who re-joins the club from Oldham Athletic. On joining the club, he said: “It was the only club really that I wanted to sign for. I have spoken to Micky (Mellon) a few times since I have left so it was an easy decision to make.”

Midfielder Jay Harris, goalkeeper Scott Davies and attackers Larnell Cole and Connor Jennings have all committed their immediate futures to the Prenton Park side.

 

Betting Odds

Sky Bet give Tranmere Rovers a reasonable chance of securing the League 2 title next season, putting them at odds of 18/1.

They are a reasonable 5/1 shot at securing promotion either automatically or through another successful play-off campaign, whilst the bookies don’t anticipate any relegation fears for Rovers – that coming in at 14/1.

 

Bury FC  

Background

Despite being many people’s favourites to win the League 1 title last season after signing lots of high calibre players, the campaign clearly didn’t work out for the Shakers as they were relegated following a 24th placed finish.

A total of 36 points across the entirety of the campaign was 15 off what they would have needed to survive – only winning eight games all season alongside 12 draws and 26 defeats.

That saw their three-season spell in the third-tier come to an end – they were only one point from being relegated in the 2016/17 season when finishing 19th alongside 16th in their first season in League 1.

The Shakers have been a Football League side since way back in 1894 and in 2005 became the first football club to register 1,000 goals across all four professional tiers in English football.

They have also won the FA Cup on two occasions, beating Southampton 4-0 in 1900 alongside a 6-0 success against Derby County three years later. That scoreline remains the highest winning margin in FA Cup history.

 

Previous meetings

Newport County AFC have met Bury FC on 22 occasions, although only four of them have been since the reformation of the club in 1989. 

Those meetings came in back-to-back seasons of 2013/14 and 2014/15 – with nothing to separate the two sides following a 0-0 draw at Gigg Lane on 5th October 2013 and the same scoreline on 25th March 2014 at Rodney Parade.

There were goals in the following campaign, however, as both sides rather interestingly registered away victories.

Aaron O’Connor virtually gifted County the victory all on his own when his hat-trick secured a 3-1 victory at Gigg Lane on 22nd November 2014, Danny Rose scoring for the Shakers with a superb 25-yard strike.

Watch the highlights from that stunning away performance.

Ryan Lowe and Daniel Nardiello found themselves on the scoresheet when Bury triumphed at Rodney Parade on 11th April 2015 – a result that helped them squeeze into 3rd position and secure themselves automatic promotion.  

Looking a little further back in history, both sides have secured 4-3 victories against each other – County in 1973 and Bury in 1986 - as-well as a 5-0 win for the Shakers in 1974.

 

Squad

Since Ryan Lowe’s temporary stint in charge of the Shakers was made permanent on 10th May, the 39-year old has been working hard on securing an immediate return to the third tier.

They have bolstered their ranks with the signature of experienced midfielder Byron Moore. The 29-year old has made over 400 career appearances to date and cites clubs such as Crewe Alexandra and Bristol Rovers amongst his career.

The Shakers have also brought Nicky Adams back to the club ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. The midfielder played at Gigg Lane between the years 2005 – 2008 and 2014 – 2015, re-joining this summer from Carlisle United.

Lowe has also handed academy graduate Douglas Nyaupembe his first professional contract, whilst tying down Joe Murphy and Neil Danns to fresh contracts.

Those players join the 17 players retained by the Shakers upon the completion of last season – including ex-Everton striker Jermaine Beckford, James O’Shea and Tom Aldred.

 

Betting Odds

Bury FC are heavily favoured for an immediate return to League 1 and are currently the joint-fourth favourites with Sky Bet to win the division this year at 12/1.

They are also found at short odds for promotion either automatically or through the play-offs at 3/1, whilst back-to-back relegations for the Shakers is way back at 12/1.

 

MK Dons

Background

MK Dons will play just their third ever campaign in League 2 next season having been relegated from the third-tier following a 23rd place finish.

The Dons accumulated just 45 points on their way to being six points from staying in the third tier – those points coming from 11 wins, 12 draws and 23 defeats.

A club that in its current form has only been in existence since 2004, they have been in the Football League for the entirety of that time.

Their greatest successes have come under the management of Paul Ince and Karl Robinson, with the Dons in the Championship for the 2015/16 season.

They only lasted one season, however, as they dropped straight back down when finishing 23rd - and will swap places with Coventry City this season as the club in League 2 with the biggest stadium.  

This season will also be the first campaign that MK Dons are in a lower division than AFC Wimbledon.

 

Previous meetings

Newport County AFC have only met MK Dons on one previous occasion.

It came in the first-round of the Carabao Cup and remains the only time that the Exiles have played at home in the competition since promotion back into the Football League in 2013.

The game itself came on 9th August 2016 and it couldn’t have started any better for County as Marlon Jackson completed a stunning passing move to put the Exiles a goal up at half-time.

Mark Randall’s penalty early in the second-half put County in cruise control but things appeared to unravel from that moment for Warren Feeney’s side.

Dean Bowditch dispatched his spot-kick to reduce the deficit on 63 minutes, before Ben Tilney equalised with a stunning long-range effort.

That set the stage for Bowditch to break County hearts when converting a cross at the beginning of stoppage time – that comeback earning the Dons a trip to Reading in the second-round, a tie they lost on penalties following a 2-2 draw.

Watch the match highlights.

 

Squad

Paul Tisdale is yet to make his first signing as MK Dons manager following his arrival at the club on June 6th.

All the business they have done so far this summer came before Tisdale’s arrival, although they are still yet to bring a fresh face into Stadium MK.

Sam Nombe recently signed a contract extension with the club, while Liam Sole and Finn Tapp have signed their first professional deals.

They join a roster of players at the Buckinghamshire outfit that is quite substantial despite no new incomings.

There could be a re-union with ex-Exile Alex Gilbey. The midfielder made eight appearances whilst on loan in 2012/13 – playing in the play-off final success and notching an assist in the semi-final second-leg.

Striker Kieran Agard, goalkeeper Lee Nicholls and defender George Williams also remain on the roster at MK Dons.

 

Betting Odds

MK Dons are heavy favourites to win the League 2 title at the first attempt and can be found at 7/1 with Sky Bet to be crowned champions in May.

They are also clearly backed for promotion straight back to League 1 either automatically or in the play-offs, with only short odds of 15/8 found on that market.

In a complete role reversal, they are the least likely to make it back-to-back relegations, although if they did, you could make a tidy profit on that at 100/1.

 

Northampton Town


Background

Northampton Town’s two-year spell in League 1 came to an end last season as they were relegated following a 22nd place finish in the table.

That came following an accumulation of just 47 points under three different managers – the Cobblers ending the campaign with statistics of 12 wins, 11 draws and 23 defeats.

Relegation came after a 16th place finish in their first season back in League 1 following an initial seven-year absence, in what was their 120th anniversary of existing as a club.

Many County fans will remember the last time that Northampton Town were plying their trade in League 2, as now Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder led them to the title having accumulated a more than impressive 99 points.

That impressive feat came during a run of form that saw the Cobblers lose just once out of their final 33 league matches, alongside just five defeats across the entirety of that 2015/16 season – two of which were away and three at home.

 

Previous meetings

There has been 89 competitive fixtures between County and Northampton Town, with six of those meetings coming after the reformation in 1989.

The Cobblers have the better record across those matches – having won 45 of the previous encounters. They have defeated County 5-0 on four separate occasions, whilst there was also a 7-0 success in 1929 and an 8-0 victory in 1932.

County and Northampton have drawn on 15 occasions, meaning the final 29 competitive encounters all went the way of County. That includes a 5-1 victory in 1935, a 5-2 victory in 1931 alongside 3-0 wins on four occasions.

Looking at the more recent history between the sides, they last met in League 2 during the 2015/16 campaign which saw the Cobblers crowned champions.

The Exiles had to fight from two goals down to rescue a point at Rodney Parade on 31st October 2015 following early strikes from Sam Hoskins and Marc Richards.

Scott Barrow and Lenell John-Lewis were the players to lead the fightback, although no such comeback could be found in the away game as the Exiles fell to a 1-0 defeat on 25th March 2016.

You may also remember that County travelled to Sixfields as part of pre-season before the start of the 2017/18 campaign.

Lamar Reynolds gave the Exiles a deserved lead in what was the final game for County in their pre-season preparations on 29th July 2017, but they couldn’t hold onto that advantage and fell to defeat following goals from Chris Long and Leon Barnett.

Read the match report from that last encounter between the two sides.

 

Squad

Dean Austin has certainly moved quickly in the transfer market since making his spell in charge of the Cobblers permanent on 12th May.

Striker Andy Williams has agreed to join the Sixfields Stadium outfit from Doncaster Rovers, with the striker boasting over 120 goals from spells at the Keepmoat as-well as Swindon Town and Bristol Rovers.

He is the only permanent arrival thus far at Sixfields, although they have extended the contracts of defender Leon Barnett and goalkeeper David Cornell – alongside handing Sean Whaler his first professional contract.

Those players join the 21 players contracted already for the upcoming season, one of which is a County legend in Sam Foley. The 31-year old made more than 150 appearances for the Exiles and was a pivotal part of the Conference South winning side in 2010.

Players including striker Dean Bowditch, defender Ash Taylor, striker Billy Waters and midfielder John Joe O’Toole also make up that retained list for the Cobblers.

 

Betting Odds  

Northampton Town are heavily favoured for an immediate return to League 1 and are currently the joint-fourth favourites with Sky Bet to win the division this year at 12/1.

They are also found at short odds for promotion either automatically or through the play-offs at 11/4, whilst back-to-back relegations for the Cobblers is way back at 33/1.

 

Oldham Athletic

 

Background

While Joe Thompson was quickly becoming a superhero for Rochdale when scoring the winning goal on the final day of the season having defeated cancer twice, that goal proved detrimental for Oldham Athletic as they dropped into 21st position and the final relegation spot.

They finished just a point behind Rochdale on 50 points having won 11, drawn 17 and lost 18 of their league fixtures – although could have survived had they won on the final day of the season at Northampton Town and not drawn 2-2.

That relegation brought an end to a record of 21 consecutive seasons in the third-tier, while going a little further back sees the Latics as founder members of the newly-formed Premier League before relegation in 1994. 

Oldham have reached the semi-finals of the Emirates FA Cup on three occasions – 1913, 1990 and 1994 – alongside a runners up place in the Carabao Cup in 1990 when they lost 1-0 to Nottingham Forest.

 

Previous meetings

Newport County AFC and Oldham Athletic have met on eight previous occasions, although all of them came before the reformation of the club in 1989.

The Latics have by far the superior record from those previous meetings, having won five of the games alongside two draws and one win for County.

The sole win for the Ironsides came on 6th October 1969 – goals from Albert Derrick Jnr and Ray Mabbutt enough for a 2-1 home victory.

Oldham’s best win against County came on 12th December 1970 during a 4-0 home triumph, whilst they have also won by margins of 3-2, 3-0, 4-1 and 1-0.

 

Squad

New manager Frankie Bunn hasn’t had too long to do any transfer business this summer having taken charge at Boundary Park on June 13th.

That means all the dealings thus far were completed by previous manager Richie Wellens, starting with the decision to bring Jose Baxter back to the club.

The 26-year old – who has also featured for Everton – played for Oldham during the 2012-13 season and re-joined the Latics upon the completion of his contract with the Premier League side.

Defender Jamie Stott recently signed a new contract extension with the Boundary Park outfit, whilst they also took up options to extend the contracts of Cameron Dummigan and Ousmane Fane.

 

Betting Odds

Out of the four teams to have been relegated from League 1 last season, Oldham Athletic are least likely to instigate an immediate return and Sky Bet have them at 20/1 to win the title.

They have a solid price of 4/1 to secure promotion either automatically or via the play-offs, while back-to-back relegations is relatively short at just 8/1.

Don’t forget – season tickets will be back on sale from 2nd July 2018.

Don’t miss out on next season’s story. #OurJourneyContinues in the 2018/19 campaign.

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