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2019/20 Scottish League Two preview

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hislopsoffsideagain

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The addition of a relegation playoff has changed the dynamic of Scotland's fourth tier dramatically. No longer can a club coast along, safe in the knowledge that being the SPFL's bottom club is the worst that can happen. As the hapless Berwick Rangers found to their cost, there are well-funded, hungry teams looking to get out of the regional leagues. Stagnate at your peril.


At the other end, last season was ultimately one for the 'haves' - those who could afford impressive part-time wages to players who probably should be playing for one of the smaller full-time teams. It was Peterhead and Clyde who got promoted in the end. It'll be interesting to see if 2019-20 is a season for a club that are well-organized (think Montrose in 2017-18) or for one that splashes a bit of cash. Let's look at the ten clubs...


ALBION ROVERS
Coatbridge's finest looked doomed for the drop until the Spring but came to life in the run-in. Kevin Harper has retained as many of the players that saved them as he could and the aim this season is to get back towards mid-table. It might be a long way to go though, given they finished 16 points adrift of eighth last time out.


ANNAN ATHLETIC
Annan arguably punched above their weight by getting into the promotion playoffs last season. It'll be much harder to do so this time around as manager Peter Murphy has lost the majority of his first XI to League One and Two clubs that can offer more money. He needs to find some gems amongst the new signings he has made if they are to avoid sliding down the table.


BRECHIN CITY
After back-to-back relegations, Barry Smith has gutted the squad. There are certainly newcomers who arguably belong at a higher level, such as Chris McLaughlin, Luke Watt and Ross McCord, but the question is whether Smith can gel them together quickly enough. Anything other than a promotion challenge would be a disappointment.


COVE RANGERS
How quickly will the newcomers find their feet? They've essentially kept together the squad that won the Highland League and the reinforcements they have made, especially ex-Killie defender Daniel Higgins, are more than good enough for this level. They certainly won't fear anyone, and shouldn't worry about the drop. Could they even push for back-to-back promotions?


COWDENBEATH
After consecutive relegation playoff escapes the Blue Brazil consolidated somewhat under Gary Bollan, a boss who knows what it takes at this level even if it isn't always aesthetically pleasing. They've lost their veteran spine of David McGurn, Jason Talbot and Mark Fotheringham and star player Gary Fraser though.


EDINBURGH CITY
The citizens faded badly at the end of last season after challenging for the title for months. They've done well to attract a number of talents by offering decent wages for part-timers. Striker Blair Henderson needs to prove last season's goal glut wasn't a one-off. On paper they have a squad that can win the league, as long as they don't have another attack of the wobbles.


ELGIN CITY
Their situation looks a lot rosier now Shane Sutherland has returned for a third spell - their form fell off a cliff after he left in January. Their summer business looks decent but they'll need to play the loan market well again if they are to get back into the top half...or even to avoid getting dragged into a relegation battle.


QUEEN'S PARK
The great amateurs have realized that in the current era luring decent players for expenses only is becoming too hard - especially when in a year's time they'll no longer be able to offer the lure of playing at the national stadium. For now though, it's a team of decent Junior League players and young cast-offs. Will it be sufficient to get by?


STENHOUSEMUIR
In Mark McGuigan, Stenny can boast a striker who will score for fun in League Two - which makes a massive difference at this level. There has been a big squad turnover following relegation - part of which is down to Colin McMenamin wanting to shape the squad to his taste - but moulding them together may take a while.


STIRLING ALBION
The Binos improved massively after Kevin Rutkiewicz took over midseason and will fancy they can push on this time around. This is another club who have chopped and changed significantly over the summer but crucially there's plenty of players here who know what League Two is about. A decent loan signing or two could push them over the top.


And here's how I predict it'll go...

1. EDINBURGH CITY

2. STENHOUSEMUIR
3. STIRLING ALBION
4. BRECHIN CITY

5. COVE RANGERS
6. ELGIN CITY
7. COWDENBEATH
8. ANNAN ATHLETIC
9. ALBION ROVERS

10. QUEEN'S PARK


As ever, I expect time will prove that I don't know what I'm talking about!


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

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