OPINION: Journalists back bookies’ odds on Stags to seal League Two promotion

Mansfield Town manager, Steve Evans.
Mansfield Town manager, Steve Evans.

Mansfield Town are seen as favourites for the League Two title with some online bookies. But what do those closest to Stags’ rivals this season think of Steve Evans’ men’s chances of lifting the championship?

Here journalists Jon Coleman (Carlisle), Jonathan Waldron (Colchester), Peter Morse (Crewe) and Graham Smyth (Chesterfield) give their verdicts on the big three questions from Stags correspondent John Lomas.

Q1. Obviously you have seen the 12 players so far recruited by Steve Evans this summer with a couple more expected. Do you see the Stags as your biggest rivals this coming season or do you think too much is being made of their chances?

JON COLEMAN – CARLISLE

It’s hard to see Mansfield as anything other than challengers in 2017/18. Carlisle have openly admitted the Stags beat them to certain early signings and they do seem to have had the clout to add quality in a number of positions.

In a division which often seems very even, that ought to give them an edge. The challenge will probably be getting a successful blend out of so many new faces but that shouldn’t be beyond them. It’s still too early to pick out title favourites with any confidence but I would be surprised if they aren’t strong contenders for the play-offs at least.

JONATHAN WALDRON – COLCHESTER

In terms of Mansfield Town, I personally wouldn’t argue with the bookmakers’ odds on this occasion.

They have a vastly experienced manager in Steve Evans and look to have strengthened in all areas, having just missed out on the play-offs last season.

I would expect them to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.

PETER MORSE - CREWE

Mansfield clearly have money to spend and any side, in any division, with superior financial muscle must be considered as strong contenders for honours at the end of the season.

And with Steve Evans’ solid track record of putting teams together capable of winning promotions, the Stags are sure to be there or thereabouts come May.

GRAHAM SMYTH – CHESTERFIELD

It would be daft not to consider Mansfield Town as one of the sides likely to be challenging at the top end next season. They’ve made a bit of a statement with the signings made so far.

Q2. How do you view your own club’s summer recruitment and chances of success this coming season?

JON COLEMAN - CARLISLE

It has been minimal to say the least. The only certain arrival so far is keeper Jack Bonham, who is joining on a half-season loan from Brentford. Otherwise, there are thought to be other deals in the pipeline but none have been confirmed. That is likely to change over the next week or so, but overall the exit door has opened much more often than the entrance at Brunton Park since the end of 2016/17. Keith Curle still needs to strengthen in several key areas to reassure supporters Carlisle can build on last season’s efforts, and to ease some of the concerns that have arisen during a very quiet close-season.

JONATHAN WALDRON – COLCHESTER

Colchester are unlikely to make too many changes to their squad, prior to the new campaign.

They made a lot of signings this time last year and don’t plan to bring too many new faces in.

In addition, they don’t expect too many departures, although they will miss the goals of last season’s top scorer Chris Porter who has joined Crewe Alexandra after turning down a new deal at Colchester.

PETER MORSE - CREWE

Crewe targeted experienced players to help their otherwise youthful squad and it has been a welcome surprise to many supporters that they completed some good business soon after the end of 2016-17.

They will need more - seven regular first-teamers have departed - but they have made a very solid start to their recruitment drive which has raised expectations within the fan-base.

GRAHAM SMYTH – CHESTERFIELD

It’s still very early days for Chesterfield with, presumably, another few key players still to arrive. But some of the signings so far have been encouraging, Scott Wiseman and Joe Anyon in particular.

As for the Spireites’ chances, again probably too early to make any judgement calls until all the squads are closer to completion and a few pre-season games are out of the way.

Q3. Who are your best signings and why?

JON COLEMAN - CARLISLE

Bonham, because he is the only one so far! Hopefully by the start of July there will be more contenders.

PETER MORSE - CREWE

Three signings so far - and all look good acquisitions on paper. Defender Michael Raynes and striker Chris Porter both captained their previous sides - Carlisle and Colchester respectively - and have proven quality at this level.

Alex fans are already familiar with the talent forward Jordan Bowery possesses after he spent half of last term on loan from Leyton Orient.

The trio all stand well over 6ft tall and will help give the Railwaymen an extra dimension next season.

GRAHAM SMYTH – CHESTERFIELD

Wiseman is the best signing so far due to his pedigree and experience. He still has an awful lot of football left in him as well. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Gozie Ugwu can do and Jerome Binnom-Williams should plug a gap that caused issues for Chesterfield last season