Ahead of the approaching 2019/20 Ladbrokes League Two campaign, Jordan Robertson, Calum Brown and Anthony Evans take a look at the sides in Scotland's bottom professional tier and how they could fare this season.
Albion Rovers will be looking to continue the form they showed in the latter stages of last season, as they propelled themselves from rock bottom to finish eight points clear of bottom side Berwick Rangers.
The Coatbridge side were in 10th place, threatened with a relegation Play-Off, for the first 29 games of the campaign, until a phenomenal string of results pushed them clear of Berwick.
Kevin Harper’s side will just be looking for an improvement on last year’s struggles, which looks likely after an impressive run in the Betfred Cup. Despite a 6-0 defeat to Dunfermline at East End Park, Rovers beat East Kilbride and League Two rivals Edinburgh City, and held Premiership, St Mirren to a draw – however, they lost the subsequent shoot-out.
Seven points and a second-place finish in a difficult group is a great return for Harper’s men, who will take huge confidence from the competition. If they are to do well, Rovers fans will expect Smart Osadolor to play a key role after his heroics last season.
Annan will be hoping to continue the form they showed last season and secure a playoff spot this season, but it will not be easy.
The Galabank side have lost two of their best attacking players in Chris Johnston and Tony Wallace, who have both left to join Clyde.
Peter Murphy's men have not enjoyed the best of times in the Betfred Cup this season. They lost every game bar the one against Queen of The South which they drew but then lost the resultant shootout to secure a bonus point.
A mid-table finish would be acceptable for the Galabankies. However, they will be hoping they have enough quality to at least reach the Play-Offs once again.
Brechin City made it back to back relegations last term as they dropped into League Two after yet another abysmal season. Darren Dodds was sacked midway through their League One campaign whilst in sixth place as it looked like he was failing in pushing for a return to the Championship, but his replacement Barry Smith inherited a deflated squad that would eventually finish bottom of the table.
City will be hoping they can start this season on a high after two seasons to forget, during which they’ve only amassed a combined total of 40 points. Their Betfred Cup campaign was extremely poor, even though they were drawn in a tough group. Smith’s side were beaten 4-0 by Ross County, and also suffered two 3-0 defeats to Forfar and St Johnstone respectively. Their only point came in a draw with Montrose, which they lost on penalties.
Some may expect Brechin to bounce back into League One, but Barry Smith has struggled to get players in. The squad was so depleted at one stage that the 45-year-old had to field himself for 90 minutes in the defeat to Forfar. Ross Brown, Matthew Knox and Ryan McCord all look like good additions, but City may struggle to reach the promotion Play-Offs and could find themselves having to consolidate for a season.
Cove Rangers are the League Two new boys after coming up from the Highland League last season. The Aberdeenshire side comfortably beat Lowland League champions East Kilbride and Berwick Rangers in the League Two relegation Play-Off to join Scotland's professional league system for the very first time.
Former Scotland international Paul Hartley has taken the reigns at the newly built Balmoral Stadium and walks into a very talented squad that should have no problems being able to compete in Scotland's fourth tier. Cove have a number of ex-Aberdeen players amongst their ranks, with midfield pair Jordon Brown and Jamie Masson having made a few appearances for their Premiership neighbours. Striker Mitchell Megginson also played for the Dons early in his career, and the 27-year-old has netted over 100 goals for Cove in just two seasons with the club.
Paul Hartley has further strengthened his squad with the signings of well-travelled midfielder Martin Scott, and youngsters Chris Antoniazzi and Declan Glass on loan from Aberdeen and Dundee United respectively.
Following a strong showing against higher-level opposition in the group stage of the Betfred Cup, the bookies have tipped Cove to make it back to back promotions and they certainly are in with a very good chance.
Cowdenbeath have gone through a turbulent few years but Gary Bollan will be hoping his side can build on the good form they showed at the end of the 2018/19 campaign and secure a Play-Off place this season.
It is hard to judge the Fife side based on their pre-season. Defeats against Hearts and Dundee United were always expected, however, Bollan will be disappointed to have been beaten 2-0 by Stenhousemuir.
Local bragging rights were secured with an impressive 2-0 win against League One side East Fife, and that result will give the Central Park side confidence that they can secure important results in the coming season.
Graham Taylor is a good addition to the squad and if Craig Barr can stay fit he will be one of the best defenders in the league. A 5th place finish or above should be the target for the Blue Brazil this season.
Edinburgh City missed out on promotion last season after a third placed finish earned them a Play-Off Semi-Final against Clyde, however, they were beaten 4-0 on aggregate and left to wonder what could’ve been.
This season could be different though, as they look like one of the favourites for the title along with newly-promoted Cove Rangers, with City’s experience in the league having the potential to be huge in their push for promotion.
James McDonaugh’s side had a strange Betfred Cup run that has only seen them pick up one win from their four group games. They started off with an impressive performance in Paisley as they nearly held St Mirren to a draw, only to concede very late on. City then picked up a shock victory over Dunfermline but were beaten by Lowland League side East Kilbride before losing to Albion Rovers.
They have what some sides lack though, and that is a proven goalscorer in Blair Henderson. The striker, who netted 38 goals in 47 games last season – 30 of which came in League Two – has signed on for the upcoming season and will play a pivotal role in any success the Edinburgh club have this season. New signings Callum Crane and Alex Harris will also be key players, and if Conrad Balatoni, Danny Galbraith and Danny Handling can all stay fit, City could definitely mount a title challenge.
Elgin had a slightly disappointing 2018/19 campaign. The Borough Briggs men had one of the leakiest defences in the division and it cost them.
However, Gavin Price will be aiming higher this season and he will have been encouraged by a fairly solid Betfred Cup campaign.
Price's men secured wins against Stirling Albion and Alloa and were only narrowly beaten by Hibs and Arbroath.
The return of Shane Sutherland from Peterhead is an excellent piece of business and the additions of players such as Russell Dingwall should help City finish comfortably mid-table this season.
Queen's Park have the lowest average squad age in League Two coming in at an average of 22-years-old and this inexperience may cost Mark Roberts' men.
It has been a fairly solid pre-season for the amateur side. In the Betfred Cup, they held Premiership side Hamilton to a draw and lost the shoot-out and done the same against Airdrieonians. They also held Clyde to a draw and won the shoot-out so they have proven that they are no soft touch.
However, once league business begins it seems unlikely that The Spiders will have enough to be challenging up at the top end of the table.
Roberts will be relying on experienced players such as David Gault to help youngsters such as Alfie Agyeman and Tommy Block throughout the season.
Staying away from the bottom of the table should be the main priority for The Spiders this season.
Stenhousemuir faces the difficult task of bouncing straight back up to League One, following relegation via the Play-Offs last season at the hands of Annan Atheltic. Colin McMennamin will take charge of the club for his first full season after being appointed towards the end of the last campaign.
The Warriors look a shoo-in for a top-four place at least, and will fancy their chances in the Play-Offs should they fail to secure the League Two title. Stenny have a history of bouncing back at the first time of asking – they were promoted to League One in the 2017/2018 season via the Play-Offs after finishing fourth in League Two, after being relegated the previous year.
Their Betfred Cup campaign hasn’t been fantastic, with just one win in four coming against fellow League Two side Cowdenbeath. However, the Warriors nearly pulled off an upset at Tynecastle when they led Hearts until the 82nd minute, only to be beaten before 2-1.
Mark McGuigan will be vital for Stenny this season. The striker netted 16 goals in League One last season, so will be fired up to beat that tally against lesser sides. Former Rangers midfielder Dylan Dykes could also play a huge role in the club’s campaign as he joins on loan from Morton.
Stirling boss Kevin Rutkiewicz will be hoping his side can finish well clear of the bottom places and perhaps push for a Play-Off spot this season.
The Binos have not enjoyed the best pre-season. They were thrashed by Arbroath 6-1 in the Betfred Cup and were also comfortably beaten by fellow League Two side Elgin and Championship side Alloa. However, the Forthbank side did manage to hold Premiership side Hibs to a draw, although they lost the shootout that followed.
New additions such as Kevin Nicoll, Blair Currie, and James Creaney will bring good experience to Forthbank and should ensure that the side finishes comfortably in mid-table.