How close were our pre-season predictions?

Luke scores against Colchester (courtesy Graham Burrell)

As the season draws to a close I thought I’d have a look back at the predictions I made back in August, ahead of the season starting.

It’s always amusing to do so because it gives a clear picture of which sides failed to hit the expectations laid upon them, who punched above their weight and who did just about exactly what I thought they’d do.

The big thing for me is my prediction for Lincoln. I went for sixth and, unless things go very wrong tomorrow, I’m not far off. I think things has been pretty much as expected, Danny has built a side capable of finishing in the top six and we’ve stayed largely injury free also. Perhaps one surprise has been the turnover of players, certainly losing so many from the opening day at Wycombe wasn’t something I envisaged. It hasn’t upset the rhythm though and all being well, I’m not far out with that shout.

The big surprise was my predication for Accrington Stanley. I predicted they’d be 13th and commented: “Stanley are one of those sides that perhaps should not do well. They don’t have the fan base to generate good income, they’re not a big name by any stretch of the imagination and therefore they shouldn’t attract the best players. Everything about them screams relegation fodder, but they never seem to become embroiled in the scrapping.”

Instead, they played some attractive football, they ground out results when it mattered and they didn’t need big names in January. I called McConville, Jackson and Kee as their big players and by the end of the season, all three were still there doing well. Fair play, they surprised me but they deserve to win the league.

I had Luton to go up as Champions and they will finish second, so there’s not a lot of difference there. As for third place, I picked the slimy Stags to do it. I wrote: “I’m sorry to say I see good things for the Stags this year. It won’t be plain sailing, it isn’t possible to put together an entirely new team and not suffer some settling in period. If Steve Evans can ride that though I think they’ll be right up there all season.”

I wasn’t entirely wrong, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, but for differing reasons. David Flitcroft has just about kept them in the race, although they’ll be acutely disappointed to have throw away such a good position when the big one left. He’ll claim he would have guided them to the top seven, whether that is true or not we’ll never know.

Wycombe have claimed the other promotion spot, but I had them down in fourth. I called them being much like us, commenting: “Gareth Ainsworth always puts out a combative and organised side, and the presence of the big ‘un (in Danny Cowley’s words) is testament to him picking up tips from his old master, John Beck.”

I had Cambridge United to finish in second, something their summer recruitment suggested might be possible. Sadly, Ibhere got injured and the likes of Amoo and Azeez never emerged. I also had them as keeping Luke Berry, but he nipped off to Luton just before we played the Hatters, leaving Cambridge a bit light in the centre of the park. I’m not making excuse though, there’s many in Cambridge who feel they’ve fluffed their lines this season. Joe Dunne got the manager’s role permanently earlier this week after a decent, if unspectacular second half of the season.

My other play off tips were Grimsby and Colchester. Nobody could have called the Cods fall from grace apart from their own fans. They saw it coming, Slade’s negative tactics and poor signings cluttering up the dressing room. I wrote: “Akwasi Asante, Sam Jones and Jamie Osbourne all have experience now at this level having moved up from the National League last January, and all three could have much better seasons,” in truth all three left the club by February.

As for Colchester, they’ve only fell a little from my prediction of fifth, but they were out of the race before mid-April really. I thought an eighth place finish in 2016/17 was enough to suggest a play-off spot this campaign, but they’ve fallen away a little which will worry U’s fans.

I went for County, Coventry and Exeter all grouped together, but in 11th, 12th and 13th. With Exeter I had a “nagging feeling that the departures haven’t been covered sufficiently to sustain another play-off push.” I was wrong. I wasn’t sure that Kevin Nolan knew “exactly what he does need at Notts County though, but I do think he’ll find it eventually.” He’d found it by the time they thumped us 4-1 at Meadow Lane, hadn’t he? As for Coventry, I was right in a way. I said: “They might be a big name, but with fans staying away and only half-decent faces arriving in the summer, I’m not sure they’ll do as well as many are predicting.” They haven’t, many thought they would be top three, I had them in 10th. If things go badly this weekend, they could finish eighth.

At the bottom, I called in horribly wrong. I picked Yeovil and Crawley to go down, the latter finishing bottom. I’ll hold my hands up to being surprised at Harry Kewell, he hasn’t written history but he has done well with the Red Devils this season. A couple of his signings worried me, Thomas Verheydt and Moussah Sanoh. With 38 games and a couple of goals between them I was right to question them, but his January business was great bring in Ahearne-Grant from Charlton.

Yeovil haven’t been brilliant but they’ve kept their heads above water in 20th place. I said in order to survive Olufela Olomola would “need to instigate a real step change.” He bagged seven early doors, but they still found enough to prove me wrong.

Chesterfield, already a National League side, had me fooled from the off. I had them as finishing eighth, saying “if there is one thing that you can guarantee as well as taxes and death though, it is Chesterfield being competitive in League Two.” If only, eh Spireites?

Much of the bottom six I did get in place, Forest Green in 20th and commenting ‘with him (Cooper) in charge they’ll achieve nothing.” I had Morecambe as strugglers, 21st and described: “they may have a fighting chance of staying in the league, but it will only be in a low position.” Barnet, their final day nemesis, I predicted to finish 17th. I said “whilst they won’t be setting the world alight this year I don’t think they’ll be fighting relegation either.” I suppose I didn’t bank on them having more managers than I’ve had showers this season, but it still wouldn’t surprise me if they do stay up.

All of this just goes to show both the unpredictability of some performances (Accrington and Cambridge), and how others ran true to form (Luton, Forest Green). I’m pleased to have shouted sixth for City, now all I need is for the lads to go out and achieve it!

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