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League One Preview - Exeter, Hartlepool, Huddersfield, Leyton Orient, MK Dons

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Part 3 of my League One preview.

Exeter City
Stadium: St James' Park (9,036)
Manager: Paul Tisdale (since June 2006)

Transfers In: Artur Krysiak (Birmingham City) - free, Billy Jones (Crewe Alexandra) - free, Jake Thomson (Southampton) - free, John O'Flynn (Barnet) - free, Daniel Nardiello (Blackpool) - free, Jamie Cureton (Norwich) - free
Transfers Out: Neil Saunders (released), Barry Corr (Southend United) - free, Joe Burnell (released), Alex Russell (released), Lewis Tasker (released), James Berry (released), Craig McAllister (Crawley Town) - free, Manny Panther (released)

To Win League One: 80/1
To Be Promoted: 28/1
To Be Relegated: 11/4

Exeter's safety was confirmed on the final day of last season with an impressive win over Huddersfield, which condemned Gillingham to an immediate return to League Two, and Paul Tisdale has rightly been praised for the job he's done at St James' Park with one of the smallest budgets in the league. In fact, when Saints signed Dan Seaborne from the Grecians in January, it enabled them to pay a transfer fee for a player for the first time since the club was saved from extinction by the supporters' trust.

They've made some interesting signings in an attempt to secure a third season in this division, with the experienced Jamie Cureton and Daniel Nardiello bring recruited to provide support for the overworked Marcus Stewart and Adam Stansfield up front. Their problem last season, like most of the struggling sides, was scoring goals, a point proven by the fact that the only player to get into double-figures was defender Ryan Harley - it was entirely right that he should score the 82nd-minute winner on the final day to keep them up.

They had a particularly strong record at home, only losing 4 games all season, and not losing at St James' Park against any of the top 8 in the division. No other team managed that feat last season. Away from home, however, it was a different matter, where they only managed two wins, one of which was at Stockport. They'll have to drastically improve on that away form if they're to extend their stay in League One, as it would seem unlikely that their home record will be as good again. I think they'll just about manage it, though.

Last Season: 18th
Prediction: 20th

Hartlepool United
Stadium: Victoria Park (7,787)
Manager: Chris Turner (since December 2008)

Transfers In: Andy Rafferty (Guisborough) - free, Evan Horwood (Carlisle United) - free
Transfers Out: Ben Clark (Gateshead) - free, Ritchie Jones (Oldham Athletic) - free, Mark Cook (released), Alan Power (Rushden and Diamonds) - free, Jonny Rowell (released), Matty Tymon (released)

To Win League One: 100/1
To Be Promoted: 25/1
To Be Relegated: 5/2

The natives are getting increasingly restless on the North Sea coast. Pools stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season, on goal difference predominantly thanks to Gillingham's pathetic away record, and they even felt the need to shoot themselves in the foot by playing a player who was suspended, thereby incurring a three-point deduction. Chris Turner is deeply unpopular among the fanbase, with "Turner Out" chants audible within 20 minutes of their first pre-season friendly.

The club's transfer dealings have been underwhelming to say the least as well. Recent hope that a takeover was on the horizon appears to have been extinguished, and the realisation has dawned on the fans that the squad (if you can really call it that) they have at their disposal is weaker than the one they had last season, while teams who finished near them last season have strengthened.

Adam Boyd and James Brown are key players, but Brown in particular found it very difficult to get himself out of the treatment room last season, and they don't have the benefit of Roy O'Donovan on loan anymore to score a few goals. Andy Monkhouse weighed in with 11 league goals to finish as top scorer, but in a career that has spanned 12 years, it was certainly the exception rather than the rule for him, so it's a lot to expect a repeat this time around. Further reinforcements will be required if Turner (assuming he lasts that long) is to keep this side above the dotted line.

Last Season: 20th
Prediction: 22nd

Huddersfield Town
Stadium: Galpharm Stadium (24,500)
Manager: Lee Clark (since December 2008)

Transfers In: Scott Arfield (Falkirk) - undisclosed, Joey Gudjonsson (Burnley) - free, Gary Naysmith (Sheffield United) - free, Ian Bennett (Sheffield United) - free, Lee Croft (Derby County) - loan, Jamie McCombe (Bristol City) - undisclosed, Graham Carey (Celtic) - loan, Joe Garner (Nottingham Forest) - loan
Transfers Out: Dean Heffernan (Melbourne Heart) - free, Phil Jevons (Morecambe) - free, Robbie Williams (released), Simon Eastwood (Oxford United) - free, Lewis Nightingale (released), Tom Denton (Wakefield) - free, Joe Skarz (Bury) - undisclosed, Andy Butler (released), Krystian Pearce (Notts County) - free, Michael Collins (S****horpe United) - undisclosed, James Berrett (Carlisle United) - undisclosed, James Spencer (Morecambe) - loan, Leigh Franks (Oxford United) - loan, Jack Hunt (Chesterfield) - loan, Lionel Ainsworth (Shrewsbury Town) - undisclosed

To Win League One: 8/1
To Be Promoted: 11/4
To Be Relegated: 20/1

Lee Clark's side earned plenty of plaudits for their home form last season, but it was ultimately their away record that cost them promotion as the youthful lineup lacked enough bite and experience for the tougher trips. The way they folded like a pack of cards in the first half at St Mary's bears testament to that, although Saints were also excellent themselves that night, so that has been the main area Clark has tried to address, and his board have backed him significantly.

Joey Gudjonsson, Gary Naysmith and Lee Croft all have Premier League experience, and Saints fans will know all about Joe Garner's abilities, particularly from about 30 yards from goal, and he'll be expected to score plenty of goals alongside Jordan Rhodes. The defensive addition of Naysmith is a canny one, although they will have to do without the services of Nathan Clarke for at least the first two months of the season due to injury. Defence is probably the one area where they are light on numbers, but Clark made his name for Newcastle under Kevin Keegan, so it stands to reason that they would go for a "if you score 3, we'll score 4" approach.

If last season's home form is any sort of indication, they'll be there or thereabouts again this time around.

Last Season: 6th
Prediction: 2nd

Leyton Orient
Stadium: Brisbane Road (9,271)
Manager: Russell Slade (since April 2010)

Transfers In: George Porter (Cray Wanderers) - free, Alex Revell (Southend United) - free, Lee Butcher (Tottenham Hotspur) - free, Terrell Forbes (Yeovil Town) - free, Aaron Brown (Aldershot Town) - free, Elliott Omozusi (Fulham) - free, Stephen Dawson (Bury) - free, Dean Cox (Brighton & Hove Albion) - free
Transfers Out: James Scowcroft (released), Sean Thornton (released), Glenn Morris (Southend) - free, Stephen Purches (Bournemouth) - free, Andrew Cave-Brown (released), Loick Pires (released), Harry Baker (released), Jason Demetriou (AEK Larnaca) - free, Tamika Mkandawire (Millwall) - free, Luke Ashworth (Rotherham United) - free

To Win League One: 80/1
To Be Promoted: 25/1
To Be Relegated: 10/3

Orient were in danger of slipping through the relegation trapdoor when Geraint Williams was sacked at Easter, two days before their trip to St Mary's. They were somewhat unlucky in defeat in that game, and Russell Slade managed to eek out enough from his new charges to keep them up by a single point.

Their transfer dealings have been somewhat underwhelming, with chairman Barry Hearn tightening the already-strained purse strings which has seen the departure of a number of first-team regulars. Arguably their key player, Tamika Mkandawire, followed Millwall into the Championship on a free transfer, and high earners James Scowcroft and Sean Thornton were released.

Despite this disruption, they've had a fairly successful pre-season in terms of results, although it's important to keep those results in context - the majority were against non-league opponents, although a draw with a Spurs XI is promising. There are probably enough bad teams in League One for them to just about see themselves safe again this time around.

Last Season: 17th
Prediction: 17th

Milton Keynes Dons
Stadium: stadium:mk (22,000)
Manager: Karl Robinson (since May 2010)

Transfers In: David Martin (Liverpool) - free, Gary MacKenzie (Dundee) - free, Lewis Guy (Doncaster Rovers) - free, Dietmar Hamann (Manchester City) - free, Angelo Balanta (QPR) - free
Transfers Out: Sol Davis (released), Darren Powell (released), David King (released), Lewis Gobern (Grimsby Town) - free, Dean Morgan (released), David McCracken (Brentford) - undisclosed

To Win League One: 33/1
To Be Promoted: 8/1
To Be Relegated: 8/1

The Dons' season seemed to collapse once they were knocked out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the Area Final stage, and before the end of the season Paul Ince had left for the second time, citing budget changes as the reason for his departure. His assistant, Karl Robinson, was given the job on a full-time basis, and looks on the face of it to be a cheap appointment.

However, he sprung a surprise and something of a masterstroke with the recruitment of Champions League and European Championships winner Dietmar Hamann as player-coach. Not only do they now have an excellent midfield player, but they also have a ready-made replacement if the Robinson experiment doesn't go to plan.

Elsewhere, plenty of players have left, including former Saints defender Darren Powell, and replacements have been signed, albeit in fewer numbers. Lewis Guy is a sensible acquisition from Doncaster who knows this league very well, and they've also signed the relatively unknown Angelo Balanta from QPR on a season-long loan, who could provide the creativity they were sorely lacking last season. An improvement on last season's 12th place finish seems likely. Whether Robinson will be there to oversee it all is open to debate, though.

Last Season: 12th
Prediction: 7th

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