Opposing View: Liam Hoden’s League One Preview part one

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THE third tier will be a tough environment for Doncaster Rovers to get to grips with over the next nine months, that is for certain.

Many a club have struggled to keep their heads above water in the division following relegation with complacency severely punished.

League One last season was defined by the fierce battle between former Premier League sides to climb back out of the division.

The departure of two of those fallen giants combined with a poorly-resourced trio dropping down from the Championship may have ensured a drop in the quality levels in the division.

But the fiercely competitive nature of League One will remain and should intensify given the levelling of the playing field.

There are plenty of sides with realistic hopes of making the top six and plenty are going to be left disappointed.

Over the next couple of days on the Free Press website I will briefly assess the merits of each of the 23 sides Rovers will come up against this season and attempt to predict how League One will look come April 27 next year.

You can let us know what you think by commenting below or tweeting us using @liamhodenDFP.

Today, I take a look at the leading contenders for promotion.

THE CONTENDERS

Quite a few sides will have breathed a sigh of relief when Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield were promoted at the end of last season.

For Sheffield United and MK Dons, three major stumbling blocks to their own promotion aspirations were removed.

Both look well placed for a renewed effort after a summer of reflection.

Sheffield United will now have recovered from the fallout of the Ched Evans case which undoubtedly derailed their season.

At their best, United played some excellent football last season and Danny Wilson’s side should impress again as Matt Lowton has been the only major departure.

The retention of Kevin McDonald, Stephen Quinn and Lee Williamson has ensured United have a fearsome midfield bank.

Wilson still must deal with the absence of Evans’ goals and has gambled on the loan of Manchester United’s John Colfie to make up the shortfall.

MK Dons must banish demons of their own having suffered a third bout of play off heartache in four seasons.

The Dons have held onto the vast majority of last season’s squad and, probably most importantly, boss Karl Robinson.

Young boss Robinson has brought in Sheffield Wednesday striker Ryan Lowe to partner the impressive Dean Bowditch while fallen star Alan Smith will be hoping for an Indian summer for his career after his permanent switch.

The Dons were one of League One’s better footballing sides last term, undone by some surprising home defeats, and should edge closer to the automatic places this time around.

One person demanding success for his club is controversial Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell.

A lack of goals cost the Cherries last season and boss Paul Groves has pulled in big guns to try and match Mitchell’s ambitions.

Striker Matt Tubbs will look to get his Bournemouth career going after injury struck and has been joined by Frank Demouge, Josh McQuiod and Lewis Grabban in a strong attacking rank.

Provided Mitchell, co-owner Maxim Demin and the Russian’s wife can keep their noses out, the Cherries should not be too far away.

Of the teams promoted from League Two, Swindon Town look the strongest as the cult of Paolo Di Canio continues to grow strength.

Di Canio managed to hold onto rapidly improving winger Matt Ritchie and added Gary Roberts to give the Robins real threat.

With Tommy Miller and Alan Navarro adding top level League One experience, it seems all Town fans have to worry about is seeing their boss poached if his success continues.

Carlisle United were robbed of a play off place largely due to an untimely injury to the reborn Lee Miller.

Striker Miller’s continued quest to prove himself south of the border will be important to a renewed push for United.

Boss Greg Abbott managed to convince most of his squad to stick around and that consistency should make the Cumbrians serious top six contenders.

Colchester United’s trio of signings in Freddie Sears, Clinton Morrison and Marcus Bean could prove to be some of the best business conducted this summer.

All eyes will be on Sears to see if he can match the potential he had while as a youngster at West Ham while Morrison proved there is life in the old dog yet with a loan move to MK Dons last season.

Boss John Ward has managed to hold onto John Joe O’Toole, Anthony Wordsworth and Magnus Okuonghae and all three will play keys roles in a strong looking squad that should definitely improve on last season’s tenth place.

Keith Curle grasped the chance to finally stamp his authority on Notts County and shipped out 14 players as he attempts to push the Magpies into the top six.

In newcomers Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Gary Liddle and Enoch Showunmi, Curle has brought in a trio of solid League One players and he has managed so far to retain the important Alan Judge.

It remains to be seen whether the upturn in form following Curle’s arrival in February can be continued over a full campaign.

A chance to regroup seems high on the agenda of Coventry City boss Andy Thorn following relegation, emphasised with deals for experienced heads Kevin Kilbane and Stephen Elliott.

But with proven goalscoring talent such as Cody McDonald, the ever-reliable Gary McSheffrey and potential packed midfielder John Fleck, Coventry could easily be among the play off contenders.