The ante-post League One column has seen some near misses (and some misses) in the last two seasons. We went pretty close with Burton Albion at 31/1 two years ago, although the pick of Bolton last term can hardly be described as 'near' - they were 14 points behind Sheffield United who finally justified their price as favourites in the third tier. The Blades hit a run of form after a shocking start and were the best team by miles.

The importance of having a striker who scores is crucial in this division. United's Billy Sharp hit 30 last year compared to the ten of Bolton's Gary Madine. That's the difference.

Last season was profitable for the backers of favourites and fancied teams of course. Chelsea and Newcastle done the business in the higher leagues, whilst the Blades and Portsmouth ensured the big names got out of their divisions. 

This season we have Championship relegated teams Wigan Athletic, Rotherham and Blackburn Rovers, whilst the promoted sides include League Two title winners Portsmouth. Also up are Doncaster, Blackpool and Plymouth.

Winner Odds

The top of the market is dominated by two teams dropping down a level in Blackburn Rovers (4/1) and Wigan Athletic (7/1), whilst Portsmouth's price at 8/1 looks short enough.

Let's deal with Rovers first, who had a torrid time in the Championship last term. The worry is obviously the club's freefall current state, but manager Tony Mowbray has been backed in the transfer market in signing Bradley Dack for £750,000. The other major 'in' of note is Peter Whittingham from Cardiff. I've always enjoyed watching the silky midfielder and his cultured left foot - and he could be a cut above at this level. The goals should come from experienced striker Danny Graham. 

Mowbray wasn't a massive success at Coventry but at least he knows the division. Considering Sheffield United were 6.80 to win the league last year, the 4/1 Sportsbook price of Rovers offers no value. 

The same comments apply to Wigan at 7/1. Surely there are better bets around? 

Former Portsmouth boss Paul Cook has taken over at the north west club despite guiding Pompey to the League Two title last term. His move took me by surprise, but as a former player, his understanding of the club ethos was important. As will be his knowledge of the lower leagues. 

Signings however of Terrell Thomas, Gavin Massey and Chey Dunkley are not exactly big names, and Cook will have a job in trying to fend off Championship interest in Sam Morsy and Max Power. 

If Pompey's price was around the 14 mark, I would be interested, as I like the appointment of Kenny Jackett. The 55-year-old has twice led sides to promotion out of this division and he knows how to manage a club with big expectations. A massive 14,500 season tickets have been sold at Fratton Park - and I for one am pleased they are back at this level. 

I've stated before that promoted sides do well and the gap isn't massive. Oxford and Bristol Rovers were solid last year but never really kicked into the play-off places. If they were 14/1 or more I would be interested, the price at 8/1, though, is too short. 

For that money we can have the same bet with Bradford - a rock solid, proven team at this level who were beaten in the play-off final last season. However, they have lost a couple of key players in Billy Clarke and James Meredith. It was a surprise they were allowed to leave. Manager Stuart McCall confirmed his commitment in staying at the club following a bit of speculation - but surely this summer should have been the time to strengthen rather than wave goodbye to big names. 

Their transfer dealings have been less than spectacular and they drew too many games last term (19). 

Of the promoted sides, Plymouth Argyle are worth a punt at a big price 28/1. I've seen them a couple of times at Leyton Orient (ah those were the days!), and they were a big, physical unit. The best possible news was the new deal for Graham Carey - I like his creativity. 

The manager Derek Adams brings an air of stability and good team spirit, and I would never be put off by backing a promoted side - those qualities went a long way to Burton's success two seasons ago. Motherwell winger Lionel Ainsworth is an interesting addition, and it seems they have been written off before a ball has been kicked. They had 87 points alongside Pompey in League Two - yet we can back them at over three times the price.

Top Six Finish

Phil Brown's Southend United are definitely worth a poke at 20/1 as an outside bet for the title, but they represent a fair 3/1 price to finish in the top six.

They were not too far away last term and at several points were on the cusp of the play-offs. However, like so many teams at this level, when that talk airs itself, players tend to get nosebleeds and panic for some reason. Walsall and Rochdale have been classic examples in the past.

The Shrimpers played some decent stuff in patches last season, and I like the way Phil Brown kept at it despite a poor start last August. Their form in April when they needed to make a proper charge also tailed off, but generally they were a good side at home and they had a bit of presence up front with Nile Ranger. He hit eight goals in 27 appearances - and they always looked a better team when he started. 

Ranger was jailed for eight months back in May but will get the chance to relaunch his career looking at the latest quotes from manager Brown. 

Summer transfer activity has seen moves to bring in Michael Turner and Michael Kightly, and those additions look excellent business. We should see better from former West Ham left-back Stephen Hendrie too. I like them as a team. 

I am watching Peterborough closely over the next couple of weeks, as they are priced up at 5/2 for a top six finish. 

This is a big season at the ABAX and they need a fast start - which hasn't always been the case. However, I like watching Posh and always enjoy them for their entertaining football. 

The question is will they keep hold of Marcus Maddison? Chairman Darragh MacAnthony has said he won't leave for less than £1million, and on his day I agree with MacAthony that he is the best player in the division. 

My old favourites Rochdale didn't quite make the short list, but Keith Hill is a brilliant manager with the resources at his disposal. He's also one of the most entertaining with his quotes. He's a bit of a magician the way he conjures a top-half finish.

Relegation Market

The surprising name at such short odds are Gillingham at 13/8. They were awful last term and only just survived by the skin of their teeth. Losing Bradley Dack was a blow - but the £750,000 should offset that. He wasn't quite the same player in the last campaign for whatever reason, but it was at the back where the Kent club had big problems.

New director of football Peter Taylor will work with head coach Aidy Pennock, and it will be interesting to see if they will spend any of the Dack cash. 

Bury are usually there or thereabouts in this market - although I did recommend laying them at around 6/4 for last term's preview. They survived, but it isn't the most exciting long term bet to tie up money for 10 months by laying 6/4 shots! 

The Shakers should be safe despite being 4/1 for this, as I'm a fan of their manager Lee Clark. I also like their strike force of Nicky Ajose and Jermaine Beckford - and I'll be looking at Over 2.5 Goals in their early matches. They need to replace James Vaughan's 24 goals last term, but I think they can do it. Vaughan was surprisingly signed by Sunderland.

My tentative selection here is Walsall at 5/2. I wasn't massively convinced by manager Jon Whitney last term, and a final position of finishing 14th was way down from reaching the play-off finals the season before. They finished with just one victory from their last ten games and I haven't exactly been blown away with their transfers so far.

League One Ante-Post Recommended Bets
Back Plymouth Argyle @ 28/1 to win the title (Sportsbook price)
Back Southend United Top Six @ 3/1 (Sportsbook price)
Back Walsall for Relegation @ 5/2 (Sportsbook price)

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