Two teams occupy more than a quarter of the League Two outright book and a strong case can be made to say that's not enough.

Over the summer, a couple of chief executives referred to a document that did the rounds in May, showing last season's playing budget for all 24 clubs in descending order. The identity of specific clubs was protected but Portsmouth and Doncaster were immediately identified as the two standing head and shoulders above the rest, while conventional wisdom agreed that Plymouth and Luton were the next two on the list, bridging a sizeable gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Money makes Mansfield the rightful favourites

So basically, the top four spenders occupied the top four places and you don't need to be a private detective to work out that antepost favourites Mansfield are top dogs in the salary stakes this time around, while Luton have responded to their near miss by pumping most of the money received for Cameron McGeehan and Jack Marriott back into their wage bill. Both clubs clearly mean business.

Not much is secret nowadays because agents are hardly renowned for their confidentiality when trying to cut the best deal for their clients. And once it became apparent what certain players were commanding, and that Mansfield were willing to pay it, everybody else effectively took a back seat and waited for Steve Evans to finish his business. There was no point even trying to compete.

By the end of May, the Stags had completed 11 incoming transfers, a cast of stellar names bolstering a squad that would be on course for 72 points if they only maintained the standards set over the last 30 matches with Evans at the helm. Now, on any given weekend, the Glaswegian will name a bench that consists of seven players who would walk into almost any other team in the division, and maybe one or two outside of the 18 as well.

Ordinarily, this scenario might create its own set of problems but Evans is as ruthless as they come. He likes a variety of options and loves milking competition for places. Anyone spitting their dummy out runs the risk of humiliation - both in private and in public. They've all taken good money and when you dance with the devil, you wait for the music to stop.

So if you plan on trading the exchange market over the next nine months, you might want to keep Mansfield onside - they could walk it. But as an ante-post punt, Luton arguably represent the better title value at 8.00.

Jones could make Luton spectacular

So far, Nathan Jones has underwhelmed in relation to his billing as a top-notch managerial prospect but he has made enough progress to suggest the Hatters will set the benchmark. Last season, they had everything but a cutting edge. They might have lost McGeehan and Marriott but they've gained bucketloads of experience in Marek Stech, Alan McCormack and Andrew Shinnie, plus a 20-goal striker in James Collins.

With Jones, much like Pep Guardiola, you get the impression his intensity can have a draining effect on unassuming players but his ideas are constantly building towards something bigger. If those ideas are now fully ingrained and Luton start to play off the cuff, the results could be spectacular. Ninety points wouldn't be a stretch.

Stevenage a promotion selection with question marks over chasing pack

The case for the top two is only made stronger by question marks residing over the next three teams in the betting, all of whom are new to the division and must adjust to circumstances and surroundings. In the past decade, only eight out of 40 teams coming down from League One and four out of 20 teams coming up from non-league have finished in the top seven - a 4/1 shot in both cases.

Coventry might be a big name but operate on a shoestring under SISU and Mark Robins, although highly capable of steadying the rockiest of ships, has no prior experience of mounting a genuine promotion charge or any track record of top-end league success. The Sky Blues must also confront a potential home advantage problem, as most visiting teams will treat their trip to the Ricoh as a monumental event.

Swindon have changed their ethos and start from scratch under David Flitcroft. The Robins have waved goodbye to three of their biggest stalwarts in Nathan Thompson, Yaser Kasim and Jonathan Obika, removing the spine on which an instant challenge might otherwise have been built, and the jury is out on nearly all of the new arrivals. Flitcroft spent big money in his last job at Bury but only sneaked automatic through the back door on the final day of the 2014/15 season.

Lincoln are building on much stronger foundations but their glorious FA Cup run might come back to haunt them, as the media exposure that came with it revealed so much about how they operate. Danny Cowley might be an impressive marginal gains exponent but he's about to encounter a level of tactical nuance he is simply unaccustomed to.

All of which means there's ample value to be found in the middle order and Stevenage look like the standout bet in the promotion market at 7.00. The Boro made giant strides under Darren Sarll last season, looking like genuine challengers for automatic when posting ten wins in 13 matches from late January before running out of steam.

Sarll is a shrewd operator. He has created a whole greater than the sum of its parts at Broadhall Way and he was crystal clear in his thinking going into the close-season that stamina was the issue. That clear focus should serve them well. If Stevenage can impose themselves sooner and sustain it for longer, they will be there or thereabouts.

Sliding Yeovil heading out of the division

Finally, stick a point on Yeovil for relegation at 4/1. The Glovers have been on a downward spiral for the past four years, dropping down two divisions and finishing in the bottom six of the basement for the past two seasons. Their win ratio in that time is just 22 per cent and they finished last season with just three wins in 27.

Recommended Bets
1pt Luton to win the title at 8.00
1pt Stevenage to win promotion at 7.00
1pt Yeovil to be relegated at 5.00

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