Five things we loved about Ladbrokes League 2 this season
From Borough Briggs to Bayview, 2015-16 has been a sensational campaign in Ladbrokes League 2.
Having finally caught our breath after a final-day play-off charge involving four different sides and a gripping set of deciders – ending with promotion for Queen’s Park – we’re ready to look back on five of the (many) things which made League 2 great this year.
Galabank was goal-crazy all season long
It’s not often that mid-table is where League 2’s highest scorers end up, but that’s exactly what happened this time out, with Annan’s 69 goals a full seven strikes more than champions East Fife mustered.
The issue for Jim Chapman’s side was that they also shipped the highest number of goals in the top seven, meaning that neutrals probably had the best time of all watching the Black and Golds’ goal-filled games.
Among those were 3-3 home draws with Montrose and Clyde and a 4-2 defeat of Elgin City in the borders. Away from their own patch, Annan were arguably no less exciting or attacking, winning 5-0 at Links Park in March, and playing their part in a stunning six-goal thriller at Bayview.
Those who bought a season ticket to watch Chapman’s charges in this campaign certainly got their money’s worth!
The Spiders’ superb defence
Everyone loves a high-scoring game, but watching an impressive backline keep the opposition at bay can be entertaining stuff – especially if it’s done by a side with the defensive flair of Queen’s Park.
Gus MacPherson fielded a young defence for much of the season, but what they lacked in years, they more than made up for in skill, organisation and a fearless aptitude for a tough tackle.
The likes of Scott Gibson and Gavin Mitchell – both Queen’s youngsters – impressed at the back throughout the season, while Sean Burns also made an impact at the other end.
Indeed, the 24-year-old elder statesman struck four times, including an expertly-taken penalty in the 3-1 play-off final win at Clyde. And talking of those games…
The final-day play-off race was sensational
East Fife had already wrapped up the League 2 title by this point, but the drama refused to let up, with four different teams in the race for the play-offs ahead of matchday 36 – meaning every post-season spot was up for grabs.
Elgin City and Clyde booked their places in the Ladbrokes League 1 promotion play-offs as both sides dreamt of making the step up.
With those results, Annan just needed to beat Queen’s Park by two goals at Galabank to oust the country’s oldest club from the upcoming semi-finals.
In the end, it was joy for the Hampden club, who lost 1-0 but made the cut by virtue of that marginally superior goal difference. And that moment proved to make all the difference, as the Spiders clinched their place in League 1 next season.
A star was born in Methil
Okay, so he was technically born in Hertfordshire, but Nathan Austin cemented himself as League 2’s most impressive talent in 2015-16, after two solid but unspectacular seasons where he featured sporadically for East Fife.
The 22-year-old netted three braces during the club’s promotion campaign, but his finest display came at Forthbank, as he slotted home two superb strikes and a lovely close-range header to secure a hat-trick and a 3-1 win over Stirling Albion.
Austin’s early-season form saw Falkirk snap the young hitman up in January, but he was loaned back to the Bayview outfit for the rest of this campaign, a move which Fifers’ boss Gary Naysmith will be delighted he managed.
His final strike at Bayview was a fittingly deft finish which left Montrose keeper Jordan Millar sat on his behind, and the Fife faithful in raptures. Championship defences have been warned!
We saw an exciting new arrival – and a classy exit
It was all-or-nothing for Lowland League champions Edinburgh City as they faced off against East Stirling in the League 2 Promotion play-off, with the capital club hoping to be the first ever to promoted to the Ladbrokes SPFL.
They managed that feat in dramatic fashion as veteran Dougie Gair’s penalty secured the step up for the boys from Meadowbank Stadium with a 2-1 aggregate win over Shire.
And, with the camaraderie and class you’ll find from clubs across the country, Shire responded to their own relegation with this tweet:
— East Stirlingshire (@TheShireFC) 14 May 2016
A fittingly memorable ending to a fantastic season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.