Ladbrokes L1 preview: Raith Rovers best-equipped for title triumph

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The last Ladbrokes League 1 campaign saw Livingston cruise to the title by a mammoth 19 points, with many expecting a similar feat from 5/4 favourites Raith Rovers this term. But they’re far from the only strong side in the third tier.

At the other end of the table, the fight against the drop was an exciting and nervy one for fans of a number of clubs last term – and is likely to prove so again.

Here’s what we’re expecting from every League 1 side during 2017-18.

Airdrieonians

Last season’s third-placed finish was the Diamonds’ best in four years, but this summer’s loss of centre-back pairing Daniel Boateng and Simon Mensing could be a big blow.

There’s still quality dotted about the squad, and the right choice in the – currently vacant – managerial hotseat could see them challenge for the play-offs again, but until a new man takes the reins, there’s an air of uncertainty about Airdrie.

Title Odds: 12/1

Albion Rovers

It’s something of a shock to see the Wee Rovers priced as 50/1 rank outsiders to lift the title in 2017-18. Admittedly, we’d be surprised if they did win the league, but all the signs suggest they’ve got the quality for a play-off spot.

The addition of hugely talented, seasoned performers like Alan Trouten and Graeme Holmes, last season’s strong defensive record and the fact they knocked four goals past Hamilton Academical in a League Cup win last week all point to a promising campaign.

Title Odds: 50/1

Alloa Athletic

Sorry, Alloa fans. We think this could be a rather gloomy season for your side.

The loss of last season’s 26-goal man Greig Spence to Raith Rovers will take the sting out of the Wasps’ attack, a fact already evidenced by just two goals in four League Cup games – all defeats. Don’t expect another serious promotion push from the Clackmannanshire club.

Title Odds: 11/2

Arbroath

Of all the sides in League 1, the Red Lichties’ starting XI this term is the most likely to look like their 2016-17 line-up. That consistency – as well as a 4-0 League Cup demolition of Montrose in the Angus derby – suggests the newly-promoted side will fare just fine this term. Expect a solid campaign.

Title Odds: 16/1

Ayr United

When Ladbrokes News caught up with Raith’s Bobby Barr, he named the Honest Men as serious title challengers, claiming they’d “definitely be up there” having “strengthened their squad”. And we’re very much inclined to agree.

The new-look Ayr have thrown off last season’s end-of-season slump which ended in relegation to win all four of their League Cup games, including a first victory over Kilmarnock in 16 years, and a 6-1 victory away at Annan Athletic. They look the real deal already.

Title Odds: 2/1

East Fife

They of the strong defensive record and permanently windy stadium. The retention of two fine forwards in Chris Duggan and Kevin Smith this season should see the Fifers chalk up enough goals to comfortably avoid a relegation scrap, while they remain tough to break down. Another fifth-placed finish would be no surprise.

Title Odds: 16/1

Forfar Athletic

One of the league’s older squads, the experience of seasoned pros like Jim Lister, Simon Mensing and Eddie Malone could be just what they need to handle the step up following promotion via the play-offs last term. Wily gaffer Gary Bollan also knows this league inside-out.

We reckon they’ll probably avoid the drop – though more by grit than greatness.

Title Odds: 25/1

Queen’s Park

Gus MacPherson has done wonders on a very modest budget at Hampden Park, with the Spiders achieving stability in their first season back at this level last term.

Once again, he’s made some savvy summer acquisitions from the Junior game, but with the division so strong this term, they’d do well to avoid the drop so comfortably again this year.

Title Odds: 22/1

Raith Rovers

While Ayr are impressing in the cup, and Albion Rovers are our pick of the market outsiders, anyone finishing ahead of Raith this summer will have to be very good indeed.

Key men have remained, additions like Spence and Liam Buchanan from Livingston will surely add a raft of goals, and boss Barry Smith is no stranger to this league. Right now, they appear to warrant their status as clear title favourites.

Title Odds: 5/4

Stranraer

Last season’s seventh-placed finish belied the strength in the Blues’ ranks, though they did finish the campaign with a flurry. Midfielder Steven Bell told Ladbrokes News put that down to manager Stevie Farrell having “really rejuvenated” the squad.

With that spring in their step, we fancy the Blues to make a strong push for the promotion play-offs – having finished in the play-off spots three years in a row before last term.

Title Odds: 20/1

Click here for the latest Ladbrokes League 1 odds.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.