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NPower League 2 Season Preview

Cardiff WandererCorrespondent IISeptember 26, 2016

NPower League 2 Season Preview

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    The Npower Football League Two is the fourth tier of professional soccer in England.

    The teams who play in the division tend to be local sides that rarely play in front of more than 5,000 people. Remarkably that still means that 2.5 million people will watch this level of football in the upcoming season.

    The league consists of 24 teams, with four teams promoted and two relegated at the end of the season.

    The upcoming slides review each club’s offseason transactions and previews their chance of success this year.

Guide to Predictions

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    This is a quick guide to the meanings of the different predicted finishes:

    Promotion: These are the clubs that will be promoted from this division automatically come the end of the season

    Playoff Contender: Teams that finish in the playoff positions have a mini-tournament at the end of the season, with the winner also getting promoted the next year. These places are hotly contested as there are more playoff contenders than places.

    Mid-Table Obscurity: These are the teams who will have nothing to play for with six games to go in the season, as they will be safe from relegation but too far away from the playoff places.

    Survival: These teams will be threatened with relegation all season but will be above that zone come the last day.

    Relegation: These teams are expected to drop a division when the season is over.

AFC Wimbledon

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    Nicknames: The Dons, The Wombles

    Year Founded: 2002

    Stadium (Capacity): Kings Meadow (4,720)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 16th

    Manager: Terry Brown

    Notable Transfers In: Warren Cummings (Bournemouth), Stacy Long (Stevenage), Pim Balkestein (Brentford)

    Notable Transfers Out: Ryan Jackson (Macklesfield), Ricky Wellard (Cambridge United), Jamie Stuart (Sutton United)

    Key Player: Jack Midson

    Preview: AFC Wimbledon successfully made the transition from non-league to league football last season and will be looking to move up the table this year.

    Retaining top goal scorer Jack Midson was the Dons' biggest success of the preseason, and adding experienced league players like Warren Cummings can only make them a better team.

    Another mid-table finish should be on the cards.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity.

Accrington Stanley

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    Nickname: Stanley

    Year Founded: 1968

    Stadium (Capacity): Craven Ground (5,057)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 14th

    Manager: Paul Cook

    Notable Transfers In: Michael Liddle (Sunderland), Padraig Amond (Pacos de Ferreira), Tom Eckersley (Bolton Wanderers)

    Notable Transfers Out: Kevin McIntyre (Rochdale), Ian Craney (Rochdale), Sean Hessey (unattached)

    Key Player: Padraig Amond

    Preview: Like many lower league clubs, Accrington relied heavily on loan players last season after much of the playoff-contending side of the 2010/11 campaign was lost to bigger clubs.

    Getting Padraig Amond to sign a one-year deal with the club is a big boost for morale as many of the new signings this year have been unproven youngsters.

    Many fans of Stanley will be hoping for a promotion push, but it is likely that the club will fall short of that ambition.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table 

Aldershot Town

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    Nickname: The Shots

    Year Founded: 1992

    Stadium (Capacity): Recreation Ground (7,100)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 11th

    Manager: Dean Holdsworth

    Notable Transfers In: Craig Reid (Stevenage), Anthony Tonkin (Oxford United),  Guy Branston (Bradford)

    Notable Transfers Out: Anthony Straker (Southend), Manny Panther (unattached), Darren Jones (Shrewsbury)

    Key Player: Aaron Morris

    Preview: Aldershot Town have started the last two campaigns poorly, so manager Dean Holdsworth will be looking for a much faster start this time around.

    However there are question marks over the players brought into The Shots this season, as many of them appear to be former non-league players who have failed to make it at other league clubs.

    It could be a hard season for Aldershot.

    Predicted Finish: Survival

Barnet FC

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    Nickname: The Bees

    Year Founded: 1888

    Stadium (Capacity): Underhill Stadium (5260)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 22nd

    Manager: Mark Robson

    Notable Transfers In: Jonathon Fortune (Exeter City), Jon Nurse (Dagenham and Redbridge), Curtis Weston (Gillingham)

    Notable Transfers Out: Izale McLeod (unattached), Sam Deering (Cheltenham Town), Alassane N’Diaye (unattached)

    Key Player: Steve Kabba

    Preview: Barnet have just survived relegation over the last two years and that fight will continue in this campaign.

    The loss of key striker Izale Mcleod was a big blow to the club and will put a lot of extra pressure on veteran front man Steve Kabba.

    New players like Jon Nurse and Curtis Weston must make an immediate impression; otherwise relegation is a real possibility.

    Predicted Finish: Relegation

Bradford City

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    Nickname: The Bantams

    Year Founded: 1903

    Stadium (Capacity): Valley Parade (25,136)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 18th

    Manager: Phil Parkinson

    Notable Transfers In: Alan Connell (Swindon), Andrew Davies (Stoke City), Nathan Doyle (Barnsley)

    Notable Transfers Out: Simon Ramsden (Motherwell), Craig Fagan (unattached), Mark Stewart (Dundee)

    Key Player: Richie Jones

    Preview: Bradford are a giant club for League Two but perennial underachievement has plagued The Bantams since their brief encounter with the Premiership in the late 90s.

    However this might be a turning point for the club as manager Phil Parkinson appears to have had an astute closed season. Quality signings like Andrew Davies and Nathan Doyle, who are both in their footballing prime, alongside the removal of several underperforming high earners bodes well for the future.

    This may well be the season that Bradford start their rejuvenation.

    Predicted Finish: Playoff Contenders

Bristol Rovers

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    Nickname: The Pirates

    Year Founded: 1883

    Stadium (Capacity): Memorial Stadium (12,011)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 13th

    Manager: Mark McGhee

    Notable Transfers In: David Clarkson (Bristol City), Rogvi Baldvinsson (Algard), Conor Gough (Charlton)

    Notable Transfers Out: Chris Zebrowski (Cheltenham), Scott McGleish (Whitehawk), Mustapha Carayol (Middlesborugh)

    Key Player: Matt Harrold

    Preview: Rovers were one of the biggest disappointments of the last season, but the potential remains within the squad to reach promotion this time around.

    The addition of David Clarkson to last season’s top goal scorer, Matt Harrold, may mean that The Pirates have the strongest front two in the league.

    Question marks still remain over their defence, but it should be a good season for Bristol.

    Predicted Finish: Playoff Contenders

Burton Albion

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    Nickname: Brewers

    Year Founded:1950

    Stadium (Capacity): Pirelli Stadium (6,912)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 17th

    Manager: Gary Rowett

    Notable Transfers In: Zander Diamond (Oldham), Lee Bell (Crewe), Robbie Weir (Tranmere)

    Notable Transfers Out: Andres Gurrieri (Plymouth), Ross Atkins (Derby County), Kevin Poole (retired)

    Key Player: Justin Richards

    Preview: Burton have been at the wrong end of League Two for the last two seasons, and there is little evidence that this trend will change in this campaign.

    Despite several ins and outs, their squad doesn’t appear to have been strengthened. A lack of youth prospects coming through the ranks is also concerning.

    Predicted Finish: Relegation

Cheltenham Town

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    Nickname: The Robins

    Year Founded: 1887

    Stadium (Capacity): Whaddon Road (7,066)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 6th (lost playoff final)

    Manager: Mark Yates

    Notable Transfers In: Billy Jones (Exeter), Chris Zebrowski (Bristol Rovers),  Shaun Harrad (Bury)

    Notable Transfers Out: Andy Gallinagh (Hecford), Luke Summerfield (Shrewsbury), Steve MacLeon (Yeoril)

    Key Player: Steve Elliot

    Preview: Having been so close to promotion last season, Cheltenham Town have gone on to further strengthen their side, making them a promotion favourite.

    The addition of Chris Zebrowski and Shaun Harrad gives The Robins an increased goal-scoring threat. This means as long as the defence can stay together under the marshalling of Steve Elliot, Cheltenham should go up.

    Predicted Finish: Promotion

Chesterfield

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    Nickname: The Spireites

    Year Founded: 1919

    Stadium (Capacity): B2Net Stadium (10,400)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 22nd League One (relegated)

    Manager: John Sheridan

    Notable Transfers In: Sam Toguell (Scunthorpe), Sam Hird (Doncaster), Marc Richards (Port Vale)

    Notable Transfers Out: Jamie Lowry (Plymouth), Aaron Downes (Torquay), Jimmy Juan (FC Niortais)

    Key Player: Jack Lester

    Preview: After storming to the League Two title in the 2010/2011 season, Chesterfield found life in League One far more difficult. A spirited come back over the latter half of the season just fell short, so they are back in League Two.

    Manager John Sheridan appears to have had a clear objective in signing players this offseason as The Spireites manager has chosen to bring in a few experienced faces.

    Readjustment to life in League Two may take some time, but Chesterfield should be in the mix come the close of the season.

    Predicted Finish: Playoff Contenders

Dagenham & Redbridge

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    Nickname: The Daggers

    Year Founded: 1992

    Stadium (Capacity): Victoria Road (6,078)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 19th

    Manager: John Still

    Notable Transfers In: Gavin Hoyte (Arsenal)

    Notable Transfers Out: Gavin Tomlin (Southend), Jon-Jo Bates (unattached), John Nurse (Barnet)

    Key Player: Kevin Maher

    Preview: The Daggers only just avoided a second straight relegation last season.

    Chances of a similar relegation battle are high, as the cash-strapped club have been unable to bring in many fresh faces. Experienced veterans like midfielder Kevin Maher will need to be in fine form if anything more positive is going to happen.

    Predicted Finish: Survival

Exeter City

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    Nickname: The Grecians

    Year Founded: 1904

    Stadium (Capacity): St. James Park (8,541)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 23rd League One (Relegated)

    Manager: Paul Tisdale

    Notable Transfers In: Kevin Amankwaah (Rochdale), Jamie Cureton (Leyton Orient), Matt Oakley (unattached)

    Notable Transfers Out: Daniel Nardiello (Rotherham), Billy June (Cheltenham), Troy Archibald-Henville (Swindon Town)

    Key Player: Alan Gow

    Preview: Exeter drop back to League Two for the first time since 2009 after a dismal campaign last time out.

    The Grecians are a supporter-owned club so restricted finances have forced them to lose a number of players, but astute buying appears to have filled the gaps nicely.

    Some may expect Exeter to make an immediate return to League One but a season of rebuilding is more likely.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity

Fleetwood Town

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    Nickname: The Trawlermen

    Year Founded: 1997

    Stadium (Capacity): Highbury Stadium (5,094)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 1st Blue Square Premier (Promoted)

    Manager: Micky Mellon

    Notable Transfers In: Steven Gillespie (Colchester United), Damien Johnson (Plymouth), Barry Nicholson (Preston)

    Notable Transfers Out: Magno Viera (Forest Green), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Sean Clancy (Chester)

    Key Player: Jon Parkin

    Preview: High-spending Fleetwood Town lived up to their potential last season as they were promoted to The Football League for the first time.

    More money has been invested into the squad in the offseason, which has made them an early favourite for promotion. However the loss of Jamie Vardy will hinder their goal-scoring exploits.

    Ultimately, this hype may play against them as teams will be motivated to put a dent in their title bid. However this has not stopped sides like Crawley and Exeter achieving double promotions.

    Predicted Finish: Playoff Contenders

Gillingham

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    Nickname: The Gills

    Year Founded: 1893

    Stadium (Capacity): Priestfield Stadium (11,582)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 8th

    Manager: Martin Allen

    Notable Transfers In: Ben Stevens (Wycombe Wanderers), Tommy Forecast (Southampton), Deon Burton (FK Gabala)

    Notable Transfers Out: Jo Kuffour (unattached), Dennis Oli (Wycombe Wanderers), Matt Lawrence (retired)

    Key Player: Danny Kedwell

    Preview: The Gills just missed the playoffs last year, so their objective will be to go at least one place higher in the table this time around.

    Bringing in complementary strikers to help in-form Danny Kedwell looks to be a strong move for Gillingham, but defensive queries remain.

    With so many teams of relatively equal strength in the division, Gillingham’s inability to significantly strengthen defensively may ultimately cost them their desired playoff berth.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity

Morecambe FC

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    Nickname: The Shrimps

    Year Founded: 1920

    Stadium (Capacity): Globe Arena (6,476)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 15th

    Manager: Jim Bentley

    Notable Transfers In: Andrew Wright (Scunthorpe), Robbie Threlfall (unattached), Andres Arestidou (Preston)

    Notable Transfers Out: Jon Culshaw (unattached), Keiran Chanock (Fleetwood Town), Phil Jevons (Hyde)

    Key Player: Kevin Ellison

    Preview: This will be a crunch year for Morecambe and manager Jim Bentley as the club enters its second season without charismatic former manager Sammy McIlory.

    McIlory’s influence was still palpable last season, so Bentley must show that the team is now his and apply the way he wants to play football.

    How successful that transition is will be a defining factor to how their season goes.

    Predicted Finish: Survival

Northampton Town

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    Nickname: The Cobblers

    Year Founded: 1897

    Stadium (Capacity): Sixfields Stadium (7,653)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 20th

    Manager: Andy Boothroyd

    Notable Transfers In: Clive Platt (Coventry City), Chris Hackett (Millwall), Ishmel Demontagnac (Notts County)

    Notable Transfers Out: Freddy Hall (Toronto), Michael Jacobs (Derby County), Aaron Davies (Exeter)

    Key Player: Adebayo Akinfenwa

    Preview: Northampton bitterly disappointed last season as the club flirted with relegation when many expected The Cobblers to be an automatic promotion hopeful.

    Expectation is high once again with the dangerous front pairing of Clive Platt and Adebayo Akinfenwa leading the way. However questions over the quality of the centre midfield may hold The Cobblers back once again.

    Northampton may be the team that start the new season quickly, only to fade into obscurity as the season progresses.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity

Oxford United

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    Nickname: The U’s

    Year Founded: 1893

    Stadium (Capacity): Kassam Stadium (12,500)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 9th

    Manager: Chris Wilder

    Notable Transfers In: Michael Raynes (Rotherham), Lee Cox (Swindon), Jake Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion)

    Notable Transfers Out: Anthony Tonkin (Aldershot Town), Asa Hall (Shrewsbury), Oli Johnson (York City)

    Key Player: James Constable

    Preview: Oxford could well be the most exciting team in League Two this year.

    Known for their creativity in the midfield last season, Oxford have added even more flair to the side. Overwhelming teams with controlled possession may be another method of victory for them.

    However Oxford’s success does depend on them keeping much-touted striker James Constable, who is a target for several higher league sides.

    Predicted Finish: Promotion

Plymouth Argyle

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    Nickname: The Pilgrims

    Year Founded: 1886

    Stadium (Capacity): Home Park (16,380)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 21st

    Manager: Carl Fletcher

    Notable Transfers In: Rene Gilmartin (Watford), Jamie Lowry (Chesterfield), Andres Gurrieri (Burton)

    Notable Transfers Out: Romain Larrieu (retired), Damien Johnson (Fleetwood), Carl Fletcher (retired)

    Key Player: Darren Purse

    Preview: Plymouth pulled off an amazing recovery last season as the club fought off administration and a terrible start to finish 21st in the division.

    Despite this positivity Plymouth still faces years of rebuilding and the squad is weak compared to many in the division. Key players like centre half Darren Purse will need to stay fit for much of the campaign if The Pilgrims are not going to be fighting off relegation again.

    Predicted Finish: Survival

Port Vale FC

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    Nickname: The Valiants

    Year Founded: 1876

    Stadium (Capacity): Vale Park (19,052)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 12th

    Manager: Micky Adams

    Notable Transfers In: Darren Murphy (Stevenage), Richard Duffy (Exeter), Ashley Vincent (Colchester United)

    Notable Transfers Out: Marc Richards (Chesterfield), Anthony Griffith (Leyton Orient), Sean Rigg (Oxford)

    Key Player: Chris Stroker

    Preview: Port Vale have been the benchmark for an average League Two side over the past two years, and it looks like that trend will be continuing in the 2012/2013 season.

    Vale are currently in administration, so players and staff will be concerned about keeping their jobs.

    Even so, Port Vale should have enough talent to keep them away from the drop zone but they won’t have enough quality to make the playoffs.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity

Rochdale

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    Nickname: The Dale

    Year Founded: 1907

    Stadium (Capacity): Spotland (10,249)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 24th in League One (Relegated)

    Manager: John Coleman

    Notable Transfers In: Ben Smith (Shrewsbury), Dele Adebola (Hull), Ian Craney (Accrington Stanley)

    Notable Transfers Out: Kevin Amankwaah (Exeter City), Gary Jones (Bradford), Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Tranmere)

    Key Player: Brian Barry-Murphy

    Preview: Mass changes have been made at Rochdale during the close season, with 34 players either joining or leaving the club.

    The signings brought in by manager John Coleman look as strong as any side in the league, but so many changes could mean that the side takes time to jell.

    Watch Rochdale to make a late run for the playoffs—whether they achieve their goal or not will depend on how quickly they can pull together.

    Predicted Finish: Playoff Contenders

Rotherham United

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    Nickname: The Millers

    Year Founded: 1870

    Stadium (Capacity): New York Stadium (12,021)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 10th

    Manager: Steve Evans

    Notable Transfers In: Kayode Odejayi (Colchester), Lionel Ainsworth (Shrewsbury), Daniel Nardiello (Exeter)

    Notable Transfers Out: Richard Naylor (retired), Ryan Cresswell (Southwell), Marcus Marshall (Bury)

    Key Player: Kayode Odejayi

    Preview: Cautious optimism is taking hold of Rotherham fans due to the wise transfer policy of manager Steve Evans.

    Recognising their weaknesses against well-organised defences, Rotherham have concentrated their transfer dealings toward players with individual skills that can beat a man in one-on-one situations. This should help The Millers unlock tight defences during the season.

    The issue with these types of players at this level of the game is that they tend to be very inconsistent. This may stop Rotherham from reaching the automatic promotion places.

    Predicted Finish: Playoff Contenders

Southend United

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    Nickname: The Shrimpers

    Year Founded: 1906

    Stadium (Capacity): Roots Hall (12,392)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 4th

    Manager: Paul Sturrock

    Notable Transfers In: Rhys Taylor (Chelsea), Freddy Eastwood (Coventry City), Ryan Cresswell (Rotherham United)

    Notable Transfers Out: Christian Dailly (retired), Anthony Grant (Stevenage), Merrick James-Lewis (Colchester United)

    Key Player: Freddy Eastwood

    Preview: Having just missed automatic promotion last season, Southend were left in a vulnerable position. Often clubs who miss out on promotion lose their best players to teams from higher divisions.

    So it is much to Southend’s credit that they maintained much of last season’s squad whilst adding a top goal-scoring threat in returning hero Freddy Eastwood.

    There is little doubt that Southend are promotion favourites.

    Predicted Finish: Promotion

Torquay United

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    Nickname: The Gulls

    Year Founded: 1899

    Stadium (Capacity): Plainmoor (6104)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 5th

    Manager: Martin Ling

    Notable Transfers In: Ryan Jarvis (Walsall), Michael Poke (Brighton), Aaron Downes (Chesterfield)

    Notable Transfers Out: Robert Olejnik (Peterborough), Eunan O’Kane (Bournemouth), Mark Ellis (Crewe)

    Key Player: Lee Mansell

    Preview: Torquay were another side to go very close to promotion last year.

    The big question is whether the same players can make the same monumental effort to keep the club in the playoff picture. Many players had career years, and a couple of the top performers have moved onto bigger clubs.

    In all likelihood, Torquay will have a notable drop off this season.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity.

Wycombe Wanderers

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    Nickname: The Chairboys

    Year Founded: 1887

    Stadium (Capacity): Adams Park (10,284)

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 21st in League One (Relegated)

    Manager: Gary Waddock

    Notable Transfers In: Gary Doherty (Charlton Athletic), Matthew Spring (Leyton Orient), Richard Logan (Exeter City)

    Notable Transfers Out: Scott Rendell (Luton), Ben Strevens (Gillingham), Steve Arnold (Stevenage)

    Key Player: Nikki Bull

    Preview: The big news at Adams Park was the takeover by the club’s trust that returned Wycombe to a supporters-owned football club once again.

    On-field considerations have been compromised by those actions, with the club falling behind some of its rivals. However a solid defence and outstanding keeper in Nikki Bull should keep Wycombe out of too much trouble.

    Expect Wycombe to have more draws than any other club this season.

    Predicted Finish: Mid-Table Obscurity.

York City

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    Nickname: The Ministermen

    Year Founded: 1922

    Stadium (Capacity): Bootham Crescent (7,872

    2011/2012 Final League Position: 4th Blue Square Premiership (Promoted via playoffs)

    Manager: Gary Mills

    Notable Transfers In: Danny Blanchett (Burton), Oli Johnson (Oxford United), Lee Bullock (Bradford)

    Notable Transfers Out: James Meredith (Bradford), Danny Pilkington (Kidderminster), Adriano Moke (Cambridge United)

    Key Player: Matty Blair

    Preview: York were hot at exactly the right time last season as they made the playoffs and FA Trophy Final.

    This meant that The Ministermen had two trips to Wembley in a matter of days, and they were victorious on both occasions.

    Life in League Two will be a far harder ordeal as York acclimatise with life in The Football League. A strong start may seem their challenge, but survival will be their ultimate goal.

    Predicted Finish: Survival

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