The League One campaign got underway on Saturday afternoon, and England’s third tier didn’t disappoint. With last-minute goals, goal-line clearances, red cards and of course a couple of customary shock results, the opening day had everything you’d expect from a Saturday in the Football League.
Mixed results for newcomers
As is the case at the start of every season, seven teams who’ve recently entered the division, either via relegation from the Championship or promotion from League Two, got a taste of League One football, though some liked what they tasted more than others.
Sunderland stuttered to an opening-day victory over Charlton, as it took them until the 96th minute to get the better of last year’s play-off semi-finalists, Burton came up short at home against Rochdale, while Barnsley cruised to a 4-0 win against an Oxford team who’re fancied by many to do well this season.
At the other end of the spectrum, Luton, who’re also expected to challenge towards the top of the table this time around, lost by a goal to nil away Portsmouth, though their performance probably merited more. Wycombe were held to a goalless draw by Blackpool in front of a home crowd, while both Accrington and Coventry saw all three points taken away from them on their own patches.
There were plenty of impressive team performances at the weekend; Barnsley got themselves up and running in good fashion after the disappointment of last season, while Doncaster upset the home fans at Roots Hall, as they secured a 3-2 win over Southend. However, one of the most impressive performances on the weekend came from Michael Collins’ Bradford, who secured a very pleasing 1-0 win away at Shrewsbury.
The Bantams got off to a good start last season, but they eventually dropped off, as their performances often lacked substance, especially going forward. It’s very early days this time around, so that may once again turn out to be the case, though if their efforts at New Meadow are anything to go by, Michael Collins’ side could do very well.
By dominating the ball from early in the game, Collins’ men dictated the tempo, forced the issue and crucially looked a threat in terms of both creativity and potency. Sean Scannell, who recently joined from Huddersfield, looked dangerous out wide, and it looks as though he ought to thrive at this level, while attacking midfielder Jack Payne, who buzzed about the final third, knitting attacks together, has seemingly added a much-needed creative spark.
If they can use that impressive opening-day performance as a platform from which to build, then the Bantams ought to enjoy a fruitful campaign.
Another fourth-tier product at the goals for Posh
Peterborough made what was arguably the signing of the summer ahead of 2017/18 campaign, or at least that’s what the purchase of last season’s top-scorer appears to be in hindsight. By picking up forward Jack Marriot from Luton, Posh got an outstanding goal return for their £500,000 investment, and they may just have repeated the trick this summer.
Matt Godden will need to have an almighty season in front of goal if he’s to beat (or even match) Marriot’s impressive league tally of 27 goals, though the striker, who recently joined from Stevenage in League Two, got off to the perfect start when he rose highest in the Bristol Rovers penalty area, heading Peterborough into the lead within 60 seconds on Saturday afternoon. With a physical presence and an off-the-shoulder style not dissimilar to Marriot, the forward, who netted 30 times in 72 league appearances for Stevenage, looks to be exactly what Peterborough were looking for.
As touched on above, both Jack Payne and Sean Scannell stood out during Bradford’s win over Shrewsbury, while Matt Godden got his Peterborough career off to a flyer, though they weren’t the only players who caught the eye on match-day one.
Australian attacking midfielder Brad Inman was the driving force behind Rochdale’s victory against Burton Albion at Pirelli Stadium. The 26-year-old showed clever movement off the ball to get in between the Burton defence when expertly latching on to a pass from deep before finding the top corner, while the same qualities came to the fore when he raced onto a through ball from Ian Henderson before slotting the ball at the near post. If Rochdale can keep Inman fit, alongside both Wilbraham and Henderson, who made up a very useful front three at the weekend, then goals should be a lot easier to come by this season.
Fleetwood did indeed taste defeat on Saturday, as they lost by a goal to nil against AFC Wimbledon in front of a home crowd, though the score-line could have been a lot less flattering had keeper Alex Cairns not pulled out a string of fine stops. The 25-year-old was called into action several times during the first period, while he gave his side every chance of getting back into the game with a couple of excellent saves late on. Joey Barton’s Trawlermen may not have been at the races on the opening day, but their goalkeeper could certainly leave the Highbury turf with his head held high.
After he made light of work of scoring goals when on loan in League One during the first half of last season, all eyes would have been on Kieffer Moore at Oakwell on Saturday, though it was dynamic forward Mamadou Thiam who stole the limelight. After 20 minutes, the 23-year-old showed quick feet to jink past his man before rifling the ball into the back of Oxford’s net from the best part of 25 yards, while it took the former U20 Senegal international little more than five minutes to add to his tally by striking first time from roughly the same position. After an excellent contribution on match-day one, Barnsley fans will be hoping that Thiam can play a leading role on route to promotion.
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