by Thomas Lane
In the first preview piece of the season, Tom takes a look at the opening weekend fixtures in League One and gives his views on the game.
Let’s take a look at the first set of league fixtures for the new campaign, with the favourites for the title at the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland taking on Bristol Rovers. The LNER Stadium will see a hotly contested tie between Lincoln City and Oxford United, whilst Jake Buxton’s first league game as a manager sees him travel away to Fleetwood Town.
Accrington Stanley vs Peterborough United: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
John Coleman’s men begin their campaign at home to Peterborough United, off the back of an excellent 7-0 win over Leeds U21s in the EFL Trophy. New signing Tariq Uwakwe scored a hat-trick on his debut, three days after his loan move from Chelsea. A dark horse for the top half maybe?
Darren Ferguson’s men prepare for the first league game back after their heartbreak of last season, missing out on the play-offs through PPG. The sale of Ivan Toney has seen Jonson Clarke-Harris and Sammie Szmodics arrive into the club for undisclosed fees. A promotion push is certainly on the cards this season.
Verdict: A game of many goals, both sides will look to score from the off. 2-2.
Crewe Alexandra vs Charlton Athletic: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Crewe’s first season back in League One since their relegation in 2016, and they face a tough opening day task at home to Charlton Athletic. The Railwaymen will look to their impressive youngsters to overcome the Addicks on Saturday.
Lee Bowyer’s tumultuous summer has seen them enter a transfer embargo, and then sign players despite the embargo, still without a clear idea of who their owners are going to be. They’ve kept a strong spine to the team, as they look to bounce back to the Championship.
Verdict: An exciting game of football awaits, both sides could snatch a late win. 1-1.
Doncaster Rovers vs MK Dons: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Doncaster have had a big summer turnover, and are arguably weaker than they were last season. Retaining Ben Whiteman will be key, and have added Tyreece John-Jules from Arsenal. Still missing something going forward.
Russell Martin’s MK Dons have strengthened their squad with the star signing of Scott Fraser, but losing Rhys Healey has hampered them dearly. Will be tough going until they sign a new striker.
Verdict: Both sides missing goals, could be settled by just one goal. 1-0.
Fleetwood Town vs Burton Albion: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Fleetwood have won both of their opening cup games this season, and have kept a strong core to their side from last season. One more senior defender could mean an even better season than last.
Jake Buxton opens his league account with a trip to Highbury, and it promises to be a good game with both sides looking strong in attack. A stronger goalkeeper will take them up another level.
Verdict: Goals aplenty, defensively leaky. 3-2.
Gillingham vs Hull City: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Just like Doncaster, Gillingham have had a summer of turnover. Also undefeated in their cup games this season, Gillingham will be hoping their new look side can push them closer to the play-offs.
Grant McCann’s Hull had one of the worst 2020’s of any side in England, bar Wigan Athletic. The loss of Eric Lichaj and Jackson Irvine has seen Josh Emmanuel and Greg Docherty come in, but without a solid frontline, they could struggle for goals.
Verdict: Two sides with strong defences, tough to break down. 0-0.
Lincoln City vs Oxford United: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Michael Appleton’s Lincoln City have a new style and system for the season, with attractive football the way forward. A strong squad with an outside shot of promotion.
Karl Robinson signed a new four-year deal this week, and will be part of the most exciting game of the weekend against Lincoln City. Two sides with clear footballing identities, will be a very good match-up.
Verdict: Wonderful football, excellent attacking play from both. 1-2.
Northampton Town vs AFC Wimbledon: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Newly promoted Northampton start the season against a side they will probably be battling with come the end of the season. A side weakened without Charlie Goode and Callum Morton, they’ll need a strong start to the season.
Wimbledon are on the verge of moving to their new stadium, and they’ll take confidence from their first two cup games against League One opposition. Won’t be an easy season for them, might be dragged into a relegation battle.
Verdict: Two sides desperate to start on the right foot. 0-1.
Plymouth Argyle vs Blackpool: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Plymouth are back in League One after a one-year absence, and expectations have grown with the signing of George Cooper. A season of ups and downs ahead, hopefully more good than bad.
Blackpool have built one of the best League One sides this season, and are a dark horse for the title. Neil Critchley has bought attractive football and young, hungry players to Bloomfield Road this season.
Verdict: A good game awaits, with Blackpool looking for a solid opener. 1-3.
Portsmouth vs Shrewsbury: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Pompey’s home form last season makes them outright favourites for the game against Shrewsbury, but with concerns over Kenny Jackett’s football, Portsmouth will need a good result or tensions will rise.
Sam Rickett’s side have flown under the radar this summer, with only a 4-3 defeat to Middlesbrough played so far. The squad has looked better, but they might struggle to achieve higher than they did last year.
Verdict: Portsmouth need the win for the fan’s optimism. 2-0.
Sunderland vs Bristol Rovers: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
In what looks to be an exciting opening day fixture for both sides, Sunderland go in off the back of an 8-1 win in the EFL Trophy. They struggled to score against Hull in the Carabao Cup, will need a better performance on Saturday.
Bristol Rovers have lost both cup games so far, but have just announced the signing of Brandon Hanlan. Finally, they have a senior striker, but expectations will be on his shoulders this season.
Verdict: A game where both sides will need to take their chances. 2-1.
Swindon Town vs Rochdale: Saturday 12th September – 15:00pm
Richie Wellens’ Swindon won League Two last season, but will need new attackers to do the job for them this season. If they can gel quickly, they could see themselves settling in mid-table.
Rochdale fans are not optimistic for the season ahead, and with no recognised striker, they are relying on their midfielders to score the goals. Could be a long season ahead for them despite cup wins.
Verdict: Swindon score goals, Rochdale defend well. 1-0.
Ipswich Town vs Wigan Athletic: Sunday 13th September – 12:00pm
Paul Lambert’s side have been given the tie they were hoping for, with the squad looking very strong for the season ahead. Finding the right formula going forward will be pivotal for their season.
Wigan have had all kinds of problems this summer, and they only look to be getting worse. With departures continuing on the pitch, they will need to dig deep to record a victory over Ipswich on Sunday.
Verdict: It will be tough to break down, but Ipswich should have too much quality. 2-0.
Images: Richard Calver / TOTT