Blades and Posh push the boundaries
There was plenty of potential for fairytale throughout the opening weekend of the Football League. Various national media outlets sent their willing staff off around the country, with the two main stories of the day involving comebacks. AFC Wimbledon briefly threatened one after clawing back a two-goal deficit at home to Bristol Rovers before succumbing to a late penalty, but their presence in league football is already one of the biggest comebacks in the sport’s recent history. Brighton and Hove Albion kept going until the 98th minute to achieve the perfect start to life at their new Amex Stadium despite falling behind to Billy Sharp’s opener for Doncaster Rovers.
They were both gripping occasions, but life for supporters of both Wimbledon and Brighton has been pretty peachy for at least twelve months. This was a day they had been anticipating for some time. Brighton’s day in particular is chronicled here in far more impressive fashion than someone not present could possibly do justice. Although less well-documented, there was also real impact made by clubs whose fans might not have expected to be celebrating on Saturday night given a distinct lack of investment since May.
The prime example here is probably Sheffield United, 2-0 victors at Oldham in their first game of the League One campaign.
There have been many high-profile clubs relegated to the third tier in the past decade or so, but the Blades have looked one of the least likely to make an immediate return. A glance across the city is all most United fans needed to know that it wasn’t necessarily going to be easy, so there was precious little chance that Boundary Park would provide a wake-up call. Defeat wouldn’t have been unthinkable. Victory must have felt good.
You could probably count on the fingers of no hands the number of Blades supporters for whom Danny Wilson topped the list of preferences following the brief Micky Adams era, but Wilson is off to a winning start with a helping hand from the one undeniably bright area of Sheffield United Football Club at the moment. He may not have the biggest budget in the Football League but he may just have its most exciting crop of young players, with an FA Youth Cup final appearance still fresh in their minds. It was 18-year-old Harry Maguire whose firm header set the Blades on their way to three points.
Back in February, Boundary Park was also just one of numerous grounds to be treated to the swashbuckling Peterborough United show. Posh fired five second-half goals without reply en route to promotion via the play-offs, the thrilling finale of which came with three unanswered strikes at Old Trafford in May. They may, therefore, seem unlikely candidates to sit alongside Sheffield United here. However, the summer has not gone to plan for Barry Fry, Darragh MacAnthony and Darren Ferguson. Two of those five goals against Oldham were scored by Craig Mackail-Smith, a starter for Brighton at the Amex on Saturday, and Peterborough have been frustrated in their attempts to attract players with Championship experience.
But another scorer that day at Boundary Park, on his full Peterborough debut, was David Ball – and he also scored the winner to sink Crystal Palace at London Road. Like Mackail-Smith’s new side, Posh came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 at home but this was arguably a more important result than Brighton’s win at the Amex. After their disastrous last Championship campaign, the confidence supplied by victory at the first attempt may prove invaluable. In truth, they could barely have expected an easier first fixture – Palace won just one of their 23 away games last season – but the job still needed to be done and Peterborough’s equaliser, a fierce long-range drive from Grant McCann, was a timely reminder of the attacking threat that remains at Ferguson’s disposal.
So where now for these two sides?
Sheffield United are on League Cup duty at Hartlepool, which will probably tell very little about their League One prospects this season. Next up they host Brentford and Walsall, both of whom won home games on the opening day. This is the type of fixture that obviously provide a banana skin, particularly when Uwe Rosler’s Bees arrive at Bramall Lane. Again, United’s cross-city rivals provided evidence of that when Brentford won 3-1 at Hillsborough towards the end of last season.
One of the main reasons Peterborough needed to get off to a good start was the daunting fixtures that follow. Tomorrow night they make the short trip south to Stevenage for a League Cup tie. The real test, however, begins with two difficult away trips – Blackpool on Sunday (due to the Tangerines’ own midweek match taking place on Thursday) and Millwall the following Wednesday. These visits to Bloomfield Road and Bermondsey should present differing challenges, as an open game can always be expected when sides such as Peterborough and Blackpool meet but Kenny Jackett will expect a mean home defence this season from his Lions side.