Football League Review: At Least You’re Not Bury (Unless You Are)
August hasn’t been a terribly happy month for some of Lancashire’s football clubs so far, has it? Bury still haven’t even kicked a ball yet, and the last signs of life now draining from the club on a daily basis. Bolton Wanderers have at least started the season, but their takeover still hasn’t been completed yet and, whilst they might have a team at the moment, whether they still will have by the time the schools go back is a somewhat different one. Somewhat overshadowed by these two have been Oldham Athetic, who have lost their first three games of the season and sit adrift at the foot of League Two. We’re only three games in, but it seems unlikely that we’ve seen the last of Oldham Athletic on these pages, for this season.
This doesn’t, however, apply to all Lancashire clubs and one club who are raising eyebrows after the first couple of weeks of the season is Blackpool. They’ve finally offloaded the Oyston family and owned by a supporter, crowds are flocking back to Bloomfield Road. Just over 9,000 people were present to see them beat Oxford United and maintain their perfect record in League One this season. It only took five minutes for Blackpool to take control of the game, a Jordan Thompson corner headed in by Ryan Edwards, but the high excitement came in first half stoppage-time. Two minutes in, anagram lover’s friend Armand Gnanduillet was fouled for a penalty kick, picked himself, dusted himself down, and converted the kick himself. Barely a minute later, however, their lead was back to a single goal when Josh Ruffels scored for Oxford.
Such is the nature of this time of the year, though, that Blackpool were knocked off the top of the table despite their win, because Lincoln City put four goals without reply past a Southend United side who are probably thaning their lucky stars that Bolton and Bury both started the season with a hefty points deduction. Lincoln City and Blackpool have the potential to be the stories of the season, across the entire EFL this season. Lincoln seem to be aiming for a second successive promotions, while the appeal of Blackpool’s redemption song should be obvious.
The first managerial departure of the season came on Saturday morning, when Jan Siewart left Huddersfield Town. He seems to have been given a free pass for his time in the Premier League, but if it wasn’t working out then surely the time to replace him should have been at the start of the summer, so that a new coach could have a whole summer building their own team. As things stand, the new incumbent will arrive with the transfer window having just closed and a disgruntled team that is playing very much as though they’ve forgotten how to win. Otherwise, there are five clubs tied on seven points at the top of the Championship, all of which hints at the possibility that this year’s marathon may be a tight one.
There are a couple of surprising names amongst them. Charlton Athletic could only manage a two-all draw at Barnsley yesterday and were reliant to a horror-inducing penalty kick from Lyle Taylor to get that. Even so, Lee Bowyer continues to defy most people’s expectations with his team’s start to the season. Millwall is the other somewhat surprising name with seven from nine. They beat Sheffield Wednesday by a goal to nil yesterday despite having to play more than half the game a man short following the first half sending off of Jed Thomas. And who wouldn’t be delighted to see Neil Harris achieve with that club? (No need to reply to this question, by the way – it’s more about Harris than the club, although it should be remembered that Millwall is also a football club that does outstanding work in its local community.)
The top of League Two, is stuffed with clubs from the west. Four of the top five – Swindon Town, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers and Plymouth Argyle – are occidental and, curiously, only one of them won yesterday. Swindon Town and Exeter City cancelled each other out with a one-all draw at The County Ground, whilst Plymouth Argyle were beaten by Newport County. Only Forest Green Rovers, one-nil winners against Grimsby Town, could manage a win of these four. It’s the identity of the other member of the top five, however, which is the most curious. Sol Campbell left Macclesfield Town last week amid claims that he hadn’t been paid for four months, but the team that he kept up at the end of last season sit in fourth place in the table following a two-one win at Northampton Town, with the winning goal from Theo Archibald in the very last minute. There’s a bit too much to say about what has been going on at Moss Rose over the last few weeks and months to say much more here, so I’ll leave it there, for now.
Curiously, if the top of the League Two table is packed with teams from the west, the bottom is packed with teams from the east. The extremely north-western Oldham Athletic prop up the rest, but above them sit Scunthorpe United, Stevenage, Colchester United and Northampton Town. Scunthorpe United are the standout name there, though. They were only relegated from League One at the end of last season, and they have a not winning habit that they desperately need to break. Yesterday, they came from behind to lead Crawley Town before being pegged back to a draw. It is to be presumed that Scunthorpe will not be hanging around this end of the table for very long. Having said that, though, they’ve only won once in the league since the middle of February. If it’s any consolation, at least they’re not Bury.