Sunderland and Derby played out a 1-1 draw on Friday night, whilst Nottingham Forest beat Millwall 1-0, to open the 2017-18 Football League season. Bradley Johnson opened the scoring for the visiting Rams, but Lewis Grabban’s penalty at the end of the first half earned Sunderland a deserved point. At the City Ground, Barrie McKay scored a beauty on his debut to give his side all three points.
The majority of the games, however, kicked off on Saturday. An almost full programme was on offer across the three divisions, the only exception being Bolton’s 16:30 kick-off with Leeds on Sunday.
The day’s games threw up lots of talking points, with goals, shocks and action that ensure the Football League is well and truly back.
Luton Hit Eight Past Sorry Yeovil
Luton recorded what is surely result of the day by beating Yeovil 8-2 at Kenilworth Road. James Collins scored a hat-trick with Isaac Vassell also bagging a brace. Brothers Elliot and Olly Lee and Alan McCormack also got on the scoresheet, with Otis Khan and Francois Zoko providing the consolation goals for the visitors.
The result means that Luton remain unbeaten on opening day in the last three seasons, having beaten Plymouth 3-0 last season, and coming away from Accrington with a 1-1 draw the year before.
Yeovil will be more shocked by the fact that they actually took the lead in the game. Khan’s free-kick after seven minutes was just the start they wanted, but by half-time, the game was over. Five first-half Luton goals had them in control; two more after the break made it seven, before Zoko grabbed a consolation goal. Elliot Lee then added the finishing touches to the most commanding performance of the day with a stoppage-time header.
Draws For Both Of League Two’s New Teams
The opening day also saw a club debut in the Football League. Forest Green Rovers, playing at the highest level in their history, welcomed Barnet to the New Lawn and more than matched their opponents. So much, in fact, that they led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Christian Doidge’s double.
Two goals in two minutes on the stroke of half-time from the striker meant that the Football League’s smallest settlement to host a club had a controlling lead at the break. Within 18 minutes of the re-start however, the Londoners were level. Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro and Jamal Campbell-Ryce each scored, the latter with an excellent strike from outside the box.
Elsewhere, Lincoln City also earned a 2-2 draw on their return to the Football League. They too took the lead when Matt Green finished into the centre of the goal. Within ten minutes, however, opponents Wycombe had turned the game around with goals from Luke O’Nien and Joe Jacobsen. Barely a few minutes after the restart though, the Imps were level through Josh Ginelly’s goal, finished well into the bottom right corner.
The results mean both of these teams sit in 13th and 14th place respectively.
Misery Continues For Blackburn
Just over 20 years ago, Blackburn Rovers were Premier League champions. Fast-forward to the present, though, and they are now in the third tier of English football. Their debut didn’t quite go to plan, either. Southend United pulled off a shock against one of the favourites to be crowned League One champions this year, as goals from Ryan Leonard and Michael Kightly helped them on their way to a 2-1 win. Kightly’s goal was particularly special, firing into the top corner from just inside the box on his Shrimpers debut.
Blackburn handed a debut to marquee signing Peter Whittingham, who joined from Cardiff. It was a more familiar face, however, that gave them at least something to cheer about. Defender Charlie Mulgrew curled in an exquisite free-kick to give the visitors some hope. The hosts held on, though, and are rewarded with an opening-day play-off place for their efforts.
Blades Hold On In Championship Return
Billy Sharp ensured that Sheffield United made a winning start to their Championship campaign. The Blades had spent six years away from the second tier, but made the return by storming to the League One title last season. Captain Sharp headed in the only goal of the game in a 1-0 over Brentford. He converted Leon Clarke’s cross in the 39th minute.
The result meant Brentford continued a run of five opening day defeats in succession, despite a much improved performance in the second half.
The result will be made even sweeter by the fact that the Blades’ bitter rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, endured a 1-0 defeat by Preston in their opening day game. Daniel Johnson scored the only goal at Deepdale.
While those were the top stories from across the leagues, there was still plenty to talk about elsewhere.
Title favourites Middlesbrough suffered a 1-0 loss at Molineux as Wolves debutant Leo Bonatini scored the only goal. Kenneth Zohore also got the only goal at the Pirelli Stadium as Cardiff left it late to beat Burton Albion.
In League One, Wigan Athletic, relegated last season, got the three points at stadium.mk as Nick Powell scored the only goal against MK Dons. Both sides finished the game with ten men as Callum Elder and Scott Wootton both saw red.
The same success wasn’t enjoyed by Rotherham, however. Bottom of the Championship last season with just four wins, they made a losing start back in League One. Conor McAleny’s double for Fleetwood ensured that Rotherham finished the day at the foot of the table, while the Fishermen lead the way at the summit.
Finally, Coventry City were the victors as they began a new life in League Two. Jodi Jones scored a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Notts County to ensure a positive start as they look to begin their climb back up the leagues.
The Football League continues on Sunday when Bolton host Leeds United on the Trotters’ return to the Championship. This Tuesday also sees Round One of the Carabao Cup take place, with a host of big games including Cardiff City vs Portsmouth and Grimsby Town vs Derby County.
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