Welcome to EFL Round-Up, a new column by Last Word on Football. Throughout the season, we will be taking a weekly look at all of the action from the Football League, picking out the best bits and summarising them in an easy-to-digest fashion, perfect for any Football League fan. As well as this, we will try to bring you the best stats that you may have missed from the week and we will aim to give you the updated league tables once each gameweek has been completed.
On this, the first edition, we take a closer look at Stoke City’s sorry return to the Championship, a last-gasp winner for Sunderland in their League One bow, and a perfect start for Crewe in League Two as they hit Morecambe for six.
EFL Round-Up – Gameweek 1
Stoke’s Sorry Return Sets Poor Precedent
Stoke City were welcomed back to the EFL Championship by Leeds United on Sunday evening, but it was far from a happy return for the Potters and a start that new manager Gary Rowett would have been hoping to avoid.
The visitors fielded a side that would have looked strong in the Premier League, with England goalkeeper Jack Butland, former Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen and ex-Porto man Bruno Martins Indi all starting. However, Stoke looked second best all the way through the encounter and Leeds deservedly took all three points.
Mateusz Klich put Leeds in front after just 15 minutes, sliding past Butland from an excellent Samuel Saiz pass. The lead was doubled on the brink of half-time with a massive helping hand from Butland, who couldn’t keep hold of Pablo Hernandez’s first-time drive and fumbled it into the net.
Stoke found a way back into the game just after the break when Benik Afobe converted a penalty on his debut, but captain Liam Cooper restored the two-goal advantage five minutes later, heading in from a corner.
It was the passing and pressing of Leeds that undid Stoke; something that is to be expected from a Marcelo Bielsa side. Stoke’s defence was powerless to the constant pressure from the home side, while their pass success rate of 74%, as well as just edging the possession statistic too, ensured that they kept the ball with precision, not allowing Stoke many opportunities to intercept and break away.
The Potters will have the chance to rectify their performance next Saturday when they host Brentford. Meanwhile, Leeds will travel to Frank Lampard’s Derby County side to see if they can build on their positive opening display.
Gooch Rescues Sunderland in League One Bow
Lynden Gooch’s header deep into stoppage time saved Sunderland from what would have been a disappointing draw against Charlton in their first third-tier game since 1987/88.
The game got off to the worst possible start for the hosts when debutant Chris Maguire conceded a penalty inside the opening ten minutes. Another debutant, Charlton’s Lyle Taylor, signed from AFC Wimbledon, stepped up and excellently put away the spot-kick to score the first goal of the League One season.
Charlton remained on top for the rest of the half and going into the second half, but Sunderland finally began edging their way into the game with some half-chances around the hour mark. Then finally, out of nothing, Josh Maja’s near post effort beat Dillon Phillips to claw Sunderland level.
The Black Cats were in the ascendancy now and they should have gone ahead through Jerome Sinclair, but he couldn’t control his sliding effort and stabbed wide of the post.
The winner did come, though, and it took until the 96th minute. A corner routine looked to have failed when Gooch let the ball go under his foot. However, it was instead picked up by Bryan Oviedo, whose wonderful left-footed cross was powerfully met by Gooch to head past Phillips and send the Stadium of Light into raptures.
Crewe Hit Six as Railwaymen Seal Solid Start
Crewe Alexandra stormed to an opening day rout over Morecambe, who already look in trouble for this coming season. Jim Bentley’s side’s financial problems have been well documented over the last few years and this could finally be the year it catches up with them.
Take nothing away from Crewe, though, who looked fit and clinical as they aim to return to League One following their relegation in 2014/15.
Alex Nicholls was the star on the day, scoring a brace on his debut. However, it was Charlie Kirk who got the ball rolling just six minutes in, while Nicholls joined him four minutes later to put Crewe 2-0 up early on.
Nicholls also scored the next goal, which didn’t come until the hour mark had passed, with Kirk providing the assist for a glancing header.
James Jones then scored the first of two excellent goals from him, driving home from 25-yards before Chris Porter headed in a fifth for the hosts.
Finally, Jones created an almost carbon copy of his first for Crewe’s sixth to seal the misery for the Shrimpers. They now sit at the bottom of the table and could face a tough task to climb out of that position even so early in the season.
Neal Maupay was the star of the day for Brentford as they got off to a flyer, beating League One play-off winners Rotherham 5-1 at Griffin Park. Will Vaulks managed a late consolation for the Millers in stoppage time. Elsewhere, other League One promotion winners Wigan and Blackburn won and drew respectively. The Latics survived a scare against Sheffield Wednesday to win 3-2 while Rovers conceded late on to draw 2-2 away at Ipswich.
The other two sides relegated from the Premier League had different fortunes on their opening games. West Brom suffered the same fate as Stoke, going down 2-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers, who had debutants Josh Magennis and Yanic Wildschut to thank for the three points. Swansea City, though, went the other way and won 2-1 after coming from behind at Sheffield United. Oli McBurnie and Yan Dhanda turned it around after George Baldock’s opener for the Blades.
In the West Midlands, Birmingham City thought they had stolen the point off of Norwich after Viv Solomon-Otabor’s late strike put them 2-1 up, but Canaries debutant Onel Hernandez secured his brace in the 94th minute to rescue a share of the points for the visitors. There was also a 2-2 draw in East London and an even later equaliser for the visitors. Millwall were 2-0 up against Middlesbrough until the 87th minute when Martin Braithwaite turned in to half the deficit, and George Friend managed to scramble home an equaliser ten minutes later in the 97th minute to secure a point.
Points were also shared between Bristol City and Nottingham Forest in a 1-1 draw, while Preston edged past QPR thanks to Alan Browne’s header.
Finally, in the Monday night fixture, second-half goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and Alan Hutton helped Aston Villa come from behind against Hull. The Tigers initially took the lead through Evandro but were pegged back when Tommy Elphick equalised before half-time.
Just one point was gained in total by the four sides promoted from League Two last season. Wycombe managed to hold Blackpool to a stalemate at Adams Park, while Luton went down 1-0 to Portsmouth, Accrington fell 2-0 at home to Gillingham and Scunthorpe scored a late winner at the Ricoh Arena against Coventry.
There were differing fortunes for the other two relegated teams from the Championship. Daniel Stendel got a win on his debut as Barnsley manager thanks to Mamadou Thiam’s brace, as well as goals from Dan Potts and Victor Adeboyejo, which gave them a 4-0 over Karl Robinson’s Oxford United. Burton Albion, however, couldn’t quite mount a comeback after going two down again Rochdale, instead losing 2-1.
Joey Barton’s reign as a manager didn’t get off to the desired start after his Fleetwood side went down to Joe Piggot’s single goal for AFC Wimbledon and there was also a single-goal away win for Bradford. Jack Payne’s first-half goal beat last season’s play-off finalists, Shrewsbury.
Peterborough survived a late scare against Bristol Rovers as Tom Lockyer’s stoppage-time goal wasn’t enough to avoid a 2-1 defeat, whereas Walsall came from behind against Plymouth to record the same score.
Finally, a goal-filled second half almost saw a miraculous comeback from Southend. They went 3-0 down at home to Doncaster in the second half but managed two late goals to worry Rovers until the end.
There were wins for two of the four sides relegated into the League Two last season. Bury took until the 89th minute to beat nine-man Yeovil, while the Paul Tisdale era at MK Dons got off to a flyer with a 2-1 victory at Oldham, who also came down from the third tier last season. Northampton were the other side to face the drop last season, and they were beaten by promotion favourites Lincoln City.
In terms of the teams coming up from the National League, Tranmere will be the happier of the two sides. They fought back from 2-0 down to rescue a draw away at Stevenage, whereas Macclesfield conceded two stoppage-time penalties away at Swindon to lose 3-2.
The Matt Taylor era at Exeter City got off to an excellent start as they eased to victory over Carlisle, and also in the south-west, Cheltenham suffered a 1-0 home loss to Crawley.
Forest Green surprised everybody as they hit four away from home, beating Grimsby, while Mansfield were also big winners as they dispatched Newport County with a 3-0 win. Port Vale were victors with the same scoreline, beating Cambridge United at Vale Park.
Finally, Kevin Nolan’s Notts County side had to settle for a point as they were held to a goalless draw by Colchester United.
Stats You May Have Missed
- Sunderland’s late goal against Charlton meant that for the first time in 47 matches, they won a game in which they had conceded first (D9 L38).
- Matt Godden’s opener for Peterborough was the quickest opening-day EFL goal (1:00) since 2014/15 when Marc Pugh scored after 24 seconds for Bournemouth
- Jack Payne has either scored or assisted in each of his last three debuts for clubs, adding a goal for Bradford at the weekend to assists for Oxford and Blackburn.
- Crewe’s 6-0 demolition of Morecambe was their biggest opening day victory ever in the Football League.
- Spanning their last season in the Championship, Rotherham have now collected just two points from their last 25 away games at that level, not keeping a clean sheet and conceding 74 goals.
All stats from Opta.