Category Archives: League Two

Will the presence of fans in some stadiums affect results?

March 9, 2020 was the last game that involved fans watching their team live.  The match was Leicester City vs Aston Villa and resulted in a 4-0 victory for The Foxes. 

Who would have thought though that it would have taken until December to see fans to witness competitive sports in some of the lands most famous stadiums again? 

Well, if you’re a supporter of a team living in COVID-19 Tier One or Two areas some fans will be able to watch their side live for the first time in almost nine months. This means 51 of the 104 clubs across the Premier League, EFL and Women’s Super League able to host a maximum of 2,000 supporters.

Which teams can have fans in stadiums again?

This means good news for Premier League’s London clubs: Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Fulham. While also on the list are South Coast clubs Southampton and Brighton as well as the Premier League Champions Liverpool and their rivals Everton. 

The other ten sides in the top flight, however, will have to wait to welcome back supporters.  Being in Tier three areas such as Manchester and Yorkshire they will continue to play games behind closed doors.  This means: Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley, Sheffield United, Leeds United and Newcastle United .  While midlands clubs Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton and West Brom will also have to play games without their fans. 

In addition, away fans from tier three areas will be unable to travel to games in tier two stadiums. 

Indeed, on Thursday Arsenal will have the honour of being the first English team to play a competitive match, a Europa League tie against Austrian side Rapid Vienna.  Being in a Tier 2 area, the Gunners will be able to play in front of 2,000 of their own supporters for the first time in nearly nine months. 

Unsurprisingly, however, the 2,000 tickets were sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale.  The first Premier League games, meanwhile, to take place in front of fans are set to be West Ham United’s encounter with Manchester United and Chelsea’s home game with Leeds United. 

Will allowing supporters in certain grounds be fair?

The awkward question remains. Will having supporters back in certain grounds affect the outcome of the match? 

Crystal Palace Manager and former England Coach, Roy Hodgson said:

“It will make a bit of a difference at Selhurst Park than it will do at some other stadiums, where the capacity is so much higher. 

“But I don’t think it is a question really of what difference the fans are going to make, I think it is more of how nice it is going to be for those fans who are selected to be one of those who gets a ticket to see a match live again.”

While Fulham boss Scott Parker said: 

“It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s what we all want. It’s what the fans want and what we want as a team.”

Understandably not everyone is in agreement.  Leeds United Manager Marcelo Bielsa, whose side falls into the category of a tier three area, meaning supporters will have to wait a little longer to see their side live, said:

“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable. 

“I am just looking at common sense, which perhaps doesn’t go.  The presence of fans has an effect on the results.” 

Boton Wanders boss Ian Evatt, whose side play in League One and will also have to continue playing without the support of fans in stadiums, said:

“Without getting into a big political debate I just cannot believe the way (it has gone).  For me, we’re a country and we should all be together, regardless.  It should be one for all and all for one.”

What do you think?

It must come, therefore, as no surprise to see the football world split down the middle following this government announcement. There certainly is a compelling case for both arguments, on the one hand watching football without fans in the stadiums is not the same as stated by former Manchester United Manager, Sir Matt Busby. 

Busby was once famously quoted as saying:

“Football is nothing without fans.”

There is, however, the legitimate question of fairness and equal competition when it comes to competitive sport.  How do you create a level playing field?

Personally, however, I can’t wait to see to see fans bring the atmosphere and magic back to the sport again, no matter whom they support! 

Feel free to share your views in the comments below. 

FA CUP MATCH PREVIEW: Newport County v salford city

Cup games hold special memories in recent years for Newport. In the 2018 FA Cup Leeds United were beaten at Rodney Parade, before Tottenham were held in the next round. In 2019 Leicester City were beaten 2-1 in the FA Cup third round. After a draw at the Riverside, Middlesbrough were knocked out by two goals to nil. Manchester City were the next visitors to South Wales, but County fell to a 4-1 loss.

Newport have been at the giant killing act again this season in the EFL cup. Swansea and Watford have both lost to Newport, while Newcastle needed penalties to get past the League Two side.

Salford are looking to make the FA Cup third round for the first time. Its only the second time City have made the second round after being knocked out by Hartlepool in a replay in 2016.

Recent Form

This all League affair sees leaders Newport play 7th placed Salford for a place in the hat for round three. Newport beat Leyton Orient by 2-1 in Round One away. While Salford needed extra-time to beat Hartlepool by two goals to nil.

Newport have lost just one of their last eight league games. Their last match was a 1-1 draw with Walsall both goals coming in the first half. Prior to this they won 1-0 against Port Vale with a 96 minute winner from 41 year old Kevin Ellison.

Salford, meanwhile, head to south Wales on the back of two wins. A first half blitz saw a 3-0 win over Bradford City. Two late first half goals from Ashley Hunter was enough for a 2-1 over Morecambe.

Managers Thoughts

Newport boss Mike Flynn is hoping that his side’s cup runs won’t impact their league form as they have in past seasons:

“It’s going to be hectic and hopefully we come through unscathed with a lot of points and the third round of the FA Cup to look forward to.

“It’s always tough at this level and Lennie Lawrence (former County management consultant) would always say that cup success means league failure.

“I didn’t believe him at first but the more we did that, the more it happened. We’ve got a better squad this season so I am hoping that we might get away with both.

“Looking back it did affect our league form, 100 percent. It’s the injuries we picked up, the travelling, the excitement around the big games.”

“They have an unbelievable squad for this level and have spent big to bring in quality. They should be one of the favourites for the league, quite comfortably really.

“They will be a handful because they have pace, creativity, solid defenders. They have a big squad to choose from and there are players there who are on a fortune.”

Salford manager Richie Wellens also spoke ahead of the game saying it’s likely there’ll be changes to the side given the hectic schedule:

“I think with the games we’ve got coming up, we’ve got two away games after this against Carlisle and Barrow, and especially with a Wednesday-Saturday, which is not ideal if I’m being honest, it gives us an opportunity to give a few of the lads who played in the last game at Rochdale an opportunity to play while some of our experienced players we’re trying to look further down the line and we’ll make sure we’ll give them a little bit of a rest this weekend.

“It means we can get home quicker so in terms of when the players are having their evening meal and are going back to bed they can, it’s not really changing their body clock.

“We’ll give the young players a chance to improve in a bit more of a competitive environment than Rochdale was and then it’s up to the young players to take their chance. Irrespective of what team Newport pick I’m looking to get a good performance from them and get to the third round.”

Key Players

For County Josh Sheehan can pull the strings in the midfield. Having a Whoscored.com pass completion of 83.1%. the midfielders good performances for Newport have not gone unnoticed as he was called up to the Wales squad for the last international window. He made his debut as a half time sub against the USA. He has also got one goal so far this season.

Salford forward James Wilson is the highest rated Salford player on Whoscored.com with an overall rating of 7.3. With five goals from his 12 appearances this season. Starting in the last round it’s likely he’ll be called on for the visit to Newport.

Prediction; Newport County 2-1 Salford City

Even without the fans Rodney Parade is a fortress for Newport especially in Cup games. Newport will be out to win this to set up a possible big FA Cup tie in South Wales once again.

Paul Scholes returns to Management

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes is to take temporary charge of Salford City following the surprise departure of manager Graham Alexander. 

Scholes currently co-owns the League Two side with his former Red Devil teammates: Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt. 

It is the second time Scholes has entered the career of management. His first was a 31-day stint in charge of Oldham Athletic last year, but he resigned citing interference from the owner.

In a club statement, Salford City said:

“Paul Scholes will act as the interim head coach while the club looks to secure a new manager.” 

Salford City informed Alexander of their decision on Monday morning and leaves the club fifth in League Two with two wins in five matches this season. They are currently unbeaten so far this campaign.

His last game in charge was Salford’s 2-2 draw with Tranmere Rovers, City were leading 2-0 and on course for a comfortable win, however, two goals from Rovers in the final five minutes, which ensured Alexander’s team dropped two crucial points.  

The Club Statement continued to say:

“Salford City Football Club announces that manager Graham Alexander has left the club with immediate effect.  

“The club met with Graham this morning and after discussion have agreed to part company.”

Alexander enjoyed a largely successful spell with the club, having guided them to promotion to League Two in his first full season in charge and he managed them to the Leasing.com Trophy final in the 2019-20 campaign.  Salford only, however, managed an 11thplace finish in the League.

First team, coach, Chris Lucketti, also will leave the side. 

The club concluded by saying:

“The club would like to wish him all the best and success in the future.” 

How do you think Scholes will get on with his latest spell in management?

The Transfer Window: What Next?

This football calendar year of 2020 has certainly not been like any other, and with this in mind, the Transfer Window is no exception.

Indeed, the window for signing stars overseas such as Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho may have closed this week, but the domestic transfer window will remain open until October 16.  In other words this allows a further 11 days for domestic clubs to strengthen their squads. 

The Premier League confirmed this in a statement which says:

“During this window, clubs will only be able to trade with EFL Clubs (either loans or permanent registrations)

“No transfers can take place between Premier League sides in this period.”

Certainly Premier League clubs such as Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United could do with some more additions, however, this begs the question, who maybe on the move to the Premier League before the second transfer window deadline:

Said Benrahma (Brentford)

The Algerian 24-year old set the Championship a light at times last season, scoring 17 times and providing nine assists.  Benrahma joined the Bees from Nice in the summer of 2018 for just £2.8 million and has subsequently been capped by his country.

In addition, Benrahma was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year award, and plays primarily on the left flank. He proved a timely reminder of his talents in the Carabao Cup victory over Fulham by scoring two of Brentford three goals in their impressive 3-0 win.  

Ismaila Sarr (Watford)

The Senegalese international winger is a reported target for the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.  Sarr’s speed, his direct running and ability to play on either flank certainly would make a valuable asset, particularly to the likes of United who missed out on adding Jadon Sancho to their ranks.  

According to 2019/20 stats, Sarr completed 52 successful dribbles compared to the Red Devil’s Welsh winger Daniel James’s 28, however, the former Rennes player could cost in the region of £45 million pounds.  

An added complication, however, would be that Sarr would not be able to play in European competitions due to the registration of squads being on October 6th, but he would be able to play in domestic competitions. 

Todd Cantwell (Norwich City)

The Canarias’s highly rated 22-year old is a reported target for Leeds United, however, due to the Yorkshire club’s signing of Michael Cuisance on loan from Bayern Munich the likes of Burnley or West Ham United could potentially move in for Cantwell. 

Cantwell has been left out of the two most recent match day squads due to speculation, he certainly impressed in the Premier League for his boyhood club last season, scoring six League goals, which was more than a fifth of Norwich’s entire goal tally. 

Joe Rodon (Swansea City)

The 22-year old centre back has attracted interest from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.  

Indeed, Spurs have already in talks to sign Rodon for a reported £18 million pounds. 

The likes of Danny Higginbotham and former Manchester City defender, Andy Hinchcliffe have already compared his game to former England internationals Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. 

Higginbotham added:

“What I love about him as an individual is that he’s his own worst critic. He is willing to take responsibility.  

“After the Preston game in February, where he’d made his first start for three months, it looked as though he hadn’t even been away and he was the best player on the pitch.”

Josh King (AFC Bournemouth)

The Norwegian and former Manchester United striker, King is a target for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Serie A side Torino.  

King has a Premier League record of 48 goals and 14 assists in 161 appearances. His best goal return for Bournemouth came in the 2016/17 campaign where he managed a total of 16 goals.   

EFL OPENING WEEKEND ROUNDUP

Whilst the eyes of the football world focused mainly on Liverpool against Leeds and Chelsea’s new look squad, under the radar dotted around the UK the English Football pyramid also began the 2020/21 campaign this weekend in earnest.

Here is your roundup of all the goings on and everything you need to know!

Championship

All three relegated clubs kicked off their season with wins as they all look to bounce back at the first time of asking. Norwich striker Adam Idah grabbed an 80th minute winner away against Huddersfield Town, whilst an early Craig Cathcart strike was enough to give Watford an opening day victory against Middlesbrough.

A Bournemouth side under new management after Eddie Howe’s departure got themselves entangled in a classic with Blackburn Rovers, the Cherries running out eventual 3-2 winners thanks to a late goal from Arnaut Danjuma.

Last seasons play-off final runners-up Brentford lost their opening day clash away at Birmingham City. Swansea City who made the play-offs semi-finals in dramatic fashion kicked off their season with an impressive away win at Preston North End, Wolves loanee Morgan Gibbs-White with the only goal.

Other Results

Wycombe Wanderers 0-1 Rotherham United, Barnsley 0-1 Luton Town, Milwall 0-0 Stoke City, Cardiff City 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City 2-1 Coventry, QPR 2-0 Nottingham Forest, Derby County 0-2 Reading.

League One

There was plenty of goals around League One as Sunderland began another season in the third tier with a 1-1 draw at home to Bristol Rovers.

Ipswich Town kicked off what they hope will be a successful season with a 2-0 win against Wigan with Teddy Edwards and Gwion Edwards on the scoresheet, whilst Swindon Town were perhaps most impressive on the day as they ran out 3-1 winners against Rochdale.

Northampton Town and AFC Wimbledon played out a 2-2 draw at Sixfields Stadium with all four goals coming in the first half.

Other Results

Lincoln City 2-0 Oxford United, Doncaster Rovers 1-1 MK Dons, Gillingham 0-2 Hull City, Portsmouth 0-0 Shrewsbury Town, Fleetwood Town 2-1 Burton Albion, Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Blackpool Town, Accrington Stanley 2-0 Peterborough, Crewe Alexandra 0-2 Charlton Athletic.

League Two

The story of the day in League Two came at Roots Hall, but it wasn’t for Southend United. Instead Harrogate Town in their first ever football league game ran out 4-0 winners with a Jack Muldoon brace at the heart of the victory.

Cambridge United went second just a goal behind the newcomers as they beat Carlisle United 3-0 at home. Manchester United legend owned Salford City drew 2-2 with Exeter City.

Morecambe left it very late as they crept past Cheltenham Town, a 92nd minute winner from Carlos Mendes Gomes giving the Shrimps all three points in a 2-1 first day win.

Other Results

Scunthorpe United 1-1 Newport County, Oldham Athletic 0-1 Leyton Orient, Barrow 1-1 Stevenage, Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Forest Green, Port Vale 2-0 Crawley Town, Mansfield Town 0-0 Tranmere Rovers, Walsall 1-0 Grimsby, Bradford City 0-0 Colchester United.

With Carabao Cup action this midweek the EFL ties will begin again on Friday night with Coventry v QPR in the Championship.