Friday, 5 August 2011

League One Weekend Preview - Game 1

Well, the waiting is nearly over. The clear out of the Summer is virtually complete although I reckon we have a striker yet to join us. The hype of pre-season is behind us and tomorrow, 14 of the new squad will get their chance to claim their place and to show an expectant Valley crowd just what they can do.

We expect to win tomorrow against a Bournemouth side who fell away like us last season and who have had a far more unsettling close season by comparison  as they lost a number of players key to their side. Danny Hollands and Rhoys Wiggins were just two of those and I suspect we will face a side with something of a chip on their shoulder. I expect it to be even more hard-fought than normal for the first game, and like last year, one goal may be enough. I believe we will start with more momentum and desire than the Cherries tomorrow and am expecting a three point start.

Here's what happening around the rest of League One.

Brentford v Yeovil Town
Brentford have been busy and have appointed Uwe Rosler as manager. Rosler has strengthened throughout the side. Man City youngster and ambidextrous full-back, Shaleum Logan has bolstered defence, as has Marcel Eger from St Pauli. The impressive Jonathan Douglas has been lured to drive midfield and they have added Celtic's Niall McGinn on the wing and Crewe's rated Clayton Donaldson upfront.

Yeovil have been predictably less involved in the market with only Alastair Stowe, a former Spurs, Brighton and Northampton midfielder joining as well as the loan re-signing of Tottenham's Jonathan Obika. Flying start for the Bees. They could be a surprise package this season. It looks like another modest year for the Grecians although Terry Skiverton may benefit for keeping his side largely intact.
Prediction; 3-1

Carlisle United v Notts County
Not a great deal of transfer activity of either of these clubs. Gregg Abbott maintains a smallish squad but believes he has enough quality to get Carlisle pressing again. Martin Allen will be relying on his motivational skills as he gets his side to supply the ammunition for Lee Hughes and Craig Westcarr.

I can't see either of these sides troubling the play-off positions this year but they are probably both strong enough to avoid relegation.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v AFC Bournemouth
I'll go for a scoreline repeat of last season's opener, although I believe the gap between the sides in terms of quality is greater now than then. We could enjoy a high-scoring win if we can score early enough.

Our fortunes may well depend upon the points haul from the first ten games. If it fails to meet expectations, Powell could come under heavy pressure and we could suffer from the same pressure-cooker scenario that we suffered for the last half of the season. I think we will end up with a top-ten finish but promotion is a big ask from where we start and I am concerned that once again the expectations of the Addicked are unrealistically high. Bournemouth would probably settle for a top ten finish but mid-table is more likely in my opinion.
Prediction: 1-0

Huddersfield Town v Bury
Huddersfiled are one of the favourites for automatic promotion this season having gone to the Wembley wire last year. Lee Clark has held his nerve and looks like he has a pact with his squad to keep them togther for another challenge. They look like they will be hard to beat and Jordan Rhodes goals should keep them on track.

Bury played their way out of League two last season and they get a crack at establishing themselves. Richie Barker's side are unknown to me although they have a Sodje (Efetobore) in their ranks and the heroic Peter Shirtliff is Assistant Manager. This is a very hard start and I suspect a losing start may set the scene for a shakey season for Bury.
Prediction: 3-1

MK Dons v Hartlepool United
I still can't quite believe that MK Dons made the play-offs last year. They were good at home I suppose and have a decent League One side but it would have been a travesty of justice if they had managed promotion. That said, Karl Robinson is ably backed by the mercurial John Gorman and they can probably place again this season if they get the goals their forward options promise.

Hartlepool ebbed and flowed last year and lack the funds to buy their way out of League One. They may struggle again and I expect to hear more about keeper Scott Flinders than anyone else. Opening day often throws upsets but I can't see one here.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Sheffield United
A tired-looking Danny Wilson is confident he can arrest the Blades decline, but I feel an element of "he would say that wouldn't he." United are doing a passable impression "of a Charlton" and they might find a play-off finish is as much they can hope for in their first season down in League One.

By contrast, Paul Dickov is fighting off expectations of a poor season and the fiesty Scot certainly managed an over-performance last year even if they did slacken off towards the end.
Prediction; 2-2

Preston North End v Colchester United
Phil Brown is promising promotion for his Preston side this season and I expect them to go close. Colchester have over-performed in recent seasons as far as I am concerned and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find them struggling this year. It's as hard a start as you could get and my money's on North End to collect the points.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Rochdale
Gary Megson's Wednesday are amogst the favorites for promotion but to my mind that's got more to do with their status than their team. Whilst their city rivals may be "doing a Charlton," Wednesday have already done one and I think they will do well to reach the play-offs this year. They may have big gates but they probably have costs to match and they haven't done much pre-season business. I'm not convinced Jose Semedo's move to the Steel City will work out.

Rochdale had a cracking season last year and my guess is that they will surprise more people this season. I'm going to stick my head out here and call this the upset of the day.
Prediction; 1-2

Stevenage v Exeter City
Graham Westley's Boro side will still be high on the euphoria of a play-off win at Wembley. They will be looking to emulate Rochdale's first season in League One but it could be a struggle. Much will depend on their home form and this is a great chnace for a morale-bossting winning start.

Exeter are no mugs though and know this division as we have found out. I suspect they will be good enough for at lest a draw here and could go close to nicking it.
Prediction; 1-1

Tranmere Rovers v Chesterfield
Rovers begin their annual relegation battle against nearish neighbours Chesterfield. the Spireites won lots of plaudits for their football last season and should be up for this. Much will depend on what more Les Parry can get from his squad. My guess is not much and that neither of these sides will trouble us this season (famous last words).
Prediction; 0-1

Walsall v Leyton Orient

The O's made-up for a slow start last time around with a fast finish and the logic of them picking up from where they left off has shortened their odds maybe more than is justified. Having said that, I think they may join us and the Bees in a competitive London mini league. I expect them to have a good go here at Walsall, a club who regular readers know I believe belong in League Two.
Prediction; 1-2

Wycombe Wanderers v Scunthorpe United
Wycombe are back and they will try to improve on their last appearance where they fell away and went down at the finish. They look like a yo-yo club to me. Scunny meanwhile, have plenty of Iron about them a recent traditional of playing excellent football. They should be competitive in League One and I will take them here.
Prediction; 0-2

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