Friday, 7 September 2018

League 1: August - 1st September Review (First 6 League Games)

League 1 has made its return and has brought plenty of goals, nice football, some surprising results and a few managerial changes and we are only in the opening month of the season. Peterborough and Portsmouth lead the way at the top having collected 16 points from their opening 6 games while Sunderland, Barnsley and Walsall are not far behind. While Plymouth prop up the table after another poor start to the season. Shrewsbury, Oxford United and Bristol Rovers make up the bottom 4.

Peterborough and Portsmouth have made excellent starts to the season and have won 5 of their opening 6 games. Both Steve Evans and Kenny Jackett are experienced promotion winners at this level so its no surprise those two lead the way. Peterborough have had a complete squad revamp and so far, it’s certainly Jason Cummings, Sikiri Dembele and Mark O’Hara who have caught so far with Cummings smashing goals with winger Dembele creating and scoring while O’Hara is bossing midfield and adding a few goals to an already strong attack. While down on the south coast it has been a wonderful opening month for Pompey and new signing Ronan Curtis has caught the eye. The Irishman signed from Derry in the transfer window and has made a wonderful start to his Portsmouth career scoring 4 goals in 6 league games. He has pace and tricks in his locker and he can only get better as the season progresses. Like the top 2, Sunderland, Barnsley and Walsall have all made unbeaten starts but are 2 points further back. Both relegated Sunderland and Barnsley have started well under new managers Jack Ross and Daniel Stendel. Ross has revamped Sunderland and built a team capable of promotion and while they might not be in full gear, they remain unbeaten and playing some nice football. While the high pressing German philosophy has made it to South Yorkshire and Barnsley have been exciting and rampant in front of goal in the opening scoring 4 twice so far against Oxford and Rochdale. Kieffer Moore has had an excellent opening month of the season notching 6 goals so far.

Some of the new managers in League 1 have had mixed fortunes in the opening month of the season. Rookie Joey Barton has had a good start in charge of Fleetwood collecting 11 points from their opening 6 games. Barton is determined to be a success and slowly is installing a winning mentality in the Cod Army. In contrast, it has been a slow and disappointing start for John Askey at Shrewsbury with no win and 3 draws in his opening 6 league games. While Shrewsbury’s squad is completely changed following the play-off final defeat, the club has built a solid squad yet to really gel as a team and Askey quickly needs to find a winning solution. However, Michael Collins despite winning 2 of his opening 6 league games, he has been sacked by Bradford. Despite lying in 17th place, its clear Bradford’s owners are unhappy with their start to the season and have replaced Collins with former Livingston manager David Hopkin. Hopkin has an excellent promotion record having guided Livingston to back to back promotions to the Scottish Premiership and Bradford’s owners will hope he can deliver promotion for the Bantams. Another side with a new manager is Blackpool after Gary Bowyer resigned after the opening day draw with Wycombe. While it is still unknown as to why he left, his assistant Terry McPhillips has had a good spell in caretaker charge and will be confident he can get the job full time.

The promoted sides from League 2 have had mixed fortunes in their starts to the new season. Accrington Stanley have had the best start in their first ever League 1 season. Accrington have collected 9 points from their opening 6 league games and are unbeaten since losing to Gillingham on the opening day of the season. Billy Kee has made a good start and he is vital to John Coleman’s team and he has notched 2 goals so far. Luton have also started well collecting 8 points from their opening 6 games and have taken time to click after starting slowly but a solid finish to August has seen the Hatters end the month in 9th. Its been a more difficult opening month for Wycombe and Coventry. Wycombe are a point better off with 6 but have notched just 1 win so far. Likewise, Coventry have also notched just 1 win and are in 19th with just 5 points and Mark Robins has made plenty of new signings so it is certainly a working progress at Coventry and will take a few games for Coventry to click as a team.
Grant McCann has certainly had a good impact at Doncaster in his opening month in charge of the club. Doncaster are in 7th place collecting 9 points from their opening 6 games and have lost just once against Burton. They are looking an enterprising side and certainly McCann will want Doncaster’s momentum to carry into September. Charlton will also be hoping to carry good momentum into September after finally giving Lee Bowyer the full-time manager’s job after 6 months in caretaker charge as the club continues takeover talks. On the pitch, Charlton sit in 10th with 8 points and are starting to click into gear and certainly their month ending win over Southend highlights Charlton’s determination to succeed. Bowyer wants promotion and after finally been given the job, he will be more determined than ever to deliver. Gillingham also sit in the top half of the table after collecting 7 points from their opening 6 games. However, they are on a run of 4 games without a win after starting brilliantly with back to back wins. Steve Lovell’s side have played some good stuff but since their opening 2 victories, they have struggled to find the winning formula again. However, they pack a punch up front with Tom Eaves and Josh Parker who have notched 6 between them so far this season.

The sides in the bottom 4 are currently Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Oxford and Bristol Rovers. Plymouth are becoming synonymous at starting a League 1 season slowly and the Pilgrims find themselves bottom of the table without a win and 2 points. They are struggling to see out games and score goals. Creative forces Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras are yet to shine so far this season and when they don’t, Plymouth generally struggle. Oxford United have also started slowly. However, despite losing their opening 4 matches, the U’s have picked up and secured a win and a draw in their last 2 league games and that is certainly a good platform to take into September. Bristol Rovers are also struggling and currently sit in 21st after notching just 4 points. The pirates are lacking a winning instinct and have threw away leads this season against Accrington and Shrewsbury which has cost them points. Darrell Clarke is good manager and they have a decent team but they must have an excellent September to dampen the worries of a potential relegation battle this season.

Southend, Rochdale and Burton find themselves in 13th, 14th and 15th after the opening month of the season. Southend have been the most creative side in the league in terms of shots on goal however, their conversion rate is disappointing, and they haven’t been taking their chances and Chris Powell knows they have quality firepower to put them in play-off contention and he will be hoping September is the month where the strikers fire Southend to more victories. Rochdale have been mixed with their performances with disappointing home defeats to Barnsley and Peterborough conceding 4 in both games. While the fans may expect them to lose to promotion contenders, they are unhappy with the manor of the defeats and Keith Hill has even dared to be sacked which is a huge risk for any manager to say. He will be hoping for a strong September to ease the fans’ major concerns. Burton have taken a while to get going having notched 2 wins at home to Doncaster and AFC Wimbledon. The Brewers away form is their major problem having lost all 3 of their away games so far carrying on their form from the Championship.

The final two clubs we are yet to discuss is AFC Wimbledon and Scunthorpe. It started brightly the new season for Neal Ardley and Wimbledon having collected an opening day win against Fleetwood. However, a run of 5 games without a win has left them dangerously close to the bottom 4. They had an excellent start not conceding in their opening 3 games but since conceding 3 against Walsall, Ardley’s men have been severely leaking goals and Ardley must quickly address this issue to give his side a chance in matches. Scunthorpe also started well with victory at Coventry but a 4-game winless run seeing them lose heavily to Sunderland and Fleetwood cost Nick Daws his job after 5 games in full charge. Former Motherwell ad Bradford boss Stuart McCall is the man tasked with taking Scunthorpe to the Championship. McCall’s first game didn’t end their winless run after they drew with Accrington. McCall will be confident he can deliver promotion but must start well to install belief in the Scunthorpe fans and win at Glanford Park starting against Rochdale because Glanford Park hasn’t been its usual fortress self so far this season.

League 1 has been eventful in the opening month and no doubt September will be full of goals, excellent football and more decisions both on and off the pitch for managers and owners with some clubs under pressure to perform. While others need to change their form and September is certainly a month that offers good indications as to where a clubs season is heading.

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