Sunday, 7 August 2011

League 2 Round-Up - Week One

Full results from this round of matches in Football League Two are available here on the BBC Sport website.

Swindon and Bristol Rovers, both relegated from League One last season and under new management, made good starts to life in the bottom tier by picking up three points on the opening day of the season. Paul Buckle's Rovers overcame Football League new (old) boys AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow, whilst Swindon Town, under the watchful eye of Paolo Di Canio, saw off Crewe by three goals to nil. Meanwhile, at Vale Park, promotion favourites and all-round people's champions Crawley Town were held to a 2-2 draw away at Port Vale.

Paul Sturrock's Southend began the season in Luggy-pleasing form, beating Hereford 1-0 at home, while Torquay United came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Burton Albion at Plainmoor. Bradford City, who are now in their fifth season of being too big for the bottom division, lost 2-1 at home to Aldershot.

Potential play-off contenders Rotherham beat Oxford United (who have promotion hopes of their own) 1-0. Morecombe and Macclesfield, who have been tipped to struggle by many, both lost their opening fixtures 1-0, to Barnet and Dagenham and Redbridge respectively. Elsewhere, Gillingham beat Cheltenham by a goal to nil and Northampton and Accrington Stanley played out the division's only goalless draw.

Saturday Afternoon, Sunday Morning

Some post-match thoughts, 24 hours on...
  • Argyle's football was a pleasure to watch at times yesterday. The move that nearly set up Tom Hitchcock within 90 seconds of kick off was a thing of beauty, four or five first time passes followed by a whipped cross from Luke Daley. It will, at points, test the patience of some supporters - on more than one occasion at Greenhous Meadow the Greens worked the ball back to Jake Cole from a throw-in deep in Shrewsbury territory, and free kicks in dangerous crossing positions were quickly taken short - but has the potential to be very effective, as Argyle's dominance of the first 20 minutes of yesterday's match showed. Despite the received wisdom that direct football prospers in the basement tier, Chesterfield played a short passing game in League Two last season. They won the division by five points.
  • It was blatantly obvious from yesterday's match that more bodies are needed, and fast. First and foremost, a left winger is desperately required to fill the gap caused by the non-signing of Andres Gurierri. Robbie Williams ran up and down gamely in the first half without much effect, whilst the Pilgrims pretty much played without a left sided wideman after the interval, as Conor Hourihane patrolled the inside left position with Ben Gibson pushing on from full-back. Neither situation was particularly satisfactory.
  • The Greens will also be in the market for a tall centre-forward. Tom Hitchcock and Warren Feeney, yesterday's front two, measure in at 5ft 8 and 5ft 7 respectively - in the second half at Greenhous Meadow, as Peter Reid highlighted in his Argyle World interview, the visitors had little of chance of retaining possession when the Shrewsbury forwards pressurised Zubar and Soukana into hitting it long.
  • Woe betide us should Carl Fletcher get injured. Aside from his goal, the captain looked a cut above in the middle of the park, especially in the first half an hour of the match.
  • Peter Reid has a selection dilemma in the centre of midfield, with Fletcher, Conor Hourihane and Simon Walton all staking a claim. Fletch is the first name on the teamsheet, and Hourihane made a very assured debut, only let down by some wayward shooting in the second half. However, Walton can also pick a pass whilst offering a more imposing physical presence than the former Ipswich youngster.
  • Stephane Zubar and Ladjie Soukana looked solid as a centre-back pairing. The fact that Curtis Nelson was only named as a substitute would seem to indicate that the 2010-11 young player of the year is either a) carrying a knock or b) on the verge of a move away from Home Park.
  • Every club has it's own band of idiots who turn up once in a blue moon looking for a punch-up (usually with the opposition, rather than each other). Let's hope this match was their annual outing.
  • The majority of the players may be young and inexperienced, but they don't seem afraid of letting their feelings known to their senior colleagues. Hitchcock gave Feeney a right mouthful after the Northern Irishman had shot tamely at the 'keeper instead of passing just after the interval, whilst a loud "Oi!" from Luke Daley halted Carl Fletcher's celebrations, apparently reminding the captain that their were still 4 minutes of injury time to see out.
  • Fletcher's goal certainly felt like "a moment". We'll know in a few weeks whether it really was a turning point, or just another false dawn.
  • The early stages of this season could be vital for the Pilgrims. Peter Reid has clearly cobbled together a talented bunch of young footballers, but the key to success may be in giving them confidence to express themselves on the field. A few confidence-boosting results over the coming weeks could mean that we're in for a good season. However, a run of defeats early doors may be hard to turn round with so few experienced heads in the squad.