Top matches: Football League opening weekend
There were some quality games as the football season returned last weekend
We take a look at the game of the day in each of the English football league divisions.
QPR 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
There were a few contenders for the Championship game of the day. Wigan continued their fluid, passing football and took apart Barnsley on their own turf in a 4-0 victory, while ‘little old Yeovil’ shocked everyone with a 1-0 away win over Millwall.
However the match of the day belonged to Championship favourites QPR and their game against Sheffield Wednesday. Harry Redknapp surprised a few fans earlier in the week when he played down QPR’s chances of winning the division.
A nervous crowd became even more so when Sheffield Wednesday took an early lead as Atdhe Nuhiu slotted home the opener. If Redknapp could have singled out anything that is necessary in a long, gruelling Championship season, it is fight.
And fight is something ingrained into QPR’s two centre midfielders: new signing Karl Henry and returning loanee Joey Barton. Formerly enemies, the two combined to restrict Wednesday’s play, and contributed to their lack of possession and measly one shot on target.
With a winning mentality and never say die attitude, the new look QPR hit back with two goals in 3 minutes from Nedum Onouha and Andy Johnson.
Rangers continued to press for goals, and despite not scoring, had a dozen shots in an exciting season opening encounter. Despite an early scare, QPR’s resilience will be key in their task of gaining promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Bristol City 2-2 Bradford
League 1 is perhaps the hardest division to predict, with the relegated Championship teams and promoted League 2 teams succumbing to varied fates, from successive promotions/relegations to immediate returns to their prior division.
This fixture put two of these teams head to head, with Bristol City having suffered a distressing relegation in contrast to Bradford’s playoff euphoria in a season where they played at Wembley twice.
Bristol City tried to stamp their authority on the game early on, and reaped the rewards of early pressure with a goal from debutant Scott Wagstaff.
A lack of focus and resilience was a key factor in City’s relegation, and this was seen again in the following 20 minutes as Bradford applied pressure. Bermudan striker Nahki Wells eventually scored after a goalkeeping error.
Bristol City came out much stronger in the second half, and another debutant, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who had provided the assist for Wagstaff’s opener, scored in the 58th minute.
Again, it was focus that would cost Bristol City, and Rory McArdle struck a late equaliser to leave us all none the wiser as to how this season’s League 1 will pan out.
Portsmouth 1-4 Oxford United
Though newly promoted Newport’s 4-0 drubbing of James Beattie’s Accrington Stanley was the performance of the day, for sheer drama, it has to go to Portsmouth’s shock defeat at home to Oxford United.
This fixture broke the record for a League Two attendance with 18,200 spectators, but it was the minority of this big crowd that went home smiling.
It seemed to be heading for the perfect start to Portsmouth’s much needed ‘revival’, with Ghanaian striker Patrick Agyemang heading Pompey into a deserved 25th minute lead.
However, with 11 new faces in the team they couldn’t solidify their advantage and went in at half-time 2-1 down after goals from Deane Smalley and Alfie Potter.
Guy Whittingham’s rousing half-time speech did raise the emotions, but unfortunately to negative effect as Johnny Ertl’s reckless challenge resulted in a red card.
The 10 men couldn’t compensate, and both first half scorers grabbed another one during a torrid 12 minutes for Portsmouth.
Oxford saw out the victory, and deservingly so, with some good quality football and good shooting accuracy, with six shots on target to Portsmouth’s sultry one.
The win puts them level at the top of the table with new boys Newport, to conclude an opening day in League 2 full of surprises.
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