After the disaster of Euro 2016 it was a relief that the domestic season finally kicked off again this weekend. BT Sports may not feel their live all day coverage was worth starting until next week, but thousands of National League fans packed such illustrious stadiums as Gander Green Lane to welcome in the new season.
My own team Lincoln City came out of the blocks with a real flourish managing their first victory over Woking since coming down. A Matt Rhead brace and one for debutant Adam Marriott ensured we’d start the season as we intend to go on with a comfortable 3-1 win over The Cardinals.
Elsewhere amongst the favourites there was a win for Tranmere Rovers over Bromley. Tranmere are most pundits tip to win the league and in James Norwood they have a contender for the leagues leading scorer. He netted twice for Tranmere and will expect more than his haul of 19 from last season alongside Andy Cook.
Dagenham got their life back in the National League off to a flyer against Southport with a 3-0 win. In recent years teams coming down don’t seem to have struggled as much and the Daggers comfortable win looks to indicate they may be in for a decent season. That said Southport have flirted with relegation for a season or two now and looked very poor yesterday. Former Imps James Caton and Ashley Grimes featured for Southport but neither could not prevent a resounding defeat.
York also came down but they suffered a setback drawing 1-1 with Maidstone. I expect Maidstone to do well this season so the draw was no surprise to me, and York might be pushed to make an impression in a tough league. Matt Fry was a wise acquisition in defence, but they can’t place too much on the shoulders of Richard Brodie who may be proven at this level, but not for a season or two now.
A notable score at the other end of the table was a surprise opening day defeat for Sutton at home to Solihull Moors. Solihull are amongst the favourites to go straight back down and their 3-1 win was perhaps one of the shocks of the day. Sutton may have only just been promoted but often teams from the south that make their way up make a good fist of progressing up the league. Dover, Braintree and Bromley have all settled quickly at this level and I expect Sutton to do the same. They won’t be relishing a trip to Sincil Bank next Saturday though.
Before that we have to face North Ferriby who drew yesterday with Braintree 0-0. Both sides are in for a season of struggle, and this result indicates that. Braintree have been ripped apart (mostly by us) in pre season and I think it will be very difficult for them to repeat last years success. However I would have expected them to comfortably beat a North Ferriby side managed by a sacked Conference North manager with a forward line led by the ineffective Connor Robinson.
There were wins for Barrow (at home to Aldershot), Eastleigh (at home to Guiseley) and Macclesfield (at home to Torquay) and I expect decent seasons from all three of those sides. Barrow have spent heavily in pre season but were perhaps lucky to come away with all three points after a spirited Aldershot display. Guiseley are expected to struggle this season so defeat for them was no surprise and Torquay’s problems are well documented.
Two other fancied sides shared a 0-0 draw, Wrexham and Dover. Dover have lost a couple of key players but the late signing of Moses Emmanuel signalled their intention to be fighting at the right end of the table again, and Wrexham are arguably the second biggest club in the league after Tranmere and really should fancy making an effort to get out of it sometime soon. However yesterday nine of their eighteen summer signings started the game meaning they may be a little disjointed for a few games, and with Sean Newton as captain things may get difficult when their backs are to the wall. Of the two expect Dover to hold a more sustained challenge. Chris Kinnear has done a superb job there and although they’re one of the teams I dislike at our level, what they’ve achieved has to be respected. Begrudgingly.
The final match I have to mention was Forest Green’s defeat at Boreham Wood. This result was the only real upset to the form book as Boreham Wood are tipped to fight against the drop whilst FGR are amongst the favourites. Regular readers of mine will know I despise FGR and everything they stand for and therefore Ricky Shakes 30th minute goal certainly made me a happy bunny last night. Boreham Wood apparently played very well with Bruno Andrade standing out.
Nothing can be read into the opening day fixtures usually but aside from one result matches went true to form. On Tuesday night Tranmere host Barrow in a match that will give us an indication of how successfully Paul Cox has spent. York v Macclesfield will be another interesting clash that feels very much like a League Two game of old.
My betting slip would be draws for Aldershot v Maidstone and for Chester against Dagenham. Throw in a tasty little home double for Lincoln and FGR and you have yourself some beer money for the weekend.
I’ll try and do a round up every week or two through the season, if anyone reads this one of course.