Today is fixture release day and City fans now have a clear idea of who we play, and when.
I did a live video on the topic earlier, but for those who prefer their content to be written, I wanted to follow up with a few points here. My first comment would usually be ‘we play all 23 teams twice, home and away’, or something equally as sarcastic as that, but after last season we can’t guarantee that, can we? Therefore, the fixtures do hold some significance.
The biggest news is probably the fact we play Hull City away from home on December 29th. That’s the fixture many of us have been keen to get to and it is on the cusp of fans maybe being allowed to the grounds. We don’t know what the future holds and it is possible we won’t be able to go to the KCom for the first time since 2003. In terms of Christmas dates with the Tigers, we played them on Boxing Day 1996, going down 2-1 at Boothferry Park, but you have to go back to the 1953/54 season to find one close to the 29th; we played them home and away on the 26th and 28th in 1953, losing 3-0 Boxing Day and winning 3-0 two days later.
I think this could be a really interesting fixture from a policing point of view. Hull and Lincoln are ‘old school’ rivals and as such whether fans are allowed in the ground or not might be irrelevant. People will want to travel, especially as many will be off work over Christmas. I can see it being a nightmare for the club, whether fans are in the ground or not. If they’re not, it is unregulated travel that might be a problem, if they are just the all-day drinking. Either way, it’s looking tasty.
The opening day gives us a chance to get some revenge on Oxford United for the 6-0 hammering at our place last season. It’s the first time they’ll visit us under Michael Appleton too and remember, he’s something of a legend in those parts. It’s a tough opener, a play-off side from last season, but it will be a great early barometer of what is to come. We’ve had a few good first days of late, would I tempt fate by saying we haven’t lost an opening day fixture in a decade, with the 2-1 defeat at Rotherham in 2010 the last time our record read ‘Played 1, Points 0’. We have lost to Oxford on the opening day in recent memory though, they beat us 1-0 in August 2003, not long after our first play-off campaign. Simon Yeo got sent off after 30 minutes that day.
In terms of runs, the pre-Christmas run looks favourable for City. All games at this level are tough, but if we can put a six or seven game run together where we grab five or six wins, we can open up a gap between us and the bottom of the division. I appreciate many think we might be top half, or top of the bottom half, but in a period of transition, I feel it is important to consolidate and build. I think it was Liam Scully who said on the radio this week we would be a club hoping to look up the division each week, not down, but as a pessimist, I will be looking down and seeing a gap as a good thing. Accrington, Swindon, Rochdale and Wigan (three away admittedly) is the sort of run you’d like to see eight points picked up from in late November, whilst Shrewsbury, Northampton and Burton later in December is potentially another seven. 15 points from seven matches in that period would give us a great footing for the New Year. That’s not being disrespectful to those clubs by the way, but they’re the ones we should be competitive with (with Wigan being a crisis club), whilst Hull, Ipswich, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Peterborough and Charlton are ‘another level’ which we aspire to be.
I don’t think the final couple of games will be critical if I’m honest but at home to Wimbledon on the final day is one you’d be confident in if we needed three points for anything. The run of away games in March looks tough, Sunderland, Ipswich and Oxford, with Charlton in early April. They’re really tough, but if the last season is anything to go by we’ll be hopeful of safety before the ester Eggs are unwrapped.
I hope this wasn’t an article which came across as too arrogant to fans of other clubs by the way; no game is an assured three points and it may be someone like Sunderland become whipping boys and Rochdale ‘do a Wycombe’ from nowhere. Nothing is certain, but you can look at spells, patterns and runs and sense whether they’ll be challenging or not. You know, just like we thought Peterborough and Ipswich were dire to get last Christmas.
If you want to hear my thoughts rather than read them, as well as the thoughts of some other supporters, check out the YouTube video below. Don’t forget to subscribe either for a notification whenever we go live.