By Jude Hall
Sheffield Wednesday defeated South Yorkshire rivals, Doncaster Rovers, to secure their first win of the season thanks to second half goals from Barry Bannan and Dennis Adeniran at a noisy Hillsborough.
Darren Moore made two changes to his XI that drew at Charlton, with Florian Kamberi and Marvin Johnson given their first starts in blue and white.
In a flat first half the only chances fell the way of the visitors with Watford loanee, Tiago Cukur skying Ethan Galbraith’s floated cross on the 30 minute mark.
Just before the break, Kyle Knoyle saw his powerful drive saved at the near post by Owls keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
In the second 45, the hosts turned up the tempo with Lewis Wing and Andre Green both having efforts well-saved in the first 10 minutes of the half.
With an hour on the clock, Kamberi had his only chance of the game when Johnson’s lifted cross fell the way of the Albanian, but the Wednesday man couldn’t keep his header down.
It was to take something special to break the deadlock, and the Owls skipper obliged with a stunning left-footed strike from 25 yards to give Wednesday the lead.
With chants of ‘we’ve got Bannan’ still ringing round Hillsborough, the home side doubled their lead. Jaden Brown’s cross was pushed out by Doncaster keeper Pontus Dohlburg, straight into the path of Dennis Adeniran who’s scuffed effort clipped the post on its way in.
The visitors were given a lifeline back into the game when Sam Hutchinson was penalised for handling the ball in the Wednesday area. However, it wasn’t to be for Richie Wellens’ side as Omar Bogle fluffed his lines, hitting the post from the penalty spot.
The Derby victory gets Darren Moore’s team up and running with four points from the opening two fixtures, Wednesday’s back line yet to concede this season.
Next up for The Owls is another home game on Tuesday night against Fleetwood Town who have lost both their opening games.
By Archie Burkinshaw
Finally the Premier League is back. After a chaotic and dismal 20/21 season for Spurs, surely things can now only get better for the Lilywhites. It’s been a summer of upheaval for Tottenham, a new manager in Nuno Espírito Santo, a new managing director Fabio Paratici and some key players coming too and also leaving Hotspur way.
Along with many other Spurs fans, I was somewhat underwhelmed with the announcement of Nuno as the new Spurs manager. After being in talks with seemingly every coach in Europe, Spurs finally found their man in the ex-Wolves boss, but can anyone’s 6th choice candidate fill a fan base with confidence?
Paratici excites me far more, a workaholic with over a decade of experience running Juventus. The deals he has done so far this summer have been smart. Out with Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela (both been fantastic players for the club but the right time to go) and in with the exiting Spanish winger Bryan Gil and Serie A defender of the year Cristian Romero.
Of course the elephant in the room is star striker Harry Kane who has publicly stated his desire to leave for Manchester City. Chairman Daniel Levy doesn’t seem interested in selling his prize asset, and if they can keep hold of him Spurs have a chance of a successful season.
Coincidentally Spurs opening game is against the side hoping to bring Kane to their mouth-watering attack. Reigning champions Manchester City have already been active in the transfer market, bringing in Jack Grealish for a modest fee of £100 million.
I think this is a perfect time to play City, De Bruyne and Foden out injured, several players returning to pre-season late due to international tournaments during the summer and a poor Community Shield performance leaving many City fans feeling uninspired. The game may come too soon for Tottenham new boys Romero and Gil but Nuno has the rest of the squad to choose from, even Kane is in contention to play.
Both teams are bound to be a little rusty but I expect a cracking game for the neutral, Spurs have beaten City at home the two previous seasons so they should go out there with no fear and entertain the fans - something they failed to do during the Mourinho era.
Footrace makes Tottenham Hotspur the underdogs at 45 points, a draw at 30 points and Manchester city as the big favourites at 6 points. I'm going with a 2-2 draw which could score me a whopping 170 points.
By Lauren Whitehead
After a long 533 days, Huddersfield Town will finally welcome fans back to the John Smith’s Stadium as they take on Fulham this Saturday.
The Terriers go into the match having earned a point in a 1-1 draw with Derby County last weekend.
The Cottagers also head into the game with a sole point, after they found only one goal in their match against Middlesbrough last Sunday.
Fulham recently saw the departure of head coach Scott Parker, but former Everton manager Marco Silva will be hoping to build on their one point from the previous game.
However, Tom Cairney is likely to not be available for the fixture as he is struggling with injury, alongside Harrison Reed, Anthony Knockaert, and former Terrier Terence Kongolo also being doubts.
The absentees will have a huge impact on Fulham’s performance and may see Silva needing to change style of play in order to find a win.
Nevertheless, the Cottagers still have a strong, influential squad and so the starting XI are sure to provide a difficult task for Town.
Having recently been without Head Coach Carlos Corberan, Lee Nicholls, Harry Toffolo, Josh Ruffels, and Lewis O’Brien due to positive Coronavirus tests, it is likely that these key players will miss out again for the second consecutive weekend.
Although, following an outstanding performance against the Rams, Sorba Thomas will likely be a vital squad member in a demanding game.
Danel Sinani is also likely to reappear in the team after he was substituted on during the last match and has been back in training this week.
New signing Tom Lees may make his debut on Saturday, having joined Town from Sheffield Wednesday, and so will be looking to impress.
Pipa is still a doubt as he continues to struggle with a groin injury, but he may be on the bench again on Saturday.
Both Rolando Aarons and Aaron Rowe have been in training but are uncertainties due to injuries also. Aarons however has made good progress and so Corberan may choose to name him on the bench.
Hopefully their performance last weekend will see Huddersfield go into the game with confidence and find a win that would be the perfect welcome home.
A Huddersfield win will earn you 35 Footrace points, whereas a draw sees just 27. Backing newly relegated Fulham will see you obtain 8 points, and so the odds are unfortunately not in their favour.
By Nathan Shields
The headline news going into the game for the Reds regards the potential debut of their £73m signing, Jadon Sancho.
Speaking at his pre-game press conference on Friday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "Jadon has come in and done very good this week. Maybe a little bit too early; I'll see how he is. I'd say you'll see him. He's definitely involved in the squad."
Since the announcement that an agreement had been reached to sign Raphael Varane, his formal announcement as a Manchester United player has yet to come
Solskjaer's latest update on Varane is that the deal is "not 100% done yet" and that "he won't be involved because he has not trained."
Elsewhere, Alex Telles and Marcus Rashford will miss out due to injury.
Edinson Cavani, Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo will also not feature. They are currently in quarantine ahead of being cleared to return to training.
Dean Henderson and Jesse Lingard will also be absent as both have recently tested positive for COVID-19.
There are new contracts for their manager and goalkeeper in the Leeds camp, as Marcelo Bielsa has agreed to stay until the end of the season and a new five-year deal is Illan Meslier's reward for his stellar performances last term.
The last meeting between the old rivals ended in a goalless stalemate at Elland Road. However, the last meeting at Old Trafford saw Manchester United trounce Leeds 6-2.
Ole's men will be looking to produce a similar result to get their season off to a flyer in front of a capacity home crowd for the first time since 8th March 2020.
Whilst Bielsa's side will want to kick on and improve on last season's impressive return to life back in the top flight.
Footrace players can side with the Red Devils to win, but they will only get 5 points (if they don't get the score right) for that outcome; while a draw would be 34 points and a victory for the Yorkshire side at Old Trafford is worth a whopping 50 points.
By Lewis Robinson
7th March 2020. The last time I stepped inside of Oakwell. Barnsley had just lost 2-0 to Cardiff. The game was that bad, that if you had said to me at the time I wouldn’t have to watch another Barnsley match for another 18 months, jokingly, of course, I would have probably said yes.
Little did anyone know that would be the case, with of course the pandemic halting the click of the turnstiles, with every kick of the ball being heard in each fan’s living room.
This time can be isolating for some, with some people not as fortunate as others and living alone, or at least watching the matches alone. Going to the match is not just 90 minutes on the pitch. It is the social element before and after the game. Whether it be the pre- or post-match visit to the pub, or just the conversation in the car park after the match, it’s more than just a game.
This is what makes Barnsley’s return to Oakwell this weekend all the more special. Seeing friends and family that you haven’t seen in a while. That person, who you do not have any other contact with except within the grounds of the stadium or may not even know the name of. Yet you still talk to them every time and have those running jokes. It is this that makes football special.
Of course, it helps if your side is doing well. It is no fun being sat in the stands, often in the freezing cold, and watching your team defend comically and hear the away end erupt every time the ball hits the back of the net. But it’s these times that help make the good times so good.
Every free-kick that nestles in the top corner, every goal scored after pinball in the area, every penalty won and every last-minute winner scored, the euphoria is like no other. There is no other setting where hugging a complete stranger that is sat next to you is acceptable other than in a football stadium. In the current climate that may have to be adapted however, but the shared feeling of joy between thousands of people is cathartic.
Football without fans is sterile. It’s inauthentic. It’s plastic. It’s not football. Whilst having some football was better than none, it is nothing compared to the spectacle of the stands being full. Football took its fans for granted, fans took football for granted. If anything good were to come from the last 18 months, it’s that we have a newfound appreciation for football and its fans. This was brought more into the spotlight after the ‘European Super League’ fiasco, in which the fans found their voice, and stood up to football’s ‘elite’.
So, let’s enjoy being back in the stadiums this weekend. Let’s hope to feel that euphoria. Obviously, we hope not to feel the demoralisation of the away team wheeling away to their fans. But if they do, that is football, and no matter what, I am so glad to be back.
As the chant goes:
You’ll never notice how much I love you,
please don’t ever take my Barnsley away.
By Jude Hall
This Saturday Wednesday will play league football in front of their home support for the first time in 18 months. Darren Moore will be hoping his side can build on their opening day point with a win over his former team and local rivals Doncaster Rovers.
Alike The Owls, Rovers have begun somewhat of a rebuild this summer under new boss Richie Wellens. The former Salford City gaffer has brought in 10 new faces at the Keepmoat, without spending a penny on transfer fees.
The versatility and experience of Tommy Rowe and Dan Gardner from Bristol City and Wigan Athletic look like sensible deals for Rovers. Wellens has also brought in a crop of youngsters with the loan signings of Pontus Dohlburg, Tiago Cukur and Matt Smith hoping for some first-team minutes this season. The strongest signings for Doncaster this summer look, on paper, to be that of Ben Close and Ro-Shaun Williams. Close joins in the midfield from Portsmouth whilst Williams strengthens the defence from Shrewsbury, both with plenty of League One nous.
Wednesday have boosted their ranks themselves this week in the shape of Sylla Sow who becomes Moore’s 13th summer signing. The Dutchman joins on a free transfer following a two-year stint in the Eredivisie with RKC Waalwijk. The versatile attacker, who can play down either flank as well as through the middle, is in contention for the weekends game and could make his Owls debut.
Another summer signing that could make their Hillsborough debut is Wednesday’s new number nine, Lee Gregory. The Sheffield-born striker was involved in a behind closed door game with Manchester United under 23s in midweek, bagging himself two goals.
Quality of finishing may prove to be the difference on Saturday and one The Owls will have to watch out for is Doncaster’s Fejiri Okenabirhie. The Wednesday manager will know all about the forward after he scored 11 times for Moore’s Rovers side last season, finishing the year with a total of 14 goals.
The Owls record against Doncaster of late is nothing short of abysmal with Rovers winning the last five outings. However, Wednesday will be confident of putting that one to bed and getting their first win under their belt this weekend.
The hosts are clear favourites for this one, with just 7 points available for correctly guessing an Owls victory. Whereas a Doncaster triumph secures 40 points. Another draw gains 28 points and with Wednesday’s new boys yet to properly gel could be a good shout.
But Doncaster Rovers haven’t look too inspiring themselves so far this season having lost on opening day to Wimbledon and only scraping past League Two Walsall on penalties in their midweek Carabao cup clash. Therefore, with the backing of Hillsborough I’d go for a Wednesday win. Head over to the ‘play’ section to have your say.
By Sam Ketch
Hull City welcome Queens Park Rangers to the MKM Stadium on Saturday as they look to return to winning ways after their EFL Cup loss to Wigan on Tuesday.
The Tigers rotated in midweek, with seven changes made by Grant McCann – it is likely that most of those players will return to the starting eleven; although Mallik Wilks is now injured for an unknown period of time with a calf problem.
McCann is known to favour his winning team, so City fans could see the return of Matt Ingram in goal, Alfie Jones and Lewie Coyle at the back, captain Richie Smallwood and Greg Docherty in midfield, and Josh Magennis up front.
However, some performances from Tuesday night will be giving McCann a selection dilemma.
Di'Shon Bernard, despite missing the all important penalty, was outstanding in the 90 minutes, while left back Brandon Fleming made the WhoScored Team of Round One on the back of his performance. Manchester City loanee Matt Smith also had 90 minutes to show his talents on the ball in midfield.
One question mark is over James Scott. The forward was given the opportunity to play a full game, but yet again failed to really impress. Could he be trusted to replace Wilks in the Tigers front three?
While Wilks is now out, five players have returned to availability. Callum Elder is fit again, and the four who tested positive for Covid-19 – Sean McLoughlin, Randell Williams, Ryan Longman and Tommy Mayer – have returned to training after their isolation period ended.
Former Tiger Jordy de Wijs is a doubt for the Rs, although there has been no confirmation yet.
Despite winning on penalties in midweek, Mark Warbuton complained about the early season fixture list as his side have suffered a handful of injuries and knocks already.
On the Footrace front, should you think the Tigers will win this game you’ll be looking at 20 points. Meanwhile a victory for the visitors would be 15 points, and a draw is worth 21 points.
I’m going to say that Hull will win this game thanks to yet more Keane Lewis-Potter magic, but they’ll obviously go behind first. 2-1 Tigers.
By Charlotte Atherton
Wigan Athletic fans will make an emotional return to the DW Stadium this Saturday as the Latics welcome Rotherham United for their first home game of the new season.
Wigan will be hoping to chart their first points of the season on Saturday, after losing their opening day fixture against Sunderland last weekend.
Despite disappointment on the opening day of the campaign, the Latics managed to secure their place in the second round of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night after beating Championship side Hull City on penalties.
In terms of team news Leam Richardson’s side have no pressing injury concerns, but the Latics manager may struggle to decide on his best starting XI after a handful of players impressed against Hull in midweek.
Notably, striker Stephen Humphrys will be keen to start after putting the club ahead against Hull earlier in the week. Humphrys is also a player who impressed in pre-season, scoring in three out of a possible five matches, and having only made it off the bench against Sunderland he may be one to watch this weekend.
Rotherham United suffered relegation from the Championship last season but look as determined as ever to bounce straight back up, after a convincing win against Plymouth Argyle on the opening day.
Following success against Plymouth, The Millers were knocked out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night after losing to Accrington Stanley by two goals to one.
Rotherham manager, Paul Warne, has no new injury concerns ahead of his visit to the DW Stadium on Saturday, but one player who will miss out is ex-Latics loanee Curtis Tilt who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.
Footrace points are evenly matched this week, with 18 points available for either a home win or an away win, or maybe you will be tempted by a draw with 20 points available.
By Tom Parker
Wolves return to Premier League action as they face a tricky test away to Leicester City. The side come into the season shrouded in uncertainty and being seen as very much an unknown quantity.
The appointment of Bruno Lage has given Wolves a new direction to go in and seemingly gives them the chance to hit the refresh button. Pre-season has certainly been a big of mixed results and performances, but with some key differences in playing style as Lage's side adopt a much higher defensive line and more aggressive pressing.
Signings have been few and far between, with sell to buy being the message. Wolves have boosted their wide options with the loan signing of Franciso Trincao and added extra depth in central defence with young prospect Yerson Mosquera joining – although a hamstring injury has him missing the first few games. Rayan Ait-Nouri has joined permanently, and Jose Sa was brought in to replace Rui Patricio.
However, Leicester City have seen injury difficulties force their hand in the window, with the recent signing of Jannick Vestergaard covering the hole left by Wesley Fofana, who could be out for the season with a broken fibula. Ryan Bertrand also signed on a free deal to add more competition to the left back spot. They have also added extra steel in midfield with the incoming Boubakary Soumare – who signs off the back of a few excellent seasons with Lille. The signing of Patson Daka has been an encouraging lift for Brendan Rodgers, as Leicester have more depth in attack.
Both sides come into the game with problems at centre back, the aforementioned Fofana and Mosquera are both sidelined, but Wolves are also missing Willy Boly who has again fallen victim to another short-term injury.
Jonny, Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence are also still out for Wolves, with the first two still in recovery for another few months. With the limited attacking and defensive options, we could see Wolves start with a more conservative approach when thinking of the Dangers of Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheancho and Daka.
Footrace is offering Leicester at 7 points, a draw at 28 points and Wolves as longshots at 40 points. I'm going with a 1-1 draw which could score me an extra 70 points.
By Lewis Robinson
Bolton vs Barnsley signified the first time I had stepped foot inside a football stadium since March 2020.
Yes, it may have only been the League Cup first round, but it was still unbelievable to be back. There are so many things you miss as a football fan which you don’t realise, a list of which I have compiled:
- Seeing familiar faces when scanning the crowd
- The smell of pies
- The sound of fans singing in the concourse when you’re in your seat
- The violent yet friendly exchanges between the two sets of fans
The list could go on, but I think you get the jist. It was good to be back.
The feeling of community and pride you get by following your team is like no other: the camaraderie, the pride, the passion, and, most importantly, the unity. If you asked me what these last 18 months have lacked, I’d have listed the emotions above.
The Reds were backed by 1,600 fans in Lancashire, with the fixture being Barnsley’s first away game in England since whole crowds were allowed back into stadiums.
The Reds started brightly, looking comfortable in possession, and moving the ball around well. It wasn’t long before the famous cry of ‘It’s Just Like Watching Brazil’ was heard from the away end and,with no bias, it was hard to argue otherwise.
However, a worrying pattern began to emerge for the team in red. Barnsley seemed to work the ball well up to the edge of the area, but then failed to convert the pressure into a clear chance on goal.
This pattern persisted all game, excluding a headed chance for Victor Adeboyejo and an effort from Clarke Oduor. Cauley Woodrow did put the ball in the back of the net, but his goal was ruled out for offside. Footage, however, suggested Woodrow was onside, and the goal should have stood.
The result, losing on penalties, was disappointing but the panic button is not yet needed to be pressed.
Markus Schopp had chance to see some players he may not have had chance to otherwise (8 changes were made to the Barnsley starting eleven from the team at Cardiff), and with that will come a lack of cohesion. This lack of cohesion will translate itself to the type of performance that was shown, with the lack of incisiveness and bite in the attack.
The experience for some fringe players will be valued, playing in a competitive fixture against a good Bolton side. Astonishingly George Miller started his first game for the Reds since signing way back in January 2019. Signed as a forward, Miller started at right wing-back.
Schopp post-match was concerned about the lack of impetus up front, but with Carlton Morris not being involved, and with new recruits Leya Iseka and Oulare yet to be involved, there is hope that this shall not become a reoccurring theme for Barnsley across the season.
In some ways, the match was a poetic return to football. 0-0. Lose on penalties. Football is back.
Now, Barnsley can fully focus on the league anyway…