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Fixture Release Day 2015: Which game are you looking out for?

16 June 2015

The fixtures for the 2015/16 Sky Bet Football League are released tomorrow at 9am and there's certainly plenty for fans across the country to be excited about: from opening day fixtures to festive feasts, from local derbies to the dramatic end of season run-in.

Tomorrow you'll know how your club's season is shaping up. But for now speculation and anticipation are what it's all about. So we asked our team of writers to tell us which fixtures they'll be looking out for in the morning…

Rhys Griffiths: Derby County v Nottingham Forest  managers under pressure?

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the scheduling of the East Midlands derby when Nottingham Forest head west along Brian Clough Way to face Derby County at the iPro Stadium.

After last season’s disappointing climax, which saw the Rams fall away and miss out on a play-off place entirely, there will be real pressure on Steve McClaren’s successor Paul Clement to make Derby genuine promotion contenders – and few games manage to magnify pressure like the meeting of these old rivals.

Last time around it was then-Forest boss Stuart Pearce who went into the fixture in the spotlight, the team from the Trent having won just two in 20 prior to the iPro clash. With the axe hovering, Forest gave their boss little help when they gifted the hosts a first-half lead, but Britt Assombalonga netted an equaliser before Ben Osborn sparked jubilant scenes – both in the away end and on the touchline – when he hit an injury-time winner.

The win lifted the pressure on Pearce, but only for a short while. Within weeks he was out, to be replaced by Dougie Freedman. So I’ll be interested to see when this fixture falls in 2015/16 because this time around it could be the Derby boss who goes into the game feeling the heat.

Clement takes charge of the Rams with an impressive CV that features coaching spells at Chelsea, Real Madrid and PSG. His mission is straightforward: return County to the top flight. If the Rams go into the home fixture against Forest in poor form, struggling to keep pace at the top end of the Sky Bet Championship, then expect the pre-match focus to be on the man in the Derby hot seat.

A win over local rivals can energise a club and its fans like nothing else, but a loss simply invites more pressure. Will the fixture list revealed tomorrow make the East Midlands derby a pivotal moment in Paul Clement’s first season in the top job?

Ryan Percival: Accrington Stanley v Morecambe – a statistical dream

Local derbies are often close affairs, with head-to-head records separated by the finest of margins, but Morecambe versus Accrington Stanley is an exception.

The Lancashire duo have clashed 24 times over the years, following their first meeting in the 1956/57 FA Cup, but Morecambe have only got the better of their rivals on just three occasions. Five of their other matches have ended level, while Stanley have come out on top in 16 encounters and remain unbeaten in the league against the Shrimps since 2005.

That 3-2 success for Morecambe in September of that year, in the Conference, was soon wiped out with a 2-0 win for Accrington in the reverse fixture, and that has been preceded by 16 undefeated Football League matches for Stanley against their north-west foes. The one exception is the Shrimps' 2-0 beating of their rivals in the 2012/13 Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Since then, however, Accrington's dominance in this Lancashire derby has resumed. They battled out a goalless draw in League 2 a month after losing 2-0 in the Trophy, before goals from Peter Murphy and Padraig Amond gave Stanley a 2-0 success in April 2013.

They then did the double over Morecambe in 2013/14, winning 2-1 away and 5-1 at home – Murphy again on target in the former match – before another 2-1 Stanley victory and, most  recently, a 1-1 draw last term.

Midfield man Murphy has now joined Jim Bentley's Morecambe ranks, after a year with Wycombe Wanderers, and we'll see whether the bragging rights will follow him to the Globe Arena in 2015/16.

John Verrall: Brentford v Queens Park Rangers – a footballing treat

The fixture between Brentford and Queens Park Rangers is the one which has caught my eye the most, when studying next season’s matches.

The two sides are within close proximity of each other, which naturally adds to the tension surrounding the contest, but it should also be a real footballing treat.

QPR are set up to be one of the most exciting, attacking sides in the Sky Bet Championship this season – with Chris Ramsey’s recruitment of young and hungry players making their squad look one of the most vibrant in the second tier.

The additions of Massimo Luongo, Ben Gladwin and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas bring class and flair to the R’s ranks, while they also have a host of high-profile names still at the club. 

Brentford, meanwhile, were one of the most thrilling sides to watch last season in the whole of England. 

Their combative, yet fluid style made them one of the most dangerous teams in the Championship and they fully merited their spot in the play-offs last term. 

With new manager Marinus Dijkhuizen at the helm, Brentford should have some fresh ideas and if he can build upon the foundations which were laid by Mark Warburton then the Bees could be in for a very productive campaign.

By beating QPR they would put a marker down and it would signify a changing of the guard in the rivalry between the two sides.

The R’s have generally held the upper hand between the pair, with recent history placing them in a higher division than Brentford. As a result, this will be the first time that the two have met since the 2003/04 campaign. 

In the overall head-to-head, QPR also have an advantage – having won 21 times, compared with Brentford’s 19 triumphs – but recently they have rarely looked so closely matched, and go into 2015/16 as equals, making their meetings worthy of keeping an eye on.

Chris Rivett: Doncaster Rovers v Fleetwood Town – YouTube gold

Separated by 119 miles, the meeting of Doncaster Rovers and Fleetwood Town doesn't rank too highly in the list of classic Yorkshire/Lancashire match-ups but, after last season's end-of-season encounter, there will be big derbies all over the country next season that will do well to get the post-match coverage this one did in 2014/15.

A crowd of 6,211, including 125 from the Cod Army, watched the two Sky Bet League 1 mid-table sides play out a goalless draw at the end of April. With Rovers mathematically unable to reach the Play-Offs at that stage of the season, the game could almost be classified as an early pre-season friendly for Paul Dickov's side.

The match at the Keepmoat was unremarkable, at best, however that hasn't stopped more than 864,000 views of the match highlights on YouTube. None of the 15 shots off target and nine fruitless corners made the final edit, what did though warranted a standing ovation for the club's media department.

The 27-second video 'lowlights' featured the kick-off and the final whistle, and became a viral sensation that has inspired several copycat efforts from clubs around the world. 

When the sides cross paths again next season it will be for only the third time in Football League history. Whatever happens in either League 1 fixture, they'll do well to better the coverage this meeting got last term, but it still remains one worth keeping an eye out for.

Dan Connor: Bristol City v Wolverhampton Wanderers – guaranteed goals

At a glance, Bristol City against Wolverhampton Wanderers may not be the first fixture that jumps out at the club’s respective fans on fixture release day, but there are plenty of reasons to relish their meetings in the Sky Bet Championship. 

City romped to a near-perfect season last time out to claim the Sky Bet League 1 crown by an eight-point margin, and also lifted the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley back in March to become the first side in the history of the competition to win it three times. Their rewards were undeniably just, and they produced some scintillating football en route to glory.

Entertainment was a prominent theme in their memorable year, and it could prove to be once again in the high-octane division that is the Championship. The Robins will unleash their exciting armoury upon English football’s second tier, with the likes of Luke Freeman, Kieran Agard, Marlon Pack and Joe Bryan all preparing to feature at a higher level. Their sturdy defence - which conceded a League 1-best of 38 goals last term - will also test their resolve in a typically prolific division. 

While Bristol City are newcomers to the Sky Bet Championship, Wolves could quite easily have been promoted from it last month. Kenny Jackett’s men missed out on the Play-Offs on goal difference only, with the deadly trio of Benik Afobe, Nouha Dicko and Bakary Sako netting 42 league goals between them on the road to their near-miss. While Sako's contract expires at the end of this month, Afobe and Dicko are set to remain at Molineux, and a first full season as a strike partnership is a mouth-watering prospect.   

In behind or wide of them in the new campaign will be one of The Football League’s most exciting prospects, Jed Wallace, who arrives from 15-goal season with Portsmouth. His rise will be one worth monitoring, and his arrival is another reason that Wolves look in good shape to score plenty of goals once again.

In short, Bristol City and Wolves are two sides packed full of fledgling talent, who last year were not afraid to take the game to opponents and produce week-in, week-out. Goalless stalemates have been rare between the two in their competitive history – five times in 59 games - and their clashes in 2015/16 point in the direction of that figure remaining small. 

Alex Butcher: The Essex Derby  A rivalry renewed

After five seasons apart, the 2015/16 season will see Colchester United and Southend United lock horns again.

The Football League's two Essex clubs were separated at the end of the 2009/10 season, when Southend were relegated from League 1, and their rivals showed no sympathy during that campaign.

Colchester took six points from the two meetings - winning 2-1 away and 2-0 at home - with Anthony Wordsworth doing the damage with three of the four goals that the U's put past the Shrimpers. 

One man certainly looking to put that right this time around will be Adam Barrett. The centre-back skippered Southend throughout that campaign and, now in his second spell at Roots Hall, will have the chance to put things right when the sides go head-to-head again.

With Southend winning just one of the previous six encounters, Colchester certainly have the bragging rights, but it would be hard to pick a favourite if you look back over the 2014/15 campaign.

The two clubs very nearly avoided each other once more, with both sides leaving it late to book their Sky Bet League 1 status.

Colchester endured a torrid campaign which saw them facing relegation on the last day of the season, with only a win likely to extend their stay in the third tier. They managed it, defeating a promotion-chasing Preston North End side 1-0, and then it was over to Southend.

A day prior to the League 1 finale, Southend had slipped out of Sky Bet League 2's top three when a defeat at Morecambe cost them automatic promotion. Phil Brown's side had to dust themselves off and go again in the play-offs.

At Wembley, the Shrimpers were just seconds away from defeat but a dramatic Joe Pigott equaliser followed by penalty shoot-out success over Wycombe Wanderers saw them return to League 1.

Will Colchester struggle once more? Will Southend be able to continue their fine form at a higher level? It will be another thrilling Sky Bet League 1 campaign that's for sure, and these two fixtures will certainly add to the drama.

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