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Throwback Thursday: Football League opening-day drama

11 June 2015

With the 2015/16 fixture release day coming up on 17th June, we've taken a look back at some of the most memorable opening days across the three Football League divisions.

Championship - Saturday 10th August 2012

Not a classic for goalscoring reasons necessarily, the start of the 2012/13 Championship season sparked a 10-month tale of Hollywood-style redemption and retribution.

With seven teams failing to score, there were only 23 goals netted over 11 games, but one fixture in particular stood out.

In his first game in charge of Watford, Gianfranco Zola took the Hornets to Selhurst Park, finding themselves 2-1 down to Crystal Palace at half-time. It stayed that way until Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra netted in the 88th and 90th minutes respectively to secure all three points for the visitors.

Palace would have to wait all season but their revenge was confirmed in May 2013 when they beat Watford 1-0 at Wembley Stadium in the Championship Play-Off Final, to earn promotion to the Premier League and reverse their opening-day fortunes.

Three clubs who were unable to turn it around though, were Bristol City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Peterborough United. The trio each lost their first fixture and went on to suffer relegation to League 1 - Peterborough with a record-high points total for a relegated team in the Championship.

There were also late goals on the opening day from Nikola Zigic (Birmingham City) and Reda Johnson (Sheffield Wednesday) to rescue a point for their clubs against Charlton Athletic and Derby County respectively.

League 1 - Saturday 8th August 2009

The curtain-raising day in the 2009/10 League 1 season was nothing short of breathtaking, especially at Carrow Road.

Following relegation from the Championship, Norwich City got off to the worst possible start by suffering a humiliating 7-1 home defeat at hands of Paul Lambert's Colchester United. Canaries manager Bryan Gunn lasted just one more match before being replaced by Lambert, who left
the U's after less than a year in charge.

The former Scotland international inspired a remarkable upturn in fortunes and guided the Canaries to the League 1 title, losing only eight more times over the following 44 games.

Elsewhere on the first day, Leeds United edged out Exeter City 2-1 to get their season off to a winning start and they eventually secured the second automatic promotion spot. Millwall, who drew 1-1 with Southampton on the first Saturday, went up via the Play-Offs.

Colchester's victory at Norwich was one of four away wins on the opening day with Walsall, Leyton Orient and Brentford being the other victors on the road, against Brighton and Hove Albion, Bristol Rovers and Carlisle United respectively.

Bristol Rovers went on to be relegated, alongside Stockport County, Southend United and Gillingham.

On the first day, County drew 0-0 with Oldham Athletic and Southend let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 with Huddersfield Town, while the Gills thumped Swindon Town 5-0 – a result which gave no indication of how their season would ultimately pan out.

League 2 - Saturday 3rd August 2013

The 2013/14 Sky Bet League 2 season started in some style with the 12 opening-day games producing 33 goals, and two clubs new to life in the division shared contrasting fortunes.

Newport County - newly promoted to Sky Bet League 2 – had a memorable first day as they recorded a 4-1 win over Accrington Stanley, while Portsmouth lost by the same scoreline at home to Oxford United following their relegation from Sky Bet League 1 in the previous season.

Pompey ended up finishing above Newport, however, with the pair sitting comfortably mid-table in 13th and 14th respectively come May.

Chesterfield, Scunthorpe United and Rochdale all secured opening-day victories without conceding, which proved to be a sign of things to come as the three sides battled it out for the League 2 title until the very last day of the season, when the Spireites eventually came out on top.

Fleetwood Town defeated Dagenham & Redbridge 3-1 at Highbury to get what was only their second Football League campaign off to a flyer, and they ended up joining the aforementioned trio in sealing promotion, via a Play-Off Final win over Burton Albion.

There were just two draws from the first round of fixtures of 2013/14 with Burton picking up a point in a 2-2 draw at Cheltenham Town, and Torquay United sharing the spoils with AFC Wimbledon at Plainmoor.

Torquay went on to finish bottom of the division and were relegated along with Bristol Rovers, whose campaign started with a 2-1 loss at Exeter and ended with final-day heartbreak at home to Mansfield, which saw them drop into the Conference.

They made an immediate return last term, however, and supporters of the Gas, along with fans of the other 71 clubs, will find out their respective 2015/16 schedules at 9am on 17th June.

Follow The Football League on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use the hashtag #FixtureReleaseDay to make sure you don’t miss a thing from now until 17th June and beyond.

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