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The countdown to 21/22 starts here!

24 June 2021

As they embark on a journey into the Sky Bet EFL unknown, Sutton United will at least be able to begin by meeting a few familiar faces.

The fixture computer has pitted the newest EFL club against three recent opponents from the National League ahead of a daunting magical mystery tour of Sky Bet League Two grounds this season.

Matt Gray’s side visit Forest Green Rovers on the opening day before hosting Salford City in the first-ever EFL match to be played at Gander Green Lane on 14 August.

Three days later, they meet Hartlepool United, the team who were promoted with them, before the real voyage of discovery begins.

Amazingly, Sutton have played a grand total of just 36 league matches in their history against the 23 opponents they will face in Sky Bet League Two.

They will be playing against 13 Clubs for the first time ever while they have previously only faced Swindon Town and Colchester United in the FA Cup.

Gray’s team should have the advantage of stealth on their side for the opening weeks of the new campaign. COVID-19 regulations meant that tickets for Clubs to scout opponents last season were largely restricted to teams within the same division.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool, who only won promotion via the National League Play-Offs on Sunday, will not have to wait long to renew rivalries with some traditional northern EFL foes.

Dave Challinor will take his Pools side across the Pennines to face Barrow in their opening away trip of the new season. The sides have not faced each other in the EFL since 1972.

A fortnight later, Carlisle United will make the opposite journey from Cumbria to visit Victoria Park, a ground from which they have returned unbeaten on their past four visits.

Traditional rivalries will be refreshed throughout the Sky Bet EFL this season.

The Sky Bet Championship sees Hull City return after one season and Sheffield United return after two to join Barnsley and Huddersfield Town and maintain Yorkshire’s quota of Yorkshire derbies in the EFL’s top division, following the relegations of Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United to Sky Bet League One.

Further west, Blackpool’s promotion means the Tangerines will face Preston North End again in league competition for the first time in 12 seasons.

The sides meet at Bloomfield Road on 23 October before Neil Critchley’s side make the 17-mile trip to Deepdale on 19 March.

Having spent a single season in the Premier League, West Bromwich Albion will renew rivalries with cross-city rivals Birmingham City on 16 October.

Meanwhile, Lee Bowyer’s Blues will be playing the usual 23 Sky Bet Championship fixtures at their St Andrew’s home this season instead of the 24 they enjoyed last campaign.

That is because their tenants for the past two seasons, Coventry City, are returning to the Ricoh Arena. Birmingham will make the short journey on Tuesday 23 November, an evening to savour for Sky Blues and Bluenoses alike.

The Peterborough United fans who missed out on witnessing their club’s promotion campaign will be opening their route maps and Googling new grounds to attend in support of Darren Ferguson’s men.

It is 12 years since Posh last visited Swansea City and Queens Park Rangers for league fixtures. The dates 30 October and 19 March, respectively, are those to look out for, while they will also travel to Stoke City (20 November) for the first time in 20 years and Fulham (23 February) for the first meeting in 30 seasons.

Sky Bet League One new boys Morecambe will meet five new EFL opponents in the 2021/22 season – Sunderland, Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic, the only side they met in non-league football.

Two of those encounters come in August with a trip to Portman Road to face Ipswich on opening day, before they welcome Wednesday and Owls fans to Morecambe Bay on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

There will be plenty of North West derbies for the Shrimps to enjoy in their debut season in Sky Bet League One, too.

As well as Wigan and Morecambe’s fellow promoted side Bolton Wanderers, Fleetwood Town will travel up from the Fylde Coast, while former player John Coleman will bring his Accrington Stanley team on 25 September.

Under new manager Stephen Robinson, Morecambe will be hoping to redress a poor record against Stanley. Of 22 previous EFL meetings, all in Sky Bet League Two, Accrington have won 14 and lost just two.

In contrast to Morecambe, Cheltenham Town’s only west country derby in the club’s first Sky Bet League One campaign since 2008/09 will be against Plymouth Argyle.

What an occasion it promises to be, too, with the Pilgrims visiting Whaddon Road on Boxing Day before the return fixture at Home Park on 5 February.

Entertainment should be guaranteed when the fourth promoted side, Cambridge United, meet Sunderland on 27 November. The sides have only ever met 11 times before (including an EFL Cup tie in 2002 which Sunderland won 7-0), but those encounters have featured a total of 47 goals.

Head west if you want to witness local derbies in Sky Bet League Two, with relegated sides Swindon Town and Bristol Rovers joining Forest Green Rovers, Exeter City and Newport County in the division.

In Greater Manchester, relegated Rochdale will meet Oldham Athletic for the 57th time in the EFL, and Salford City for the first occasion.

And note the date, too, of Tuesday 7 December, when Port Vale manager Darrell Clarke returns to Bristol Rovers for the first time since leaving the club he led back into the Sky Bet EFL in 2015 and then into League One 12 months later.

At the time of his departure from the Memorial Ground in December 2018, Clarke had been in charge of Rovers for 246 games, 104 of which were won.

Let the countdown begin!

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