Leeds, Wigan and Preston bid to maintain opening-day runs

Leeds, Wigan and Preston bid to maintain opening-day runs

The EFL fixtures for the new season were announced on Thursday – but what can we expect from the first round of matches?

In contrast to the Premier League, where Manchester City have won their last eight opening fixtures, Manchester United four in a row and Liverpool five of their last six, only three Championship teams can even boast winning starts in each of the last two seasons.

Leeds, who start at Bristol City, beat Bolton 3-2 and then Stoke 3-1, while Wigan – who host Cardiff in the opening round of 2019-20 fixtures – defeated MK Dons 1-0 and then Sheffield Wednesday 3-2.

Liam Cooper, second right, celebrates scoring for Leeds in last season's opening win against Stoke

Liam Cooper, second right, celebrates scoring for Leeds in last season’s opening win against Stoke (Nigel French/PA)

Preston, who open at Millwall, have had 1-0 wins over Wednesday and QPR, but prior to 2017-18 had been winless in eight openers.

Derby are unbeaten on the first weekend of the season for the last 10 years, with five wins and five draws, but before last season’s win over Reading they had drawn three in a row.

Stoke have the worst recent record having not started with a win since 2009, when they beat Burnley. They have spent much of the time since in the Premier League but have six defeats and three draws,  losing five of the last six. Sam Vokes offers hope, though – he has netted four times on the opening day of a season.

The only other teams with back-to-back opening losses are Wednesday and the Royals, who face each other on August 3 at the Madejski Stadium.

Taking a longer-term view over the last 20 years, Leeds have the most opening-day wins with 13 as only they and newly-promoted Luton, with 10, can boast a win rate of 50 per cent or more. Town’s James Collins has scored seven times on opening day, including a hat-trick in 2017’s 8-2 win over Yeovil.

Huddersfield, West Brom, Stoke and Barnsley have each lost at least half of their openers – the Tykes won last season but had lost the previous five. Derby, who open at Huddersfield, have drawn 10 out of 20 and have the fewest defeats – three, also Middlesbrough’s mark for fewest wins.

Ipswich defend a five-match unbeaten run on opening day as they travel to Burton in League One – Albion have lost their last three openers. Portsmouth are also unbeaten in five and travel to Shrewsbury.

Peterborough, who start at home to Fleetwood, have won five of the last six and seven out of nine – their only blips coming with defeat to Rochdale in 2015 and Leicester in 2012’s Championship.

The teams promoted from League Two last season have started well in recent years, with champions Lincoln unbeaten in their last eight curtain-raisers – albeit six in the National League and the last two in League Two.

Lincoln celebrate a goal
Lincoln have a strong record on day one (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Bury have three successive opening wins, while MK Dons have only one opening defeat in 10 years and have won four of their last five, suggesting something has to give when the newly promoted pair meet at Gigg Lane on August 3.

Tranmere, who host Rochdale, are unbeaten in five day-one contests.

Bristol Rovers are on a four-season losing run on opening day and winless in seven, with 2011’s 3-2 win over AFC Wimbledon their only three-point start in the last 14 seasons. Rotherham, who open at Wimbledon, are winless in six.

In League Two, Swindon and Port Vale are the form teams on day one.

The Robins, who begin at Scunthorpe, have opened with a win for the last five seasons, while Vale are unbeaten in 14, split evenly between draws and wins. The Potteries side travel to Colchester, who have started with a draw in four out of the last five seasons.

Relegated Plymouth have lost their last three openers and six out of seven, while Carlisle are winless in eight, losing five. Newport reached the play-offs last season but have only one point in their last five opening-day fixtures.

Stevenage will begin their campaign away from home for the first time since 2008 when they visit EFL newcomers Salford.

The Ammies are winless in four and, despite their rapid rise from the North West Counties League, they have a mixed opening-day record over the last 20 years which includes defeats to Atherton Collieries, Warrington Town and Trafford.