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Monday, 20 August 2012

The View Outside The Premier League: Fleetwood fire blanks and Pompey players get to know each other


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Sqf hugh larkin

A new football season always throws up some unusual stories on day one but there can have been few beginnings to a campaign quite like Portsmouth's. Amazingly Pompey came away with a point from their first League One encounter despite sending out a whole team of debutants.

Before he joined the south coast club Michael Appleton had a reputation as a man with a bright managerial future - and he's certainly getting the chance to prove it in grim circumstances. Thus far the ex-Man United trainee has shown admirable patience and grit to deal with the chaotic situation at Fratton Park.

One thing Pompey's new players will not lack is support. The fervent backing of the home fans might be enough to keep the team competitive and able to stabilise in League One despite  another 10-point penalty.

On this occasion the new squad weren't quite able to see it through against south coast rivals Bournemouth but they did enough to suggest there is hope for the troubled club this season.

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Up on Lancashire's west coast it proved to be a frustrating first day in League football for The Cod Army. Fleetwood Town swept all before them in the Blue Square but came up against an obdurate Torquay United side to open their career as one of the 92.

There are days when Fleetwood will play worse and take all three points so manager Micky Mellon won't be too displeased with a 0-0 as he's still bedding in a number of new signings with League experience.

This was the kind of day to have the home fans lamenting the departure of star striker Jamie Vardy to Leicester City, but the cash from that sale has been invested in solid professionals like Jon Parkin, Youl Mawene and Barry Nicholson, who will provide valuable ballast in the first League campaign.

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In the Championship Watford pulled off one of the most eye-catching results by coming from behind to win 3-2 at Crystal Palace. The Hornets did it with two goals from a pair of their loan signings from Granada and Udinese.

Altogether Watford have five loanees from these two clubs although the starting 11 for Saturday's game was still based around players who are owned by the Hornets. This approach has echoes of Doncaster's strategy last season but Rovers mainly dealt in experienced players looking to get in the shop window and back to Premier League.

Under Gianfranco Zola, Watford are employing younger, hungrier players who can advance their careers by a spell in what is the fifth or sixth best supported league in Europe. Almen Abdi who scored against palace is a Swiss full international and Matej Vydra is a Czech under-21 cap.

If Zola can integrate this calibre of player he may be able to accelerate development at Watford and even make a play-off challenge this season.

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Blackpool began their season showing no hangover from their desperate defeat in the play-off final Ian Holloway is hardly the kind of man to mope over ill fortune and true to form the Tangerines started on fire at Millwall.

Heavily involved were a pair of key names who need to hit form if Blackpool are to match last season's great effort. Thomas Ince bagged a brace and Holloway will want to see the transfer window safely shut to keep his star midfielder at Bloomfield Road.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher probed Millwall's defence with his usual energy and intelligence and with a cloud over Matt Phillips's future, this pair are vital to Blackpool's attacking endeavours.

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Just three games into the season and Newport County boast the only 100 per cent record in the Blue Square Premier. New striker Aaron O'Connor is off to a flying start with five goals in just three outings and County fans are hoping for a return to the Football League to coincide with the club's centenary.

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Hugh Larkin

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