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OPENING DAY ENCOUNTERS

16 June 2014

A look back at our opening day fixtures from the past decade...

THE PAST decade has seen The Saddlers fare well on the opening day of the season with no fewer than six victories from our ten games.

Six of those encounters have been on home soil, including a run of four successive opening day starts here at Banks’s Stadium since 2010.

Going back to 2004/05, and following relegation out of the second-tier of English football, it was a new generation of Saddlers that took to the field against a Port Vale side that included Dean Smith in the heart of its back-line in what proved to be his final campaign as a player.

That youthful exuberance was rewarded as teenagers Matty Fryatt, Leroy Williams and Daryl Taylor gave us a 3-2 victory.

The following season saw us on our travels as we took on Rotherham United and ran out 2-1 winners thanks to Kris Taylor and Jorge Leitao, however, it was to be a campaign that was to end in relegation.

Our League Two Championship-winning season also started with a northern adventure on the opening day as the returning Martin Butler gave us a hard-earned 1-0 victory in a game which saw a highly-rated Australian by the name of Allan Picken make his one and only start in our defence before suffering at the hands of injury.

We returned to home action at the start of 2007/08 as we shared the spoils with Carlisle United.

For the second season in a row it was a striker signed during the summer who got onto the scoresheet as Tommy Mooney cancelled out an early opener from our visitors, who included Zigor Aranalde in their starting line-up.

It was another 1-1 draw at the start of 2008/09, this time at Yeovil Town, as, yet again, it was a front-man brought in during the summer – Jabo Ibehre – who made an instant impact with an equaliser towards the end.

An own goal proved the difference at Brighton & Hove Albion in 2009/10 as The Saddlers came home from the Withdean Stadium with an excellent three points from a 1-0 success.

We were back on home soil to start the 2010/11 campaign only for us to suffer a rare opening day set-back with MK Dons
taking home the points following a 2-1 victory.

Manny Smith was on target with The Saddlers’ goal.

The script was written at the start of the following season as we played host to Leyton Orient.

Midfield man, Adam Chambers, arrived at Banks’s Stadium from The O’s during the summer after five years and almost 200 appearances for the London club, and it was his sweet strike for his new club that proved to be the difference.

We’d already started the 2012/13 season with a League Cup clash, but our League One programme got underway with a heavy 3-0 home defeat at the hands of newly-relegated Doncaster Rovers.

And so to last season. Once more we were given a home start and this time we made a positive opening with a 3-1 victory over Tranmere Rovers.

Two goals from Craig Westcarr and a strike from Chelsea loanee, Milan Lalkovic, gave plenty of cause for optimism as we played some neat and attractive football on our way to the victory.

So, where will we start the 2014/15 campaign? You can find out first here on www.saddlers.co.uk on Wednesday morning...

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