Opening days sorted for Blackpool and Fleetwood Town

Fleetwood skipper Mark Roberts
Fleetwood skipper Mark Roberts

Blackpool could hardly have been handed a tougher start to the Championship season.

Jose Riga’s new-look side will be in at the deep end at Nottingham Forest on the opening day, closely followed by a Lancashire derby at home to Blackburn Rovers (with a Capital One Cup visit to Shrewsbury in between).

Pool have only six senior players on their books and have been made the bookies’ favourites for relegation (13/8 with Sky Bet).

Pool can take heart from taking four points off Forest last season, when Stephen Dobbie’s injury-time goal sealed victory at the City Ground.

Tom Barkhuizen was a substitute in that game and he said: “Hopefully I’ll make the starting 11. Their ground seems to have been a lucky one for us.”

Pool’s testing opening month also brings visits to Wigan and Millwall, where they suffered their first defeat last season after a record-breaking start.

As expected, there are no fixtures on New Year’s Day, after all clubs play twice in three days immediately after Christmas.

Fleetwood Town will open their first League One campaign at home to Crewe Alexandra – one of four sides from this division they dumped out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy lastseason.

That 4-0 win at Highbury was one of the highlights of the season but skipper Mark Roberts, a former Alex player, warned the August 9 encounter would be very different.

He told The Gazette: “We all remember that game last season. But cup games are a one-off and we know we can’t expect the same thing to happen.

“It’s great to be starting off at home but this is going to be a strong league.”

The centre-half began his professional career with Crewe and insists he’ll only be thinking about three points.

He said: “I had 10 great years there and have some great memories, but I’ve played against them a few times since.”

Town may be venturing into the unknown but their first five fixtures, including their Capital One Cup trip to Rotherham, are all against sides they faced last season, including games against Scunthorpe and Chesterfield who won promotion with them.

Town are 20/1 to take the League One title and 6/1 to seal promotion, though also sixth- favourites for the drop at 5/1 with Sky Bet.