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While many fans and pundits alike wrote them off before a ball had even been kicked, Ian Holloway’s Blackpool have made an impressive start to their first top flight campaign since 1971. For regular followers of the Tangerines, the style with which they swept aside Wigan on the opening day of the season will have come as no surprise. Their commitment to attack will no doubt continue to thrill neutrals, but Blackpool must ensure they do not leave their defence exposed, a situation that Arsenal have already ruthlessly exploited.
At the other end of the field, finding a regular goal-scorer may prove to be a problem as Holloway must rely on the inconsistent Marlon Harewood and untested pair of Luke Varney and Gary Taylor-Fletcher. However, if the hugely influential Charlie Adam can reproduce the form he showed in Blackpool’s play-off winning campaign, Bloomfield Road may host top-level football for seasons to come.
Preston fans will no doubt be casting envious glances towards their Lancashire rivals. While Blackpool can look forward to glamour ties with some of Europe’s finest clubs; Deepdale may well see another season of struggle. Their patchy home form continued with an opening day reverse against unfancied Doncaster. A recent fixture provided an exhibition of North End’s fragile confidence – a 3-1 lead was meekly surrendered as Burnley snatched a remarkable 4-3 victory.
Darren Ferguson will be encouraged by his side’s ability to find the net, with new signing Paul Hayes providing support for regular front man Jon Parkin. The major concern for Preston will be finding a centre half partner for Sean St.Ledger after the loss of talismanic cult-hero Youl Mawéné.
Another Lancashire side looking to rebuild after the loss of established players are Morecambe. The Shrimps released Michael Twiss and Wayne Curtis after a combined 20 years of service and have struggled to bring in players of similar quality, resulting in them propping up the Football League with a month of the season played. A potential Johnestone’s Paint Trophy run was also scuppered by a disappointing defeat away to Macclesfield.
Sammy McIlory is experienced at this level and will be confident of ensuring Morecambe climb out of trouble in their first season at the Globe Arena after 89 years at Christie Park. Many supporters feel a second consecutive play-off campaign is achievable, especially following the acquisition of pacey winger Chris Shuker from Tranmere to supply the veteran Paul Mullin.
Lancaster City will also be aiming to improve on a successful 2009/10 performance. However, as is typical with many non-league sides, a host of players have moved on and the squad barely resembles that from last season. The biggest loss was that of Jordan Connerton to League 2 side Crewe; finding a replacement to the prolific front-man will represent a major challenge for the Dolly Blues this season. The other main issue remains – dwindling crowds. If this season sees averages of around 200 it could test the club’s finances to breaking point.
Successful contract negotiations with Andrew Teague were the high point of Lancaster’s pre-season. The centre half will be a valuable asset, providing football-league experience and inspirational leadership. Despite much upheaval, Lancaster recorded a 2-0 victory over AFC Fylde on the opening day.
A final mention must go to two local clubs with contrasting starts. Wigan have started catastrophically, conceding ten goals in their first two games. With a raft of new faces brought in at the DW stadium, Roberto Martinez’s side must gel quickly.
In contrast, Fleetwood Town have taken well to Blue-Square Premier League football. They currently lie in a play-off position and thanks to financial backing from a wealthy owner, have a squad capable of remaining at the right end of the table
With a number of Lancashire clubs looking to establish themselves in unfamiliar leagues, this season may prove to be one of consolidation. Nonetheless, there will be some memorable moments this term, and with so much football on your doorstep why not make the effort to go and watch your local football club live.