Bans, boats and Barnsley

28 Aug

Swindon Town v Bristol Rovers


Welcoming West Country weather greeted Swindon and Bristol Rovers at the County Ground

Glorious summer sunshine and fully-fit footballers raring to go in the early weeks of the new season. A perfect recipe, so what could possibly go wrong?

The English Football League is back into the swing of things and there is optimism aplenty for those leading their respective divisions after four weeks.

Table-topping Huddersfield are unbeaten in the Championship, Bolton and Bradford are leading the way in League One and Morecambe have won four from five in the third tier.

But BBC Sport takes a look at five things that may have escaped your attention from the EFL action, including a cautionary tale and some mixed injury fortunes.

The ‘Great British Summer’

“Let’s take in the football, have a barbecue and then make the most of the long weekend.”

Swindon's social media team summed up the British summer perfectly<!–

Or maybe, “Let’s get soaked at the football, watching a soon-to-abandoned match, then drown our sorrows with a takeaway and cancel the camping trip”.

The Great British Summer delivered in fine style in the West Country on Saturday afternoon, with torrential rain forcing the match between Swindon and Bristol Rovers to be called off after 60 minutes.

Early signs were hardly encouraging and – much like England’s Euro 2016 campaign – things started badly and got worse.

Referee Oliver Langford made the decision to give the game up as a bad idea 20 minutes after the players left poolside to dry out and that was that.

Swindon Town FC<!–

And things didn’t get any better…

A cautionary tale for a Cobblers midfielder

Most footballers are desperate to get the dreaded pre-season out of the way and return to action after a lengthy summer devoid of the beautiful game.

It seems that combative Northampton Town midfielder John-Joe O’Toole was a bit too desperate.

The 27-year-old is already facing a ban having earned his fifth yellow card by the end of August. His barely-earned break follows being put on the naughty step in the games against Barnsley, Oldham, AFC Wimbledon and West Brom.

John-Joe O'Toole of Northampton and West Brom's James McClean<!–

John-Joe O’Toole got a yellow card against West Brom but caution number four of the season did not serve as a good enough warning

He completed his quintet of cautions in the 1-1 draw with Coventry so will be watching from the sidelines when the Cobblers face Wycombe in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday.

O’Toole actually avoided a booking in the season opener against Fleetwood but has since found considerable consistency, with yellow cards in five of the next six matches.

Birmingham City’s David Davis was also on four bookings after seeing yellow in every one of Blues’ opening four Championship fixtures but had a better afternoon. He was unable to keep pace with O’Toole, but did score his side’s first goal in the 3-0 victory over Norwich.

Lapping up the goals Trentside

Some Nottingham Forest fans are determined to make the most of the rich entertainment on offer at the City Ground this season.

Forza_Garibaldi Twitter<!–

Forest fans enjoyed the journey and the result against Leeds

Not content with lapping up every moment of the three home wins from three, and the 18 goals they have already witnessed, a group of Reds fans called Forza_Garibaldi on Twitter decided to elongate the day by hiring boats to travel in style up and down the Trent.

Arriving suitably relaxed and refreshed after a trip on the good ships “Silenzi”, “Rosario” and “Bonalair” [all named after cult heroes], is all well and good – but football is a results business after all.

Pajtim Kasami<!–

Pajtim Kasami’s goal didn’t open the floodgates but did set Forest on their way to victory against Leeds

Thankfully for Forest followers, successive 4-3 home wins were followed by a 3-1 victory over Leeds United and they are now dangling their feet in play-off waters.

The Reds had already scored eight goals in two home games before Saturday, and they did not manage to hit that target until 28 November last season when the first goal in a 3-1 win over Reading saw them reach that mark – in their ninth game.

It’s vastly different this season.

Short-term showing and subbing the sub

Stefan Payne<!–

Stefan Payne has been a prolific scorer in non-league football with Dover Athletic

Spare a thought for Barnsley’s Stefan Payne, whose attempts to make a good impression after coming on as a substitute went wrong through no fault of his own.

Payne, a summer signing from Dover, had made four appearances from the bench for the Tykes so far and was itching to prove his worth against Rotherham, but pulled up injured inside three minutes of coming on for last season’s top scorer Sam Winnall.

Well, at least no harm was done to the team’s performance… in fact, the replacement for the replacement, Tom Bradshaw, netted his first goal for the Tykes and helped the team win 4-0.

Barnsley FC Twitter<!–

Tom Bradshaw made the most of his chance, scoring the third goal to help the Tykes go third in the Championship

An injury and quite possibly a step back in the pecking order. It could have gone better.

The long, long, long, long road to recovery

Shaun Barker has got used to proving the doubters wrong. The former Derby County captain has been doing so for four-and-a-half years following a terrible injury which most people thought would end his career.

Even wife Rebecca has admitted she actually wondered whether her husband would walk again after seeing the state his leg was in soon after he dislocated his knee and ruptured ligaments in March 2012.

On Friday night the 33-year-old stepped on to the pitch for Burton Albion in the last few seconds of the victory over his former club, thereby completing a remarkable journey back to competitive football.

Shaun Barker<!–

Shaun Barker only played for just over a minute against Derby but said his appearance made every moment of his lengthy recovery worthwhile

The Brewers’ victory over near neighbours Derby in a league match in England’s second tier was incredible enough for a club so tiny in stature, who were playing non-league football as recently as 2009.

But Barker’s emotional return, which saw him applauded by both sets of fans and receive much love and respect on social media, was perhaps even more astonishing.

Shaun Barker Twitter<!–

Rebecca Barker<!–

Rebecca Barker was not alone in feeling emotional about Shaun’s return, but no one can have felt greater pride

Subscribe to the BBC Sport newsletter to get our pick of news, features and video sent to your inbox.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

No comments yet

Leave a Reply