While fans should never read too much into the result on the opening day, there are times when a win can have a significant impact on how the season pans out. For Leamington Football Club, coming off the back of relegation from the National League North meant that the club arrived at the start of the 2023/2024 season in desperate need of breaking their losing habit.
Start as you mean to go
While dropping down into a league should in theory provide a team with a chance of winning more games as the opposition isn’t as strong, the reality is that it isn’t as straightforward as that. A good example of how complicated life after relegation can be could be found in the Championship over the opening weekend when Leeds United took on relegation-tipped Cardiff City. Despite having the better team, the Whites could only scrape a last-gasp draw and tellingly, Leeds’ Championship title odds have risen to 6/1 following the 2-2 thriller at Elland Road.
🗣️ "It's a scandal that we didn't win this game."
Manager Daniel Farke gives his reaction after Leeds United's stoppage time equaliser earns them a 2-2 draw against Cardiff in their Championship opener.
— BBC Sport West Yorkshire (@BBCWYS) August 6, 2023
With the dramatic events in West Yorkshire in mind, you can get a better idea of why football fans across the country always hold their breath on the opening day as the new season begins; will it be joy or pain over the next nine months? The bottom line is that it is imperative to get off to a good start, especially if losing has become second nature.
The Brakes are off
For those Leamington fans heading down to the Your Co-Op Community Stadium for the Brakes’ first fixture against Long Eaton United, the same pre-match sentiment would have been true after an indifferent 12 months of results. An agonising relegation by just two points the season before meant a return to the Southern Premier League Central for the first time since the 2016/2017 campaign. In short, the new season brought just as much uncertainty.
To make matters even trickier during their first assignment back in the league, Leamington’s opponents had just been promoted during the 2022/2023 season which meant that Long Eaton arrived in Warwickshire with the all-important momentum that the Brakes were without. To that end, there was a feeling around the league before kick-off that the Blues would claim a notable scalp with one club in freefall while the other was on the rise.
However, a battling performance from Paul Holleran’s men ensured that Leamington were able to keep the opening-day blues at bay after winning 2-1. Admittedly, there is a lot to work on for Holleran and his charges who were, at times, fortunate not to go behind with Long Eaton guilty of passing up a few excellent chances.
⚽️ | Southern Football League Premier Central Division
Full Time: @LeamingtonFC 2-1 Long Eaton United
— Long Eaton United FC (@LongEatonUnited) August 5, 2023
Irrespective of Long Eaton’s slow start in front of goal, the truth is that on the day, all that mattered was three points in order to bring the feel-good factor back to Leamington Football Club.
New season, new hope
A new season can bring new hope and after just 90 minutes Leamington will have rediscovered a sense of long-lost optimism.
With this now secured, the Brakes will undoubtedly have a spring in their step as they look to establish a winning rhythm that will give the club a strong foundation for promotion.
Article written by Chris M