Salford City’s SkyBet League Two campaign begins on Saturday at home to Exeter City, six months after the premature end of the 2019-20 season.
It is another home start for The Ammies as they embark on a second EFL campaign with sights firmly set on promotion.
Last season’s 11th place finish was a grounding of sorts and this summer has seen the arrival of more experienced, leadership-style characters, but manager Graham Alexander says the new season brings a renewed optimism for all clubs.
“We’re all excited about it, like I said six months is a long time when you haven’t played a league game and by twist of fate it’s Exeter who was the opponent when it all ground to a halt.
“It’ll all be tough this season and we have to make sure we’re ready for that and continue what we’ve been working on in pre-season. But you know it’s, this is the date that we’ve been working towards, not just in pre-season but before that, looking after the players during lockdown, this was the carrot at the end of the line that everyone was running towards to get to that first league game.
“The first game of the season is always a game that every team goes into full of hope and ambition, I think it’s a new start for everybody so regardless of what you did last season, good, bad or indifferent, new seasons always bring fresh hope, new squads, new players, new teams.
“You’ve got to play everyone over the course, everyone’s destiny will be defined over the course of the season, not on the first game so we have to just focus on what it is and it’s a tough game. It’s at home and we want to win, but we also know Exeter want to win so that should make it a competitive game.”
The Grecians were one of last season’s top performers and came within 90 minutes of promotion to League One, but were beaten 4-0 by Northampton Town in the play-off final in June; their third final defeat in four seasons.
Matt Taylor’s side will be hoping to avoid the chance of the play-offs this season by breaking into the top three, but key to that will be maintaining form. Last season Exeter went unbeaten at the start of the campaign until the end of September and even topped the table before eventually finishing fifth on points per game.
While there have been a few departures, winger Randell Williams remains at the Club after a league high 14 assists in 2019-20, and chipping in five goals too. If Taylor can get the same levels and a bit more out of the youngster, they will be well set for a promotion tilt.
We only had the one game against Exeter in 2019-20 due to the impact of the virus, which the Grecians won 1-0 at The Peninsula Stadium in December.
The Ammies had the upper hand of the game, but Ryan Bowman – who finished as top scorer in 2019-20 – scored the only goal of the game as Exeter returned south with all three points.
HOW TO WATCH
As the game is behind closed doors, a live stream will be available to watch. Season Ticket Holders should have been emailed an access code, non-Season Ticket Holders can purchase a match pass for £10 in the UK, or £7 overseas.