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2023/24 Sky Bet League One Season Preview

4 August 2023

Club News

2023/24 Sky Bet League One Season Preview

4 August 2023

With the countdown to kick-off of the 2023/24 Sky Bet League One campaign almost complete, Matthew Carville gives us the lowdown of our 23 opponents to get an idea of what we can expect over the upcoming 46 games.

BARNSLEY

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LAST SEASON: 4th (Lost League One Play-off Final)

MANAGER: Neill Collins

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Devante Cole (16)

STADIUM: Oakwell

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? August 5th (A), December 26th (H)

Overview:

After suffering heartbreak in last season’s League One Play-off Final by conceding a 123rd-minute goal to Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday, our opening-day opponents will look to progress one step further and return to the Championship on the second time of asking.

However, this task will be tall and need to be achieved under new management after Swansea City appointed former Tykes boss Michael Duff as head boss as a result of the South Yorkshire side’s spectacular 2022/23 League One campaign.

Fortunately for the Oakwell side, former Wolves and Sheffield United defender Neill Collins succeeds Duff in charge and will bring valuable years of coaching experience in the US that will be required for a promotion push.

Vale and Barnsley met on three occasions last season with not much to separate the sides as they both emerged victorious in one tie each, with the Valiants recording an impressive second-round win over the Tykes to progress in the EFL Trophy.

The other encounter was a 1-1 draw at Oakwell, so more close contests are to be expected between the two teams.

BLACKPOOL

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LAST SEASON: 23rd (Championship)

MANAGER: Neil Critchley

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Jerry Yates (15)

STADIUM: Bloomfield Road

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? August 15th (A), December 29th (H)

Overview:

Unable to propel themselves to safety in the final weeks of a difficult Championship campaign under both Michael Appleton and Mick McCarthy, the Seasiders were condemned back to League One football after a two-year hiatus.

After Neil Critchley announced his return to the club in May, the Bloomfield Road faithful have hoped he can repeat the feat from his first stint at the club, which saw his team promoted through the play-offs.

Fixtures between the Valiants and the Tangerines are few and far between, but thankfully it’s the team from Vale Park that better the sides’ head-to-head records, beating Blackpool three times while losing twice.

BOLTON WANDERERS

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LAST SEASON: 5th

MANAGER: Ian Evatt

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Dion Charles (18)

STADIUM: The Toughsheet Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? September 30th (H), April 20th (A)

Overview:

Despite falling short in their play-off semi-final against Barnsley, Ian Evatt and Bolton have delivered progress every single season, and with many believing the club will continue in this direction, the Trotters are regarded highly in the battle for promotion.

One of the more historical clubs and bigger stadiums in the division, the Valiants will relish the challenge against the promotion-chasing side.

However, the Greater Manchester club holds a significant upper hand against Vale, winning three of the last five matches they’ve faced off.

Despite results not favouring the mighty Vale, recent encounters have been exceptionally close, hanging in the balance until the end, with potential for Andy Crosby’s squad to sway the outcome.

BRISTOL ROVERS

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LAST SEASON: 17th

MANAGER: Joey Barton

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Aaron Collins (16)

STADIUM: The Memorial Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? October 3rd (A), March 29th (H)

Overview:

Like the Valiants, Bristol Rovers secured their position in the third tier following promotion from League Two the season prior.

Aaron Collins will continue to be a player to watch at Memorial Stadium after he totalled 16 goals and 11 assists in the league last season, which ultimately led to Collins being crowned League One Player of the Season.

Collins was on the mark when he grabbed a late winner to snatch all three points when Vale travelled to Bristol this season.

The Pirates have come up with the goods more often in their last five matches against Vale, winning three to Vale’s two, but the Valiants remember fondly guaranteeing their place in the division with a 2-0 victory in April against Joey Barton’s men.

BURTON ALBION

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LAST SEASON: 15th

MANAGER: Dino Maamria

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Victor Adeboyejo

STADIUM: The Pirelli Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? September 9th (H), March 23rd (A)

Overview:

The Brewers recovered from a shaky start to the season after Dino Maamria took over from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and guided his side off the bottom of the table to record a comfortable 15th-place finish, consolidating a sixth consecutive season in the third tier.

The mighty Vale have enjoyed recent success when travelling to The Pirelli Stadium, winning the last two meetings at the ground, including a 2-1 FA Cup victory over Albion in 2021, secured with a brace from Dennis Politic.

Vale also have a slight edge over their Staffordshire rivals in their previous five matches, winning three times to the yellow team’s two.

CAMBRIDGE UNITED

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LAST SEASON: 20th

MANAGER: Mark Bonner

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Sam Smith (14)

STADIUM: The Abbey Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? September 23rd (A), April 27th (H)

Overview:

Vale fans will be relieved to see the back of Sam Smith, who exited the Abbey Road outfit during the summer.

The striker was on target for the U’s in their home clash with the Valiants, which saw them emerge 2-0 victors.

The side from the famous university city could struggle without one of their most instrumental figures, whose goalscoring rescued them from the drop to League Two on the final day of the season.

Mark Bonner’s side hold a marginal advantage over the previous five encounters, winning three times to Vale’s two. Hopefully Andy Crosby’s squad can shift the momentum in this fixture.

CARLISLE UNITED

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LAST SEASON: 5th (Won League Two Play-off Final)

MANAGER: Paul Simpson

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Kristian Dennis (21)

STADIUM: Brunton Park

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? August 26th (H), January 1st (A)

Overview:

A familiar foe for the Valiants marked their return to League One with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Stockport at Wembley, meaning that remarkably, the sides will compete against each other for the tenth calendar year in succession.

The Brunton Park outfit were a team Vale faced often in League Two and revelled in the challenge, losing just one of their last five games against the Cumbrians while winning and drawing two games each.

Midfielder Owen Moxon, who tallied up 17 assists last season, will be a key player for Carlisle in his second season with the club as they aim to replicate their success in League Two.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

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LAST SEASON: 10th

MANAGER: Dean Holden

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Jesurun Rak-Sakyi (15)

STADIUM: The Valley

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? August 19th (A), January 6th (H)

Overview:

The visit to The Valley will be one of Vale’s only two trips to the nation’s capital, barring a memorable run in the EFL Trophy or the play-offs, which we can collectively cross our fingers for.

The South Londoners have recruited well, bringing in Harry Isted, Lloyd Jones, and Alfie May, all players who have prospered at this level.

The Valiants will search for a way to rewrite the records for this fixture, having won just one of the last five against the Addicks to their three victories.

However, the triumph at Vale Park last season should hopefully be a sign of the gap between the sides narrowing.

CHELTENHAM TOWN

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LAST SEASON: 16th

MANAGER: Wade Elliott

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Alfie May (20)

STADIUM: The Completely-Suzuki Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? October 28th (H), February 17th (A)

Overview:

Cheltenham Town retained their position in League One relatively comfortably for a second straight year in Wade Elliott’s first full season as head coach.

The Robins will aspire to replicate the previous campaign’s accomplishments, but it’s destined to be an uphill battle after losing one of the league’s top goal scorers in Alfie May.

There’s so little between the Valiants and Cheltenham that it’s hard to expect an outright winner in the upcoming clashes this season, with both having recorded one win apiece and drawing on the other three occasions in their last five contests.

One thing is for sure: there will never be a moment to catch a breath when facing the Robins.

DERBY COUNTY

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LAST SEASON: 7th

MANAGER: Paul Warne

TOP SCORER (All Comps): David McGoldrick (24)

STADIUM: Pride Park

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? November 28th (H), March 2nd (A)

Overview:

A year on from their takeover, Paul Warne and Derby look determined to secure Championship football next season, especially after dealing with the disappointment of missing out on the playoffs on the final day of the campaign.

With respectable acquisitions in defence such as Callum Elder and Curtis Nelson, the Rams should be in promotion contention, but question marks remain over who will replace their talisman, David McGoldrick, who joined Notts County over the summer.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the season was when Vale produced a terrific second-half turnaround to defeat the Rams 2-1 in a fiery encounter at Pride Park, their first away triumph over Derby since 1923, which was rightfully savoured by the massive travelling Vale faithful.

However, the Derbyshire side got their revenge when they played the return match in Burslem, stunning the Valiants with two late goals to secure a comeback win.

It’s safe to say that there will be more tasty clashes this upcoming season between the sides, which is an exciting prospect for all Vale fans.

EXETER CITY

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LAST SEASON: 14th

MANAGER: Gary Caldwell

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Sam Nombe (17)

STADIUM: St James Park

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? December 9th (A), April 13th (H)

Overview:

Exeter City finished a promising 14th in their first campaign in the division in a decade, solidifying their position in League One with the potential to rise up the table.

Vale had been unbeaten in five against the Grecians, celebrating four victories along the way until the beginning of last season, when Exeter changed their fortunes winning two of the three encounters with a home rout at St James Park and a memorable FA Cup tie in which they prevailed 3-2 thanks to a brilliant strike from Archie Collins in the dying minutes.

However, Vale Park hosted a tighter third battle, which saw Will Forrester earn the hosts a narrow victory as they look to regain their previous form against the Devon-based team.

FLEETWOOD TOWN

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LAST SEASON: 13th

MANAGER: Scott Brown

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Jack Mariott & Carlos Mendes Gomes (8)

STADIUM: Highbury Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN?  October 14th (H), February 3rd (A)

Overview:

Fleetwood enjoyed a positive campaign last season in the second season of Scott Brown’s reign, as he oversaw a memorable FA Cup run where the Highbury side advanced to the 5th round before being knocked out by Burnley.

Our second game of the season is a home Carabao Cup clash against the Fishermen, and we are all wishing they won’t reproduce more magic in cup competitions, aren’t we Valiants?

Vale will fancy their chances after enjoying high success against Town as of late, only losing once to the Lancashire team in their last seven, triumphing and drawing in three games each.

LEYTON ORIENT

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LAST SEASON: 1st (League Two)

MANAGER: Richie Wellens

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Paul Smyth (10)

STADIUM: Brisbane Road

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? November 18th (H), March 12th (A)

Overview:

The O’s approach this season fresh off amassing 91 points to finish atop the League Two table with the best defensive record across the Football League and will persist in carrying their success to the next level.

Despite losing key figures like goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux, Orient have bulked up their squad with strong additions like Ethan Galbraith and Dan Agyei to bolster their attacking play.

The mighty Vale enjoy a day out to Brisbane Road, with each of the last three meetings in London resulting in a stalemate between the sides during their overlapping spells in the fourth tier.

Overall, this fixture is normally a tightly run affair, with all victories by both sides only being by a one-goal margin, and we see this continuing into League One this season.

LINCOLN CITY

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LAST SEASON: 11th

MANAGER: Mark Kennedy

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Ben House (13)

STADIUM: The LNER Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? November 11th (A), February 24th (H)

Overview:

Lincoln City are on an upward trajectory in League One, finishing 11th last season and ranking six positions higher than they did the previous season.

Ben House had a fantastic first season for the Imps, flourishing in the third tier and scoring 13 goals across all competitions.

The LNER Stadium is a demanding place to play, as City only lost on two occasions on their home turf last season, which Vale fans will be aware of as the club have had their struggles at the formidable ground, going winless in their last four trips to Lincolnshire.

Moreover, the Valiants will look to boost their general record against the Imps, having produced a single win over the Imps at Vale Park last season.

NORTHAMPTON TOWN

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LAST SEASON: 3rd (League Two)

MANAGER: Jon Brady

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Sam Hoskins (22)

STADIUM: Sixfields Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? September 16th (H), April 1st (A)

Overview:

For Northampton Town, it was necessary to recover from an agonising finale to their 2021/22 League Two campaign, which saw them miss out on promotion via goals scored on the back of Bristol Rovers unbelievably beating Scunthorpe 7-0 in their last match.

And they certainly did! Jon Brady led the Cobblers to automatic promotion to the third division and has retained the majority of the squad’s key players as they look to stay up.

The mighty Vale endured tough tests against the team from Sixfields Stadium during their time in League Two, winning two of their last five against the Cobblers, with two ending at a standstill and Northampton stealing a victory.

The margin of victory was always one in wins and losses, so we expect these teams to face off in close competition.

OXFORD UNITED

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LAST SEASON: 19th

MANAGER: Liam Manning

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Cameron Brannagan (11)

STADIUM: The Kassam Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? September 2nd (A), March 16th (H)

Overview:

The other famous university city in the division boasts a team that endured a tumultuous season in 2022/23, which ended in relief after Liam Manning steered the Yellows clear of relegation.

United’s dynamic star Cameron Brannagan will be joined in midfield by new recruit Ruben Rodrigues, who sparkled at Notts County, which could help the impressive Manning mount a promotion charge after last year’s blip.

Vale were unable to find the net against the Oxfordshire side in their meetings last season, losing at The Kassam Stadium and earning a point in the reverse fixture.

The Valiants should look forward to more tight encounters with Oxford, with two stalemates between the sides in the last five games.

PETERBOROUGH UNITED

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LAST SEASON: 6th

MANAGER: Darren Ferguson

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Jonson Clarke-Harris (27)

STADIUM: Weston Homes Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? October 24th (H), February 13th (A)

Overview:

Not many could have predicted the Posh to win 4-0 at Hillsborough in the first leg of their play-off semi-final, finishing 21 points behind them over the course of the season, but it’s undeniable that absolutely no one saw their second leg collapse coming.

United will look to deal with the heartbreak by breaking the next barrier to move upwards into the Championship, a feat experienced gaffer Darren Ferguson will be looking to complete for the fifth time.

It hasn’t been the happiest times for the Valiants in this fixture, with only one victory in the last five appearances compared to Peterborough’s three.

PORTSMOUTH

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LAST SEASON: 8th

MANAGER: John Mousinho

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Colby Bishop (24)

STADIUM: Fratton Park

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? October 7th (A), January 27th (H)

Overview:

Vale fans, strap yourselves in for the journey to Fratton Park, one of, if not, the longest, of our travels in the upcoming season.

It is a ground that holds great history and even greater expectations for when the football season commences.

However, lately expectations have not been met as Pompey have drifted further astray of the play-off positions over the years, a trend that John Mousinho will try to resolve in his first managerial post and nearly accomplished as his side climbed from 15th to 8th from January onwards, just missing out with anticipation that the south-coast side can close the gap to the top six after a busy summer.

Last season contained the first two meetings between Portsmouth and the Valiants in 22 years, and hard-fought battles were on display. Pompey edged a slim victory at Vale Park, with the away game ending in a wildly entertaining four-goal stalemate.

READING

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LAST SEASON: 22nd (Championship)

MANAGER: Rubén Sellés

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Tom Ince & Andy Carroll (9)

STADIUM: Select Car Leasing Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? August 12th (H), January 13th (A)

Overview:

It's been a a turbulent summer for Reading and their fans but element that will allow the Royals support to maintain positivity is the appointment of Rubén Sellés, the former manager of Southampton, whose past work at the top level should be enough to stabilise Reading amidst the chaos.

Twenty-two years ago was the last time the Valiants competed against the team in blue and white, and Andy Crosby will be aiming for the opposite of the outcome from that game in matchups between the two this forthcoming campaign.

SHREWSBURY TOWN

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LAST SEASON: 12th

MANAGER: Matthew Taylor

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Luke Leahy (12)

STADIUM: The Croud Meadow

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? November 25th (A), March 9th (H)

Overview:

Valiants, you will have become accustomed to the sign of Salops playing them in both the league and the EFL Trophy this prior campaign, a sign that may be welcome given recent results.

Vale have been dominant against the Croud Meadow Side, coming out on top in four of their last five meetings, registering a memorable 4-0 win over Salops on their own soil in the EFL Trophy thanks to a hat-trick from Dennis Politic.

Despite their highest-placed finish in the past few seasons, the departure of Steve Cotterill in the dugout and star player Luke Leahy leaves uncertainty in the air for Shrewsbury for the approaching campaign.

STEVENAGE

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LAST SEASON: 2nd (League Two)

MANAGER: Steve Evans

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Luke Norris (15)

STADIUM: Lamex Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? October 21st (A), February 10th (H)

Overview:

After a nine-year wait and multiple close calls of almost falling out of the Football League, Stevenage booked their return to League One with an impressive season that featured an upset FA Cup victory at Villa Park.

Having strengthened their squad with exciting additions in the summer transfer window, such as the highly regarded ex-Peterborough defender Nathan Thompson, Steve Evans’ team will look to secure League One status.

Last season marked the first campaign in five in which Vale escaped from playing the Boro, but our fans will now make the familiar excursion to Lamex Stadium this campaign.

There will be no complaints, however, due to the mighty Vale triumphing in two of the last five matches against the Hertfordshire opposition, losing one, and sharing the spoils on two occasions.

 

WIGAN ATHLETIC

LAST SEASON: 24th (Championship)

MANAGER: Shaun Maloney

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Will Keane (12)

STADIUM: DW Stadium

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? December 16th (H), April 6th (A)

Overview:

Not a frequent fixture in recent years the Latics pose an exciting new test for Vale after the DW Stadium squad suffered relegation in a difficult Championship season with an even harder summer to follow.

The loss of prolific goal scorer Will Keane to Preston North End and the deduction of eight points leave them with work to do as they begin their League One campaign, but manager Shaun Maloney has provided optimism for fans of the club by registering four wins since he took over in January.

The last time the sides met was in an EFL Trophy match played behind closed doors due to the COVID pandemic, in which the Valiants emerged 3-1 winners in Greater Manchester.

Wycombe Wanderers

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LAST SEASON: 9th

MANAGER: Matt Bloomfield

TOP SCORER (All Comps): Lewis Wing & Anis Mehmeti (9)

STADIUM: Adams Park

PORT VALE FACE THEM WHEN? December 23rd (A), January 20th (H)

Overview:

Last but not least, it’s Wycombe Wanderers.

It will be a strange feeling for all football fans to see Wycombe start the season without the renowned figure of Gareth Ainsworth in the dugout for the first time in a decade.

Nonetheless, Matt Bloomfield, manager of the Chairboys, prepares to improve on his side’s 9th-place finish last season as Adam Park welcomes an exciting mix of talent, with an experienced Richard Keogh arriving from Ipswich and an exciting Luke Leahy, one of Shrewsbury’s standout performers, joining the club.

So there you go, the blueprints are laid out for a wildly fascinating season full of chances for new memories to be made and new experiences to be had, with trips ranging from Carlisle to Portsmouth.

We hope you enjoy it all Valiants!


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