Fans back as Warnock manages from home

Blackpool fans enjoyed CJ Hamilton’s brace at one of seven games which had crowds on Saturday

As fans made a long-awaited return to seven English Football League games, one manager pulled off a game-changing substitution from his house on an entertaining second weekend of the season.

Isolating at his home in Cornwall after testing positive for coronavirus, Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock still managed to have an impact on their draw with Bournemouth, more than 400 miles away.

His assistant manager Kevin Blackwell revealed afterwards that Warnock had passed on instructions to bring on Marcus Browne, who then headed in the equaliser with 10 minutes to go.

“Neil had a feeling and said, ‘let’s have a look at Browney’, and it was a good shout,” said Blackwell. “With the technology now, he had a chat to the boys before the warm-up and at the end and he was proud of the performance.”

That was one of seven EFL games that were permitted to welcome up to 1,000 fans on Saturday, as part of a government crowd pilot.

Capped crowds return at seven games

Forest Green Rovers fans
Forest Green Rovers fans saw their side score a 96th-minute equaliser against Bradford
Carlisle used signs and tape to indicate which rows and seats had to be left vacant
Blackpool fans
Blackpool’s win was their first of the season as they defeated Swindon 2-0 at Bloomfield Road

Of those seven, only the home fans at League One Blackpool and League Two Carlisle saw their sides earn victories, as they won 2-0 against Swindon and Southend respectively.

Meanwhile, 1,000 home supporters also saw Norwich draw 2-2 with Preston, Charlton lose to Doncaster, Shrewsbury suffer defeat against Northampton and Forest Green hit late to draw 2-2 with Bradford.

Before Saturday, no fans had attended any EFL games since March because of coronavirus, with league officials still hopeful that supporters may return in larger numbers from October.

Sunderland fans watch on from van-tage point

Sunderland fans
These Sunderland fans watched their side’s 2-0 win at Oxford while stood on top of a ladder which was on top of a van – not something we recommend

The game between Oxford and Sunderland was not part of the pilot scheme for fans to return to matches.

But that didn’t stop a few Black Cats fans from making the very long journey down to Kassam Stadium to try to make the most of the ground not having a stand behind one of the goals.

As you can see from these photos, some ingenuity meant that Sunderland’s first league win of the campaign was seen by some of their long-suffering supporters as Phil Parkinson’s men claimed a 2-0 victory, with both goals scored at the end their fans were behind.

Obviously, do not try this at home, or indeed the home of any football club near you. Or, in this case, 255 miles away from your club.

Sunderland fans
Just the 500-mile round trip for these Sunderland fans to watch their side’s game with this view…

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