Fixtures hand Plymouth Argyle hectic opening schedule
PLYMOUTH Argyle are facing a hectic start to the 2012/13 season, which is bound to test the strength in depth of manager Carl Fletcher's squad.
Their game against Aldershot Town at Home Park on Saturday, August 18 will be the first of nine League Two fixtures before the end of September.
They will also play at least one tie in both the Capital One Cup and the Johnstone's Paint Trophy during that period.
Argyle have been drawn at home to Portsmouth in the first round of the Capital One Cup on the week commencing August 13.
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No date has been confirmed for the tie, which will open the season for both clubs as the start of the Football League campaign has been delayed until August 18 so it does not coincide with the Olympic Games in London.
Should Argyle make progress in the Capital One Cup, the second and third rounds are scheduled for the weeks commencing August 27 and September 24 respectively.
No dates have been announced yet for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, in which some clubs are given byes in the first round.
Only one of Argyle's opening eight games in League Two is against a club who finished in the top seven last season.
That is their Devon derby with Torquay United at Plainmoor on Saturday, September 8.
Torquay finished fifth in the table in 2011/12, before losing to Crewe Alexandra in the play-off semi-finals.
But Pilgrims' boss Carl Fletcher thought his team still faced 'a tough start' to the new campaign.
He told Herald Sport: "Aldershot are a good side, going from last season. Dagenham is always a difficult game and Oxford just missed out on the play-offs.
"But our first game is Portsmouth at home so we are just focusing on that one."
Argyle played Aldershot at Home Park as recently as Easter Monday (right), when on-loan Burnley striker Alex MacDonald scored the only goal of the game as they picked up three valuable points in their successful battle against relegation.
The visit of Aldershot on August 18 is the first time Argyle have been at home in their opening league fixture of the season since 2008, when they drew 2-2 with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship.
The Pilgrims' second league game of the new season will be away to Dagenham and Redbridge in east London on Tuesday, August 21.
That will be one of six midweek matches before the end of November for the Pilgrims, and four of them are away from Home Park.
The other three are against Wycombe Wanderers on October 2, Cheltenham Town on October 23 and Bradford City on November 20.
The Football League have scheduled so many midweek fixtures in the early part of the campaign because the 2012/13 season is three weeks shorter than last term.
It starts a fortnight later than in 2011/12 because of the Olympics, and ends a week earlier.
Argyle's home midweek matches are against Bristol Rovers on September 18 and Burton Albion on November 6.
Should there be postponements over winter because of snow or ice, there is space in the second half of the season for rearranged midweek games.
Argyle will play at three grounds for the first time next term, including Fleetwood Town at Highbury on Saturday, November 17.
Fleetwood have been promoted to the Football League for the first time after winning the Conference in 2011/12.
Rotherham United's £20 million, 12,000-seat New York Stadium opens next month and the Pilgrims will visit there on Saturday, October 27.
They will also play at Chesterfield's b2net Stadium for the first time on Saturday, March 23.
Chesterfield, relegated from League One last season, switched from their former ground, Saltergate, to the b2net Stadium in 2010.
As Argyle are playing back-to-back, long-distance away games against Fleetwood and Bradford within four days in November, there could be a chance of the squad staying in the north of England in between.
Although there would be accommodation costs involved in doing so, the amount and expense of travelling to both games separately would be significantly reduced.
Argyle's longest away trip will be against York City, who won the Conference play-off final in 2011/12, at Bootham Crescent on Easter Monday, April 1.
That involves travelling 676 miles from Plymouth to north Yorkshire, and back.
The fixture against York comes only two days after the Pilgrims play host to arch rivals Exeter City on Easter Saturday, March 30.
Exeter, relegated from League One last term, will entertain Argyle at St James' Park on Saturday, December 15.
After playing Torquay at Plainmoor on September 8, the return match will be staged at Home Park on Boxing Day.
That will please Argyle officials as it should ensure there is a large gate for the festive fixture, especially if one or both of the Devon clubs are challenging for promotion.
The Pilgrims will make the relatively short trip to Bristol Rovers on New Year's Day.
They played at the Memorial Stadium on Boxing Day last term, and rallied from a two-goal half-time deficit to triumph 3-2.
Argyle will end the 2012/13 season at Rochdale, another of the clubs relegated from League One last term.
The League Two play-off final will take place at Wembley on Saturday, May 18.