On this day: First Football League matches take place

Back on this day 126 years ago, the first ever Football League encounters were played.

Back in 1888, football in England was in an uncertain place. Three years earlier, the professional game had been legalised, but numerous disputes over fixtures meant that plenty of matches were cancelled.

So, when Scotsman William McGregor, who was a director on the board of Aston Villa, proposed a league to add some structure to proceedings, 12 clubs accepted the invitation.

The first round of encounters were played 126 years ago today, with 10 of the 12 sides featuring on the opening day of the campaign.

To this day, there remains a dispute as to who scored the first ever Football League goal. For many years it was believed that either Jack Gordon of Preston North End or Villa's Gershom Cox, who put through his own net, had taken that honour, but another name has since cropped up.

Due to confusion as to what times the matches got underway, it is now thought that England and Bolton Wanderers winger Kenny Davenport actually broke the division's duck in the second minute of his side's meeting with Derby County.

Davenport would go on to find the net again later in the encounter, but it wasn't enough to prevent his side from being defeated 6-3 by their visitors.

Elsewhere, Everton overcame Accrington Stanley 2-1 and West Bromwich Albion won 2-0 away at Stoke City, while Wolverhampton Wanderers and McGregor's Villa played out a 1-1 draw.

There was also a big victory for Preston, who defeated Lancashire rivals Burnley 5-2. That victory would mark the start of a successful season for Preston as they went the whole term without losing a single fixture, which in turn saw them win the title from Villa by an 11-point margin.

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Liverpool's Michael Owen celebrates scoring his team's third goal against Leeds during their Premiership clash at Elland Road in Leeds on 3 February 2002
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Wolverhampton WanderersWolves33227459263373
2Cardiff CityCardiff33197749272264
3Aston Villa33179749301960
4Derby CountyDerby331611650282259
5Fulham331511755371856
6Bristol City33141274839954
7Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd32164124638852
8Middlesbrough331561243311251
9Preston North EndPreston33121564032851
10Brentford331311950401050
11Leeds UnitedLeeds33137134643346
12Norwich CityNorwich331210113437-346
13Millwall331112103935445
14Ipswich TownIpswich33136144443145
15Queens Park RangersQPR33109143646-1039
16Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds33813123540-537
17Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest33114183651-1537
18Reading3289153542-733
19Bolton WanderersBolton3389162951-2233
20Birmingham CityBirmingham3386192249-2730
21Hull City32611154350-729
22Burton Albion3378182659-3329
23Barnsley32610163147-1628
24Sunderland33511173458-2426
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