Our second visit to Fleetwood in 2013, again another weekend where the weather changed from one day to the next. A bitter wind and cold on Friday was replaced by a cool but calm Saturday. As last year, we visited the Strawberry Gardens beforehand for a decent selection of refreshments.
Fleetwoods's pitch looked a lot better this year than last, which I remember as a muddy field, so that probably helped us, rather than the 3-0 tanking last season.
We had an unchanged starting line-up from the team that started against Newport. Fleetwood seemed a well disciplined team. Their defence is good, and likes to pass it around quickly, and they left two forwards up near the half way line most of the first half, ready for any breaks. Their goal was a well taken free kick from just outside the corner flag, looping over Ryan Clarke and straight into the top left corner of the goal. Fleetwood could have had another soon after, with a shot from within the area I think, just going over the top of the cross bar. I felt it would have been difficult to get back into the game at 2-0 down. For the rest of the first half I had some right moaners behind me complaining about "the rubbish being served up".
The referee again seemed to give everything to Fleetwood, with them being awarded several free kicks for not very much, and when we finally got one ourselves there was of course a 'hallelejuha' in amazement. Their player Nathan Tyson is on loan from Blackpool, and he seems to have based his tactics on the Ashley Young school of diving, going down very easily. I was surprised the referee didn't at some point warn him he would get a yellow if he did it again. The ref did though yellow card their goalkeeper Scott Davies for time wasting.
Second half, we came out and attacked the game. The setting sun had turned the sky to our left a wonderous pinky orange colour. Our play was mostly down the right, playing the ball forward to Williams, whom it typically took two Fleetwood defenders to handle. Mark Roberts left Stevenage in the Summer after five years, and also left his bottle of hair bleach behind too - without his Worzel Gummidge shock of straw coloured hair he looked quite different.
Attacking the goal in front of the away terrace, we had several good chances, and it seemed nothing was going to work. A Dave Kitson point blank header was palmed away one-handed by an outstretched Davies. James Constable had the ball played in to him, and I think he was already on the ground and only had to angle it towards goal for us to score, but somehow the ball bounced off him in the wrong direction.
Fleetwood now decided to bring on some more big defenders to try and save the three points. Kitson was fouled in the box, and ex-Fleetwood player Rose was the man on penalty duty. The Oxford Mail reported how he was frozen out by Fleetwood, having to train with the youth team, and only by going to the PFA was he able to go to Aldershot on loan last year. This season he has started every game for us I think, and he must be enjoying this resurrection in his career. I pondered the wisdom of an ex-player taking the penalty, as Davies may have had an insight into his tactics. Rose struck the ball hard and down low to the right of the keeper, but again Davies made a wonder save. He was Man of The Match for me, but somehow they gave it to Roberts instead. There was also a nice little teammate argument going on for a few minutes between Pond and Davies, but they settled down eventually.
Finally, with a few minutes to go, another ball in from Hunt, and Kitson headed in for the equaliser. I hear Wilder wanted us to defend the point, but our players were having none of it, pressing for a winner.
Ruffles had a decent game after a nervous full league debut against Newport. Hunt's crosses and throw-ins were a constant threat. Kitson seems to be embuing a greater understanding and confidence in the rest of the players. A consistent line-up without changes is also a help. I think Whing makes us more defensive, whereas Hall is a bit more mobile and able to get forward more.
At the final whistle I left straight for the Highbury Fryer, bagging the last piece of cod as they had sold the rest before the game.
Newport and Fleetwood were two of our tougher opponents this year, and although two draws doesn't sound bad on paper, both could easily have been wins. Newport if we'd got an early goal, and Fleetwood where we absolutely dominated the second half. In Jim's Sports bar post-match, several Fleetwood fans said we were by far the best team to have visited Highbury this season, including Chesterfield.
Again, other teams also dropped points, so we are top by 1 point, but five teams are just behind. With the FA Cup to distract us, we will stay top for another few weeks at least as other league games are between opponents further down the table.
Anything yellow and blue
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