In our last two league games we’ve found out how physically tough League One can be and I think we can expect more of the same this afternoon. Fleetwood have won three and drawn two so far while scoring almost as many goals as us so it’s going to be a challenge. There’ll be more competition for our back four places with Loovens and Flanagan coming into contention while presumably McGeouch will replace the banned Power. The presence of Joey Barton and Ched Evans, who’s scored five goals so far this season, will of course add spice to proceedings and it’s looking like another thirty thousand crowd. All in all it should be a cracking match and I think we can win it. Match prediction: 2-1.
When I got the team news around 2.45, Hume was starting and Matthews and Loovens were both back in again. My ticket for the Burton match arrived not long before kick-off and that put me in a good mood as I tuned into SAFSEE. Our fans were coming over loud and clear as we kicked off and we soon had a chance that Gooch put just wide. Fleetwood should’ve scored themselves in the seventh minute when they went straight through our defence but we scrambled it away. We immediately conceded two corners and from the second of these Madden slid the ball home to put them ahead. Commentators Barnes and Bennett had been warning that there was too much space in our box. So, once again we’d gone behind and we needed to pull something out of the bag. Coyle was yellow-carded for a foul on Maguire and Baldwin soon followed him into the book. Fleetwood were close to getting a second in the twentieth minute when Evans just failed to get on the end of a cross and we were sounding decidedly vulnerable at the back. Barton got a chorus of boos when he picked up the ball on the touchline. Fleetwood replaced the injured Morgan with Spurr, the first switch of the day. I discovered that they hadn’t conceded a goal away from home this season and we hadn’t created much so far but then we won our first corner in the twenty-fifth minute. It came to nothing as did a Maguire free-kick in a great position five minutes later. We won a second corner and lifted the spirits of our fans with nine minutes to the break but again we didn’t capitalize on it. Next thing, though, we were level when a cross by Honeyman was deftly hit into the far corner by Maja. That really got our fans in full voice and next thing Honeyman had a shot on target that Cairns in goal grabbed at the second attempt. Matthews went close with another shot and the tide had turned our way for the remainder of the half. Again, we’d put in a wobbly performance but had found the character to fight back.
I hoped to see both Wyke and Sinclair on before too long to give us more bite upfront. Three minutes into the second-half Fleetwood were awarded a penalty when Matthews fouled Coyle but McLaughlin saved Madden’s kick and the crowd roared with relief. We were living dangerously again. That was our first penalty save at home since 1989, apparently! Sinclair came on for Maguire and I hoped for more oomph. Ten minutes in, Evans missed a sitter after our defence had gone to sleep again and we were really having some luck. I just hoped it would continue. On the hour Baldwin missed a sitter for us with a header from three yards out so Fleetwood had some good luck of their own. Soon afterwards Wyke replaced Maja, who received loud applause. After that it settled down into a rather dour battle and the atmosphere had gone decidedly flat but with twenty minutes left anything was likely to happen. We were piling up the corners but still weren’t troubling Cairns in goal too much and Wyke had barely had a mention. Cairns was booked for time-wasting so that gave him something to think about at any rate. With about five minutes to go Flanagan, who’d come on for Matthews, headed against the post and then a Sinclair effort was hooked off the line. There was definitely time to nick it and our fans were making plenty of noise. We had a penalty shout right near the end but the ref was having none of it. Four minutes of stoppage-time were announced and we soon won a free-kick right on the edge of their box but Flanagan was penalized and that was that. There was still time for a chance at each end and for Catts to be yellow-carded and it ended 1-1.
There was plenty of applause at the end and despite a disappointing result, we again showed our resolve in fighting back and remain unbeaten. We certainly need to plug those holes at the back, though, as we could easily have lost this if it hadn’t been for Fleetwood’s poor finishing. I reckon many home games are going to be a battle like this and last week’s game and we may fare better away from home. See you at Burton.