After the unexpected boost of the Donny match I'm afraid I'm expecting more of the same this afternoon. This is probably very foolish of me but I can't help it. Fleetwood are five places and four points ahead of us but they've gone off the boil a bit recently with three draws out of the last four games. That's enough stats for a New Year's morning but basically I think if we can maintain the same great team effort that produced Sunday's win, we'll do it again this afternoon. The same fixture late last season was very grim indeed with a very late defeat putting just about the final nail in our automatic promotion coffin. That's reason enough to win again today but it'll of course be great to get revenge on Joey Barton who's been less than complimentary about us in recent years. I'm not aware of any injuries that would affect today's line-up and why change a successful side? Maguire, Gooch and Hume made a great impact against Doncaster and could do the same against any side at this level. We'll probably concede so my my match prediction is another 2-1 to us.
I got the team news around 2.30 and it looked like we were unchanged. Ched Evans was starting for them and I imagined he might be on the receiving end from our fans.
I tuned into SAFSEE and was pleased to hear a minute's applause managed correctly for a change. We were playing with a back three and McLaughlin was almost caught on the hop in the opening minutes when Madden burst through but thankfully he shot off target. We had an effort on goal but not on target by Maguire shortly afterwards but other than that not much happened in the first ten minutes. We then conceded several corners and after a flurry of head-tennis the ref pointed to the spot for a foul on Morris. Evans took the kick and put it into the bottom left-hand corner to open the scoring for Fleetwood in the thirteenth minute. We hadn't really started to spark yet and as Fleetwood won another corner things weren't looking too good for us. In the seventeenth minute we finally put a decent move together when Hume fed Gooch, whose shot went just over the bar. We'd have to keep the ball on the floor as Fleetwood's defenders were seriously big. I lost the internet connection for a minute or so and the first word I heard when it was restored was 'two' but mercifully it wasn't referring to 2-0. We were definitely starting to get into the game and we won our first two corners around the half-hour mark. Lynch sometimes out-Ozturks Ozturk and he gave an example of this when he attempted to score from the half-way line but Maguire did a lot better when he hit a powerful shot that Cairns in goal managed to push around the post. If we could equalize before the break, I still fancied us to win the game. Well, in short, we didn't manage that but we'd certainly improved a lot during the final twenty minutes so I felt we could still nick it if we scored early enough.
We started the second period off brightly and won a corner after a minute or so. Next thing a Wyke header hit the post and then O'Nien headed just wide of the post. After ten minutes or so Grigg and Watmore started warming up and I hoped we'd bring Watmore on and sacrifice one of our defenders. Cairns spilled an O'Nien shot and this emphasized the need for us to have an extra body up there for the tap-ins. As Lynch made an awkward header back to McLaughlin that resulted in a couple of corners he seemed a likely candidate to go off in a reshuffle. By the hour-mark we'd gone off the boil again while Fleetwood were pressing so a draw seemed the best we could hope for. O'Nien somehow skied a great chance and then Watmore came on for Willis so with around a quarter of the game left we had a chance of snatching a point. McNulty replaced Dobson, who'd just been yellow-carded, but time was passing all too quickly. We were piling the pressure on and when Watmore was fouled the ref pointed to the spot and Maguire smashed the kick in to put us level in the eighty-sixth minute. We continued to go for it during the four minutes of stoppage-time but despite a decent penalty shout, we couldn't make anything count and it ended 1-1.
This was a definite come-down after recent euphoria but it looked like it was going to be worse and I suppose an away draw against a higher club isn't too bad. If we'd made those attacking subs earlier or even started with at least Watmore on, we probably would've won. Undefeated in four matches, anybody? It's something to build on but maybe nothing to shout about. Now, a win against Lincoln on Saturday would be. Happy New Year to all.