Poor first half from Town who improved in the second but not enoughMartin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Devante Cole’s 9th minute goal was enough to give Fleetwood Town a third win of the season against Shrewsbury at the Greenhous this afternoon. 3-0 winners at Highbury in the League, and a 3-2 victory in an FA Cup replay had given the Cod Army the bragging rights before Christmas. And the unwanted treble was completed when Cole pounced from close-in to inflict a first home defeat under Paul Hurst’s tenure. Shrewsbury never gave up but they came up against a resilient defence that afforded excellent protection to their goalkeeper, Alex Cairns, throughout. He was barely troubled over the whole 90 minutes in what was a really frustrating game from a Town perspective.
Shrews made two changes to the side which lost narrowly at Spotland on Friday evening. Dom Smith replaced Jack Grimmer in the back four and Gary Deegan was preferred over midfielder Ian Black.
The first action saw Fleetwood keeper Cairns do really well to hold onto a 3rd minute Shaun Whalley free-kick, with the low level sun behind the Salop Leisure Stand causing problems for the glovesman.
Five minutes later Whalley headed over following some beautiful approach work by Town, with the crowds applause demonstrating their appreciation of some fine football.
But within a minute the away side struck when Amari’i Bell’s low cross found Cole in space and from six yards out he could barely miss. The striker’s shot bounced high into the net having come down over the line via the underside of the crossbar and Uwe Rosler’s men had an early lead. It was the first goal conceded at the Meadow since Hurst’s appointment a couple of months ago.
Town stuck to their guns and Ivan Toney worked Cairns with another free-kick which bypassed the Fleetwood wall, only for Cairns to plunge to his left and clutch the centre forward’s effort by the foot of the post. The away side looked a real handful up top though with Cole in particular the one to keep an eye on.
Credit to Salop though, some of the build-up play was really good to watch and despite trailing with 20 minutes played, there were clear signs that this game was well within reach for Hurst’s side.
But on the half hour there was an almighty let-off for Town. Deegan was caught in two minds and ex-Shrews player Bobby Grant robbed him of possession 35 yards out and ran through on goal. Thankfully, Jayson Leutwiler stood tall and made the save otherwise the margin would have doubled. And but for another decent Leutwiler save – this time from a Nathan Pond header – it would have been two. By now, Fleetwood were becoming more and more of a threat and Ciaran Bolger saw his header from a corner blocked close to the line – possibly by Cole who couldn’t get out of the way.
There were no further openings and Town had it all to do in the second 45.
Half-Time: Town 0 Fleetwood Town 1
Neither manager saw the need to make any changes during the interval, and it was Salop who began the second half attacking the Salop Leisure Stand end of the stadium.
There was a remarkable moment in the game five minutes in when Smith felled Cole in the area. Referee Mr. Joyce had no hesitation in rewarding the penalty and there wasn’t one dissenting voice amongst Town’s players. Grant placed the ball on the spot but as he was doing so the ref came over to the near touchline to consult his assistant. Twenty seconds later with his arm fully extended skywards, the decision was reversed and Shrews had a free-kick in their own box. Considering the linesman was some 40 metres or so from the foul, one could only assume that the lino had spotted an offside. Either way, the 5000 home fans weren’t complaining but it was a huge blow to Rosler who was apoplectic with rage in his technical area.
The pen that never was ended up being Smith’s final contribution, with Joe Riley the man pitched in to try and counter the menace of the lightning quick Cole. Jim O’Brien became Hurst’s second roll of the dice just past the hour with Olly Lancashire’s name the one illuminated in red on the sub’s board. There were muted appeals for a penalty when Toney appeared to have been held in the area, but maybe Shrewsbury had used up their penalty credits for one afternoon.
Whalley fizzed a 25 yarder over but Fleetwood were very disciplined with a rigid four or five red and white shirts all stood in a line across the 18 yard box. This made for a frustrating time for the home side as they were finding it difficult to break down. On the few occasions the ball was worked into wide areas, the end result was all too familiar. Ball in – ball headed clear.
With the game in the last quarter of an hour, Deegan clipped a shot wide of the post before George Waring entered the fray for Whalley as Town laboured for a breakthrough. Rosler had made all of his changes too with the final one being for the man who’d netted the game’s only goal.
Fleetwood had set their stall out and comfortably held on with Hurst’s men falling to a sixth league defeat on home soil this term.
Full-Time: Town 0 Fleetwood Town 1
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Mat Sadler, Olly Lancashire (Jim O’Brien, 61), Shaun Whalley (George Waring, 77), Abu Ogogo, Ivan Toney, Louis Dodds, Junior Brown, Dom Smith (Joe Riley, 56), Gary Deegan, Adam El-Abd (c)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Ian Black, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Ryan Sears
Fleetwood Town: Alex Cairns, Conor McLaughlin, Amari’i Bell, Nathan Pond (c), Bobby Grant, Cian Bolger, Victor Nirennold, Chris Long (Ashley Hunter, 69), Kyle Dempsey (George Glendon, 68), Ben Davies, Devante Cole (David Ball, 77)
Subs not used: Chris Neal, Joe Davis, Nick Haughton, Jack Sowerby
Referee: Ross Joyce
Assistants: Alex Pashley and Neil Radford
Fourth Official: Christopher Husband
Attendance: 5,030 (96 from Fleetwood)