Tuesday saw our first defeat in 10 matches away to Fleetwood Town at Higbury. Our first ever appearance at their new ground, it was your typical Tuesday night weather up north with rain, and more rain on the forecast. I assure you, it was a great choice to stand in the terraces instead of getting a seat in their new stand! It just didn’t get going for our side from start to finish, and we eventually lost 2-1 to the better side on the night, a very good footballing side I have to add. At times their front three of Henan, Ball and Fosu were unplayable, it seemed a delibarate ploy from their manager to opt for the quicker options up top, and they caused the centre half pairing of Beevers and Webster countless problems throughout. Fosu inparticular stuck out as a promising winger, on loan from Reading while Henan proved a threat with the ball at feet, he is also on loan from Everton. It shows the young talent is out there in the leagues above us, with speculation we will be looking to bring another forward in before the loan deadline is upon us this evening.
It’s never nice to lose, but it was going to happen at some point, it just felt like a poor performance when watching the game. Perhaps the side was in need of a change or two, but even then if we lost we’d say you never change a winning team. Harris was full of praise for Fleetwood, and I completely agree, but if our best side showed up we would certainly have been a match for Fleetwood. Against a side that pass the ball instead of lumping to the big man up front I couldn’t help but feel if we had Jimmy Abdou we would have been more of a match for Fleetwood. Saville and Williams have been great in our 9 game run without defeat, but Williams inparticular had a very poor game, and I felt if we had Jimmy in the side, we would’ve stopped Fleetwood from wanting to play their game. Agreed, Abdou isn’t the best ball playing midfielder, but away from home occasionally you have games where you are chasing the ball, and need to be at your best to win it back, Abdou does this with ease as we all know. We haven’t missed him since his injury, with Tuesday night being the first defeat since his injury, but I certainly left the game appreciating what he offers to the side.
Back to the game the stats show you all you need to know, we were beaten in every stat going forward, giving away a lot of possesion is tolerable away from home, but with 63% in favour of the home side it’s worth noting they were also very direct when they had the ball, passing it around with a high tempo and playing very wide across the pitch. To be honest, we stood up well defensively and were undone by two set-pieces, despite their attackers giving our defence a lot to do, we prevented many clear cut chances and defended the 18 yard box without many problems. With this in mind it makes the defeat even more difficult to take, it was a flat performance from the XI selected, before the game I wondered whether there would be any changes from the weekend. Being away from home the one change I hoped to have happened was the introduction of Fred Onyedinma, he offers the ability when under pressure to take the ball and carry up to the other end at pace. O’Brien seemed fatigued on Tuesday night and I was surprised Harris decided to keep him on, it shows how important the youngster is to the side, with his ability to offer something out of nothing, but with the fans also begging for a sub, Harris was loyal to the XI and we were eventually punished.
The first goal came from a corner which was only cleared as far as taker Fosu, he then fizzed the ball back in which met the head of Jonsson who only had to direct it goalwards. Harris eventually brought Fred on with 10 minutes remaining and he was immediately involved, having a first time volley saved by keeper Maxwell, but it felt like a case of too little too late. The second came from sub Grant for the home side, who noticed Archer way out of goal at corners and went for goal from the set play, with Archer unable to prevent the effort going in. A first noticable mistake for Archer, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to this on Saturday at home to Bury. I hope and very sure that he won’t let it effect him, and with Pressman as his coach he is in good hands to bounce back and not worry about the mistake. Our consolation came with the last kick of the game through defender Byron Webster, making it two goals in as many games for the defender, suppose it is one goal to add to the goals scored tally, but does little to raise the travelling fans confidence.
None of us left doubting the effort from the side, but it felt like it was a game that could have been managed better from the touchline, it feels weird to even attempt to raise a critercism of the legend Harris. If a sub or two was thrown on earlier, I along with everyone else on the terrace thought it could change the outcome of the game. Fleetwood had corner after corner, and kept knocking on the door until they got the breakthrough they deserved. But lets not beat ourselves up too badly, one defeat in ten replicated for the rest of the season will get us near the very top of the table, only one way to retaliate and that’s to get the 3 points on Saturday at home to Bury.