The wave of optimism that had been building after Russell Slade’s first few games in change fizzled out last Saturday like a half-full balloon that someone could no longer be bothered to inflate. A managerless Chesterfield should really have been there for the taking, instead, we finished the game with 37% possession and it took until stoppage time for us to win our first corner. In short, it was an underwhelming display.
While no-one gets relegated in January, it is imperative that we pick up our first win under Russell Slade in this upcoming game against Fleetwood Town. Although Fleetwood are in great form at the moment, we have shown this season that we can give any team in this division a decent game at the Ricoh Arena, so there should be some confidence that, with the determination to make up for a terrible result last week, we can get the win in this game.
Boosting our prospects is the arrival of Farrend Rawson this week on loan from Derby. He’s a six foot four centre-back who’s played well at a higher-level, in a relegation battle, which makes him a pretty impressive signing for a team currently bottom of League One. I would expect him to slot-in at centre-back alongside Nathan Clarke, with Jordan Willis likely to move to right-back, or possibly left-back if Slade doesn’t fancy playing Haynes in this match.
Elsewhere, there may be the temptation to alter things after the performance against Chesterfield. Rose and Reilly seemingly struggled to get a grip on midfield, which may prompt a recall for Ben Stevenson, if Slade fancies playing someone who’s been our best player this season. The Marcus Tudgay-Stuart Beavon strike partnership doesn’t look wholly convincing either, and George Thomas could be moved into the front two to add dynamism to the attack, with Jodi Jones coming in on the right wing.
Last Time We Met
Losing against Fleetwood in our last meeting was probably the beginning of the end for Tony Mowbray. Having failed to have signed the players he wanted in the summer, and having already started the season in terrible form, losing in such a limp and routine fashion at the start of September at Fleetwood must have caused Mowbray to question just what he was hoping to achieve this season, and how. A decent-enough performance was undermined by weak defending to allow Fleetwood to score two pretty simple goals on the break, as has been the story of our season.
How Are They Doing?
That win back in September was part of a strong start to the season for Fleetwood Town under the management of Uwe Rosler. The former Brentford boss had arrived at the club just one week ahead of the new season, and a fairly underwhelming transfer window following a season of struggle last time out didn’t seem to suggest that Rosler would hit the ground running at the Highbury Stadium.
However, some astute loan signings in the form of Burnley forward Chris Long and Huddersfield’s young creative dynamo Kyle Dempsey saw Fleetwood start the season with a remarkable degree of fluency given how last-minute their preparations were. Rosler didn’t just make good signings though, he turned the frustrating David Ball into one of the division’s most effective attacking players, while young striker Ash Hunter has grown into a more important role this season.
For a while over the Autumn, it looked like Fleetwood were petering out a little, the goals starting drying up and they were struggling to keep pace in the play-off race. However, Rosler has had the astuteness to change things up, switching to a back three that has made Fleetwood one of the best defensive units in the division, and the goals have eventually started to return.
The back three has especially suited the attacking instincts of wing-backs Conor McLaughlin and Amari’i Bell, who are both probably among the best in their respective positions in this division. Forward Devante Cole seems to have become a more important player in light of the tactical switch, despite being a fairly poor finisher (famous last words), Cole’s pace and strength have seen him become an effective provider of goals over the past few months.
Jimmy Ryan in the middle of the park is an incredibly important player for Fleetwood, however an injury in recent weeks has allowed former Manchester City youngster George Glendon a run in the side in which he has impressed. Fleetwood have also managed to bring Bristol City striker/winger Wes Burns back to the club after an impressive loan spell last season, he’s a very energetic, direct and quick forward who should add another dimension to Fleetwood’s attack.
As alluded to earlier in this preview, as well as Fleetwood have done over the past month or so, I don’t think this game is necessarily as difficult as it seems to be. Fleetwood have won just three times on the road this season, while we have been much better at home this season than on the road. Rawson coming in should add a physical presence to our defence, it’s a case of whether we can pose more questions in attack than we did last week at Chesterfield.
It’s a game between a team unbeaten in nine in the league, against a team that hasn’t won in ten. So obviously, I’m predicting the latter to win this game. 2-1 to the Sky Blues.