Preview: Fleetwood Town

The five-game winning streak slips ever further into the distance. Friday’s draw – albeit, a credible one against a promotion-chasing side – now makes it five without a win. With a ten-day break afterwards to stew on this upcoming game against Fleetwood Town, breaking that winless run would be a welcome boost of confidence as the season edges towards its half-way point.

Possible Line-Up

Expected Line-Up

Mark Robins resisted the temptation to deviate from the XI that had been responsible for that winning run in the Peterborough game – the injury-enforced absence of Dujon Sterling being the key point of difference – and he seems likeliest to maintain his trust in a settled line-up.

With Dujon Sterling still not back at the club following his injury, the key player coming back into the fold is Tom Davies. While Jordan Willis and Dominic Hyam are both highly competent performers at centre-back, having Davies available provides us with a presence both at the back and from set-pieces. It might though be slightly too soon to rush Davies back to action unless absolutely necessary.

The most likely other team selection decision for Mark Robins to make is regarding Jordy Hiwula’s place on the left of midfield following an indifferent past few games. He is probably protected from the drop by injuries to Jodi Jones and Jordan Shipley, but Robins may be tempted to take him out of the side regardless, with either a change in shape or giving Amadou Bakayoko a go in a role that saw him notch a key assist on Friday night the potential options.

Last Meeting

In what was one of the worst games of football that I have witnessed, Russell Slade’s Coventry City succumbed to a late goal against an almost equally uninspiring Fleetwood Town side in the last clash between the two sides. It was the kind of game that both teams deserved to lose.

The Opposition

Manager – Joey Barton

Fleetwood Town Chairman Andy Pilley took a huge punt in appointing Joey Barton as manager this summer. Not only is this the former Premier League midfielder’s first managerial position, but he had spent the prior 18-months out of the game with a gambling-related ban.

Barton has started life as manager relatively solidly, although results have tailed-off over the past month. He has preached a desire to play attractive football and hand opportunity to young players, while some of Fleetwood’s play this season has been very slick, the average age of Barton’s signings thus far is only slightly under 30 years old.

Possible Line-Up

Ones To Watch

Fleetwood are blessed with an array of highly-impressive attacking talents for this level, finding the right combination has probably been the biggest issue that Barton has faced.

While Ched Evans, Ross Wallace, and Paddy Madden are easily recognisable names for anyone who has followed lower league football over the past few years, it is the wide-man Ashley Hunter that has been Fleetwood’s star turn this season. A rapid young forward who has drawn inevitable comparisons with Jamie Vardy – given the latter’s association with the club – it is Hunter’s creative play that has caught the eye this year, leading the division with 10 assists via a combination of intelligent interplay, accurate crossing and telling set-piece deliveries.

Beyond Hunter, as well as the predatory Paddy Madden and hard-running Ched Evans, Barton can introduce the gifted Conor McAleny from the bench into his forward line, as well as the pace of Wes Burns. The creative midfield dynamo Kyle Dempsey has struggled to find a role under Barton in central midfield, with the more experienced Ross Wallace, Dean Marney, and Jason Holt being preferred, with even the defender Nathan Sheron being thrown into the centre of the park ahead of the talented Dempsey.

Fleetwood will pose us a considerable threat from set-pieces, with some excellent dead-ball takers in their ranks, in addition to Ashley Hunter. Ross Wallace and former Newcastle defender Ryan Taylor were signed by Barton on free transfers with both possessing lethal ability from direct free-kicks, which makes it important to avoid conceding set-pieces in dangerous areas.

Areas To Exploit

As one of the oldest squads in the division, Fleetwood’s weakness is a lack of pace and dynamism in midfield and defence. If we can put in the kind of work-rate without the ball that we saw against Peterborough on Friday, as well as some of the attacking interplay, we could cause this Fleetwood side some problems at the back.

Like most games at this level, getting the first goal will set the tone of this contest. Fleetwood are building a reputation for various forms of time-wasting and game management tricks once they go ahead and will want to drop deep to avoid exposing their defence and midfield to pace. If we can get the first goal, the game is going to open up and allow opportunities for us to hit them on the counter-attack.

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