It was not the winning start that the Cod Army wanted at the beginning of a new era for Fleetwood Town, with AFC Wimbledon coming out on top 1-0.
Wimbledon have spoilt one or two Fleetwood parties in the past and on this occasion it was a Joe Pigott goal on the hour which separated the sides at Highbury in front of a crowd of 3,236. Fleetwood were unlucky not to get an equaliser when Bobby Grant's well-struck shot came off the inside of the post with eight minutes left.
On a day when there is always excitement and hope across the land many eyes were looking Fleetwood's way to see how Joey Barton's team fared in the new manager's first game. His side lined up 4-2-3-1 and included three new faces plus the returning Lewie Coyle. Making their debuts were skipper Craig Morgan, Tommy Spurr and Ched Evans.
The first threat came after eleven minutes with both sides having opportunities within seconds of each other. Wimbledon's Michael Pinnock sent a tantalising cross to the back post which Pigott headed over. Play went immediately downfield where a low cross from Wes Burns took a deflection, requiring prompt action from Wimbledon keeper Tom King, with Evans lurking. On the quarter hour, King dived to his right to stop a firm Conor McAleny drive from the edge of the area. The ball ran loose but Fleetwood could not capitalise.
Cian Bolger made a timely interception as a Tom Soares through ball to Pigott beat the offside trap after twenty minutes. Wimbledon moved forward menacingly, early encouragement for their fans who had made the trip north on day one.
Bobby Grant was upended in the centre circle on 26 minutes. His own free kick was taken short to Spurr whose cross from the left just eluded Bolger. The defender was back in his normal role just before the half hour intercepting a Kwesi Appiah shot at source. It was a tricky period for Fleetwood's defence. Pinnock's left foot found Appiah who got a header in front of goal, straight into Alex Cairns's arms.
The dangerous Pinnock and Appiah combined again five minutes before the break, the latter needing more quality with his finish from the cross in front of goal. Three minutes later a Grant corner reached Spurr at the back post. His shot on target was acrobatically blocked by defender Ben Purrington. Although Wimbledon won the half on points, they had failed to capitalise on pressure created.
Spurr's long throws are set to be a feature of the season. On 55 minutes he found Bolger whose glancing header eluded McAleny following-up. Spurr nearly scored himself two minutes later when a powerful shot from a corner was deflected wide by King. The first booking of the game was for Appiah's challenge on Coyle.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Wimbledon finally converted a chance after 60 minutes, Pigott poking the ball over the line at the back post following a Purrington cross from the left.
Barton rang the changes. Experienced midfielder Dean Marney came on for his Fleetwood debut immediately after the goal, replacing Jack Sowerby. Five minutes later a double substitution saw the attacking side reinforced. Paddy Madden and Ash Hunter came on for McAleny and Coyle.
Appiah could have put Wimbledon clear single-handedly. He shot just past the far post from the inside left channel. The striker nearly got in again after a poor back pass from Spurr. Moments later, he brought a save from Cairns off the left foot. For good measure, he then nodded to Andy Barcham whose shot was saved.
Fleetwood created their own pressure with Madden and Hunter having chances denied. On the counter, Wimbledon had a chance to seal the game when Cairns saved well from substitute Scott Wagstaff.
Fleetwood couldn't have come closer to an equaliser than on the 82nd minute when a Grant left foot special from long range cannoned across goal off the inside of the left hand post. Fleetwood tried to get on terms but were denied by a well-organised defence.
Alex Cairns, Lewie Coyle (Ashley Hunter, 66), Cian Bolger, Craig Morgan (c), Tommy Spurr, Jack Sowerby (Dean Marney, 61), Kyle Dempsey, Bobby Grant, Wes Burns, Ched Evans, Conor McAleny (Paddy Madden,66)