Fleetwood 1-1 Rotherham
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town and Rotherham fought out a full-blooded War of the Roses in front of 2498 at Highbury.
A mistake by Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies gave Rotherham an 18th
minute lead through Karl Arnason before Town replied with Jon Parkin’s first league goal at Highbury just three minutes later. Davies then made a string of outstanding saves which kept his side in the game against a physical and direct side.
Right-back Shaun Beeley returned to Town colours after four games out with a thigh injury. The two other changes saw returns for skipper Steve McNulty and Jamie McGuire. Defender Rob Edwards failed to recover from Saturday’s hamstring injury while Junior Brown started on the bench. The Millers leading scorer, Daniel Nardiello, was named as a substitute after missing Saturday’s Cup win over Stevenage with a groin strain.
A one-minute silence was immaculately observed in the week leading up to Remembrance Day, timed by Premier League referee, Chris Foy.
Both sides were guilty of over-hitting passes in the opening period. Town threatened in the eighth minute with a move similar to so many from the Bromley Cup win at the weekend. Barry Ferguson threaded a beautifully-weighted ball into the path of Curtis Obeng who ran at pace down the right but his low pass was just behind the advancing McGuire.
Neither side was able to gain the ascendancy and both defences looked comfortable. Ferguson showed his quality again on the quarter hour mark, finding the overlapping Beeley, and forcing a corner. David Ball and Dean Howell combined three minutes later but McGuire could not capitalise on the cross from the left.
Two goals in three minutes brought the game to life. A Scott Davies error presented the Millers with an 18th
minute lead. Ball fouled Arnason wide on the right, Davies failed to grasp a high free-kick from Mark Bradley which hung in the air and Arnason accepted the gift, with a right-foot strike from the edge of the area. Town struck back immediately. Obeng and Beeley linked neatly on the right and the full-back’s cross was emphatically turned in by Parkin, for his sixth goal of the season, Davies the busier of the keepers.
Rotherham dominated territory up to the half hour but Town resisted and created an opportunity for Parkin. The striker ran on to a Ferguson pass on the edge of the area but miscued his shot wide of Andy Warrington’s right post. There was anxiety at the other end when Youl Mawéné and Howell tangled over the same ball and Bradley ran on to send in a dangerous cross.
Michael O’ Connor and Gareth Evans replaced Jamie Devitt and Arnason at the break. It was an action-packed start to the second half. Ferguson won the ball in midfield, setting up Ball who found Parkin. The shot went narrowly wide. Rotherham came straight back and Davies redeemed himself with an outstanding double-save at point blank range. Town retaliated. After getting himself needlessly booked in the 50th
minute, McGuire sent Obeng away and Town forced another corner.
Steve Evans temperature went up a few degrees in the Miller’s dug-out after Davies raced to the edge of the area and appeared, in Evans opinion, to handle the ball outside. The former Crawley boss clearly felt that his side were not getting the rub of the green from Mr. Foy as he ironically applauded when a decision went his way soon after. Town’s first substitution came after 54 minutes when Junior Brown replaced Parkin who had a hamstring problem. The game was fast and entertaining with action at both ends, as befitting two of the pre-season favourites in npower League 2.
Alex Marrow came on for Lee Fowler just after the hour. Howell made a clumsy challenge on Evans after 65 minutes and became Town’s second booking. Rotherham pressed, anxious to improve an away record with just one win so far. Cod Army hearts were in mouths a number of times. Their first booking was for O’Connor who brought Brown down from behind in the centre circle. The Rotherham player was then upended by Ferguson, who was also booked.
Opportunities came at both ends, Town’s as a result of a good break from Ball in the 72nd
minute. The striker fed Howell but the full-back’s shot was well-covered by Warrington. Davies then kept Town on terms after McNulty had been given the slip by Kayode Odejayi.
The atmosphere was fully-charged, not least when McGuire tackled Josh Morris, Rotherham aware that the Town player was on yellow. Town had Davies to thank again in the 77th
minute when he pulled off an acrobatic save to his left to deny Alex Revell. Town’s final substitution followed soon after, Tom Barkhuizen replacing the hard-working Ball.
There was a late booking for Brown, the last action of an always enthralling top six match.
TOWN: Davies, Beeley, McNulty (capt), Mawéné, Howell, Obeng, Ferguson, McGuire, Fowler (Marrow 63), Parkin (Brown 54), Ball (Barkhuizen 78)
Booked : McGuire, Howell, Ferguson, Brown