Back to winning ways
By David Mitchell
Debut goals from David Ball and Tom Barkhuizen ensured a fifth league victory for Fleetwood Town after visitors Barnet had been reduced to ten men for over an hour following the dismissal of goalkeeper, Graham Stack, who was sent off for a foul on Ball which led to a penalty converted by the striker.
Barnet had stunned Highbury by striking first as early as the third minute, through Jake Hyde.
Town manager, Micky Mellon, gave Alex Marrow his first start in midfield with Ball and Barkhuizen both returning and linking for the first time up front. Barnet’s new signing, Ishmael Kamara, started on the bench as Bees manager, Mark Robson, named an unchanged side following a creditable home draw with fancied Rotherham last Saturday.
The sad news of the death of Club Chaplain, Len Preston, was marked by an immaculately observed minute’s silence.
Bottom-side Barnet took an early lead. Following successive corners, Ricky Holmes drilled a low right foot shot into a crowded area. Scott Davies blocked the ball but Town were unable to prevent Hyde scoring from close range, Barnet’s first goal on the road this season. Despite forcing a number of corners, Town struggled to make an impact up front against the Bees centre back pairing of Krystian Pearce and Dave Stephens. Junior Brown worked hard to create an opportunity down the left and had Town’s first shot on target, his right foot effort on the quarter hour hit straight at Stack. Brown then slipped a lovely pass through for Ball. The striker beat offside but his shot was too close to Stack who comfortably saved to his left.
The game took a dramatic turn on 22 minutes. Ball picked up a deflection from a Shaun Beeley shot and was brought down in front of goal by Stack. Referee Clark sent the keeper off and Ball converted from the spot following a lengthy wait as reserve keeper, Sam Cowler, took over. It was the former Peterborough striker’s first goal in a Town shirt. Midfielder, Ahmed Abdullah, was sacrificed to make way for Cowler.
Barnet refused to succumb, spending time in the attacking half. Holmes caught the eye with busy runs down the right channel. Olly Lee was booked for a foul on Marrow and Town responded with a Beeley left foot shot going narrowly over the bar. Just three minutes before half time, Brown made an incisive run down the left before crossing to Jamie McGuire who headed on to Cowler’s right-hand post. There was a further chance in added time as Dean Howell’s shot from distance was deflected narrowly wide.
Jack Saville replaced Jordan Brown for Barnet after the break. Ball was denied by Pearce as Town came forward. McGuire and Barkhuizen then linked to create a chance for Brown which was blocked before Holmes struck a shot narrowly wide as Barnet countered. Town came back immediately with Howell hitting a sweet left foot shot inches wide from 25 yards out.
Brown was booked for holding Holmes back after 54 minutes. Just before the hour, Jamie Milligan replaced Marrow for his first league action of the season. Brown created an opportunity from nothing before Barnet countered again following a Howell mistake in the final third. Oster put Davies under pressure but the keeper denied him at the edge of his area. Town’s next chance followed soon after, an exquisite chip from Barkhuizen finding McGuire’s head at the back post in the 61st
minute. Cowler saved but Town continued to press.
Saville became the latest name in the book after 69 minutes when he brought down Barkhuizen in front of the tunnel. Cowler saved a sharp deflection from a Beeley shot soon after. Jon Parkin replaced McGuire in the 76th
minute. Cod Army nerves in the crowd of 2615 were eased after 76 minutes when Town took the lead for the first time. A trademark Milligan cross from the left found Barkhuizen in space and the Blackpool loan player made no mistake with a header to Cowler’s right, his first goal for Town.
Kamara’s debut came with ten minutes left, on for Lee. Barkhuizen came off with seconds to go, replaced by Steven Gillespie, and the final action of the game saw a Milligan free kick thunder on to the crossbar.
TOWN: Davies, Beeley, McNulty (capt), Mawéné, Howell, Marrow (Milligan), Johnson, McGuire (Parkin), Brown, Barkhuizen (Gillespie), Ball