Fleetwood 4-1 Aldershot
By David Mitchell
A dramatic afternoon unfolded in front of a crowd of 2510 at Highbury as Fleetwood Town recorded their first home victory in the Football League with a convincing 4-1 scoreline over Aldershot Town.
Despite having defender Dean Howell sent off for handball after just half an hour, Town showed played some attractive football and showed character and resilience to pull clear and deserve victory after Aldershot had also gone down to ten men with the loss of Josh Payne for two yellow cards. Man of the Match Junior Brown scored twice with added goals from Steve McNulty and Andy Mangan.
Following Town’s first Football League win seven days ago at Burton, manager Micky Mellon made two changes in his starting eleven, both with attacking intentions. Mangan returned after missing two matches and there was a debut for rising Blackpool star Tom Barkhuizen, just signed on loan. Barry Nicholson and David Ball dropped to the bench. Aldershot manager, Dean Holdsworth, has had injury problems in his squad but welcomed back defender Ollie Lancashire and striker Craig Reed.
After a circumspect opening period, Aldershot’s Payne fired a right foot shot narrowly wide of the woodwork in the third minute following a Shots free kick. It was Town who came closest to taking the lead. A fifth minute corner from Mangan found Youl Mawéné on the back post. He nodded it across to Jon Parkin whose own header crashed against the crossbar. Lee Fowler struck a long range effort sweetly but wide to Jamie Young’s right in the eleventh minute. Neither side created clear chances as much of the play was concentrated in midfield. Barkhuizen took up position on the right but was closely marked.
After an uneventful opening, the game exploded into life within the next ten minutes. It started with Town finally breaking the deadlock in the 25th
minute. After some clever close interplay involving a number of players, Damien Johnson gave Brown an opportunity to exploit some space. The midfielder moved forward several paces before striking a left foot shot wide of Young for Town’s first league goal at Highbury and in open play.
Just before the half hour, there was drama at the opposite end. Dean Howell received his marching orders for handling the ball on the goal line. He protested the decision to both referee and assistant but Town spirits were lifted when Scott Davies made a spectacular save to his right to deny Payne from the spot. The game opened up with town having the chance to extend their lead in the 33rd
minute. Barkhuizen raced clear but took the wrong option, allowing Young to save to his right.
The drama continued soon after. With nine minutes remaining in the half, Aldershot made ground down the left. The cross found Craig Reed who swivelled before striking a left foot volley which spun over Davies and hit the crossbar before deflecting off the keeper’s head over the line.
The drama continued immediately after the break as Shots skipper, Ben Herd, conceded a free kick for a challenge on Mangan. The striker floated a free kick from the left to the far post where skipper McNulty had a free header which he converted with ease to give Town the lead again. Mellon reacted immediately to the second goal by introducing Barry Nicholson into midfield to replace Barkhuizen. Mangan earned a booking two minutes later for a needless challenge from behind.
Michael Rankine marked his fiftieth appearance for the Shots with a 58th
minute booking for a challenge on Brown. Mellon visibly urged the Cod Army to get behind their team as the ten men battled to keep their lead under pressure from the visitors. McNulty was added to the referee’s notebook in the 64th
minute for kicking the ball away. Former Tamworth player, Alex Rodman, replaced Troy Brown as Town performed heroics defensively. Herd came forward from full back, first forcing a fine save from Davies before supplying a low cross from the right which Vincenti turned wide. Marrow was soon booked for a foul and Alex Marrow came on for Fowler who left to generous applause.
Aldershot went down to ten men and lost the creative influence of Payne in midfield as a handball prompted the referee to wave a second yellow, followed by red. Town came forward as gaps appeared at the back. Marrow was at the heart of it and set up Brown for his second and a crucial third goal ten minutes from the end. Steve Gillespie raised Parkin who had given his all in a physical battle up front, much of the second half alone. Mangan finished things off as added time approached when he carefully placed a right foot shot past Young after good work from Gillespie.