Town 1-3 Chesterfield
By David Mitchell
Despite a season’s best of 3705, Fleetwood Town ended their home campaign regretting missed chances as Chesterfield demonstrated how unforgiving the npower League 2 can be.
Two goals just before half time changed the course of the game and Town could not respond despite a second half consolation goal from the impressive Andy Mangan. The 3-1 defeat signalled the end of Town’s lingering play-off aspirations.
Both teams hopes of reaching the play-off places were hanging by a thread pre-match and Town manager, Graham Alexander, made one change from the Rotherham defeat last Saturday. Ryan Crowther replaced Conor McLaughlin. It was the midfielder’s first start in seven games. The change meant a return to left back for Junior Brown, for the first time this season.
Before the game began, there was a moving tribute paid to Peta Bowley, wife of Town Youth Team’s assistant manager Mark, who sadly died of cancer recently. There was a 30 second period of applause.
In a lively start, Town’s Alan Goodall was booked within the first minute for a challenge on Marc Randall. A free kick opportunity was wasted by Town in the seventh minute, an over-elaborate exchange between several players taking the sting out of a promising position 20 yards out. Neither goalkeeper was required to exert himself until the 11th
minute when Scott Davies stretched himself to deal with a shot from Marc Richards. The keeper beat away a Jay O’Shea shot for a corner from which Liam Cooper headed narrowly over the crossbar.
Town then launched an attacking offensive with repeated forays on the Chesterfield goal. There was some fluent football and chances for Jamille Matt, Gareth Evans, Crowther and David Ball in an exhilarating ten-minute period. Crowther came closest with two testing shots from the left side, one saved well by Tommy Lee and the other inches wide of the far post.
It was Chesterfield’s turn to threaten as O’Shea’s low cross from the left forced Brown to clear inches from his goal-line just before the half hour. Town moved down field with good work from Crowther creating another opportunity for Matt in front of goal. The players came together after 32 minutes when Randall brought Ball down and many in the Cod Army felt he had got away lightly with a booking.
The first substitution saw Richard Brindley replaced by Armaund Gnanduillet for the Spireites.
In the 38th
minute, Paul McKenna, Evans and Matt linked well, the tall striker extending Lee. Two minutes later, Randall conceded another free kick with a challenge that could easily have resulted in a second yellow for the Chesterfield player. Town’s first half dominance came to naught as half time approached. The Spireites struck twice in three minutes. After 43 minutes the home defence failed to clear a corner from the right and substitute Gnanduillet scored his third goal of the season with a header to Davies’s left. In added time, Richards pounced with a powerful strike, his 10th
of the season, to break Cod Army hearts. As Town disappeared down the tunnel they would have been left rueing missed opportunities.
Randall almost stole in for a third Chesterfield goal just after the break, with O’Shea then trying from long range but it was Matt who went closer for Town. He managed to lift the ball over the advancing Lee after 49 minutes and his lob from the edge of the area grazed the wrong side of the post. Three minutes later, Matt was replaced by Mangan.
Chesterfield killed any lingering Town hopes with a third after 63 minutes. Randall slipped a ball through to Togwell whose shot was saved by the advancing Davies. The ball ran out to Richards on the edge of the area and the striker struck a decisive left-foot shot.
Five minutes later, Town finally converted an opportunity. Beeley chested the ball down near the edge of his own area and set the ball moving upfield. Ball found Mangan who beat offside before sliding the ball through Lee’s legs for his third goal of the season and his first following his long lay-off.
Sam Hird replaced Randall in the 72nd
minute. Soon after, Brown gave Mangan the chance to run on and strike one of his trademark drives, the right-foot shot travelling wide of Lee’s left post. Mangan was making up for lost time, getting on the end of another pass before volleying over the bar from close range in the 79th
minute. Evans left the field with ten minutes left, replaced by Jean-Michel Fontaine. Town continued to push forward and looked lively in the attacking half. McKenna was busy in midfield, releasing Mangan who, in turn, fed Crowther on the right. The cross gave Ball a chance but Lee was equal to it, saving to his right.
Town continued to try hard but the referee’s whistle after four added minutes ended hopes of further glory.
TEAM: Davies, Beeley, Edwards, Goodall, Brown, Evans (Fontaine 80), McKenna, McGuire, Crowther, Matt (Mangan 52), Ball
Booking: Goodall, Brown