Fleetwood 2-1 Rotherham
Fleetwood Town took a fourth League One scalp with one of their best displays of the season as they knocked Rotherham United out of the Johnstone Paints Trophy to reach the Northern final in front of 2244 at Highbury. Jeff Hughes fifth goal of the season and a stunning debut goal from Conor McLaughlin put Town one stage from a Wembley appearance.
Two changes for Town saw the return of Steven Schumacher and Nathan Tyson, the latter having been cup-tied in the FA Cup on Saturday. They replaced Stewart Murdoch, rested after a nine-match run, and Jon Parkin. Gareth Evans started against his former club and another former Miller, Ryan Cresswell, was on the bench.
United dominated possession in the early stages and keeper Scott Davies had to be alert after a speculative Alex Revell shot from distance took a deflection in the fourth minute. Haris Vuckic, on loan from Newcastle, fired over the bar two minutes later. The League One side moved the ball at pace, earning several free kicks in attacking positions. Ben Pringle swung a left-foot effort on to Nouha Dicko’s head, the effort narrowly wide of the upright.
Town’s threats were brief, Hughes miscuing a chance in the 16th minute. Soon after, in the 18th minute, the midfielder made good, giving his side a surprise lead. Play built up down the left and the ball came to Hughes in space in the inside right channel. The Northern Ireland international’s left foot shot brought an embarrassing error from goalkeeper Adam Collin, who was unable to gather cleanly and turned to see the ball rolling agonizingly over his line. It was a second goal in three days for Hughes.
Dicko went close again but the balance of play shifted as Town grew in confidence, often involving Matty Blair down the right flank. When called upon, the defence remained firm with Mark Roberts and Nathan Pond pulling off a number of timely interventions. As half time approached, the Millers picked up the pace again with Pringle ever-dangerous from corners. Mark Bradley headed inches over in the 39th minute and, soon after, James Tavernier’s shot, aided again by a Town deflection, sped wide.
Richard Brindley started the second half for Rotherham, replacing right-back Mark Bradley. The first attempt came from Town, Antoni Sarcevic set up by Charlie Taylor before firing a left foot shot wide. It was then back to defensive duties as Rotherham applied pressure. In a hectic few minutes, Town conceding three consecutive corners, Revell turned and struck a crisp shot against the post in the 50th minute and Dicko hit the side netting. Eventually, the defence was breached in the 54th minute. Following pressure down the right, Davies parried a deflection into the path of Dicko who slammed home from close range.
Town retaliated immediately with attacks down both flanks. Taylor earned a free kick on the edge of the area and Schumacher was just unable to repeat his recent effort against Oxford United. Brilliant work from McLaughlin provided a chance for Sarcevic and from the resulting corner Pond almost converted as Collin misjudged the flight. Town continued to press but when they countered Rotherham always looked a threat in the final third.
Town re-took the lead in the 70th minute and it was a stunning effort. McLaughlin pushed forward in space before unleashing a thunderbolt which flew past Collon.
With quarter of an hour to go, Daniel Carr made his Town debut, on for Tyson. It was so nearly a memorable entry as Carr picked up a pass from Hughes, advanced and stretched Collin with a right foot shot. Blair left three minutes later to generous applause as he was replaced by Junior Brown. Claude Davis replaced Haris Vuckic for the Millers.
With two minutes left of normal time, Rotherham-born Cresswell replaced Evans. Moments later, Lee Freckleton forced a fine save from Davies as five minutes added time was indicated. Schumacher handed United an opportunity as he brought a player down 25 yards out but Tavernier shot wide. Town survived any last minute dramas this time to go one stage closer to Wembley.
Davies, McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts (c), Taylor, Blair (Brown 78), Schumacher, Hughes, Evans (Cresswell 88), Sarcevic, Tyson (Carr 75)