Fleetwood 1-1 Cheltenham
By David Mitchell
Cheltenham Town secured their seventh draw in their last ten games as Fleetwood Town equalised a first half strike from Marlon Pack with a bullet header from substitute Junior Brown in front of a crowd of 2031.
The visitors caused many problems for Town with Scott Davies making a series of fine saves.
On the first Tuesday action at Highbury for three months, both sides made four changes from the weekend games. Cheltenham manager Mark Yates talked about a ‘cunning plan’ in the build-up and we half-expected Blackadder’s Baldrick to be in the starting line-up. Town manager, Graham Alexander, was without Jamie McGuire and Alan Goodall, both sent off at Aldershot, and they were replaced by Barry Nicholson and Dean Howell. Goalkeeper Davies was back after serving his one-match suspension and the last change saw the return of former Robin, Steven Gillespie, up front in place of David Ball. It was Gillespie’s first start in eleven games.
Aware of a disappointing first half performance on Saturday, Fleetwood started positively, Ryan Crowther making a run down the right and Anthony Barry almost providing a chance for Gillespie. At the Memorial Stand end, Cheltenham skipper Russell Penn teed up a chance for himself but his volley was high and wide. Nicholson received a fourth minute booking for felling Sam Deering inside the centre circle and Cheltenham started to see more of the ball. A corner from the left found Saturday’s two-goal hero, Marlon Pack, in space at the back post but the danger was cleared.
Gillespie forced a corner from a deflection but Cheltenham countered quickly from the set-piece. Ryan Edwards brought down Penn on the edge of the area for Fleetwood’s second booking, in the tenth minute. Deering beat the offside trap on the right in the 16th
minute and scampered on before forcing Rob Atkinson to clear for a corner.
Cheltenham’s pace was causing problems for Fleetwood’s defence. Keith Lowe forced a save from Davies after 22 minutes, Jason Taylor scooping the deflection on to the top of the net. The pressure finally paid off a minute later. A long throw from the right was turned into the path of Pack and the midfielder scored with a left foot shot to Davies’s left.
Fleetwood’s first chance came four minutes later. Barry fed Howell who ran on and turned a cross from the left on to the head of Jean Michel Fontaine but the Reunion international failed to capitalise at the back post. The hard-working Barry was instrumental in starting another good move, involving a number of players, and ending with Michael Hector clearing a second Howell cross for a corner, under pressure from Fontaine.
With three minutes to half time, the returning Davies kept his side in the game with a superb save to his left from Deering. Town then forced Robins keeper Scott Brown into his first save of the game, in added time. Conor McLaughln slipped a clever pass through to Gillespie and the keeper dived to his right to keep out the shot from a tight angle on the right.
Jon Parkin replaced Fontaine at the start of the second half and it was the visitors who continued to dominate, Town’s midfield unable to make an impact as Cheltenham continued to press forward threateningly. Barry tried from distance at the opposite end, his shot clearing Brown’s crossbar with ease. The dangerous Deering then tested Davies at the other end with a cross from the right.
Fleetwood had a vociferous appeal for a penalty for handball against Elliott turned down by referee Simpson just before the hour and, soon after, Brown replaced Nicholson as Alexander looked to conjure up a response. It took Fleetwood’s leading scorer just eight minutes to make an impact. Brown lost his marker to meet a Crowther short corner from the left with a powerful header, his 11th
goal of the season.
Cheltenham were not prepared to settle for a seventh draw in ten games and Davies had to be at his very best to deny the Robins twice, first Pack from the edge of the area and then Benson from close range. Fleetwood made their third and final substitution with 12 minutes left, David Ball replacing Crowther. Cheltenham continued to press and Fleetwood were guilty of losing possession too easily. Yates first substitution saw Jermaine McGlashan replace Darren Carter with five minutes left. Gillespie broke clear to force a corner which resulted in a tussle at the back post between Parkin and Steve Elliot.
Cheltenham kept the momentum going into added time with McGlashan receiving service on the left. The referee waved away a second penalty appeal after Parkin had hit the defender and the game ended moments later.
TEAM: Davies, McLaughlin, Atkinson (captain), Edwards, Howell, Crowther (Ball 78), Barry, Nicholson (Brown 60), McKenna, Gillespie, Fontaine (Parkin 45)
Bookings: Nicholson, Edwards