Fleetwood 0-3 Bristol
By Mike McGough
Fleetwood Town succumbed to a 0-3 home defeat against the division's bottom club Bristol Rovers in a disappointing afternoon at Highbury.
The Cod Army struggled to recover after conceding two early goals, as the return of Anthony Barry took the main highlight of the day from a Fleetwood perspective, failing to put last week's defeat behind them.
Gareth Evans and Jamie Allen gained home debuts after appearing last weekend and record signing Jamille Matt started up front, whilst Barry graced the Highbury pitch for the first time since his lengthy injury in 2010, starting in central midfield.
Bristol Rovers looked a far cry from a side pinned to the bottom of the table going into the fixture, as the visitors attacked from the start- and it paid off.
The signs were there right from the off; Scott Davies forced into a vital save three minutes into the game, as he tipped away a Seanan Clucas bullet that was heading for the top right corner.
But the league's bottom side did take the lead shortly afterwards on just four minutes, when Ellis Harrison's troubling cross from the left found the foot of Danny Woodards who volleyed past a helpless Scott Davies from around six yards. Rovers continued their whirlwind start right away as Town had to defend a corner from the right, this time Matt cleared.
Fleetwood's first major chance to score came on 21 minutes with their first corner. Brown whipped a neat ball across from a short corner but Matt couldn't quite get his head to it and the visitors cleared. New signing Gareth Evans looked lively on the right wing in the first half and provided numerous crosses, one finding the head of David Ball at the back post who set up Alex Marrow from close range- only for him to slice it wide.
The Pirates doubled their lead with just under half an hour on the clock when Elliot Richards found himself with a shooting opportunity inside the box and he made no mistake by taking his chance, slotting into the far left corner much to the delight of the visiting support in the Percy Ronson Stand.
A lacklustre Fleetwood seemed to revert to aiming the ball towards the giant debutant Jamille Matt up front, but relaxed and played the ball along the floor after The Gas' second. A fifteen minute spell of promising possession for Town couldn't result in a goal though, Brown's right footed strike the closest Town came to netting, along with a misguided Alex Marrow header.
Despite the Reds' pressure late in the first half, Rovers almost put the game beyond Fleetwood when Tom Hitchcock's header bounced off the crossbar after a terrific left-footed cross from the ever-present John-Joe O'Toole.
Nathan Pond returned from his loan at Grimsby and came on for Howell at half time in an attempt from Graham Alexander to stabilise the rocky first half defending, but it proved to no avail.
Bristol Rovers could hardly contain their excitement as they extended their lead less than five minutes into the second half, as an under-performing Town conceded their third goal in consecutive games. This time, O'Toole's rocket found the corner of Davies' goal to put the visitors 3-0 ahead and add the to the agony of the Cod Army faithful.
Soon after, Alexander gave Allen his chance to impress the home crowd from the substitue's bench after his spectacular goal last weekend, he replaced an unfortunate David Ball.
But still the Gas' offensive continued; Hitchcock found himself through on goal at an angle, but couldn't guide his shot goalwards much to the relief of the home side.
In a final attempt to shake the Fleetwood side up, Damien Johnson came on for Anthony Barry.
The impressive Elliot Richards weaved in and out of the Town defence to provide himself with a shooting opportunity on 75 minutes, but he couldn't hit the target before a right footed cross from Brown forced McCrystal into a diving header which almost troubled his own keeper. The resulting corner dropped to Brown whose curling shot hit the side netting and ultimately proved to be the last chance of the game and capped off a poor afternoon for Fleetwood.
Town travel down to Edgar Davids' Barnet next week in a bid to put the last two results behind them.