Parkin and Matt on target
Fleetwood Town kicked off their pre-season programme just off the M60 at Flixton with a game against Evo-Stik First Division North side Northwich Victoria, now in a new, two-year home in Greater Manchester. The teams last met eighteen months ago in the FA Trophy with only Alan Goodall, Ryan Crowther and Scott Davies surviving from that day.
Town manager, Graham Alexander, opted to use all available players with 45 minutes per man and two separate teams selected. Three new signings were not in action, Mark Roberts, Steven Schumacher and Matty Blair all watching from the sidelines at this well-appointed ground.
Inevitably, eyes were on the other new faces as the game kicked off on a lush playing surface. Two of the more familiar faces caught the eye in the early stages. David Ball made a number of telling contributions, linking well with others as Town created a number of first half chances, while former Vics player Junior Brown was typically busy on the right side of midfield.
New Vics keeper Nick Culkin made several saves to keep Town at bay, the best from a Jeff Hughes left-foot drive. Town's defence played in two different combinations through the half and looked comfortable, keeper Scott Davies having little to do.
Town opened the scoring after 38 minutes. It was a touch fortunate as Conor McLaughlin's on-target shot from outside the area was deflected past Culkin by Jon Parkin. There should have been a second minutes later but Ball delayed his shot in front of goal and was closed down. Worryingly for Town, the striker was helped off at half time with an ankle problem.
Jamille Matt was a strong presence after the break and scored Town's second from close range. Stewart Murdoch was providing some good touches in midfield as Town did most of the pressing. Northwich had their best chance after 65 minutes when Scott Harries brought a good save from Chris Maxwell to his right at the near post. It heralded a stronger final period for manager Lee Ashcroft's side.
Northwich came back into the game and scored after 82 minutes. Harries latched on to a through ball and calmly beat Chris Maxwell to the keeper's right. The Evo-Stik side played with spirit, taking the game to their League Two opponents. They were unable to get on terms, however, and Town won by 2-1 to complete the first stage of their pre-season campaign.