The Cod Army visited the Merseyrail Community Stadium to take on Southport in another pre-season friendly, playing out a 1-1 draw as they continued their recent run of good performances. The sun was shining as Town reunited with former players Jamie Milligan, Danny Hurst, Scott Brown, Matty Flynn, David Stevenson and Alan Wright, now Manager of the Conference National outfit. Former Highbury left-back John Hills is assistant manager,
It was Fleetwood who made the breakthrough after 23 minutes through number 23 David Ball. Stewart Murdoch's attempt on goal was saved well by goalkeeper Danny Hurst but the rebound fell kindly to Ball who tucked away with ease.
The opening exchanges were evenly contested with home side settling into the game nicely. Ex Town midfielder Jamie Milligan was looking to dictate the tempo of the game but Town dealt with any danger with relative ease and it wasn't long until the Cod Army began to find openings in the Southport defence. Striker David Ball in particular had a few chances in the opening ten minutes but was unable to find a way past Danny Hurst.
Town began to pile on the pressure leading up until the first goal and could easily have been ahead after 11 minutes. The Cod Army had a corner, the first of the game, and it resulted in a goal mouth scramble. Liam Hogan delivered a fine ball into the box and Cresswell's header was diverted at goal by Mark Roberts only to be headed off the line. The ball was then fired back at goal by Hogan who was denied by Hurst.
There was an early substitution for the home side with Danny Hattersley being replaced by Steven Tames who nearly made an instant impact. There was a rare error from Mark Roberts which allowed Tames a clear cut attempt at goal, only to be denied by a superb save from Scott Davies. Tames had another chance with the score at 1-0 only to see his shot saved once again by Fleetwood's number 1.
Town were able to comfortably soak up any pressure put on them by the home side and then counter with almost devastating effect. Winger Junior Brown was beginning to cause havoc cutting in from the right hand side and he saw his stinging effort on goal parried away by Hurst on the half hour mark.
The game began to tone down towards the end of the first half until David Ball attempted an acrobatic effort on goal. Matty Blair did well to get his cross in from the right side only to see the spectacular effort scuffed by the striker. Ball did however have another effort on goal just moments after his acrobatic attempt. Full of confidence after his first goal, he cut in well from the left hand side and his shot beat the keeper but sailed just wide of the far post.
Town were continuing to move the ball around well all over the pitch, from the back four to the front line. The back four looked solid until the stroke of half time when Southport were given a controversial penalty. The ball allegedly struck the hand of full back Liam Hogan and the referee had no hesitation awarding the home side the spot kick. Captain Jamie Milligan stepped up to take and he sent Town's Scott Davies the wrong way to make it 1-1 just moments before the whistle blew for half time.
Three changes for Town at the break as Jon Parkin, Jamille Matt and Conor McLaughlin all enter the action. Liam Hogan, Matty Blair and goalscorer David Ball are those who have been replaced. It was the visitors who began the second half the better with Town's Stephen Jordan bringing down Paul Rutherford just outside the box. Whilst Town's defence looked solid, there were a few too many free-kicks given away in dangerous positions.
15 minutes into the second half, Town started to attack the home side and brought on Antoni Sarcevic to replace the hard working Steven Schumacher. The new signing from Chester made a positive impact straight away, linking passes together with his team-mates. Junior Brown then went close again for Fleetwood after some great running from substitution Jamille Matt but Brown's effort was saved well by Hurst.
Matt himself had a fantastic chance to fire The Cod Army back ahead after Junior Brown cut inside and played a perfect pass to the striker's feet but his shot was superbly saved. The resulting corner gave Town an even better chance but Ryan Cresswell's free header flew over the cross bar.
By the half way point in the second half, the pendulum had completely swung in Town's favour. They were controlling the game and it seemed only a matter of time until the lead was theirs once more. Ryan Crowther had a good looking attempt deflected into the arms of Hurst as Southport hung on by the skin of their teeth.
Dean Howell and winger Gareth Evans came on after 75 minutes to replace Stewart Murdoch and the latter almost found the net with his first touches. Big Jon Parkin did well to hold off the Southport defender to play a delightful through ball into the path of Evans but his shot went over the cross bar. Thankfully for Town's sake he had been flagged for offside.
Both sides were pushing for that important goal which with 5 minutes to go would surely secure the victory. However, there were no final twists and this evenly contested game ended all square.
Fleetwood Town Starting 11: Davies, Murdoch, Roberts, Schumacher, Brown, Hogan, Cresswell,
Blair, Ball, Crowther, Jordan.
Substitutes: Parkin (Ball), Matt (Blair), McLaughlin (Hogan), Sarcevic (Schumacher), Evans (Murdoch), Howell (Jordan),