Accrington 0-3 Fleetwood
By Sam Gilliland
Jon Parkin fired Fleetwood back into the play-off mix with his second hat-trick of the season.
The experienced striker caused Accrington’s defence problems from the first whistle, and fired in two second-half goals to add to his outstanding first.
Town’s win over their Lancashire rivals moved them within five points of the play-offs, with a game in hand on Exeter above them.
Graham Alexander made three changes to the side that drew at home to Exeter on Saturday. Jamie McGuire returned from a three-match suspension, Rob Atkinson was recalled as captain, and David Ball joined Jon Parkin in a two-man attack.
Parkin held up the ball in his typical back-to-goal style in the 4th minute and teed up Jamie McGuire, who had burst through the middle, but the midfielder’s early effort was deflected over.
Parkin proved to be a handful for the home side’s defence from kick-off, and the big striker took his first chance when it came, with a composed volley inside the area from Junior Brown’s pinpoint cross in the 25th minute.
The goal moved him into double figures for goals this season, and he continued to be a menace to the Accrington backline all night.
Gareth Evans linked up with powerful centre-forward down the Town left wing in the 34th minute, but drilled a low cross straight into Paul Rachubka at his near post.
And Evans was denied a great chance to double the lead for Fleetwood in the 35th minute, after a sprawling save by Rachubka, who had done well to originally prevent danger on the edge of his area.
Alan Goodall and Accrington’s Francis Jeffers and Peter Murphy were both booked in a quiet first half, with the home side’s best opening coming from James Beattie’s dangerous cross.
Fleetwood started the second-half as strong as they finished the first, and were close to doubling their lead in the 62nd minute, when Parkin again fended off a defender to find Ball, who was denied at the goalkeeper’s near post.
But Ball had a hand in Parkin’s second less than a minute later, as he played the big striker in one-on-one with Rachubka, and Parkin calmly slotted past him in front of the 260 travelling Fleetwood fans.
Scott Davies made a smart save from Amine Linganzi in the 68th minute, tipping over the midfielders fierce drive from the right, before Parkin bagged his second hat-trick in a Lancashire derby this season.
Town’s target man flicked home expertly at Rachubka’s near post after Shaun Beeley had squeezed in a cross near the corner flag.
Substitute Jean Michel Fontaine fired an effort against the Accrington crossbar in added time for what could have been a Fleetwood fourth, but it finished 3-0 to the Cod Army.
Davies, Beeley, Atkinson, Pond (McLaughlin 86), Goodall, Evans, Barry (Nicholson
81), McGuire, Brown, Ball, Parkin (Fontaine 73)