Fleetwood 4-1 Newport
Steven Schumacher netted a hat trick to help Fleetwood storm to the top of League Two with a 4-1 victory over Newport County at Highbury.
Manager Graham Alexander was forced to make one change for the game as David Ball came in for the injured Jamille Matt.
It was the dream start for Fleetwood as Steven Schumacher found the ball at his feet inside the 18-yard box and shifted it around goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley and shot at goal, only for Robbie Willmott to scramble back and hand ball it off the line. The referee was quick to produce the red card and Schumacher blasted the ball into the top left corner from the penalty spot to put the Cods 1-0 up in under two minutes.
But the visitors were not at Highbury to sit back, and changed their line- up to a 3-4-2 formation following the departure of Willmott, and began to apply some slight pressure with Ryan Jackson and Chris Zebroski linking up well on numerous occasions. That pressure almost paid off on the 25th minute when a corner from the right found Zebroski’s head, but Scott Davies produced a magnificent save with a dive to his right to deny Newport an equaliser.
Some sloppy play from the home side allowed Newport to attack well and it was that duo of Jackson and Zebroski again that caused problems for the Town defence. A free kick half way into the Fleetwood half was floated in and Ismail Yakubu was inches away from getting the header in at the back post, but Cresswell was there to head it out for a corner. The ball then dropped to Adam Chapman 20 yards out who struck a bullet against Schumacher who did well to stand his ground, before Zebroski’s turn sliced the defence open allowing him to strike low towards the near post but Davies was quick to react and tipped wide.
Charlie Taylor’s heroics then deflected another effort wide to help keep the Reds ahead. Another corner, Newport’s sixth in about as many minutes was headed towards goal by Lee Minshull, but it was caught by Davies.
County’s first half efforts almost worked on 40 minutes when Conor Washington beat Liam Hogan for pace and was through one-on-one with Davies, who marched off his line but the shot trickled against the post much to the delight of the Cod Army faithful in the Memorial Stand. Soon after, Conor McLaughlin was brought on for Hogan at right-back.
Fleetwood picked up their game slightly just before the break with Gareth Evans producing a couple of testing shots and David Ball hitting an effort from distance, whilst Taylor was stopped in his tracks down the left hand side by Chapman who slid in with a fierce challenge and ultimately found himself in the referee’s book.
The second half could not have started any better when Schumacher’s impressive shot from around 30 yards out found the back of the net via the left-hand post to give him, and Fleetwood their second of the afternoon. At this point Town were cruising on paper and began to look like the side they have shown they can be this season. Schumacher stepped up again with another effort curling just over Pidgeley’s bar and Jeff Hughes being denied from the 6-yard box. The Cod Army were finally lifted and the County fans were deflated as Antoni Sarcevic and Stewart Murdoch combined to open up the defence. Schumacher’s second penalty and his third goal saw Town steam into a 3-0 lead. The referee pointed for the second penalty on 58 minutes after Jeff Hughes was brought down by Zebroski.
Referee Andy Haines pointed to the penalty spot once again on 70 minutes, as Nathan Pond handled in the area and the ever present Zebroski stepped up to smash it past Davies giving the visitors a glimmer of hope with 20 minutes to go.
But Ball put any doubt to rest six minutes later, slotting the ball home past Pidgeley in the County goal to put Fleetwood 4-1 ahead and secure all three points for the home side.
County’s hearts were still in the game though and Nathan Pond was forced to head an incoming cross over his own bar although County were down and out by that point.
The Newport players made an effort at complaining to the referee about a failed floodlight above the big screen, but the Haines ruled that the light from the score board was acceptable and three points were gained.
Hughes rattled the bar in the dying seconds but it did not matter to the Cods who took their position at the summit of the division.