Town take Highbury points
Fleetwood Town started 2014 with a convincing 3-1 victory in the Lancashire derby against Accrington Stanley, exacting revenge on their neighbours after defeat in November. The strike pair of Jon Parkin and David Ball were both rewarded fine performances and Daniel Carr celebrated his debut goal late in the game with a virtuoso gymnastics display. Kayode Odejayi scored a consolation 78th minute header for the visitors.
Nathan Pond and Steven Schumacher returned after injuries and there was a first start of the season for Alan Goodall in a Town team which lacking a wide midfield player for the first time this season. Accrington showed two changes from their draw with Southend at the weekend, Michael Liddle and Kayode Odejayi returning.
Thankfully the persistent rain had moved away by kick off and the sun made a timely breakthrough as both sets of fans joined in a minute’s applause for Peter Ainscow, a passionate Fleetwood fan who passed away over Christmas.
Accrington had the first chance, after two minutes. Michael Richardson pounced after hesitancy from Antoni Sarcevic and fired a right foot shot narrowly wide. Town responded with efforts from Sarcevic and Parkin which brought good saves from Andrew Dawber but the keeper had no chance in the sixth minute when Parkin latched on to a pass and thumped a volley to Dawber’s left for his fifth goal of the season.
Making his first start in six games, Parkin was a strong presence up front as Town pushed forward. Alongside him, David Ball was typically busy and there were further opportunities to extend the lead. Goodall, meanwhile, had settled into a less-familiar midfield role, prompting busily from a position just in front of the back four.
Accrington full-back, Nicky Hunt, came off on the half hour with a leg injury and was replaced by Josh Windass, son of Dean. Richardson replaced Hunt in defence with Windass going into midfield. Town came close to a second in the 38th minute. Ball moved inside from the left before striking a firm shot narrowly wide of Dawber’s left post. A tricky wind was affecting the fluency of the game but Parkin continued to battle away, enjoying a physical encounter with Tom Aldred which kept the 2446 crowd entertained. The Beast’s goal separated the sides at half time but Town would have left the pitch feeling that the lead could and should have been greater.
Two minutes into the second half, Sarcevic jinked before cleverly setting up Schumacher whose cross in space on the right was struck with too much power. With the wind in their faces, Stanley’s defence struggled to make ground with their clearances, allowing Town to keep the pressure on.
A long clearance by Davies in the 55th minute presented Ball with a one-on-one but the striker delayed allowing Richardson to make ground and intercept the danger. This was potentially a turning-point in the game but all was well just two minutes later as Ball converted from in front of goal after brilliant work from Sarcevic down the right.
Accrington were hanging on at this stage, nowhere near the side who had turned the game after the interval at the end of November. Davies was a spectator in goal as Town pressed forward relentlessly.
James Beattie made a double substitution after 65 minutes, Will Hatfield and Shay McCartan replacing Kal Naismith and Piero Mingoia. Four minutes later Dean Winnard felled Ball and received the first booking of the game.
Graham Alexander made his first change with a quarter of an hour left, Junior Brown replacing Schumacher. Moments later there was a flashpoint in midfield as Goodall brought down Liddle. Liddle reacted and both players were booked.
Twelve minutes from time and Accrington were back in the game, very much against the run of play. Town disputed a free kick awarded on the left and Hatfield curled a teasing delivery on to the head of Odejayi.
The ever-present Jeff Hughes went down following a challenge on Aldred but recovered after treatment. Sarcevic twice came close to sealing victory before Town made two late changes. Daniel Carr replaced Ball and Stewart Murdoch came on for Sarcevic.
The relief around Highbury was palpable as Carr made the three points secure deep into injury time, following a great break by Murdoch.
TEAM: Davies, McLaughlin, Roberts (capt), Pond, Taylor, Schumacher (Brown 75), Goodall, Hughes, Sarcevic (Murdoch 90), Parkin, Ball (Carr 90)