Town hold leaders
By James Edwards
Fleetwood Town continued their unbeaten start to 2014 with a hard-earned point at table toppers Scunthorpe, but will leave Glanford Park wondering how they failed to pick up all three points after dominating most of the proceedings.
The Cod Army created a number of decent opportunities throughout the televised clash, with David Ball, Mark Roberts and Antoni Sarcevic all testing Iron goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.
To add to their frustration, midfielder Steven Schumacher saw his penalty saved in the 62nd minute, after Charlie Taylor was felled in the area.
Graham Alexander made one change from the team that won at promotion rivals Burton Albion on Saturday afternoon, with on-loan Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron making his full debut for the club at the expense of the in-form Jon Parkin.
With Jeff Hughes ruled out for the remainder of the campaign after suffering a fractured fibula in the home win against Hartlepool United nine days ago, Alex Marrow, another loanee, kept his place on the left side of midfield.
In the opposing dugout, Scunthorpe manager Russ Wilcox drafted both Gary McSheffrey and Paul Hayes into his starting eleven, at the expense of Christian Ribeiro and Deon Burton.
The Iron last tasted defeat at Glanford Park on the 16th November when they went down 2-0 to strugglers Accrington Stanley.
Although the home side started livelier of the two teams, it was in fact Town who had the game’s first attempt on goal in the seventh minute. Stewart Murdoch burst up-field, fed striker David Ball, and forced a low save from Sam Slocombe.
In response, Dave Syers’ dipping effort was expertly tipped over by Town keeper Scott Davies, in what was an eventful first quarter of an hour.
Left back Charlie Taylor beat Terry Hawkridge on the left wing, and whipped a fine far post cross into the path of Stewart Murdoch, who failed to connect with the shot.
The Iron’s David Mirfin almost put through his own net as he misjudged a Steven Schumacher cross, while captain, Mark Roberts, was guilty of missing a close range opportunity in the 21st minute.
Graham Alexander’s men began to impose themselves as the half wore on, with David Ball volleying wide, and Conor McLaughlin shooting straight at keeper Slocombe.
Very much like Scunthorpe’s Mirfin, Town’s Mark Roberts then rode his luck, as his clearing header went narrowly over Scott Davies’ goal.
With a minute to go before the interval, Roberts’ ball forward beat the home defence and presented David Ball with a chance, but he dragged his effort wide as both sides went in goalless at the break.
The Cod Army made one change during half time, with Junior Brown coming on to replace Alex Marrow on the wing.
Fleetwood started the second half impressively, and forced much of the initiative, with Taylor, Brown and Stewart Murdoch sending teasing crosses into the home box.
Gary McSheffrey, a recent signing from Chesterfield, almost caught out Davies with a corner, but the keeper reacted well to punch away.
The Cod Army were awarded a penalty in the 62nd minute, when Charlie Taylor was brought down in the box under a challenge, and referee Scott Duncan pointed to the spot.
Unfortunately for Town, Steven Schumacher’s spot-kick was saved well by Iron keeper Sam Slocombe.
Fleetwood continued to up the ante, and this time David Ball played a deft pass over the top into the path of substitute Antoni Sarcevic, but his thunderous effort was kept out.
Substitute Hakeeb Adelakun proved to be a difficult customer for the visitors’ backline, as his power and pace offered the Iron an alternative dimension.
Paddy Madden stung the fingertips of Davies with five minutes to go, as both sides went in search of a late goal at Glanford Park.
However, there was to be no winner, and the top of the table clash ended goalless, which meant Graham Alexander and his team stretched their unbeaten run to five.
Town are next in action this Saturday when York City visit Highbury in Sky Bet League 2.