The latest installment of our season review
December proved to be a month of two halves for Fleetwood Town.
Since the start of their second season in the Football League, Fleetwood had commanded a place inside the coveted top seven, but despite their continuing progress in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, the Cod Army’s league form meant 2013 ended on a sour note.
Victory over Rotherham United aside, the disappointment that was to shadow December set in from the first game.
Starting at Highbury Stadium, Graham Alexander and co were seconds away from dreaming of FA Cup third-round glamour tie after Jeff Hughes had struck a late goal to give Town a late goal against Burton Albion. They dreamt too early Fleetwood were to be denied and Brewers substitute, Billy Kee, fired in an injury-time equaliser past Scott Davies to force a replay at the Pirelli Stadium in ten days time.
The draw at least did secure Fleetwood a place in the third-round draw, but despite many on the Fylde coast hoping, many even praying, for a local-derby clash with Blackpool, or even a new year encounter with one of the greats of the English game, the draw, eventually, paired Championship side Bournemouth with the winner of the Pirelli replay.
Inbetween then, Town turned their attention back to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as they extend their winning streak against League 1 opposition.
Steve Evan’s Rotherham United, who would go on to gain back-to-back promotions to the Championship, were the next side to visit the Fylde Coast with a place in the Area Final at stake.
Fleetwood were not to be denied, though, as they matched their higher rank opponents once again, but this time it took something special to ensure the Cod Army would take another stride to Wembley.
And special it was. Jeff Hughes scored in his second consecutive game to give the host’s the lead before Nouha Dicko equalised ten minutes into the second half.
With the game finely poised, what was to come next would have left even the most heartened of betting fans with the jaws on the floor.
Conor McLaughlin is not renowned for his striking ability, but on this occasion when the right-back took aim from all of 30-yards with 20 minutes remaining, he could not have struck the ball any sweeter.
Into the bottom corner it went beyond Adam Collin. His match-winner went on to be named Fleetwood’s Goal of the Season, but more importantly the Cod Army were into the Area-Final.
Four days later, under a cloud of euphoria, Fleetwood continued their fine form against League 2s best sides with a 2-1 victory over Rochdale to lift themselves back into the top three.
Antoni Sarcevic struck Town in front before Scott Hogan, the brother of Fleetwood’s Liam Hogan, tapped in from close range.
Fleetwood skipper, Mark Roberts, had the last word, though, with a headed finish after Nathan Pond’s first effort cannoned off the post. His wait for goal number 50 would wait another month.
That was as good as it got for Fleetwood in December as three successive defeats followed. The last of which cost Fleetwood their place in the play-offs.
A 1-0 defeat at the Pirelli Stadium brought the curtain down on Fleetwood’s FA Cup run before back-to-back league defeats over the Christmas period left Town outside the top seven for the first time of the season.
A frozen pitch at Wycombe Wanderers meant Fleetwood were forced to end 2013 on a losing note, but that was never going to last long.