A recap of what happened in February for the Cod Army
After ending with a near perfect record in January, a feat that led to Graham Alexander being named Manager of the Month, it was three defeats in February that became the defining essence of Fleetwood Town’s season.
Whilst the first defeat was the beginning of a rising, the second brought a pain that the squad never wanted to feel again and the third was to become the moment the campaign changed.
First to travel to the Fylde Coast was York City, a side who for the majority of the first half of the season had been trying to stay afloat of the relegation zone, but victory over Fleetwood would prove to be the catalyst of an unbeaten 17-game run to take the play-off places by storm.
A number of astute signings through January meant York had toughened up. Before kick-off, though, there was only one result large proportions of the footballing community would have predicted and it was not one where the Ministermen made the short journey back to Yorkshire with three points.
A Conor McLaughlin own goal on the verge of half time set the tone on a blustery afternoon at Highbury. Mikael Mandron, a loan signing from Sunderland, had brought Alexander and co level, but Wes Fletcher’s injury-time winner was the start of a revival.
It was the last result Fleetwood needed heading into the crucial first-leg of their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Area Final clash with Chesterfield the coming Tuesday.
Despite a much more positive display, Fleetwood were again on the end of some sucker punch goals as the Spireites scored two in the space of three minutes through Ian Evatt and Sam Morsy.
David Ball had halved the deficit with a goal their play had warranted, but Jimmy Ryan’s long-range strike to make it 3-1 would prove to be decisive over the two-legs.
Fleetwood were still showing signs of inconsistency and it took a late Jon Parkin goal to ensure the Cod Army, who fielded Chris Maxwell for the first time, secured a vital point from their re-arranged away trip to Wycombe Wanderers.
Back at Highbury, Fleetwood continued their promotion push. Northampton Town, who still resided at the bottom of the Football League, made the trip up north and two Gareth Evans goals ensured Town held a comfortable 11-point gap between themselves in fifth to Hartlepool in eighth.
That would be as good as it got for Fleetwood. Despite a 1-0 victory over Chesterfield in the second-leg at the Proact Stadium, the Cod Army’s romantic JPT journey was over.
Backed by one of the best followings of the season, Fleetwood produced a performance full of battle and attacking intent, but the all-important second goal eluded Alexander’s team and left the win feeling like defeat.
In the long-term, that heartbreak would go on to be the overriding emotion and inspiration to avoid such a feeling again, but in the short-term it was to get a little worse.
A 1-0 defeat four days later at Mansfield Town only compounded the disappointment from their JPT Area Final clash with Chesterfield, but in one final twist, February ended on the worst possible note.
Town suffered their heaviest defeat of the season at home to an ever-improving Plymouth Argyle. A bitter taste lingered and it was a performance that even Alexander himself admits he could not take away any positives.
Town’s worst defeat of the season – their worst in the Football League – would prove to be the moment that everything changed, though.
Fleetwood could not afford another month like February and Alexander and his team would make sure that there would not be a repeat.