Cole strike hands Town the win
Fleetwood Town opened their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in Group D. A goal from Devante Cole on the stroke of half time separated the sides in an entertaining game full of chances for both sides.
Uwe Rosler’s line-up contained some interesting selections, notably home debuts for recent signings Martyn Woolford and Kyle Dempsey. Both started in midfield. Woolford had the first chance of the game, turning a firm header goalward from Bobby Grant’s corner. The effort was on target but blocked.
The Blackburn youngsters, managed by former Fleetwood player Damien Johnson, moved the ball around quickly and created pressure without troubling Chris Neal to any extent. Good interplay created a chance in the sixth minute when Ryan Nyambe crossed for Connor Thompson who mistimed his shot. Four minutes later, an error from Joe Davis was pounced upon by Willem Thompson who fed Connor Mahoney. Alert defence was needed to keep out the threat.
Town’s Michael Duckworth almost gave his side the lead just before the quarter hour, cutting in from the right before firing a shot which goalkeeper David Raya dealt with well. The game was being played at a brisk pace, entertaining a small crowd of 392 housed in the Parkside Stand. Woolford came close again after 21 minutes. He ran on to a weighted pass from Grant and struck a left-footed shot across Raya’s goal.
Play switched ends with regularity. It was a fascinating contrast between Town’s players looking to catch the manager’s eye for the League campaign and the visiting youngsters full of promise and enthusiasm at the start of their careers.
The next chance went to Cole, desperately unlucky not to get on the scoresheet at Southend United on Saturday. He nearly made some amends on 26 minutes, a left foot shot fired narrowly wide of Raya’s right-hand post. A third Town debutant, George Glendon, replaced Eggert Jonsson after half an hour, Rosler keen to keep one of his key players fresh.
Grant received an unnecessary booking after 41 minutes, tugging at the shirt of a Blackburn player as the youngster broke free. As half time approached, Town took the lead with a superbly worked goal.
Started in midfield with Glendon, the ball flowed across the impressive Fleetwood pitch. The irrepressible Ash Hunter took it on before driving a low cross in from the right, turned in by Cole.
Town began the second half on the front foot, looking for a two-goal lead which would surely test the resolve of the Blackburn youngsters. Dempsey took successive free kicks from the right, the second almost converted by Davis, before Hunter struck a left-foot shot from outside the area tantalisingly close to the upright. Duckworth caught the eye at right back with a series of salmon-like leaps for headers, all won. He had a good game all-round and with Conor McLaughlin ineligible at the weekend did his own chances of a full debut no harm.
Rovers came back strongly, enjoying a sustained period of pressure. Chances were created but the final touch of quality was lacking as Hardcastle, Thomson, Rankin-Costello and Mansell all saw chances come to naught. Within this period, Town made two substitutions. Ricardo Kip replaced Cole and Victor Nirennold came on for Grant.
With quarter of an hour left, Mahoney hit a dipping left foot shot from wide on the right, causing momentary concern in the Town defence. After dominating territory for so long, Rovers were suddenly pinned back.
A superb pass from Woolford found Kip who brought a brilliant save from Raya.
A second chance came from the corner with a Davis header. Soon after, Dempsey fired over from inside the penalty area. Kip returned the compliment to Woolford with a low delivery from the right but the defence was alert. Hunter became a second needless booking for Town when he aimed a shot at goal after being declared offside.
Dean Rittenberg, a late substitute, almost took the game to penalties with a right foot shot which skimmed Neal’s left post. For him and his team-mates it will have been valuable experience against League footballers.
Fleetwood Town: Chris Neal, Michael Duckworth, Cian Bolger, Ashley Eastham, Joe Davis, Eggert Jonsson (George Glendon, 30), Kyle Dempsey, Martyn Woolford, Bobby Grant (Victor Nirennold, 68), Devante Cole (Ricardo Kip, 60), Ash Hunter
Booked: Grant, Hunter
Blackburn Rovers: David Raya, Ryan Nyambe, Matthew Platt, Scott Wharton, Jack Doyle, Connor Mahoney, Willem Tomlinson, Lewis Hardcastle, Connor Thomson (Dean Rittenberg, 86)-, Joseph Rankin-Costello, Lewis Mansell