Friendly: Thornton Cleveleys 2-3 Fleetwood TownA Fleetwood Town squad featuring mostly U18s players overturned a two goal reverse to come out on top in a five-goal friendly against Thornton Cleveleys at New Bourne Park on Thursday night.
Quick-fire goals from Phil Smith and Stuart Dagger just after the half-hour mark put the West Lancashire league side in the ascendancy, however strikes from Tyrell McKenzie and Dion Charles restored parity for the Cod Army at the interval.
Town won it in the final 10 minutes, as Dom Kerrigan bundled the ball in from a corner to ensure Nathan Rooney’s outfit prevailed.
Manager Rooney selected a youthful side mainly made up of U18 scholars, as well as two development squad players, in the form of new signing Charles, and midfielder Kieran Dunbar.
In the opening exchanges of the development squad’s third outing in six-days, Town looked to force the issue, and early on, Charles and Dunbar both had efforts on goal, which the goalkeeper comfortably saved.
On a baking hot evening on Lancashire’s Fylde Coast, Town’s non-league opponents had their first sight of goal shortly after, but FTFC cleared their lines as Lewis Baines successfully cleared the ball away from goal, following a scramble in the area.
Fleetwood were being put on the back foot as the half wore on, and went behind after 34 minutes, after a cross from the right found its way to Smith, who powered a header into the far corner.
Just three minutes later, the visitors found themselves two down, when Dagger expertly found the back of the net with placed free-kick from just outside the penalty area.
Fleetwood’s youngsters found a way back into the game on 40 minutes through youth team player McKenzie.
His free-kick from the right evaded the yellow shirts of his team-mates in the crowded penalty area, and went straight into the far corner to reduce the deficit.
The comeback was completed three minutes later, Charles turning home to complete the turnaround as the interval approached.
As play resumed for the second-half, Charles, the recent recruit from AFC Fylde, went close with a low header that he just glanced wide.
Thornton’s route to goal was thwarted when Crellin pulled off a fine diving save to deny goalscorer Smith, after he had connected well with a floated cross.
The gap in age to their counterparts from New Bourne Park did not seem to worry Fleetwood, who looked to go about their play in positive fashion.
Crollin was again called into action as the game entered its final half-hour, as he acrobatically managed to divert a fiercely driven shot over the crossbar.
As legs and minds were beginning to get tired in the height of pre-season, the fixture began to become somewhat ugly, as tackles began to fly in.
It would prove to be Fleetwood’s night ten minutes from time as they netted the decisive goal, full-back Kerrigan reacted quickest to prod Rooney’s team into the lead, in what proved to be the winning strike.
Town managed to see out the remaining minutes in professional fashion.
The young squad can take pride from winning a game from two goals down, and use it as a springboard for the forthcoming season.
After the full-time whistle, Rooney offered up his thoughts on the superb comeback victory at Thornton.
Rooney said: “It was an excellent game for mid pre-season for the boys, it was quite a young squad we put out against a men’s team like Thornton.
“When we went two nil down, it was a great test of character, we got the response we needed, nice to see the development boys keep up with their fitness, but I’m really over the moon with the young players at this moment in time.”