Fleetwood remain second in the league after away win
Fleetwood Town got back to winning ways with a brilliant 1-0 win against Walsall in a tightly contested affair at the Banks’s Stadium.
Cian Bolger scored the only goal of the game with a bullet header in the 22nd minute before turning in an outstanding defensive performance to keep the hosts out.
The result sees the Cod Army remain second in Sky Bet League One with just nine games remaining.
Uwe Rosler made four changes to his side as Town looked to bounce back from their first defeat in 18 games against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday - with Godswill Ekpolo, Markus Schwabl, Cameron Brannagan and Ashley Hunter all coming into the starting eleven.
It was a cagey opening on a cold evening at the Banks’s Stadium; both sides zipped the ball around their defences as they looked to assert themselves.
In the 21st minute Bobby Grant’s harmless looking cross ended up causing Neil Etheridge problems in the Walsall goal, the keeper was forced into tipping it over for a Fleetwood corner.
From that resulting corner Town took the lead as Bolger rose to power a header into the bottom corner from Brannagan’s floated cross.
Almost instantly Bolger was required to work at the opposite end, blocking George Dobson’s goal bound effort before Scott Laird rifled a shot wide from the corner that followed.
After soaking up the Walsall pressure well, the next big chance fell Town’s way as they broke quickly down the right through Conor McLaughlin who crossed for Brannagan who saw his well-struck effort saved terrifically by Etheridge.
Fleetwood’s energetic pressing was causing panic amongst the Walsall defence and Etheridge’s poor kick almost gifted the visitors a second but Ashley Hunter’s difficult effort from 30 yards out went narrowly wide.
Town almost doubled their advantage two minutes before the break after Brannagan’s free kick was floated into the box and headed across the face of goal by Bolger before Godswill’s header thumped against the crossbar.
Fleetwood started the second half brightly - Brannagan’s free kick curled just wide of the post, before Hunter twice tested Neil Etheridge from distance, the best of his two efforts was pushed onto the post by the Walsall goalkeeper.
Walsall began to crank up the pressure on the visitors on the hour mark but they were finding it difficult to get past the magnificent Bolger, who cleared cross after cross with his commanding headers from the heart of Town’s defence.
Fleetwood’s back three continued to defend staunchly, restricting the hosts to long-range efforts and hopeful crosses, while Hunter constantly probed the Walsall defence with his runs in behind.
In the 89th minute Walsall were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position and Oztumer bent his effort just wide of Alex Cairns’ near post.
There were five minutes of time added on at the end and Walsall continued to pump balls into the box but Rosler’s men saw them out comfortably to claim a deserved 1-0 victory.
Walsall: Neil Etheridge; Edwards, Laird, O’Connor, McCarthy, Dobson (Makris 73’), Chambers, Jackson (Bakayoko 68’), Oztumer, Osbourne, O’Connell.
SUBS: MacGillivray, Morris, Preston, Randall, Moussa.
Fleetwood: Alex Cairns; Godswill Ekpolo, Cian Bolger, Ben Davies; Conor McLaughlin, Kyle Dempsey (George Glendon 85’), Markus Schwabl, Cameron Brannagan (David Ball 70’), Amari’i Bell, Bobby Grant; Ashley Hunter.
SUBS: Chris Neal, Joe Davis, Victor Nirennold, Alex Reid, Joseph Maguire.
REFEREE: Trevor Kettle
ATTENDANCE: 3,890 w/ 142 travelling Fleetwood Town supporters.