Fleetwood Town slipped to an undeserving 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers on Saturday, in their away league match of 2018.
Ash Hunter scored the opening goal of the match with a lovely effort from twenty yards out.
Gavin Reilly equalised eight minutes from time with a close range header after a corner was flicked on towards the far post, and it was a simple header for him to convert.
Town went down to ten men in the second half after the referee showed Ched Evans a straight red card for an aerial challenge with Rovers captain Tom Lockyer.
The hosts snatched a winner deep into second half injury time, when James Clarke bundled an effort home at the back post.
It was an action packed first minute of the game as the away side created the first chance as Evans did well in the central area just outside the 18 yard box, and as he played in Ash Hunter on the far side, the 23-year-old had a great chance to open the scoring. He should have done better.
Rovers came down the other end moments later and after a ball from midfield found Alex Rodman, he pulled the ball back to Alex Jakubiak, who skied his effort over the bar from close range.
After the eventful opening quarter of an hour, the game seemed to calm down with both sides getting the ball down, trying to work ways through the back lines, and also trying to create that one goal scoring chance that would give them the lead.
Somehow Rodman missed a glorious opportunity for the home side to give them the lead after twenty minutes. After clever play down their left hand side which saw Reilly hit the inside of the post, the ball bounced across the box for the forward, who maybe wasn’t expecting the ball to reach him, despite that, he should have scored.
But despite Bristol having chances, it was Town who took the lead just before the half hour mark. Madden held the ball up well on the left side, he played in Hunter who was allowed to much time to shoot, and with a lovely dipping effort from 20 yards, the 23-year-old found the back of the net to give his side a lead at The Memorial Stadium.
The hosts found an equaliser eight minutes from through Reilly after a corner into the box was flicked on at the near post. Reilly wasn’t tracked inside the 18 yard box and it was easy for him to nod the ball past Cairns who couldn’t do anything about it.
As the second half began, it was the team in yellow who came out of the traps the quickest and after catching out the Rovers defenders from the corner, Hunter saw his first time effort go wide of the near post. Right idea, just missing the execution.
As Town were building momentum, Evans saw a straight red card from the referee – even though he picked up a yellow in the first 45 minutes – after a clash between the Welshman and the Rovers’ captain Lockyer. The referee didn’t hesitate with his final decision.
With Joey Barton’s side down to ten men, it was somewhat backs against the wall for Fleetwood and if it wasn’t for Nathan Sheron’s last ditch header, Jakubiak would have had a free header on goal from six yards out.
Rovers put even more pressure on the Cod Army and with the head coach seeing what was happening on the pitch, he introduced club captain Crag Morgan which saw a change in formation. With Coyle now in the left back position, he popped up in the opponents half and tried his luck from 25 yards out. A great effort which was saved by the keeper.
With less than ten minutes on the clock, it was time for Fleetwood to dig even deeper to get a share of the points as the home side made attacking substitutions to try and win the match.
And win the match they did. The ball was scrambled around in the area, falling kindly for Clarke who sent the home crowd home happy with a low finish past Cairns.
Head coach Joey Barton was dismissed from the field of play, with a melee taking place in front of both dugouts.
The Cod Army will now look to bounce back on Boxing Day against Doncaster Rovers.
Bristol Rovers XI: Bonham (GK), Clarke, Lockyer ©, Craig, Kelly, Upson, O. Clarke (Lines 87’), Rodman, Holmes-Dennis (Matthews 78’), Reilly (Nichols 72’), Jakubiak.
Subs not used: Smith, Broadbent, Partington, Payne.
Town XI: Cairns (GK), Coyle, Holt (Morgan 65’), Eastham, Evans (s/o 55’), McAleny (Biggins 57’), Madden, Hunter (Taylor 85’), R. Wallace, Marney, Sheron.
Subs not used: Jones (GK), Hill, Garner, Rydel.