Fleetwood Town’s under 18s claimed a hard-earned 1-0 victory against Tranmere Rovers in tough conditions on Merseyside this weekend.
Both sides had to deal with freezing temperatures, strong wind and relentless rain on a tough afternoon, but it was Katlego Mashigo’s first half strike that proved to be the difference as Town beat a strong Tranmere side.
Fleetwood fought against a vicious wind in the first half and started the game well, but it was Tranmere who had the first opportunity of the match.
In just the second minute, James Salkeld swung in a dangerous corner that was drifting towards the six-yard box, and it was captain James Hill who set the tone for the game with a brilliant clearance whilst tracking back towards his own goal.
After five minutes Bradley Roberts made up ground from left-back to break into the Town third, and he was subsequently taken down just outside the area.
From the resulting free-kick, Salkeld registered the first shot on target for Tranmere as his effort was well saved by Alex Clayton in the Town goal.
Town responded as Shayden Morris found space on the right and crossed towards Kian Makepeace, but Harrison Musuamba did well to get his body in front and clear the ball away from danger.
Tranmere again pushed forward and when the ball dropped to Danny Walker-Rice on the edge of the box, he controlled the ball well and curled a shot towards the far corner, but his effort didn't trouble Clayton between the sticks, who watched the ball wide.
With a wonderfully-timed drag back, Williams took two players out the game and passed the ball forward to Jay Matete – he played Makepeace through on goal, and after Bayleigh Passant pulled off a fine save, Mashigo was on hand to smash in the rebound and put Town ahead.
Town were not to be put off by the conditions and just before half time they had a fine opportunity to double their lead. Carl Johnston swung in a brilliant corner to Hill, who rose highest to head the ball goalward, with his attempt just going wide of the top corner.
Just before the half time whistle, Walker-Rise tried his luck from over 30 yards out – his shot was flying towards the bottom corner and Clayton guided it wide with a stunning save.
Town defended their lead well going into the second half and aimed to make the most of the wind behind them when Jamie Cooke’s crossed in from the half way line – the ball picked up so much power it evaded everyone in the box and flashed just wide of the post.
Tranmere’s best opportunity to claim an equaliser came when striker Bailey Thompson knocked the ball down to George Nugent, the winger made ground and crossed in to Thompson, but he blazed over from inside the six yard box. The reaction from his teammates emphasised how big of an opportunity it was in a game of few clear-cut chances for the home side.
Town brought on Sam O’Halleron with 20 minutes to go, and it was an inspired substitution. The striker didn't stop throughout the remainder of the match and did well to ease the pressure on Town’s defence as they looked to protect their one goal lead.
Town continued to defend in numbers and frustrate their opponents – the back four of Timmins, Hill, Cooke and Liam Goldsborough were strong and resilient throughout the match, keeping organised and constantly winning battles against their opponents.
Williams, sat just in front of the back four, put in a match winning performance that epitomised Town’s overall display. His non-stop work-rate and determination to regain possession was pivotal, and he showed both calmness and cleverness when in possession.
Northern Ireland youngster Dylan Boyle replaced Kian Makepeace, who led the line well as a solo striker, with 15 minutes to go as Town tightened things up and attempted to see the game out to claim an impressive three points.
Matete did have two opportunities to score and both times he was denied by Passant – but those misses didn't prove costly as Town held on to claim a brilliant win on the road.
Tranmere XI: Passant (GK), Kerr, Roberts, Blackham, Musuamba, Spellman, Salkeld, Walker-Rice, Thompson, Burton, Nugent.
Subs not used: Corness, Bickerstaffe, Sinnoff.
Town XI: Clayton (GK), Goldsborough, Hill, Cooke, Timmins, Williams, Mashigo, Matete, Morris, Johnston (O’Halleron 70’), Makepeace (Boyle 75’).
Subs not used: McCarragher.