Goals from Paddy Madden and Jordy Hiwula sealed Fleetwood’s first win since January after a fine second half performance against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena.
After an even first half, Town asserted their dominance in the second as Madden struck home a rebound from a Kyle Dempsey shot. A fine finish from substitute Hiwula sealed the victory as the clock struck 90, to make it four unbeaten, with the win our first under John Sheridan.
Sheridan made two changes to his side that faced Charlton on Saturday, with Nathan Pond and Conor McAleny coming into the starting XI, while Gethin Jones and Wes Burns missed out on starts. Harrison Biggins returned to the bench.
The game started as you’d expect a contest between two sides battling to stay above the dotted line to start, with neither team creating anything of note inside the opening ten minutes. It was very much a midfield battle early on, with both sides unable to carve out an elusive attack.
It was in fact nearly 20 minutes in when the first effort of the game was registered as Stephen Humphrys turned on the edge of the area and fired just over Alex Cairns’ net.
It was Humphrys again who was next to test Cairns, as his deflected effort fortunately looped comfortably into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Town were fortunate not to concede when Scott Wiseman forced his way into the area and flashed the ball across the face of goal. Luckily for Town, Cian Bolger’s touch took it away from goal and out for a corner, and not into the back of the net.
Rochdale went close again when Callum Camps swung a free kick into the area, and Ryan Delaney hit it over under pressure from a melee of bodies.
Testament to the home side’s high line, it was in first half stoppage time that Fleetwood had their first effort of the match, as Paddy Madden tried his luck from distance on the volley after being threaded through on goal.
The hosts started the second half as they finished the first – in control. Their packed midfield was making it difficult for Town to cut through the middle.
Events were then marred when Rochdale’s Andrew Cannon was stretchered off after a lengthy stoppage after a collision with Jack Sowerby just outside the centre circle.
Shortly after, Town could have been ahead after a corner found Ash Eastham, but his downward header was saved by Josh Lillis to deny the defender a second goal against his former team this season.
This was a sign of things to come though, as Town took a dramatic lead when Madden smashed the ball home after a great drive into the box from Dempsey. Lillis saved Dempsey’s subsequent shot, but the Irishman was first to it, to calmly slot the Cod Army in front.
Substitute Mihail Dobre was quick out the blocks after being brought on by Keith Hill in an effort to salvage them a point, as he forced his way into the penalty area, before firing over Cairns’ goal.
The goal had certainly fired Fleetwood up as it was now far from one way traffic that we had seen earlier on in the game. With Town now able to venture further up field, Bobby Grant was brought on to aid the side in seeing the game out, replacing the goal scorer Madden.
The hosts were growing in confidence as they pained for an equaliser, leaving the game firmly in the balance with only stoppage time to play.
It was then time for Hiwula, brought on just fifteen minutes earlier by Sheridan, to seal the win for Town with a delightful goal as he raced the wing, cut inside and slot the ball under Lillis.
Eight minutes of stoppage time were shown, mainly thanks to the injury to Cannon, but Fleetwood could still not could not afford the luxury of sitting back, despite leading 2-0 in such a huge game.
Rochdale pressed deep in injury time, but a fine all round performance from Fleetwood saw off the Greater Manchester side and meant a first win under the guidance of Sheridan was sealed.
Rochdale XI: Lillis (GK), McNulty, McGahey, Humphreys, Camps, Wiseman, Done, Delaney (Dobre), Cannon (Kitching), Knott (Inman), Henderson.
Subs not used: Rafferty, Rathbone, Davies, Moore,.
Fleetwood XI: Cairns (GK), Coyle, Eastham, Pond ©, Dempsey, McAleny (Hiwula), Bolger, Diagouraga, Madden (Grant), Hunter, Sowerby.
Subs not used: Neal (GK), Burns, Maguire, Glendon, Biggins.
Referee: T Kettle
Attendance: 2,403 (190)