Fleetwood 0 Chesterfield 1 - The Verdict

Amari'i Bell tangles with Rai Simons
Amari'i Bell tangles with Rai Simons
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Normally in the aftermath of a Halloween defeat there might be call for a pun or two.

A nightmare perhaps, a trick, a treat...

But to brand Saturday’s single goal loss a horror show, or any other such lazy piece of seasonal stereotyping, would be wrong.

True, Fleetwood Town have problems - issues which haven’t gone away in the last month following the dismissal of Graham Alexander and the appointment of Steven Pressley.

But they are not a million miles of the pace in a division the manager has been quite right to point out is distinctly average. There are no runaway leaders, no teams with the quality and power to run away with the title.

But there are sides capable of the kind of consistency Pressley’s side, so far, can only dream.

Town have been nothing if not up and down - superb against Burton on their last home outing, well below par three days later at Bramall Lane.

At Oakwell they showed grit and determination and just enough cutting edge - something that was noticeably lacking when Chesterfield came to Town.

Visitors to Highbury are developing a habit of rubbing in just what Fleetwood are missing When Coventry made the trip up the M6 they proved Town are missing flair and pace in wide areas, Jacob Murphy the kind of wide man who could transform their attacking play.

The Spireites brought a hit-man, plain and simple - an old fashioned centre forward, a poacher, one man who made the difference over 90 minutes.

The game was decided in a 20-minute spell before the break - a period in which Fleetwood lost control of the game and Sylvan Ebanks Blake pounced.

For the remainder of the game Town huffed and puffed in a manner which would make any big bad wolf proud.

But Chesterfield, behind the thick brick wall of Ian Evatt, were barely troubled - Fleetwood lacking the final pass, the unpredictability and the confidence up front to make their lengthy spells in charge count.

Jimmy Ryan, suspended for the visit of his former club, might have made a difference.

But Town cannot rely on one man and must demand more from those men capable of changing the course of a game.

Bobby Grant is a man who is either on fire or absent - asking few questions of the Spireites defence on Saturday

Antoni Sarcevic is a massively talented midfielder, proving himself as a ball winner and a man capable of covering ground but yet to show he can provide the telling ball.

It is to such senior stars, rather than young guns Nick Haughton, Ash Hunter and Jack Sowerby, Town must be able to turn in their ongoing fight for survival.

The margins are tight but the opening exchanges suggested Fleetwood might finally have stolen a march on their long-term rivals.

The Spireites looked second best, Town pressing the ball well, attacking in number, making the transition from defence to attack with real speed. And in the opening 20 minutes they should have taken advantage.

Jamie Proctor proved at Oakwell he has the composure in front of goal - producing a finely crafted winner.

Unfortunately that level headedness deserted the striker as he failed to make a well worked Fleetwood move count.

Proctor had helped feed Ball in the left channel, the forward tricking his way into the box and unleashing a low shot at Tommy Lee.

The Spireites keeper couldn’t hold on, the ball falling to Proctor only a few yards out. His finish should have been simple but somehow the Fleetwood striker managed to set himself up wrong, going for power and blasting wide.

Fleetwood were, at that point on top. But Chesterfield quickly adapted, upping them intensity of their own game.

And they quickly identified Fleetwood’s left back position as a point of weakness.

Once again questions were asked of Amari’i Bell and the full back was found lacking - Rai Simmons and Sam Hird exposing the hosts.

Everything came down the Chesterfield right - Bell struggling to cope with the almost constant attention.

And eventually Town cracked. Hird it was who began the move, finding space to whip the ball in.

Dionotan Teixeira was caught off guard, getting a head to the ball but unable to make a solid connection, the ball deflecting off the centre half and on to the crossbar.

The way the ball dropped was undeniably cruel but credit must go to Ebanks Blake - his positioning and timing perfect, smashing home from barely a yard.

It was all Chesterfield needed, the Spireites showing little ambition or desire to extend their lead.

And with Fleetwood so poor inside the final third there was no real need.

Town’s second half display was undeniably an improvement - Fleetwood solid, stronger in possession.

And they did find the net, Proctor smashing past Lee following Teixeira’s flick - the offside flag raised before the celebrations began.

Nathan Pond, returning from a long spell out through injury, was a rock at the heart of defence. His dedication to the cause seemed to be rubbing off on those around him, Eggert Jonsson once again putting his body on the line in a battling midfield display.

He wasn’t the only one - Conor McLaughlin took an elbow to the head from former Fleetwood loanee Emmanuel Dieseruvwe - playing on for 15 minutes with concussion and blurred vision.

He was eventually substituted but not before taking a second blow, clearing into touch with his head despite having already been forced to the ground. But Town’s fighting spirit was forlorn in the absence of any real cutting edge.

There were chances to haul level but in truth Lee was never properly tested, Town’s final ball lacking, their finishing timid. Proctor headed over from close range after Bell broke free down the left, swinging in a devilish cross.

Ball showed clever feet but a lack of power, firing into the arms of Lee - a crime Grant was also guilty of with a pot shot from distance.

The best opportunity came thanks to a decisive link-up between two Fleetwood subs.

Grant fed Nick Haughton whose curling ball into the box was the only moment of real quality in the half, Declan McManus racing on and heading towards goal, just unable to direct his effort under the bar.

When Haughton tumbled in injury time, under a clumsy Talbot challenge there was one last chance.

But the delivery, as it had been from the majority of Fleetwood set pieces (including their one and only corner) was poor - Chesterfield kept at bay for much of the game but Fleetwood lacking the quality in attack to make their possession count.

It’s not an issue which has a quick fix - Pressley will have to address issues in a number of positions if he is to secure League One status for Town.

Bell’s shortcomings at left back are becoming more difficult to ignore as is the lack of pace in attacking areas, so often highlighted by the manager.

Having made mistakes with their summer acquisitions the pressure is now on those behind the scenes at Highbury to get the next round of recruitment right.

It’s essential Town find the flair to make their hard work worthwhile and to spark the season into life.