Fleetwood Town 4 Alfreton Town 0. THERE are key moments to every campaign when the balance of power tips in favour of one side.
It’s too early to say whether Fleetwood Town’s victory over Alfreton is one of them.
But, with five points between themselves and second-placed Wrexham – who were beaten 1-0 at Stockport on Saturday – Micky Mellon’s men have put themselves in the driving seat to bag promotion.
Alfreton, sitting third bottom of the Conference, made their intentions clear before kick-off, with boss Nicky Law naming six defenders in his starting XI.
Fleetwood, having started the previous two matches with four strikers, also took a relatively conservative approach.
Magno Vieira had to settle for a seat on the bench, replaced by midfielder Danny Rose, leaving Jamie Vardy, Andy Mangan and Gareth Seddon to lead the line.
And, despite the visitors’ clear focus on not conceding, Town’s hotshots looked early favourites to add to their impressive haul.
Mangan came closest for Fleetwood in the early stages, his rocket of a shot well held by Dan Lawson in the Alfreton goal on the quarter hour mark, Two minutes later, Town were ahead.
Adam Quinn was judged to have blocked Vardy’s run down the right flank and the 25-goal striker took the free-kick quickly, his cross picking out Nathan Pond at the back post, and the centre-half bundled the ball home.
Town were piling the pressure on and could have snatched a second when Jamie McGuire robbed Craig Clay on the edge of the box but his shot was off target.
A questionable foul from Lee Fowler handed the visitors their best chance of the first half, but Nathan Jarman’s set-piece well held by Scott Davies.
The visitors’ frustrations were beginning to show and tensions threatened to boil over when Theo Streete reacted angrily to a push from Vardy.
On first inspection, the full-back appeared to headbutt Vadrdy, though it is questionable whether there was any contact.
Referee Ross Joyce erred on the side of caution, booking both players for the altercation.
When Matt Wilson found his way into the book two minutes later for a challenge on Rose, tensions threatened to boil over as The Reds’ attempts to block Fleetwood’s advances became increasingly desperate.
It took a second goal to settle things down. With eight minutes of the first half to play, Darran Kempson’s attempted header back to his keeper fell woefully short, and Seddon was on hand to capitalise, slotting the ball into the net from a tight angle to grab his seventh of the season.
Within 11 minutes of the second half beginning, that season’s tally became eight.
Streete gave away a soft free-kick on the left.
Again Town were quick to get the ball moving, with Mangan showing pace and skill down the flank to tear a gaping hole in the Alfreton back-line. His cross picked out Seddon, who couldn’t miss at the back post.
Fleetwood were in total control – Pond and Steve McNulty making easy work of an aerial bombardment at the back, McGuire and Fowler controlling the midfield.
Fowler tried his luck from range, blasting over the bar, while Vieira forced Lawson to make a full-stretch save, having been teed up by fellow replacement Richard Brodie, fresh from scoring seven in Town reserves’ second successive nine-goal rout, this time against Witton.
Brodie was buoyed perhaps by a seven-goal haul in Town Reserves’ second successive nine-goal rout, this time against Witton Albion, and he appeared a changed man.
He was also unlucky not to get onto the scoresheet, just inches away from getting on the end of Vardy’s through ball.
Vardy was pulling the strings up front and looked to have won a penalty with 10 minutes to play – only Mr Joyce can explain why Quinn’s clumsy challenge wasn’t judged to have been a foul, though the Middlesbrough official may have been swayed by Vardy’s dramatic fall.
Then with six minutes remaining, Town did grab a fourth thanks to a goalkeeping howler from Lowson.Vardy and Mangan combined well down the right, the former finding his way into the Alfreton area.
The resulting cross probably wouldn’t be filed in the box marked challenging but proved too much for Lowson.The keeper, who had done so well keeping Fleetwood at bay, spilled the ball into his own net.
Alan Goodall nearly made it five with a right-foot shot following a good move by Brodie, and Vardy blasted over the bar deep in injury time.
Three home games in eight days, nine points, 11 goals, two clean sheets and now five points clear at the top.
It’s been quite a week for Fleetwood Town and the Cod Army. Whether it’s been a key week, we won’t know that until the very end of the season.
But what’s clear right now is that the Conference title, and the promotion bonanza which goes with it, is again Fleetwood’s to lose.
Fleetwood: Davies, Cavanagh, McNulty, Pond, Goodall, Fowler, Rose (Vieira 59, Till 79), McGuire, Mangan, Seddon (Brodie 76), Vardy; Subs not used: Brown, Stevenson
Alfreton: Lowson, Streete (Law 58), Young, Wilson, Moult, Clayton (Wilson 66) Franks, Jarman, Clay (Mullan 61), Quinn, Kempson. Subs not used: Franklin, Arnold
Referee: R Joyce