Fleetwood Town 4 Bath City 1
THERE are certain words which tend to be associated with 4-1 victories.
Convincing, comprehensive and demolition are the kind of thing you might normally hear.
None of the above could be applied to Fleetwood’s return to winning ways at Highbury – on an afternoon when flattering and fortunate might provide a more appropriate description.
That’s not to say Town didn’t deserve their victory over bottom club Bath City – a win which helped banish memories of the Newport County fiasco in town’s previous home outing.
But four goals could be considered much more than Micky Mellon’s side deserved, and the fact they once again failed to keep a clean sheet, against poor opposition, is a matter of some concern.
Mellon made just one change from the side which fired four past Alfreton in midweek, as Jamie Milligan replaced suspended skipper Steve McNulty, meaning Nathan Pond moved back to centre-half.
Jamie Vardy, Town’s hat-trick hero at Alfreton on Tuesday, started alongside Richard Brodie and on loan AFC Wimbledon hitman Ryan Jackson in a three-man Fleetwood attack, the back four boosted by Crawley duo Charlie Wassmer and Glenn Wilson, both making their first start at Highbury.
Bath City have only won once in the league all season but made a bright start, winning a corner within 30 seconds of kick-off.
Fleetwood’s back four continues to do its best impression of the Greek economy – no matter what efforts are made to prop it up, it continues to look perpetually on the brink of collapse – and could easily have been punished with 12 minutes on the clock.
Marc Canham’s in-swinging corner found Andy Gallinagh, who looked odds-on to score, but somehow blasted his shot over from two yards.
Town’s first clear opening came just before the 20-minute mark, Wassmer rattling the bar with a strong header from Vardy’s deep cross.
As the half progressed, the home side began to find more of a rhythm and greater confidence in their passing, without carving out clear-cut chances.
When the breakthrough came, it was thanks to an individual piece of skill down the flanks.
Jackson’s dazzling run was rewarded with a Town corner, Jamie Milligan’s centre met with precision by stand-in skipper Jamie McGuire, two minutes before half-time.
The goal provided the kick-start Fleetwood needed, and their lead was doubled before the break.
Two minutes into injury time, Junior Brown set Vardy free in the box, the striker firing low across the keeper into the bottom right corner.
Bath should have been beaten, but Town made heavy going of the second half, gifting the visitors a number of opportunities to get back into the game.
Within minutes of the restart, Wassmer came to the rescue of Scott Davies after the keeper misjudged
a Paul Stonehouse centre. Vardy and Milligan continued to put pressure on the Bath defence, but Fleetwood’s second-half performance lacked drive and determination.
A double substitution, Gareth Seddon and Sean Clancy replacing Andy Mangan and Richard Brodie, failed to provide the spark Fleetwood needed and, with even Highbury’s resident seagulls getting restless, the visitors pulled one back.
Stonehouse capitalised on chaos in the Town box to blast a shot past Davies on 74 minutes.
The goal was, at least, a wake-up call for the home side, who restored their two-goal lead with seven minutes to play.
Vardy broke into the box and, rather than shooting, picked out Gareth Seddon – the substitute drove the ball low under Gallinagh and past a stranded Garner into the Bath goal.
Vardy grabbed his second of the night, and fifth in two games, five minutes into stoppage time. Milligan was again the provider from the corner spot, his pinpoint cross met by a bullet header at the back post, and Vardy raced to celebrate with the Cod Army faithful in the Memorial Stand behind the goal.
Town’s late flurry helped boost the scoreline, and their goal difference, which took such punishment during their last outing at Highbury.
Newport’s draw at leaders Wrexham has left second-placed Fleetwood just two points off the pace, with a trip to fellow promotion challengers Luton Town next on Saturday week after the FA Cup takes centre stage this weekend.
Fleetwood: Davies, Pond, Milligan, Brodie (Seddon 61), J Brown, Mangan (Clancy 61), McGuire, Wilson, Wassmer, Vardy, Jackson; not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Goodall, S Brown
Bath: Garner, Simpson, Stonehouse, Rollo, Gallinagh, Connolly, Hogg, S Canham (Swallow 61), Watkins, Russell (Murray 84), M Canham; not used: Webb, Preece, Cook.
Ref: D. Handley, Att: 1,451.