Fleetwood Town 0, Eastbourne Borough 1
THE Eastbourne players got into a celebratory huddle at the end of the game.
By contrast, Fleetwood merely got themselves in a right old muddle!
And what a muddle – and what a mess it’s made of their promotion aspirations too!
No-one could seriously deny Eastbourne their shock win, one of the biggest surprises there will be in the Blue Square Bet Premier all season.
They had come to Fleetwood rock bottom of the table – but they had an amazing trick up their sleeves and played a ‘Smart’ card from the bottom of the deck.
Matt Smart was his name as he scored with a free kick from all of 55 yards out – up and over the head of stunned Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies.
Trick or freak?
Both managers agreed there was no fluke about it and that Smart meant it.
It didn’t really matter, and it would be a jaundiced, biased individual who would deny that they deserved victory anyway against a Fleetwood side that looked nothing like promotion material on this occasion.
To say it was a bad day of the office does not come anywhere near to describing how poor Fleetwood were from start to finish.
During the match, the sound of building work could be heard going on in the magnificent east stand, but it was not the only evidence of grind.
There was plenty of that on the pitch – grinding boredom, surpassed only by frustration at Fleetwood’s display (very nearly three marks out of ten all round, if that).
Fleetwood never imposed themselves and the more the match progressed the more Eastbourne fancied it. They relished the battle, whereas Fleetwood retreated into their shell and did little, if anything, right.
Micky Mellon has bemoaned the side’s lack of consistency, but one aspect of Fleetwood’s play that has been consistent has been their inability to put away the lesser sides.
This was Town’s fifth 1-0 defeat this season against teams in the bottom seven and they have taken only 11 points out of a possible 30 against those clubs.
And on this occasion. too many of their number did a fabulous impression of The Invisible Man ....
Keigan Parker, who scored on his debut as a substitute against Grimsby the previous Saturday, got a start, with Jamie Mullan going to the bench.
It was the former Seasider who was involved in the first significant action, hammering in a right-wing centre which Magno Viera blasted wide of Tommy Forecast’s goal.
Jamie Taylor had a half-chance at the other end but his rushed shot was blocked.
Parker was being given a commission down the right wing and was proving effective in that role – at least for a bit – again finding Vieira, who guided his effort just past the post.
The home side had to be grateful for a slick interception by Will Haining, just as Richard Pacquette was lurking behind.
Haining’s last-ditch lunge resulted in a corner from which Gary Elphick fired in a header which went too close to Davies’ goal for comfort.
His opposite number Forecast punched away from the head of Vieira, then Davies was required to be on his mettle to tip Pacquette’s sharp header over the bar.
“No more free headers,” Davies bellowed at his defenders, with some choice language thrown in!
It was not the opening that Fleetwood, who had lost Gareth Seddon to a calf injury early on, wanted.
Vieira warmed Forecast’s hands with a speculative shot but seconds later Parker’s effort from the right was mediocre.
Jamie McGuire also found some space but failed to hit the target.
After a sluggish opening half-hour, Fleetwood were at last showing signs of upping the tempo.
A dummy by substitute George Donnelly, after a probing pass by McGuire, looked like producing an opening but Forecast was alive to the situation and reached the ball ahead of Parker.
Eastbourne certainly looked anything but no-hopers and Davies had to be at his athletic best to tip over a well-directed shot by Matt Crabb from the edge of the box.
Fleetwood showed brief signs of perking up at the start of the second half – Anthony Barry’s shot was finding its way towards goal until Austin got in the way at the expense of a corner.
Mistakes by Town skipper Sean Gregan allowed chances for Pacquette and Taylor, the latter denied by Davies’ splendid save.
Indeed, it said something that the home keeper had been their player of the match up to this point
Fleetwood’s response was a Donnelly cross – Parker slid in but could only send the ball over the by-line.
Donnelly ballooned wide after some neat passing play, a rare occurrence in a slipshod off-day for Micky Mellon’s side.
George Purcell fired in a shot that whistled wide of the past, another narrow escape for Fleetwood, this time following a Haining blunder.
Donnelly was fouled but Parker’s curling free-kick was nowhere near its intended target.
On 85 minutes, Fleetwood went behind in amazing fashion.
There seemed little on when Eastbourne were awarded a free-kick a few yards inside their own half out on the left.
It looked as though Smart had spotted Davies off his line and the Fleetwood keeper could only look on in despair as the ball amazingly arched over him and into the net.
The scorer was mobbed by his incredulous colleagues after this remarkable strike.
Donnelly had a shot parried as Fleetwood desperately tried to retrieve this sorry situation, though Purcell tested Davies as Eastbourne retaliated.
But justice was done as the visitors maintained their grip on the three points after four minutes of time added on.
Fleetwood manager Mellon tried to keep a grip on his anger afterwards.
And if he did choose to drown his sorrows at a local hostelry after the match ... it certainly wasn’t at the Bourne Poacher!
But all concerned needed a stiff drink after this calamitous cocktail.
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, Haining, Gregan, Wright, Barry, Milligan (Clancy, 75) McGuire, Parker (Mullen, 65) Seddon (Donnelly, 12); not used: Hurst, Pond.
Eastbourne: Forecast, Baker, Austin, Smart, Jenkins, Taylor, Purcell, Elphick, Hutchinson, Pacquette (Nathan Crabb 85), Matt Crabb (Weatherstone 90); not used: Banks, Brinkhurst.
Ref: Darren Bond. Att: 1,222