FLEETWOOD Town take on league leaders and ‘champions-elect’ Crawley Town at Highbury tomorrow, with manager Micky Mellon insisting his side will not be overawed.
Crawley are enjoying a superb season, not only heading the Blue Square Bet Premier standings but having a memorable FA Cup run which saw them give Manchester United plenty to think about in the fifth round at Old Trafford, only succumbing 1-0.
Mellon respects Crawley for what they have achieved but refuses to be daunted by their reputation, saying: “The league table does not lie and they are the best team in the country in non-league football.
“But we will not go into the game like rabbits caught in the headlights. We will go out there to win.”
Mellon hailed his players for the 3-1 win at Newport County last Saturday, which followed back-to-back defeats. The Fleetwood boss making seven changes in South Wales, a ploy which paid off handsomely.
He said: “It was a fantastic performance but nothing less than I expected. Even though I made seven changes, it was as if they had been playing together all season.
“We have a squad of 19 or 20 players, all of whom are capable of playing in the first team as that result showed.”
“We have come through a tough sequence and seven of our last ten games have been away from home. other clubs will have to go through that until the end of the season.”
And Mellon has called for big backing for his team on a weekend when Blackpool FC are not in action.
He said: “It’s time for people to vote with their feet if they want to see a team from the Fylde coast in the Football League, which is our aim – that’s why we hope the fans will be there in big numbers tomorrow.”
A total of 10,000 fans made the trip to Old Trafford to see Crawley take on the might of United. though the enthusiasm was somewhat tempered in midweek, when Steve Evans’ side played out a 0-0 draw at Kidderminster Harriers which was good enough to take them to the top of the table, with games in hand.
Mellon said: “From what I saw against Kidderminster, there were only about 50 or 60 Crawley fans!
“I went to that match and it could have gone either way. But we are going to be in for a tough game. Crawley are a good side and Steve Evans has done a magnificent job there.
“He said he intended to get Crawley promoted this season, and so far he has been true to his word, but we have to focus on our goals tomorrow.” Crawley will include striker Matt Tubbs, who is in a rich vein of form this season, having netted 26 goals in the league.
He is a player well known to Mellon as he tried to sign him from Salisbury before Crawley stepped in.
Mellon said: “We were very close to signing him and we had sorted most things but then Crawley came for him. He is doing now with Crawley what we knew he would have done for Fleetwood. It was not to be but good luck to him.”
Fleetwood will again be without Shaun Beeley for tomorrow’s clash because of a hamstring strain, while there will be fitness check on Sean Gregan for various bumps and bruises. Mellon remarked: “He has been in more ice than an eskimo!”
Another defender Paul Linwood, who made his comeback at Newport, is having his hamstring monitored.
D-day is approaching for midfielder Jamie Milligan, who has an ongoing knee injury, which has required close monitoring.
Mellon said: “We will have to decide soon whether he has a knee operation, rather than delay it any longer. He gets a swelling after every game and if he doesn’t have it soon he will miss pre-season training, and he can’t afford to miss that.”
Fleetwood are exploring the loan market for a possible ready-made replacement.