SATURDAY’S matchwinner Rob Atkinson found himself back among the fringe and youth players last night for Fleetwood Town’s behind-closed-doors friendly against a Celtic XI at Highbury.
Having made his comeback after a broken ankle as a substitute against Braintree last Tuesday, the centre-half played far more of the weekend match at Forest Green than manager Micky Mellon had intended.
An ankle injury to skipper Steve McNulty resulted in the 24-year-old’s early introduction, and Atkinson proved he could stay the distance in style by netting Town’s winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time. But that did not change Mellon’s view about fielding Atkinson for the full 90 minutes in last night’s 3-2 defeat by a Bhoys development side.
The manager said: “The Celtic game is a squad match for players who have not been playing and needed the 90 minutes, and Rob is one of those.”
But Atkinson, a summer signing from Grimsby who had been out of action since October, was delighted with the impact his made in Gloucestershire on Saturday.
He said: “It’s obviously nice to be back in action after a long road to recovery. We have got to the stage where I can be involved again, and thanks to the fitness coach Andy Ogden for all the sessions we had.
“I’m just delighted to be back and it was nice to get the winner. I was not expecting to be on quite so early but I’ll take that all day long.
“The last 20 minutes against Braintree last Tuesday bedded me in, but I was thrown in at the deep end a bit on Saturday and loved every minute of it. Hopefully with more games, fitness will come.”
Mellon expects McNulty to be available for Saturday’s home match with Tamworth. The manager said: “He turned over the ankle at Forest Green and it’s an ongoing thing, but he should be OK.”
Anthony Barry had another scan yesterday but manager Mellon hasn’t given up hope of the midfielder playing this season. “It’s a real shame for Anthony but I don’t write anyone off,” he said.
n MELLON anticipated no transfer business for Town on today’s deadline day.
And that means no deal for Jamie Vardy, who has been the subject of offers from a host of Championship clubs, including Blackpool, and is for sale at the right price provided he is immediately loaned back to Town for the rest of this season.
But Mellon insisted: “Nothing will happen at all on Tuesday.
“We have brought in all the players we want and Vardy will be staying. It’s important to treat him properly and he is a player we are very fond of. He came here to help Fleetwood Town and that has never changed.”
n CZECH teenager Filip Twardzik netted twice for the Celtic side which won 3-2 at Highbury last night, despite Fleetwood twice coming back from behind in an entertaining and even contest.
Richie Allen returned to action after a family tragedy and was joined in the side by former Town player John Miles – the midfielder is training with Fleetwood after being released by Stockport.
The Bhoys, watched by first-team manager Neil Lennon and coach Alan Thompson, led after three minutes as John Herron’s low drive beat full-stretch Town keeper Dave Stevenson.
Richard Brodie made it 1-1 at half-time, running on to Sean Clancy’s through ball to lob keeper Nick Feeley. Celtic regained the lead early in the second half, when Callum McGregor’s corner was swept in by Twardzik.
Left-back Junior Brown’s cross-shot deceived Feeley for Town’s second equaliser but Twardzik won it for the Bhoys, netting from an inswinging corner after a header had come back off the post.