Fleetwood Town 0, Nottingham Forest 1. Fleetwood don’t do badly when it comes to cup draws.
If Andy Pilley had handpicked their last two major cup ties, he couldn’t have done a much better job.
In January, they saw the dream become reality as Blackpool arrived at Highbury in the Third Round of the FA Cup.
Eight months later and they pulled one of the biggest names they could – and at home.
The younger readers out there, of which I’m one of them, will see Nottingham Forest as second-tier fodder, a club who have under-achieved for just about the last 20 years.
Forest however, are a club with huge tradition who have won just about everything in the game.
Led by the legendary Brian Clough, they were one of football’s super powers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
To put last night’s tie into perspective, when Nottingham Forest won the European Cup in 1979, Fleetwood Town were only two years old and playing in the Cheshire League.
Financial problems forced Fleetwood FC to fold in 1976 after finishing bottom of the Northern Premier League two seasons running.
But while Clough changed the face of Forest forever, Pilley has done the same at Fleetwood.
Remarkably, only two divisions separate the pair now, and on this showing the gap is getting smaller.
Micky Mellon handed debuts to six of his summer signings – Dean Howell, Jon Parkin, Barry Nicholson, Conor McLaughlin, David Ball and Youl Mawene all starting for the Cod Army.
Northern Ireland international Damien Johnson missed out with a calf injury.
In the opening 10 minutes or so, it was hard to see which was the Championship side, with Town more than holding their own.
It took 11 minutes for the first real chance of the game, and it was two of the new boys who combined well.
Nicholson whipped in a dangerous free-kick and Parkin’s glancing header forced a good save out of Karl Darlow.
Parkin was Fleetwood’s most high-profile signing of the summer, and on this showing you can see why.
He may not be the most mobile these days, but in League Two his strength and quality in the air could be invaluable.
It will take time, but if Mellon’s men can improve the quality of their delivery, I’d expect goals from the big man this season.
Forest did have the odd glimpse at goal, although nothing to test Scott Davies, as Radoslaw Majewski blasting their best chances onto the roof of the stand.
Among the rest of the new boys, it was McLaughlin who caught the eye for Town in the first half.
His close control and trickery was a constant threat on the right.
As the rain poured down, Forest finally began to look a threat after the break.
They started the better of the two sides and came close to breaking the deadlock when Lewis McGugan fired a free-kick right across the box.
Forest piled on the pressure as the half went on, and Dexter Blackstock hit the bar on 53 minutes from five yards after meeting Dan Harding’s left-wing cross.
On 57 minutes, the Forest pressure finally paid when Blackstock again met a cross from the left, and this time volleyed home at the second attempt after Davies parried his first effort.
Fleetwood responded well to the setback and had much more of the ball, with Jamie McGuire going close with a long-range effort.
Mellon introduced Stephen Gillespie for his debut, replacing the quiet Ball in attack before Lee Fowler was introduced in place of McLaughlin.
Despite some decent possession from the home side, and half chances for Gillespie and Parkin at the death, they were unable to break down a solid Championship defence.
Although Fleetwood’s first entry into the League Cup ended with a first-round defeat, there was nothing to be ashamed of with this performance.
Mellon’s side controlled the first half, and their only crime was not scoring when they were on top.
The more the game went on, the more Forest’s superiority was going to show.
All-in-all a very decent night’s work for Town, which must give them confidence going into their first ever League campaign.
On last night’s performance, they should have nothing to fear.
MATCH STATS AND RATINGS
SCOTT DAVIES 7 - Unlucky for the goal, and did little wrong all game
SHAUN BEELEY 7 - Got forward well and coped well with the lively Reid
DEAN HOWELL 7 - Better first half than second, decent debut
STEVE McNULTY 7 - Looks to be building a good partnership with Mawene
YOUL MAWENE 7 - Won his headers and appears to be a big vocal influence
BARRY NICHOLSON 7 - Kept things ticking over, will be a good signing
CONOR MCLAUGHLIN 7 - Brilliant before the break, steamed to run out of steam a little
JAMIE MCGUIRE 7 - Commanding as ever in the middle, battled for every ball
ANDY MANGAN 7 - STAR MAN – Lively as ever, had to work hard going forward and back
DAVID BALL 6 - Quiet debut, struggled to get into the game
JON PARKIN 7 - Was unplayable in the first half, quiet after the break
Subs: Gillespie (for Ball 63) Fowler (for McLaughlin 67); not used, Brown, Goodall, Kinsella, Thewlis.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Harding, Collins, Guedioura, McGugan, Reid, Halford, Moloney, Blackstock (Tudgay 81), Ayala, Majewski (Greening 88); subs not used: Eutimov, Lascelles, McGoldrick, Miller, Derbyshire.
Referee: Michael Naylor