Charlton 0 Fleetwood 0: Five things we learned
Fleetwood Town writer Rosie Swarbrick takes a look at the key talking points from the 0-0 draw at Charlton
Fleetwood can keep a clean sheet
Snow in mid-March and a clean sheet for Fleetwood Town – two rare phenomena.
Famed for their blank blueprint in last term’s promotion push, Town’s slump towards the bottom of the table has been brought about by an inability to keep a clean sheet. Not any more.
Uwe Rosler had chopped and changed his keepers in a quest to get that blank slate, but John Sheridan has stuck with Alex Cairns, who picked up Town’s first league clean sheet of the year.
Sheridan says it is not just a clean sheet for the keeper or back four but for the whole side. He is right – Cairns did not have much to do but there were heroic blocks by Ash Eastham, Cian Bolger and Lewie Coyle.
Even so it will be just the tonic for Cairns, who is rebuilding his confidence under the new boss.
Ash Eastham a candidate for player of the year?
But every credit to Eastham. Mr consistent this season, he is my candidate for player of the year.
Time after time, he has been willing to front up to the media, showing leadership qualities even when Town were down in the dumps on that recent losing spree.
He stepped up a gear at Charlton and has been given more responsibility to organise the troops.
Blocks from Tariqe Fosu and Ben Reeves were brave, and showed Town hunting in packs and working as a team. Defensively all 11 worked together, and if Town are going to get out of this they will need that every week.
Has Sheridan fixed Town's Achilles Heel of set-pieces?
Set-piece defending has been Town’s Achilles heel but under Sheridan they seem to finally have stopped that rot. At Charlton you could see they had worked on it, especially given the height of Karl Robinson’s side.
Central midfielder Toumani Diagouraga was brought back in for his height and physicality, and he did aid Town’s set-piece defending but I’m not sure he got the foothold in midfield George Glendon would have done.
It’s interesting to see Jack Sowerby on the line at set-pieces and Paddy Madden on the front post. It worked, though the poor delivery from Charlton helped.
If there was one worrying element it was Charlton’s ability to exploit the gap between the midfield and defence.
Utilising a 4-5-1 when defending and 4-3-3 when attacking, with forwards Wes Burns and Hunter in wide roles, Town were able to stop Charlton playing through the middle but they cut through out wide.
Fosu and Reeves often sneaked into the gap and had too much space around the 12-yard mark. But Fleetwood handled it and it was good to see more closing down from the midfield.
Kyle Dempsey has not been in the form he showed last term or in the early stages of this season, but he was the key figure in Town’scounter-attacking game, turning defence into attack.
Fleetwood need to find a clinical edge to stay up
Fleetwood still need a clinical edge if they are to stay up and the attackers look to be lacking in confidence.
Without Rosler’s structured attacking system, they have freedom and it seems some do not know what to do with it. Repeatedly the final ball or final decision in the final third was poor.
But the ingredients are there. Town’s best attack of the game saw keeper Ben Amos save well from Hunter (right) and Sowerby before Wes Burns was somehow unable to convert at the back stick. It was a head in hands moment.
The chances are there. Madden was released on the right, but instead of going for goal and backing himself he opted to square the ball for substitute Conor McAleny, who had a number of Charlton bodies for company. His strike was blocked out for a corner.
Town need to be more selfish, and the front five must all be ready to take on the role of hero and drag the club out of this mess.
Sheridan is not afraid to change his team and make big calls as progression continues
Sheridan is no nonsense and straight-talking, and he made some strong calls in regards to team selection.
Three changes from the side that drew with Plymouth saw Cian Bolger back after injury, with Diagouraga and Burns adding physical presence against a tall side on a big pitch.
Madden has been a striker in form but this was perhaps his worst performance in a Fleetwood shirt. McAleny was on the bench after wasting chances against Plymouth – a message that not even the most talented player in the squad is guaranteed a start.
McAleny showed his class in a 15- minute cameo and could be the man to keep Fleetwood up.
His link play with Dempsey could be key as well as his ability to create something out of nothing.
But there was no sulking and he made an impact off the bench.
Gethin Jones kept his spot but was again targeted as Mark Marshall outfoxed him repeatedly. Left-back can be a difficult role for a right-footer but Sheridan is right to persevere with him.
All in all this was a good point away to play-off chasing side, though there is frustration because the three points were there for the taking.
The good thing is the ingredients are there and progress is being made after this third straight draw under Sheridan.
Now they have kept a clean sheet for the first time in League One since beating Bury in December, Town have moved out of the bottom four and are building a platform.
Unbeaten in three, and a win just feels like it is around the corner.
But with 10 games to go Town now need one of the forwards to step up to the plate, grab this situation with both feet and keeps Town up.
My money is on McAleny ... but he needs to start.