FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: Peterborough United 1 Fleetwood Town 3
Fleetwood Town beat Peterborough United 3-1 on Saturday. But what did we learn from the opening day victory?
The Gazette's Fleetwood Town writer Rosie Swarbrick reflects on the key talking points.
1 Stoke City's oversight is Fleetwood's gain...
Paul Coutts was dubbed Fleetwood’s signing of the summer but in this curtain-raiser Harry Souttar showed why that title belongs to him.
The Cod Army know all about Souttar from his previous sparkling loan spell, and after this impressive second debut it is a shock Stoke boss Nathan Jones allowed him out again.
You would not have been surprised to see the giant defender in the Championship.
He has all the attributes for the second tier, if not higher, at only 20. His thirst for knowledge and sponge-like ability to improve will stand him in good stead.
This performance at a Peterborough club that will no doubt be challenging at the top end this season was a statement of intent from Souttar. The 6ft 7ins centre-half is already known for his aerial ability but it was two other aspects of his play that showed he is rapidly morphing into a Championship centre-half.
He barely put a foot wrong, and although Coutts glided across the park and did not give the ball away once, Souttar will be Town’s biggest asset in this division.
He proved there is more to his game than just clearances, blocks and defensive strength.
2 Town's hard work on the training pitch makes them a threat on set-pieces
Head coach Joey Barton revealed Town have been working on set-pieces to ensure Souttar scores more often.
Last term Souttar scored just the one goal at Accrington and when he returned this summer he stressed his desire to find the net more often.
The club’s media team have a personalised celebration clip to play online when each player scores and Souttar was the brains behind his own – only his torso can be seen, a joke about his height.
The underlying message is that Souttar achieves his aims and just three minutes into the new campaign and he had hit the target.
A sublime corner from Coutts fell perfectly to Souttar at the back stick. The dummy runs in the box should not go unnoticed and are testament to Town’s hard work on the training pitch as Souttar reaped the benefits.
3 No new number nine, no worries!
Teams that win promotion from this division find goals from everywhere and last season Town relied too much on strikers Paddy Madden and Ched Evans.
Last term Fleetwood’s centre-halves added only three to the overall tally, Cian Bolger, Ash Eastham and Souttar netting one apiece in a 58-goal total.
But there is more to Souttar’s attacking play than just headers, as shown with Town’s second.
Souttar’s 40-yard pass allowed Conor McAleny and Josh Morris to make mincemeat of Mark Beevers.
Beevers was a key figure in the Bolton side that pipped Town to promotion three seasons ago. But he will be sick of the sight of Souttar, who outfoxed him for the first and then played that pass to leave him at the mercy of probably Town’s most technically gifted footballers, Josh Morris and McAleny.
4 Barton's team selection raised eyebrows but the head coach made the right calls
Though eyebrows might have been raised when McAleny got the nod ahead of Padden Madden in the number nine role, he showed why he deserved his spot. McAleny’s tireless running off the ball and intelligent link-up with Morris and Burns in the front three helped Town gain this victory.
McAleny acted as a foil when Souttar played his long ball and doubt crept into Beevers’ mind. This stutter was enough for Morris to beat keeper Christy Pym to the ball and score with a touch of high-level class – a chip with the outside of his left foot.
Town’s front three, with their mazy crossing runs and almost telepathic connections, caused Peterborough’s defence early headaches. McAleny you feel just needs a goal, then he can play a key part in this team.
Another eyebrow-raiser was the selection of Peter Clarke, 37, ahead of Eastham. But Barton’s tough decisions paid off in that first 45. The second half was different as Town sat back.
Posh were booed off at the break and would obviously respond, though Town weren’t under serious threat until Marcus Maddison was introduced. His set-piece from the left allowed Toney to poke home.
Toney’s theatrics make him one of the least likeable players in League One and the striker was chipping away at Clarke all game, finally outfoxing the experienced defender in the 67th minute.
Both Clarke and Jordan Rossiter could have done better to stop the forward beating Cairns.
But mostly Town’s defence handled the threat of a near £2m strike-force admirably and their tiring legs were unfazed by Posh’s artillery.
5 Town could not have done it without the bench
And as Darren Ferguson’s substitute got Posh back in the game, Barton’s bench came to the fore to ensure three points returned to the Fylde coast.
Madden and Ash Hunter came on determined to make their mark, Hunter’s persistence key to the final goal.
He hassled and harassed Frankie Kent at the back like a wasp around a sugary drink, though it was Ward who would foul the Town attacker.
A set-piece in a plum position outside of the box was on a plate for left-footer Danny Andrew. With Morris off the pitch, the stage was set for Andrew at the club where he started his career.
His first-half showing was a little shaky bit he capped an improved second half by whipping the ball into the corner.
I’d have backed Cairns to have stopped that at the other end but it was Town’s day.
Top of the league on day one, but after six perhaps needless bookings for time- wasting and rash fouls Fleetwood are still bottom of the disciplinary charts. Even so, Town showed they have gained the ability to kill teams off ... promotion qualities.