Fleetwood Town’s first ever visit to Ewood Park was a Halloween thriller as Uwe Rosler’s side twice fought back from the dead to draw 2-2 with Blackburn Rovers.
The Gazette’s Fleetwood Town writer Rosie Swarbrick takes a look at the main talking points...
Bobby blow & McAleny injured again
There was one name missing from the match day squad list as Conor McAleny once again missed out due to injury. In his post match press conference Rosler admitted the omission was down to injury but as ever refused to elaborate further though one can presume it would be a recurrence of the ankle injury that has seen him miss the majority of the start of the new League One campaign. The German was however more forthcoming about the half-time withdrawal of midfielder Bobby Grant. Rosler revealed Grant injured his knee in the first half and left Ewood Park on crutches with a scan set to be undertaken today to assess the extent of the 27-year-old’s injury.
Hunter finally gets his start and grabs the opportunity with both hands
With McAleny out of action Jordy Hiwula and Ash Hunter got the nod to start up front in the 3-5-2 formation. Hunter had impressed off the bench and for the development squad in recent weeks and after being handed his first league start of the campaign he did not let the Cod Army down. He was a constant thorn in Blackburn’s side harassing, pressing and showing sparks of creativity. He might not have got his goal but it was his initial chance that cannoned back off Rovers’ lacklustre shot-stopper David Raya and into the path of Aiden O’Neill to score his first ever league club. Now he’s got his start and proved he can make an impact from the start against opposition that are favourites for a top two finish it is hard to see this hungry Hunter losing his place for the FA Cup clash at Chorley on Monday.
Hunter starts the fire but it is Burns’ night
Hunter did everything by score though none of the 400 plus travelling Cod Army would have been disheartened to see another forward Wes Burns break his goal duck. Though the Checkatrade Trophy has been his cup with two goals to date the forward finally ended a 19 month league drought with the 83rd minute leveller. Yes it wasn’t pretty with the ball somehow cannoning in off the forward but they all count and this is the confidence boost the big money January 2017 signing will need. He has impressed in numerous cameos off the bench on the right of a front three when Rosler has switched to either 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 but that elusive goal has finally arrived. The last time Burns had scored in the league was for Town on-loan when he netted in the 2-0 win over Peterborough in April. Burns helped Town beat the drop during that brief spell from Bristol City at the end of the 2015/2016 campaign. He had a barren loan spell in the league at Scottish club Aberdeen in the first half of the 2016/2017 season but sealed a move back to Highbury though injury in the February hampered his effort to break that duck. Now the 22-year-old forward has built on his Checkatrade goals with that Ewood effort and now joins eight goal Devante Cole, six goal Hiwula and three goal Hunter as despite the injury blow to two-goal McAleny and versatile attacker Grant Rosler has an abundance of attacking options.
Burnley loan star scores at Ewood
He said before the game that if he could score at Blackburn he would be a legend on his return to parent club Burnley and Aiden O’Neill did just that. It was written in the stars that the 19-year-old loanee would score against the Clarets bitter rivals and the Burnley fans certainly enjoyed themselves on social media taking delight in one of their own heaping more misery on their near neighbours. But that goal only came after O’Neill had made a big mistake. He replaced Grant at half-time and gave the ball away in the build up to Blackburn’s first with Bradley Dack eventually nodding home. Far from be downhearted the youngster showed grit and character to bounce back, score and make an impact on the game in the rest of the clash as he continues to grow and learn. With Grant possibly facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines the midfielder will need to keep that form and growth up with Town now needing him to mature beyond his years at a rapid pace after losing a key senior player.
The top six mentality is back with a vengeance
Late goals and clean sheets are familiar to the Cod Army having been the cornerstone to last term’s incredible 18-match unbeaten run and historic top four finish. That never say die spirit has been prominent in recent weeks with Town starting to resemble that record breaking 2016/17 side. The ingredients and strong mentality have been there from the off but the execution and ability to grind out results due to youthful naivety and a dip in confidence, especially in a leaky six game, 15 goal conceding spree in September now looks to have been ironed out with Town finding an inner steel. They fought back at Scunthorpe to draw 1-1 and the belief has rolled on into their recent games. Town were unlucky to narrowly lose 1-0 at league leaders Shrewsbury though that defeat did not dent their spirit as they built on a 2-0 win at Oxford with this fine display at a team that have just come down from the Championship and will surely be in the mix for promotion come May. This Town side have a top six mentality and after that draw are now knocking on the door of the top six as we enter November and we all know what happened this time last year... the start of THAT famous run.