Coventry City 2 Fleetwood Town 1: MATCH REPORT
You could have called it a play-off punch-out, and Coventry put the lights out on Town’s dim hopes of a late surge.
ou could have called it a play-off punch-out, and Coventry put the lights out on Town’s dim hopes of a late surge.
Before kick-off Town found themselves six points off sixth-placed Doncaster Rovers with 10 games to go, while their hosts were five adrift.
A win here could have closed that gap to four, but with the Sky Blues taking the points and building a four-point cushion of their own over Town, it would now take a minor miracle for Fleetwood to take sixth.
Mistakes again, yes, but unlike at the Banks’s Stadium this Fleetwood side battled to the end and tried in vain to keep their season alive.
A lack of clinical finishing and another defensive mistake were the reasons Coventry enhanced their own credentials of breaking into the top six.
Fleetwood boss Joey Barton was unhappy with his side’s second- half capitulation at Walsall.
He acted by making three changes for this clash but the big talking point from the teamsheet was the shift in skipper.
In the absence of club captain Craig Morgan, Ash Eastham has taken the armband.
But Barton opted to shake things up, with Eastham retaining his spot in the side but striker Ched Evans being named captain for the first time this season.
Eastham did not have his best game in the 2-0 defeat at Walsall but the change of captaincy came as a shock.
The other changes not so much.
Left-back James Husband, midfielder Jack Sowerby and striker Ash Hunter made way for Lewie Coyle, Ashley Nadesan and Nathan Sheron to return to the line-up.
The changes saw Coyle take on the left-back slot as Wes Burns continued at right-back.
It appeared as though Barton had got the response he wanted in the opening exchanges, with Burns wasting a headed chance and Madden testing the palms of Lee Burge.
But you could not have predicted the defensive howler that was to give their hosts an early lead.
Coventry had barely threatened but it was through a high press that they forced Town into a huge mistake.
Right footer Coyle found himself in trouble at left-back but as he tried to play the ball back to his keeper from a tight angle Amadou Bakayoko smelled blood.
He homed in on Alex Cairns, and as the keeper tried to clear the danger the ball cannoned back off the Coventry man and trickled home.
But Fleetwood soon regrouped and kept knocking at the door.
Captain Evans nodded over from six yards when a player of his calibre should have hit the target, although the skipper would soon make up for that miss.
Harry Souttar nearly got in on the action but he was thwarted at the back post by a Sky Blues boot.
Ashley Nadesan was released by a magical Ross Wallace ball but Burge batted his effort away.
Fleetwood finally got their goal and it came from skipper Evans.
Madden found space at the back post and his strike clattered into the woodwork but it fell off the bar and on to a plate for Evans, who bundled home his 14th of the term.
The Sky Blues restored their lead just before the break.
Former Fleetwood loan star Jordy Hiwula came back to haunt his old club as he curled the ball past a host of red and white shirts and former team-mate Cairns in the 42nd minute.
Barton made a change at the break, swapping Sheron for Sowerby.
But it was Coventry who threatened early doors in the first half as Bakayoko again caused problems in Town’s defence.
Ash Eastham could not stretch to meet the ball, with the Coventry forward sprinting clear though he mis-controlled and Hiwula eventually lofted the ball over the bar.
The scoreline was harsh on Town but it was a case of being punished for miscommunication and for wasting their chances.
Coventry showed why they are above Town in the league with their clinical finishing and capitalising on Town’s errors, rather than playing them off the pitch.
Bakayoko might have capitalised on a Town error in the opening stages of the first half but he let them off in the second 45.
Eastham could not stretch to stop a ball through the middle and Bakayoko sprinted through on goal.
Fortunately for Fleetwood he could not get his foot around the ball and as Town recovered Shipley found Hiwula but he blasted over.
That gave Town hope but again they were wasteful. Evans had a great chance to level things up again but once more Town failed to find a clinical touch.
The striker was teed-up by Nadesan but his first-time effort was stopped by Burge, with the Cod Army expecting the net to ripple.
As the half progressed Barton shifted formation as he tried to find a way back.
Ash Hunter was sent on in place of Ross Wallace, the change seeing Town move from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.
Hunter was deployed on the left wing, with Nadesan dropping back to the right flank.
Barton made further changes minutes later as Under-18s star Ryan Rydel was thrown on at left-back.
That move saw Coyle flip back to the right, with Burns pushing up into the right wing role vacated by Nadesan.
And the move gave Town renewed joy on the right. Burns, Holt and Coyle all linked on that wing to release the Leeds loan star but his pull-back was scuffed in the box by Madden, who was unusually off-radar.
Fleetwood had chances, 22 in fact in the whole game to Coventry's eight.
As Hunter fired over and then tested Burge Town's hopes faded but the fight did not.
Town showed how much they were desperate for a point as keeper Cairns came up for a last-gasp corner.
But he could not make up for the first goal and it seems like mid-table mediocrity is written in the stars for the crop of 2018-19.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Burns, Eastham, Souttar, Coyle, R Wallace (Hunter, 69), Sheron (Sowerby, 46), Holt, Nadesan (Rydel, 76), Evans, Madden. Subs not used: P Jones, Hunter, Husband, Biggins, Baggley, Rydel.
Coventry: Burge, Mason (Brown, 60) , Davies, Meyler, Hiwula, Sterling, Bayliss, Bakayoko, Thomas (Wakefield, 75), Shipley, Williams. Subs not used: Addai, Grimmer, Ponticelli, Westbrooke, Burroughs.