Fleetwood Town writer Rosie Swarbrick takes a look at the key talking points from the 3-0 win over Northampton as the unbeaten run rolled on to 17.
Uwe Rosler’s Fleetwood side moved up to third in the League One table thanks to goals from Devante Cole, Bobby Grant and David Ball but it was not as easy as the score-line suggests...
1) 12-goal striker and man-of-the-match David Ball just keeps getting better and better...
While the focus in recent weeks has been on Cian Bolger and the defensive structure of the team Ball showed why he is currently my tip for player of the year with a fine display against Northampton.
The Cobblers kicked lumps out of the play-maker from the off but despite taking a battering the forward still persevered and popped up with the goods.
While Northampton were wasting countless opportunities up the other end it was Ball’s defending from the front and pressing which lead to Devante Cole opening the scoring.
Ball’s vision and eye for goal saw him gamble to challenge Smith for a loose ball with the forward just getting a toe to poke it towards Cole and the rest is history.
His tireless running and energy did not stop especially in the second half with Northampton pushing forward and gaps appearing. He timed his run to perfection to latch onto Ben Davies’ ball down the line and his chip over Smith is another one for his scrap book.
Twelve goals already this season but as Saturday proved it is not just about goals but what he brings to the side off the ball too that makes him such a talent.
2) Cole going from strength-to-strength with goals finally flowing
This time last year had Devante Cole been in the same position in the 42nd minute his second effort most probably would not have found the net it sounds harsh but it is a credit to his evolution under head coach Uwe Rosler.
During this unbeaten run Cole has gone from strength-to-strength and gained in confidence and belief and after his first effort was stopped on the line he made sure his second chance put Fleetwood ahead as he curled the ball home from an impossible angle.
His all round contribution before 2017 with his pace and creativity saw him set up a number of goals but since the turn of the year Cole has added the goals to his performances with all four of the striker’s league goals in 2017 and it is great to see his hard-work and pressing is finally being rewarded with goals.
3) Town are not just a one-man band
Cian Bolger can have a bad day at the office and Fleetwood can still keep a clean sheet and get all three points. Northampton’s physical edge got the better of Bolger and company in the first half but even despite some uncharacteristic errors at the back and from the giant centre half who has been the stand out player of the 17 game unbeaten run Town found ways to keep a clean sheet.
Keeper Alex Cairns stepped up to make some vital saves and a touch of good fortune fell Fleetwood’s way as errors went unpunished with the toothless Cobblers wasting four clear cut chances in the first half.
Luck remained on Fleetwood’s side with referee Andy Haines not seeing Bolger’s late challenge on Wylde in the box with the score at 1-0 with Bobby Grant making it 2-0 just minutes later.
4) Bobby Grant is not just one-footed!
Grant followed in the footsteps of fellow left-footer Amari’i Bell as he rattled home a right footed screamer in the 3-0 win. Bell used his right foot to clinch a point at Charlton and it was a piece of individual brilliance from Grant that saw Fleetwood increase their lead. He danced past a host of luminous yellow shirts before rifling the ball into the top corner with a fierce strike that nearly broke the netting.
5) Town continue to show powers of recovery as automatic promotion becomes a genuine possibility
Though their Highbury fortress has caused problems for many a side who have visited this term it was perhaps the conditions on their own turf that tested them and played to the opposition side’s strength - especially in the first half.
Northampton are a very physical side, as is probably evident from the bruises on David Ball! But the swirling winds from the aftermath of Storm Doris played into Justin Edinburgh’s side’s hands as they hoofed the ball up and caused Fleetwood’s defence a number of problems in the first half - fortunately they did not take those chances and Fleetwood eventually adapted to the conditions after a shaky opening 20 minute spell and took their own chances and all three points. It showed once again (like in the Bradford win when they were outplayed for 70 minutes) that Fleetwood can be outplayed for a portion of play but also stay in the game and with their dangerous attack as they have shown time and time again this season they just find ways to win.
It is results like this that show Town’s promotion pedigree as they continue to battle it out at the top end of the table but one thing is for certain they can’t give away the first 20 minutes at promotion rivals Scunthorpe and Bolton in their next two huge games.