Fleetwood Town 2 Plymouth Argyle 0: Verdict

A first start might be dubbed a baptism of fire but Ryan Rydel was far from scorched as wind and rain announced his arrival.

Sunday, 17th March 2019, 5:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th March 2019, 6:48 pm
Ash Hunter wheels away after making it 2-0

The 18-year-old made his league bow and walked off to a standing ovation for the impact he had on the game.In Rydel it seems Town have unearthed a gem.Mined from their own academy, the left-footer has gone from left-back in Simon Wiles’ U18 side to Fleetwood Town’s newest left wing-back.That berth has been a troublesome spot for Town since the exit of Amari’i Bell but now one of their homegrown products is giving Norwich City loanee James Husband a run for his money.If Rydel’s 65-minute showing on Saturday is anything to go by, then the shirt is his to lose.Wiles had said he told him to go out there and enjoy himself on his first league start.Rydel did more than just that. He added creativity and spark, linked the defence and attack and was brave on the ball.His crossing ability was another weapon in Town’s attacking options and it was a shame one ball in was not converted to cap an excellent debut with an assist.It wasn’t just a memorable day for Rydel as Ash Hunter showed his delight at clinching a 2-0 win with his goal, moments after coming off the bench in the aftermath of Jason Holt’s 77th minute opener.He converted Wes Burns’ cross in the 80th minute but, given the torrential conditions, you could not help but wince as the trademark backflip came out.The attacker has been used off the bench for the majority of 2019 but made an immediate impact to push his case for a start in a day that saw Town’s other attacking pack prove wasteful.On for one minute or so, one chance and one goal.Hunter was back doing what he does best with his celebration and the adoration of the Cod Army speaking volumes.The sight of a Hunter celebration in front of the Cod Army was not the only welcome return to Highbury with that winning feeling and, perhaps, belief that the play-off race is not quite dead and buried brightening up a storm-hit Highbury.Prior to Saturday Town had only won once at Highbury in 2019, and as Doncaster Rovers continue to try and surrender their grasp on sixth place, Fleetwood cut the gap on them to just five points.Rydel’s introduction also aided Barton’s quest to fit Lewie Coyle and Wes Burns into a backline.Coyle had been played out of position as a left-back at Coventry City.It was there that his tame backpass led to Alex Cairns’ clearance cannoning off Amadou Bakayoko and into the net to send Coventry en route to a 2-1 win in midweek.However, both bounced back with sterling performances in a showing that said Town are not giving up on this season.With Rydel playing at left wing-back Barton went 3-5-2, having previously written off the use of a back three at the start of the term.It seems the system did the job before Town later reverted to his favoured 4-3-3 and 4-4-2.It enabled Burns to play in a more attacking right wing-back role, free to gallop forward on the wing with Coyle on the right of a back three.Fleetwood looked solid, owing in part to one man: Ash Eastham.He had said during the week that not having the captain’s armband does not stop him from playing as a leader.This was certainly a warrior-esque return to form for the centre-back, commanding Town’s defence in the middle of a back three.He did his talking on the pitch.There was a vital interception to thwart Town’s Wembley hero Antoni Sarcevic and another key block to stop Ruben Lameiras from threading in Freddie Ladapo in the second half; testament to the defender’s passion to ensure that deserved clean sheet.Yes, Plymouth had enjoyed a spell of dominance just before Town took the lead.Nevertheless, for all their pressure, Fleetwood did not give them a sniff as Eastham and company manned the barricades – and it was to play into Town’s hands.We’ve seen a counter-attacking side playing 3-5-2 at Highbury before but this version with Burns, Paddy Madden (left), Ched Evans and company is a different breed.That said, Town should have been more ruthless and used their counters earlier than the 77th minute with Burns, Madden, Coyle and Evans all guilty of wasting chances.However, it was to be two identikit goals which gave Town victory.Madden firstly whipped the ball to the back post for Holt to score his first league goal for Town and bring an end product to all his running.That opening goal was followed by Barton sending on Hunter and Ashley Nadesan.Hunter made his mark quickly, converting a Burns centre to double the lead.There were times when it was not pretty but this was a day that Town showed their defensive strength and will to win.They hit the 52-point mark that, in previous years, would ensure safety but looking below and the League One table is one we have never seen before.Argyle are in 12th on 45 points, just three ahead of a Walsall side in the last relegation place; it seems that 52 might not be enough for safety after all.However, with some of the freedom Town displayed, who knows if they could be that fast-finishing horse coming from nowhere?

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