It was a tale of two halves and a first half to forget in a controversial Trophy that should be forgotten as Town slipped to a 4-2 defeat at League Two side Carlisle.
Carlisle’s win ensured they topped the table with Oldham joining them in the next stage of this much dirided cup with Championship club Blackburn’s U21 side finishing bottom of the table.
Town were outclassed in the first half and found themselves 3-0 down at the break but a second half cameo substitute appearance from Jack Sowerby who scored minutes after coming off the bench reinvigorated Town as they upped their game in the second 45.
But another defensive error by left-back Kieran Wallace who appealed for an offside that was never given saw Cameron Salkeld put the game to bed and thankfully ended Town’s Checkatrade Trophy campaign.
Boss Rosler risked a fine by ignoring the Checkatrade Trophy’s quota by resting all 11 players that featured at Southport for tonight’s game at Carlisle.
Checkatrade Trophy rules state that five of the side that featured in Fleetwood’s last game, the 0-0 FA Cup first round draw at National League side Southport, had to start tonight’s cup game against Group D leaders and League Two side Carlisle but Rosler rightly ignored the rule to save his players’ legs a rest and changed the entire starting line-up with Town now expected to be hit with a £5,000 fine.
Rosler rested keeper Chris Neal, defenders Godswill, Nathan Pond, Cian Bolger, Amari’i Bell, midfielders Bobby Grant, ex-Carlisle man Kyle Dempsey, Jimmy Ryan, Jack Sowerby (who has moved to the bench) strikers David Ball and Chris Long to give a mix of development squad and fringe players a start and to give the first XI a break ahead of their third game in six days at Port Vale in a crunch league clash on Saturday.
The German also switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 with keeper Alex Cairns making his second appearance of the campaign, Victor Nirennold slotting in at right back with Ashley Eastham and Joe Davis in the heart of defence and on-loan Sheffield United full-back Kieran Wallace on the left.
Elliot Osborne returned from a loan spell at National League side Tranmere to join youngster Oliver Roberts in making their competitive debuts in a midfield three alongside on-loan Man City player George Glendon.
Rosler targeted tonight for striker Aaron Amadi-Holloway to make his competitive first team return from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of action since August’s League One defeat at Bolton.
And Amadi-Holloway met that target as he started up front alongside on-loan Watford player Alex Jakubiak and Martyn Woolford.
Fleetwood needed to win to secure a place in the next stage but despite the defeat it was what the competition should be about giving some much needed competitive game time to Town’s fringe players and youngsters to allow boss Rosler to see how they fared off the training pitch with some sinking and some swimming as they were thrown in at the deep end.
The Town boss was hit by an early blow with one of the only senior players Woolford limping off in just the eighth minute with Rosler handing former AFC Fylde player Dion Charles his full debut.
But it went from bad to worse for Fleetwood as they found themselves a goal down just 15 minutes in as Grainger pulled the ball back on the left for the unmarked Joe McKee to calmly curl in on his first start.
Carlisle made it two four minutes later as Charlie Wyke ghosted into the box to nod in Reggie Lambe’s right wing cross.
Lambe was in the action once again as he was brought down by Osborne in the box and Grainger converted the subsequent spot-kick in the 41st minute.
Derek Asamoah wasted two opportunities to put the game to bed and Jamie Devitt blasted the ball into the bar
Rosler brought the poor Osborne off at half-time with Sowerby coming off the bench and the youngster scored an almost carbon copy of his goal in the 2-0 win over Peterborough last month as he scored a one-on-one after being released by Amadi-Holloway’s neat ball over the top.
It was a marked improvement from a poor first half showing as Sowerby reinvigorated the midfield and helped Town finally get a foothold.
Amadi-Holloway did well with his back to goal to slip the ball to Jakubiak on the right and he rifled in his first competitive goal for Town in the 64th minute and the momentum swung Town’s way as they looked to be staging a comeback.
But the hosts restored their two goal cushion nine minutes later as Wallace tried to play the offside trap and failed as he appealed for offside allowing sub Cameron Salkeld to sprint towards the box unmarked and he thundered the ball past Cairns as Town’s cup run came to a halt on a freezing night in Cumbria.
Fleetwood: Cairns Nirennold, Davies, Eastham, Wallace, Glendon, Roberts, Osborne (Sowerby, 46) , Jakubiak, Amadi-Holloway, Woolford (Charles, 8) (Deacon, 76). Subs not used: Urwin, Nadesan, Sheron, Dunbar.
Carlisle: Crocombe, Grainger, Joyce (Salkeld, 46), Ellis (T Miller, 53), Wyke (Holt, 63), Asamoah, Gillesphey, Brisley, Devitt, McKee, Lambe. Subs not used: Gillespie, Adams, Ibehre, S Miller.
Referee: Chris Sarginson.
Attendance 1420 (Fleetwood 22)