MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 3 Bristol Rovers 1

Uwe Rosler
Uwe Rosler
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A piece of world-class brilliance from David Ball ensured Fleetwood made it 13 unbeaten as his solo effort clinched a 3-1 win over play-off rivals Bristol Rovers.

Fleetwood steamrolled Rovers in the first half as they raced into a 2-0 lead as Ash Hunter curled in his 10th of the campaign in the 13th minute.

Ball looked to have joined him on double figures 10 minutes later as he looked to have got a toe to Cian Bolger’s header on the line but it was ruled the defender’s goal.

Rovers came out all guns blazing in the second half but it was a defensive mix-up from Fleetwood duo Nathan Pond and Conor McLaughlin in the box that gave the visitors a way back in as the loose ball dropped to Billy Bodin to fire home in the 54th minute.

The game descended into a scrappy affair with the main blockbuster show being the on-going verbal battle between Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler and angry Rovers boss Darrell Clarke and his band of backroom staff in the dug outs.

The crowd had their boss’ back as they chipped in with chants of “Uwe, Uwe” as the German locked horns with Clarke and co after the visitors unsporting behaviour when Pond had to go off injured moments after Bodin’s goal.

On the pitch it took a solo effort from Ball who turned something into nothing after dropping his shoulder and bypassing a host of yellow shirts before sweetly lifting the ball into the corner to reach double figures for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

Fleetwood made one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Bristol City in the FA Cup third round last Saturday with Hunter coming in for Devante Cole.

Like in the reverse fixture Town were straight out of the blocks with Hunter doing the damage once again just like he did at the Memorial Stadium.

Dempsey was instrumental in Town’s opener as he raced down the right wing before fizzing the ball into Ball who flicked it on to Hunter who curled it into the corner with a fine first time effort.

Billy Bodin stung Cairns palms up the other end with a fierce strike from distance but Town looked the bigger threat with Hunter just a shade offside as he sprinted one-on-one thanks to Ball’s delightful defence splitting pass.

Hunter’s dangerous ball across the box from the left was just diverted out of play by a yellow shirt with McLaughlin steaming in at the back post and Town doubled their lead from that subsequent corner.

Glendon sealed a permanent switch to Highbury earlier this week and one of the features of his successful loan spell from Manchester City has been his probing set-pieces that have transformed Rosler’s men into a real threat from dead ball situations.

And the midfielder marked his first game as a full Fleetwood player with another exquisite delivery as his corner from the right honed in on Bolger in the box and the towering defender nodded the ball towards goal. Ball looked to have got a touch on the line but after much deliberation the goal was awarded to Bolger.

Town dominated but like Rosler’s men Rovers, who put five past Northampton last weekend, always looked a threat on the counter with hit-man Taylor forcing Cairns into a top drawer reflex save after the striker latched on to Ellis Harrison’s flick-on unmarked just three yards out.

The half ended in controversy with Rovers captain Tom Lockyer appearing to elbow Town forward Ball off the ball. The striker tumbled to the ground clutching his face after tangling with the defender. The referee Darren England gave a foul and from the press box it looked a clear red card for violent conduct but the referee just deemed it a yellow much to the crowd and Rosler’s indignation.

Rovers started the second half strongly and got back into it due to a rare miscommunication at the back between captain Pond and McLaughlin.

With Bodin looming both of them went to clear the same ball but ended up colliding with each other leading to the ball looping up to Bodin who fired home in the 54th minute.

Pond received treatment on the pitch after that collision and tried to brush off the knock but was unable to play on with Eastham making his return to action.

There was a fiery atmosphere at Highbury and especially in the dug outs with Rosler and his opposite number Darren Clarke sharing a few cross words.

Hunter went close with a deft angled chip from the edge of the box that just dropped wide of the left stick.

Moments later Rosler sent on the fresh legs of Nirennold for Glendon moving McLaughlin from right wing-back to a central midfield role.

Bolger nodded a Dempsey corner from the right down into the ground and it just dropped over the bar.

It developed into a scrappy game but Fleetwood absorbed a number of Rovers attacks with a piece of individual brilliance from Ball stealing the show.

The ball pinged around the Rovers box with Grant eventually threading the ball through to Ball who managed to create something out of nothing as he beat his man and lifted the ball into the corner.

Both sides had chances late on with Nirennold fizzing the ball too hard across the six-yard box ahead of Cole and Cairns had to back pedal to make another fine save as he tipped Harrison’s chip over the bar.

Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Bolger, Pond (Eastham, 58), Davies, Bell, Dempsey, Glendon (Nirennold, 62), Grant, Ball, Hunter (Cole, 78). Subs not used: Neal, Jonsson, Nirennold, Long, Sowerby, Cole.

Bristol Rovers: Puddy, Brown (Easter, 53), Lockyer, McChrystal (Partington, 53), Clarke, Harrison, Taylor (James, 72), Lines, Clarke, Moore, Bodin. Subs not used: Hodges, Lawrence, Montano, Sinclair.

Attendance: 3728

Referee: Darren England.