MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 3 Wigan 4

Town caretaker boss Barry Nicholson with Wigan boss Gary Caldwell in the dug out as Fleetwood's Amadi-Holloway prepares to come on
Town caretaker boss Barry Nicholson with Wigan boss Gary Caldwell in the dug out as Fleetwood's Amadi-Holloway prepares to come on
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Fleetwood narrowly lost 4-3 in a thrilling final pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic under the watchful eyes of one of the men heavily linked to the vacant managerial hot-seat at Highbury tonight.

Former Wigan boss Uwe Rosler is the favourite to take over from Steven Pressley and he sat alongside Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley and Town technical director Gretar Steinsson in the directors box last night.

And the ex-Leeds boss was treated to a goal feast in the blinding sunshine at Highbury.

Town striker David Ball impressed netting twice and winning a penalty that was converted by Bobby Grant.

Caretaker boss Barry Nicholson, who has stepped into the void since Pressley’s shock resignation on Tuesday, was pleased to see his side start well as Ball opened the scoring in the seventh minute by bundling home strike-partner Ash Hunter’s cross.

Max Power rattled in an equaliser with an angled strike five minutes later and Luke Burke and Yanic Wildschut made it three in the latter stages of the first half as the Town back line defended in the face of the clinical newly promoted Championship club’s attack with the searing sun hindering their vision as it set behind the memorial stand their colleagues were attacking.

Town came out fighting in the second 45 with Ball once again linking up with Hunter to drill the ball home and start a manic five-minute goal spree in the 50th minute.

Within moments Michael Jacobs had curled a free-kick into the bottom left corner.

Man of the match Ball was at the centre of the action once again as he was chopped down in the box and Grant stepped up to slot the subsequent spot-kick home.

Amari’i Bell (hamstring), Victor Nirennold, Jimmy Ryan (ankle) were all absent due to minor knocks but are expected to return in time for the start of the new League One season at Northampton next Saturday.

But Nicholson’s men started brightly in the familiar 4-4-2 formation Fleetwood have been trialling over pre-season.

The hosts had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead in the second minute.

Right-back Conor McLaughlin pumped the ball up from deep for Hunter to flick-on and a defensive mix-up saw the newly silver-haired Ball stole in but fired wide of the right stick after sprinting one on one.

Alex Gilbey nodded over the bar up the other end but Ball made up for his earlier miss by prodding the ball over the line.

Hunter galloped down the right flank before fizzing the ball across the box where poacher Ball pounced to divert the teasing cross home from just yards out in the seventh minute.

But Wigan were level in the 12th minute as they outfoxed Town’s defence with a slick, quick short-corner routine.

The lively Gilbey raced past Town right back McLaughlin on the left but Jonsson was on hand to mop up and clear.

But the Latics equalised from the resulting corner as they took it quickly from the left with Power playing a neat one-two with Wildschut before dribbling in towards the box. He released the trigger and his low angled strike was too hot for Chris Neal to handle as he managed to dive low to his left and get a palm to it but the effort had maximum power behind it and just rolled home in the 12th minute.

Power was in the action moments later as his shot from the top of the box just rolled past the left stick.

Town wasted an opportunity to take the lead as they just could not divert the ball towards goal as it pinged around the box and McLaughlin blasted over.

Fleetwood’s intense trip in Holland looked to have been paying off as they appeared to have picked up on the Dutch passing philosophy.

They looked a threat on the counter as they carved through Wigan’s middle with a number of sublime cross-field balls but they just could not find the final pass and they struggled to break down the Latics’ back line as the half wore on.

Town’s defence did not just have to compete with Wigan’s strong attack but the setting sun and Wigan punished the blinded defenders twice in quick succession.

The Championship side were clinical as Gilbey raced to the back line and neatly pulling the ball back towards the top of the box for Burke to fire in his first goal for the club with the aid of a deflection.

Wigan struck again moments later as Wildschut found space outside the box to unleash a fierce strike that flew past the helpless Neal in the 37th minute.

But Hunter nearly reduced the deficit within minutes of the re-start as his 20-yard effort just curled past the far post.

Neal just got his fingertips to Power’s fierce shot as it just glided over the bar in the dying embers of the first 45.

Nicholson made two changes at the break with Cian Bolger replacing Nathan Pond in the centre of defence and Keano Deacon replacing Ricardo Kip on the left wing.

It was a tame start to the second 45 but the game exploded into life in the 50th minute as a manic five-minute goal feast ensued.

Ball got Fleetwood back in the game as he drilled the ball into the bottom left corner from just outside the box in the 50th minute.

But Wigan restored their two goal advantage moments later as half-time substitute Michael Jacobs curled the ball up and over Town’s wall and into the bottom left hand corner.

Fleetwood came back fighting and the man at the forefront of most of their attacks Ball won a penalty in the 54th minute.

The live-wire was felled at the top of the box by a blue and white shirt and Grant stepped up to smash the spot-kick past experienced keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the bottom right corner.

Burke flew in with an unnecessary meaty challenge on Town winger Keano Deacon after the youngster attempted to tear away down the wing.

The Latics player slid in and took Deacon’s standing leg and the game’s friendly atmosphere became tinged with an angry underbelly with referee A Madley having to brandish a yellow card to Power moments later.

The Cod Army got to glimpse their new signing Aaron Amadi-Holloway for the first time in the 68th minute as caretaker boss Barry Nicholson threw on the striker, Devante Cole and gave centre half Joe Davis some minutes in the 68th minute.

The move saw Cole slot into a wide left role with Deacon switching wings and Amadi-Holloway partnered Nick Haughton up top with Davis just slotting in where Ashley Eastham left off in the heart of defence.

Neal pulled off a good late diving save to bat Power’s fierce effort away from goal but managerless Fleetwood left the pitch confident ahead of next weekends opener after giving Wigan a stern test at Highbury.

Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Eastham (Davis, 68), Pond (Bolger, 45), Duckworth, B Grant (Amadi-Holloway, 68), Jonsson, Trialist, Kip (Deacon, 45), Hunter (Cole, 68), Ball (Haughton, 61). Subs not used: Cairns, Amadi-Holloway, Davis, Sowerby, Cole.

Wigan: Jaaskelainen, Perkins, Power, Gilbey, Burn, Morsy, Grigg (Flores, 79), Buxton, Morgan, Burke (Chow, 90), Wildschut (Jacobs, 45). Subs not used: Nicholls, Hendry, Colclough, Barrigan.

Attendance: 1717 (274 away)