MATCH REPORT: Northampton 0 Fleetwood 1

Fleetwood Town's Devante Cole celebrates with Wes Burns after opening the scoring at Northampton
Fleetwood Town's Devante Cole celebrates with Wes Burns after opening the scoring at Northampton
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It was as if he can see into the future. Uwe Rosler stressed last week the need to keep Conor McAleny fit to give him the 30-game season he has never had.

But on only the 58th League appearance by the 24-year-old hot-shot, he worryingly limped off just eight minutes before the break.

McAleny has had an electric start to his Town career and was at the forefront of the attacking play, but as Matt Crooks flew in to stop him just outside the box he clipped the attacker’s right heel. The forward was unable to shake off the knock and headed straight down the tunnel.

In his post-match press conference, Rosler was 
already using the ‘h’ word – hope – but as ever kept his cards close to his chest as Town hope last season’s injury curse does not strike again this term.

After Town’s 2-1 extra time cup loss to League Two side 
Carlisle in midweek, Rosler stated the need for his players to walk through the open door when given an opportunity.

The six players who came into the starting line-up for that game did not take that chance and the German 
reverted to the 11 who started the opening day 2-0 win over Rotherham.

Devante Cole and Ash Hunter were the strike duo given the nod against Carlisle and after not seizing the chance the stage was set for Wes Burns to try to end his year-long goal duck after McAleny’s early exit.

Hunter did not even make it into the match day squad, with development squad star Ashley Nadesan given the nod after his two goals in the 4-1 demolition of Morecambe by Paul Murray’s side.

However, with McAleny limping off in visible pain due to that ankle knock a return for Hunter may come sooner rather than wlater.

But it was that man Cole who took the game by the scruff of the neck to put himself in contention for a place in the starting spot against AFC Wimbledon next Saturday.

He had dropped down the pecking order after the 
arrival of McAleny and on-loan Huddersfield forward Jordy 
Hiwula, but it took just one chance for clinical Cole to chip the ball over David Cornell and clinch victory.

Cole’s fellow substitutes did their cases no harm either, with Aiden O’Neill showing bite to win the ball back in Northampton’s half before teeing Cole up for that 75th minute strike after Rosler
had brought him on to replace George Glendon at the break.

Wes Burns is starting to look again like the man who practically single-handedly dragged Town over the line to safety during his blistering loan-spell at the end of the 2015/16 campaign. He still needs a goal to bolster his confidence, but this performance showed at least that the relegation battle hero is still there – he just needs to believe it.

One man who knows all about that fight is Town’s shot-stopper and the hero of this match, Alex Cairns.

Goals win games, but it was the man with the reflexes of a cat that ensured that despite a torrid 30 minute spell until the half time whistle Town’s poor play was not punished in conceding a goal ,with a 10-second triple save showing just why Premier League side West Ham have shown interest in him.

Fleetwood made an electric start as Glendon’s corner was nodded towards the bottom corner by Bolger, but his effort was cleared off the line with Hiwula looming.

Hiwula twice went close soon after, but his first touch was poor after he found himself in a dangerous position, with a fierce curling effort from distance also batted away by Cornell.

After that blistering opening spell Northampton finally woke up and it was Chris Long who looked a constant threat against his old club. His angled effort was tipped away and he nearly outfoxed old team-mate Cairns when he pounced on a stray ball out from the back, but he was ushered out of play by recovering skipper Pond, who blocked his eventual effort.

The Cobblers always looked a threat on set-pieces, with Yaser Kasim’s dizzying deliveries causing trouble.

Town were rocked by the blow to McAleny (above), one that well and truly knocked the wind out of their sails for a while.

The hosts smelt blood and on the stroke of half-time Cairns had to pull off that 
triple stop. David Buchanan whipped the ball in from the left and Cairns was seemingly left to keep the Cobblers at bay single handedly.

Aaron Pierre had two efforts batted away from close range before Cairns recovered and reacted once again to stop Billy Waters’ effort.

Even the home crowd were on their feet to join the 101 travelling Cod Army supporters and show their appreciation for the keeper’s reactions.

Town were on the ropes at the end of the first half, but bounced back in the second period with a calmer and more astute footing , with Cairns a virtual bystander.

Cole entered the fray in the 67th minute, but it was his old team mate Long who continued to threaten up the other end as he outfoxed Eastham on the right before arrowing towards goal before lofting the ball over the bar from a tight angle.

Town had looked sharp on the counter attack all game and it was a piece of pressing that helped them get the goal in the 75th minute. O’Neill won the ball back deep in Northampton’s half before sending Cole on to do the 

Northampton piled on the pressure in the search for a leveller, but Town’s defence remained rock solid as they ground out another clean sheet and three more points.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Pond, Eastham, Coyle, Dempsey, Glendon (O’Neill, 46), Bell, Grant, Hiwula, McAleny (Burns, 37). Subs not used: Neal, Godswill, Nadesan, Schwabl.

Northampton: Cornell, Buchanan, Kasim (McWilliams, 74) Taylor, Waters, Revell, Pierre, Phillips (Moloney, 74), Long, Crooks, Poole (Richards, 90). Subs not used: Lobjoit, Bowditch, Goff, Taylor.

Referee: Brett Huxtable.