James Husband's stunning equaliser a pleasant surprise for Fleetwood boss Joey Barton
Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton admitted he was as shocked as everyone else by James Husband’s equaliser against Gillingham.
He left Gills keeper Tomas Holy rooted to the spot with a stunning free-kick as, for the first time this season, Town earned a point after going behind.
The point, coupled with results elsewhere, saw Town drop to ninth in the League One table.
They remain six points behind Doncaster Rovers, who occupy the final play-off place.
Barton said: “Obviously for us it would have been really disappointing to lose the game.
“Certainly in the second half I thought we were the side knocking on the door but Gillingham are fighting for their lives and have some good players.
“Tom Eaves is the talisman and we knew we had to take care of him for 90 minutes. Ashley Eastham and big Soutts (Harry Souttar) dealt with him.
“We switched off but he (Eaves) is capable of that. if you stand the ball up, he’s difficult to deal with.
“Hubby goes up the other end and atones for it. I was probably as surprised as anyone in the ground.
“When the lads have practised free-kicks, he hasn’t stayed out and done it with them.
“We showed great quality to pick up a point.”
“He’s started it wide and used the Fylde coast conditions, with the wind howling.
“It was a free-kick worthy of winning a game and I’m delighted for Hubby to get his goal and keep our scoreboard ticking over.”
As Barton alluded to, conditions made it hard for both teams to get the ball down and pass it at Highbury.
A gusty wind meant the teams either had to try to keep the ball as low as possible or, when it was at their backs, try to avoid sending it straight out of play.
A couple of chances for Ash Hunter aside, it meant that Town’s front players spent most of the afternoon trying to win headers or second balls and build from there.
Paddy Madden saw one late header fly over the bar, while fellow front man Ched Evans was restricted to a couple of free-kicks in promising situations – neither of which got past the visitors’ defensive wall.
One of those came from a fine passage of play which got Lewie Coyle in behind the defence only to be brought down by the last man.
With the crowd baying for a red card, referee Neil Hair instead showed the offender, Leo Da Silva Lopes, a yellow instead.
Barton said: “We were surprised we didn’t get a penalty but, looking at the replay, it looked just outside the box.
“The ref made that call and they came out on the right side with the yellow card, while we couldn’t convert the free-kick.”