FLEETWOOD Town face a week-long test of their credentials as League Two promotion contenders, starting with Northampton Town’s visit to Highbury tomorrow.
Fleetwood’s current form allied to their reputation for adding high-quality talent to the squad have led the bookmakers to quote them as short as 11-10 to win promotion in their first season in the Football League.
But they will know a lot more at the end of a eight-day period that sees them face Northampton and high-flying Port Vale at Highbury on Tuesday then second-bottom Bristol Rovers away tomorrow week.
Fleetwood manager Micky Mellon is not jumping to any early conclusions, merely expressing satisfaction at their position in the play-off zone.
He said: “I would rather be in this position than at the other end of the table, and it’s good that people outside the club have recognised what we are trying to do here.
“But it is still very early in the season, and we will know more after 10 matches and then again around Christmas.
“We have a very tough three-match week coming up, but we have no injuries and a full-strength squad for three difficult games.”
Fleetwood were also boosted by a 4-1 win over a young Stoke City side, though one which included Danny Higginbotham and Carlo Nash, at the Potters’ training ground on Wednesday.
It gave a number of Town players on the fringe of selection for the first team a chance to press their claims, with Steven Gillespie netting twice and Alex Titchiner and Tom Barkhuizen also finding the target.
Mellon enthused: “It was a fantastic performance and it shows that the whole group is moving forward.
“It’s nice that we have the whole squad playing the right way, not just the first team.”
Mellon told The Gazette this week that he is never afraid to change a winning side, though changes may be the last thing on his mind after the thumping 4-0 win at Morecambe last Saturday.
However, he said that the scorers at Stoke and others in a strong team captained by Jamie Milligan “did not do any harm’ to their prospects of forcing their way into the first team.
Mellon will be pitting his managerial skills against Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd, who plied his trade in the Premier League with Watford five years ago.
Mellon said: “Aidy Boothroyd is a very good manager but it’s not him we are playing – it’s Northampton Town.
“They are a big, physical side, but it is not as if we haven’t come up against sides like that in the past. We will be prepared.”
In goal for Northampton will be Lee Nicholls, who is on loan from Wigan Athletic –first-choice stopper Shane Higgs has been sidelined with an Achilles injury.
The Northampton squad includes winger Ishmel Demontagnac, who had a spell with Blackpool two seasons ago.
Defender John Johnson requires a fitness test on a shin injury
Luke Guttridge, who scored both the Cobblers’ goals when they scraped past Town in the FA Cup three years ago, has recovered from illness and could figure. Fleetwood were a Conference North side at the time of that first round tie and put up a valiant show at Sixfields only to lose 2-1.
Explaining Higgs’ omission, Boothroyd said: “I won’t be putting Shane anywhere near the first team until I’m 100 per cent confident he’s not going to injure himself again.
“When you’ve been out for the length of time he has, you have to take it very carefully.”
Northampton, eighth in the table, will offer plenty power, strength and weight up front with the likes of man-mountain striker Adebayo Akinfenwa and Clive Platt, both vastly experienced at this level.