MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 0 Port Vale 0

Don't Stop Believing blaring out at half-time was perhaps an omen for what is to come in the next week as Town failed to topple Bolton but secured another shot at promotion via the play-offs.

Sunday, 30th April 2017, 11:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:56 pm
Fleetwood Town head coach Uwe Rosler

When the Journey anthem echoed round Highbury, Town and relegation-scrapping Port Vale were goalless, while Bolton were just a goal ahead at Peterborough.

There was still a glimmer of hope that Town could cap an already fairytale season with direct promotion to the Championship.

But it was not to be. Town did everything in a spirited second-half display, even seeing Ash Eastham’s header chalked off , while Bolton dashed their top-two hopes by steamrollering a Peterborough side who already had their deckchairs out and a chilled glass of Sangria in hand at the Macron Stadium.

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Unfortunately, Bolton’s two-point cushion was just too much for Town, who ultimately had to settle for fourth place because Scunthorpe scored two late goals to beat Coventry 3-1.

But as Journey demand, Town and the Cod Army must not stop believing and be thankful that the slip to fourth spares them a Thursday night trek to Millwall. Instead, they will travel just across the Pennines to Bradford in the first leg of their play-off semi-final.

Rosler made one change to the side that beat Gillingham 3-2, with Cian Bolger coming into the defence for skipper Nathan Pond.

Fleetwood made a rapid start, with Ben Davies wasting a free header at the back post as he nodded George Glendon’s cross from the left wide.

Town were forced into an early substitution as player of the year Bolger, who had been nibbled at several times in the opening 15 minutes by a horde of piranha-esque yellow shirts, hobbled off with what looked like a recurrence of the ankle injury he picked at Oldham. His exit paved the way for club skipper Pond to make his entrance to rapturous applause.

Vale had already lost JJ Hooper to injury before Bolger limped off and their caretaker boss Michael Brown was forced into a further change as a clash of heads with Bobby Grant left Danny Pugh with a gaping head wound caused by Grant’s teeth.

Fleetwood dominated possession but could not find a way through, with Davies nodding another header wide.

Ash Hunter’s cross from the right was tipped away by the diving Leo Fasan, who then saved with his legs to deny the same player after a poor Vale clearance in the swirling wind.

Town’s hope of nicking promotion from Bolton were hit by a second Wanderers goal minutes after half-time.

Vale came out with renewed impetus and nearly took a shock lead as a wobble at the back let the visitors in.

Sam Kelly’s cross from the left caused chaos as Davies’ attempted clearance hit Dan Turner on the shins and cannoned wide.

Rosler took off Conor McLaughlin to throw Devante Cole on as Town started to up the ante, with Davies firing past the right post from distance, Grant having a fine 30-yard effort tipped round the post by Fasan and Pond nodding a wicked Hunter cross just wide.

But Vale were not going down without a fight and they threw bodies forward to try to secure the win they needed to survive, Chris Eagles forcing Cairns into a dramatic late save.

And with both sides going for the jugular, the game opened up.

It was enthralling for the neutral as the game escalated into an end-to-end, all-out attacking clash.

Twice Grant went close, but when Town actually did ripple the back of the net it was not to be.

Dempsey whipped the ball to Eastham at the back stick but it was not to be a fairytale finish to an unbelievable regular season.

The defender was judged to have been offside when he bundled the ball home and Town had to settle for fourth spot, leaving Graham Alexander’s Iron to face Millwall.

The Vale players collapsed to their knees at the final whistle, their relegation confirmed by just a single point.

As for Town’s fate, it is back in their own hands as they face the Bantams twice in four nights. Forget what could have been, Rosler’s men mustn’t stop believing in what can be.

Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin (Cole, 62), Eastham, Bolger (Pond, 16), Davies, Bell, Dempsey, Glendon (Branngan, 74), Grant, Hunter, Ball. Subs not used: Urwin, Brannagan, Burns, Nirennold, Schwabl.

Port Vale: Fasan, Purkiss, Streete, Hooper (Kelly, 13), Foley, Pugh (De Freitas, 22), Turner, Tanser (Cicilia, 73) Smith, Reeves, Eagles. Subs not used: Mehmet, Kiko, Shalaj, Bikey.

Referee: Ross Joyce.

Attendance: 4733