Oldham 1 Fleetwood 2: Five things we learned

Fleetwood Town writer Rosie Swarbrick takes a look at the key talking points from Fleetwood's dissapointing 2-0 defeat to Gillingham

Wednesday, 27th December 2017, 6:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th December 2017, 5:10 pm
Ash Hunter, Conor McAleny, Devante Cole and Jordy Hiwula warm-up at Oldham

Rosler makes a statement with his team selection

He's made hard calls and strong decisions during his time at Town but this squad selection was definitely one to take note of.Bournemouth loanee Baily Cargill and Burnley loan star Aiden O'Neill were notable absences from the match day squad.The duo were hauled off at half-time during Town's 2-0 defeat to Gillingham and allegations surfaced post-match that they had both sworn towards the dug out.Rosler said after the game that the duo were not involved due to tactical reasons with the switch to a 4-3-3 only needing one centre half on the bench and O'Neill lacking confidence.But you do get a feeling that perhaps that Gills game is the last we could see of the duo in a red and white shirt with January looming and recall options for their parent clubs on both season long loans.But that was not the only strong move with the boost of McAleny's name on the subs bench as Rosler switched keeper Alex Cairns for Chris Neal (I will come to that later) introduced Markus Schwabl to the middle in place of O'Neill and threw lightning quick duo Wes Burns and Ash Hunter into a new look front three with Jordy Hiwula moving the bench.All four impressed with Schwabl putting in his best performance in a Town shirt. It was a gritty and physical performance with the German adding more grit and an older head to link up and compliment the creative ingenuity of Glendon and Dempsey.It is not to be forgotten that this is Schwabl's first taste of Christmas football after his arrival from Germany last January and it will be a memorable first Boxing Day clash for him.

Patience pays off for Chris Neal.

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Keeper Alex Cairns had looked devoid of confidence in that Gillingham defeat and like he did last year Rosler switched up his number one.Last term Chris Neal started the year in goal but was replaced by Cairns in November, a move that coincided with that 18-game unbeaten run.This term it was the other way round and Neal is most likely to retain that starting spot after a fine comeback. He's had to be patient but after waiting over a year for his stab at a league game the experienced shot-stopper grabbed the opportunity with both hands and he was rewarded for his patience. He was a calming and cool influence on the back line and that switch to a back four also aided Town's quest as Town's Achilles Heel of dealing with crosses into the box did not trouble them. It was just a shame he was robbed of his clean sheet eight minutes from time but I think the goalkeeping union will all accept it was a fine set-piece by Bryan.

Switch to a 4-3-3

The 3-5-2 wing-back formation and the rise of Alex Cairns go hand in hand. It was first deployed in the FA Cup replay win over Southport and then for the 2-1 win over Chesterfield in the league.As stated that was the start of the 18-match unbeaten run... and given the similarities of the move could lightning strike twice?A change of formation from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3, change of keeper and the same scoreline almost a year and month on... ironic no?That 4-3-3 was obviously utilised at the start of the campaign and now with Conor McAleny back, that shape was too.The return to a back four worked with Coyle and Bell linking up well with the two wide forwards of Burns and Hunter, especially in the second half when that old familiar force of Town's - the counter-attack - came to the forefront.

Is Mac back for good?

Conor McAleny is back. But that has been written by yours truly twice before and like the popular Take That hit - Town just want him back for good.He could not have asked for a better start to the season with that electric two-goal start on the opening day of the season.And since then the Cod Army have been chomping at the bit to see a regular run of games from the forward who was felled by an ankle injury a week or so later.He came back from that ankle knock at Portsmouth but swiftly returned to the treatment table with another comeback at Rochdale in October ending just before Town's Halloween clash at Blackburn Rovers.The 25-year-old did not make it on to the pitch but just having his name on that team sheet was a boost in itself.

But as Gary Barlow would croon, we just want him back for good now...

Hunter starts, Hunter scores.

With more competition to the forward line Devante Cole and Ash Hunter thrived.Both hit the back of the net with Cole rifling home his 11th of the campaign and Hunter netting for the first time since September.It was great to see Hunter get that starting spot and more importantly use the chance by getting his goal.Cole too impressed not just by scoring and setting-up Hunter but with his all round off the ball play, defending and hold up work. Hopefully the duo can keep that good form up on Saturday at Bury.

Though Cole's 'blocking them out'' post match picture celebration post has caused a stir on social media.

It appeared to be the forward responding to recent criticism of his form prior to the Oldham game with several other young Town players also responding to criticism on Twitter as Kyle Dempsey highlighted his four game MOTM in response to being accused of not turning up on the pitch.

The lads need to stick to what they are best at and do their talking on the pitch...