VERDICT: Fleetwood Town 2 Rochdale 2
Town might have been pegged back late on at Highbury but the one thing they should take is that it appears they have finally have solved their problem at left-back.
Town might have been pegged back late on at Highbury but the one thing they should take is that it appears they have finally have solved their problem at left-back.OK, it may be a right-footed left-back but Saturday’s 2-2 draw produced a statement of intent from Leeds United loanee Lewie Coyle.Ash Hunter will get the plaudits for his stint up top, his vision and inspiration allowing fellow forwards Paddy Madden and Ched Evans to take the glory.But it was Coyle who shone under the grey skies at Highbury.He sums up everything you want in a player; controlled aggression, the willingness to play out of position for the team, unselfish attributes and importantly,, a touch of flair.He does the basics and he has a bit of bite with a challenge ending Rochdale’s two-goal hero Ian Henderson flying into the advertising boarding summing up his performance on a derby day.He added the bite and backbone to the left-back berth that Town have been missing since Amari’i Bell’s exit last season.Fleetwood might yet swoop for a left-back and Coyle’s deputy, Gethin Jones, did not have his best showing on the right.In contrast, it was difficult to tell that this was Coyle’s third 90-minute outing in the space of eight days; testament to the calibre of a player that Joey Barton has at his disposal.However, many will have walked away mumbling about the referee.The boos at the final whistle directed towards the man in black said it all.The Cod Army had spoken and Dean Whitestone is off their collective Christmas card list.Numerous decisions throughout the game, for both sides, irked both the home faithful and the Rochdale hierarchy sat behind the press box.The referee awarded a penalty which drew Dale level five minutes into the second half.In real time, there were no gripes as a lapse of concentration from Jones and Craig Morgan saw the latter send Henderson flying.A man of Henderson’s experience knows just what he is doing in that situation whereas Morgan, for his years, needs to be more streetwise. It couldbe argue that the foul took place outside the box but, for Barton, the big decision involved Wes Burns with the score locked at 2-1 in Town’s favour.The substitute is used to controversy against Rochdale with a red card last season later rescinded.This time he was about to go one-on-one with keeper Josh Lillis when the shot-stopper appeared to handle outside his box.The referee claimed chest and the home fans bowed their head into theirs. His scattergun approach to yellow cards had not endeared him to the home fans with an apparent approach of one rule for one and one for the other. Though it could have been a game-changing moment Fleetwood only have themselves to blame for this draw.Coyle said post-match that it felt like a defeat and the sombre attitude of those walking away from Highbury could not agree more.If they have desires of challenging at the right end Fleetwood’s front line need to find their shooting boots. Madden and Evans might have found the target but, of Town’s nine efforts on Saturday, just three hit the target.One third is not a good enough ratio to push for the top but, on the other hand, at least the chances are there.Yes it is frustrating to see missed opportunities, with Burns (pictured), Hunter, Evans and Coyle all guilty, but at least they are showing creativity and an eye for goalLike some of the problems at the back, it is a case of ironing things out rather than ripping up the blueprint.The one cause for concern from that display, though was one late substitution with a defender, Cian Bolger, replacing a midfielder in Jason Holt. Barton will learn that in League One, at home, attempting to shut up shop just gives the opposition incentive. Henderson smelled blood as soon as five minutes of added time were signalled.That negative substitution in switching to a 5-4-1 formation left Rochdale boss Keith Hill rubbing his hands together in the dying stages because it told Dale one thing – Fleetwood were taking 2-1.They actually weren’t; the new formation allowed them to play a counter game with substitute Burns adding fresh legs and Hunter, as ever, in the action.Bolger did make an impact and, it seems, lost some teeth for his efforts with one late block denying Aaron Wilbraham.He erased a poor midweek showing at Crewe Alexandra with a cameo that said he needs to start against Scunthorpe United on Wednesday – teeth allowing.After that heroic block it looked like Barton would taste a home win but Henderson had other ideas.With Town running down the clock and trying to hold back a man who defines this division, it showed Barton just how cruel League One can be with an equaliser.The goal said many things but the message was simple.The referee did not stop Town from winning this game; it was their lack of clinical finishing on the day and an inability to hold on.For the first time under Barton, an opposing side and Henderson – no doubt fuelled by being thrown into the advertising hoarding by Coyle’s challenge – wanted it more.Town need to learn from this and find a way to go for the jugular late on rather than shutting up shop.