Fleetwood Town manager Steven Pressley doesn’t believe Wigan will have the edge in this afternoon’s Highbury derby, despite having had Boxing Day off.
While Town face a second match in 48 hours, following their 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury, Wigan haven’t played for nine days because Saturday’s DW Stadium clash with Sheffield United was one of those to fall foul of the devastating rain which swept across Lancashire, causing widespread flooding and decimating the Football League programme in the county.
Substitute Ash Hunter rescued a point for Town against Micky Mellon’s Shrews, scoring with his first touch in the 86th minute after another frustrating afternoon in front of goal for his team-mates.
Town were denied by their own poor finishing, the woodwork and livewire former Blackpool keeper Mark Halstead, having shot themselves in the foot by allowing their former loan striker Liam McAlinden’s to give the hosts an early lead.
It was a punishing match in a strong wind at the Greenhous Meadow but Pressley insists his men will match the Latics for fitness, if not freshness.
The Town boss said: “I’ve said to the players it’s no disadvantage – momentum and playing games are key.
“There’s a confidence about the group, there’s a belief. Yes, Wigan will have fresh legs but we’re a really fit team and we’ll be ready.”
As at Crewe a week earlier, Town started badly at Shrewsbury and conceded after only six minutes.
But they rallied after the break, creating half a dozen chances to claim victory. David Ball and David Henen missed one-on-ones and Nathan Pond hit a post. Hunter eventually came to the rescue, smashing home from fellow sub Tariqe Fosu’s pass.
But Pressley made it clear his team need to be more clinical if they are to haul themselves clear of the danger zone – the point lifted his side a place to 18th, two points above the bottom four.
He added: “I feel like I’m saying the same things all the time. We had four one-on-one opportunities but we weren’t clinical enough with our finishing. The conditions were really poor but I didn’t think we passed the ball with enough aggression.
“The conditions made that difficult at times but we were far more aggressive, far more positive in our play second half, and it’s a game in the end we should win.
“We’ve come here and asked for a response in the second half. The players certainly gave that.
“Their attitude and their energy level was terrific. But I said after Crewe we have to win at these places and I won’t be satisfied until we do.”
The Shrews opener was certainly not Fleetwood’s finest hour, Jordan Clark skipping past Pond, Scott Vernon’s shot turned past Chris Maxwell by McAlinden.
“It was a real poor goal from our point of view,” said Pressley. “We allowed their player to skip through three or four tentative challenges.
“We’ve looked tight at the back but we can’t give away goals like that, especially when we were the team with the wind at our backs in the first half. We wanted to make good use of that.
“It was a poor start, like at Crewe, and we can’t keep doing that. Our response was good but we have to keep our focus in the opening exchanges.”
It was Town’s second early blow in as many weeks and Pressley admits he’d like to watch a game from a winning position, allowing Fleetwood to better use their power on the counter.
“It would be nice to get ahead,” he joked. “It would be nice to bring teams on to us and really utilise our counter.
“We’ve found ourselves behind twice in recent weeks but our response was good.”
As for goal hero Hunter, Pressley chuckled: “What a substitution!” having thrown on Hunter to replace Eggert Jonsson seconds before the equaliser.
“I’ve said it with past substitutions - you’re reliant on the player’s mentality when he comes on and Ash was fantastic.
“I don’t think he’s had the best week in training - his finishing has been poor all week.
“It’s amazing. He got the opportunity and showed real composure and intent.”