Fleetwood Town 3 Northampton Town 0 – match review, player ratings and highlights

CONTRASTING EMOTIONS: Fleetwood celebrate after inflicting more misery on the Cobblers. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
CONTRASTING EMOTIONS: Fleetwood celebrate after inflicting more misery on the Cobblers. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
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Fleetwood’s rapid rise towards the upper echelons of League One has taken many by surprise this season but, having witnessed first-hand as they impressively dispatched the Cobblers on Saturday, it’s easy to see why they boast such a lofty league position.

Now 17 league games unbeaten, and defeated only once at home this season, Uwe Rosler’s side were strong in defence, powerful in midfield and sprightly in attack, a lethal combination which proved too much for Northampton to handle.

All three played a part in this deserved albeit flattering victory, but it is important to also stress that this was not necessarily a 3-0 game and that, before they were gifted the lead, Fleetwood were indebted to some wayward Northampton finishing.

The home side had to ride their luck, and also rely on goalkeeper Alex Cairns, otherwise they could have been 3-0 down themselves by the time Devante Cole edged them in front shortly before half-time.

That’s because it was the Cobblers who undoubtedly bossed proceedings for 40 minutes, keeping now third-placed Fleetwood on the back foot and under pressure for large periods.

But the two things that did for Northampton in this game are two things that have plagued them throughout the season – generous defending and a lack of composure in the final third.

After squandering three clear chances, some calamitous defending presented Fleetwood with their first opportunity of the match and, as all good teams do, they duly took it.

Having arrived on the stroke of half-time, it was the worst possible time to concede, and with the home side now clicking through the gears, the destiny of the three points was never in doubt from the moment Cole’s shot found the net.

From Fleetwood’s perspective, the following two goals, scored by Bobby Grant and David Ball, were well-crated and excellently-taken, but the static, messy defending must also be questioned.

Grant should not have been allowed to his waltz through to Smith’s goal from 25 yards out, though admittedly it was a fine rasping finish, and then a misjudgment from Zander Diamond allowed Ball to race away and cleverly chip over Adam Smith, putting the result beyond all doubt.

Those two goals, scored in quick succession, both came within 15 minutes of the restart, during which time Fleetwood also missed two further chances.

All of a sudden, from being on the front-foot and controlling the game, Northampton were under the cosh and had to stand firm for the remaining half-hour to prevent a heavier beating.

Whilst it cannot be denied that Fleetwood are clearly a good side who played well and exuded obvious confidence on Saturday, this is not the first time Northampton have been put to the sword after going behind.

That’s now 18 times the Cobblers have fallen behind this season and not once have they come back to win; only going on to draw two of those 18 games, losing the other 16. It’s stats like those that give cause for concern going forward.

That’s now 18 times the Cobblers have fallen behind this season and not once have they come back to win; only going on to draw two of those 18 games, losing the other 16. It’s stats like those that give cause for concern going forward.

But, equally so, it should not be all doom and gloom. One bad result must not detract from the obvious progress Justin Edinburgh is making at Sixfields, and when all is said and done, games like Saturday’s at Fleetwood will not decide the outcome of Northampton’s season.

And even so, there were some positives to take from the Highbury Stadium, even if the scoreline does not suggest so.

The defending continues to worry but, at the other end of the pitch, the fact that the visitors carved out at least three clear chances, as well as several half-chances, against a high-flying side such as Fleetwood should be viewed as a positive, although they must show a more ruthless edge when opportunity knocks in the future.

If they can do that, and if the return of Gabriel Zakuani and perhaps Brendan Moloney can shore up the defence, this side has exciting potential.

But, at present, that’s all it is: potential. And given results elsewhere, specifically wins for Bury, Swindon and Gillingham, now must be the time to turn chances into goals and potential into results.

Tuesday’s visit of fellow relegation battlers Oldham Athletic would be a fine place to start.

With several teams below them starting to find some form, all of a sudden that looks a must-win.

How they rated...

Adam Smith - Barely tested for 40 minutes but his failure to take command and clear the danger from Eardley’s back header was fatal, and Fleetwood never looked back from that moment... 5

Neal Eardley - Dealt with the tricky Cole admirably for most of the first-half but his decision to head back to Smith, instead of clearing upfield, gave the Fleetwood man all the encouragement he needed. Didn’t look the same man after that... 6

Zander Diamond - The best of a below-par bunch in defence, producing a couple of excellent early blocks and tackles, although it was his misjudgment which led to the third goal... 6

Lewin Nyatanga - Hesitation between him and Smith allowed Cole to nip in and open the scoring and was then helpless to prevent the home side’s cruise to victory thereafter... 6

David Buchanan - Started promisingly before deteriorating, much like his team. Almost kept out Cole with a magnificent goal-line clearance, only for the rebound to fall back to him. Was too easily beaten by Grant for the second... 6

Matty Taylor - Back in the holding role where he was often left exposed with Fleetwood finding plenty of space between Town’s midfield and defence. Cracked two fine long-range efforts just wide... 6

John-Joe O’Toole - Probably shaded it in terms of being his side’s best player on the day. Worked hard and tried to drag his side back into the game but nothing came off for him, and isn’t as influential when operating in a wider position... 7 CHRON STAR MAN

Gregg Wylde - There were times when he picked the ball up in space and looked to drive at Fleetwood’s back four, however he wasn’t able to provide the vital end product or final ball on this occasion... 6

Keshi Anderson - Set away Richards for an early chance but it still remains to be see whether he can thrive in the deeper role behind two strikers. Deserves a start as an out-and-out front man... 6

Michael Smith - Little wrong with both his general play and attitude but, when it mattered most, he was unable to convert two clear chances, and that proved costly. Scoring goals, ultimately, is what Northampton need most... 5

Marc Richards - Seemed to pick up an early injury but ran it off and was involved in the two big chances, setting up Smith and then being denied by Cairns. Taken off as a precaution around the hour-mark... 6

Substitutes

Paul Anderson - 6

Hiram Boateng - 6

Jak McCourt - 6