We return to the Bank on Saturday after what seems like an age, to face Fleetwood Town, writes Tom Morton.
It has only been two weeks but there have been some highs (Oxford) and lows (Peterborough) along with the stress of a penalty shootout that most could only listen to or follow online. It’s enough to make it feel like an age.
Fleetwood’s story this season mirrors ours – quite literally. Where we racked up three draws before beating Oxford and succumbing to Peterborough, Fleetwood kicked off with a loss at Port Vale, before beating Plymouth and then going on to draw with Morecambe, Cheltenham and Derby. So we sit even on points with them in the table, with the only difference being the four goals Peterborough (and I don’t think we’ll see a better side this season) put past us.
The Cods finished just outside the bottom four last season and it can’t be said that they saved themselves – ending the season on a whimper and having to rely on the Gills losing at Rotherham to be saved.
During the summer, Fleetwood’s primary business has been the installation of a new manager Scott Brown. This is Brown’s first full coaching gig; after a significant tenure at Celtic as a player (14 years, winning several Scottish league titles) he had a short stint as a player-coach with Aberdeen before joining Fleetwood in May.
I’ve seen Brown described as a “tough” midfielder who wasn’t afraid of the physical. I think managers who have only recently retired tend to bring their style of play into teams quite a bit – so we may see a very physical Fleetwood. Certainly, they were described that way by their mid-week cup opponents, Everton, and they have already had a red card this season.
Fleetwood probably will line up in some variation of 4-3-1-2, they seem to be favouring that approach this year. Looking at clips and highlights I would say they seem disorganised at the back, which seems a holdover from last year. You can see a lot of last-ditch defending and scrabbling the ball away. There is a prime opportunity for tricky darting runs into the box from Garrick or Scully to cause confusion. If I were in charge of tactics I’d look for the cross-box dipping ball as they look poor covering the back post.
Going forward their main threat is Daniel Batty, who has scored two so far this season, who is good at getting into positions in the box. If I am honest they don’t look like a big threat overall – Fleetwood clearly prefer possession play (60% on average away from home) and play out from the back. Expect a similar strategy to ours last year; back-and-forth plays with occasional wide probing runs. Do expect them to be physical and dominate midfield a bit (they have one of the highest foul counts of the league to date) which might be a challenge for us.
During the transfer window, Fleetwood did a bit of business but, aside from defender Josh Earl, most are not yet first-team regulars. They have recently signed Goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk on loan from Leicester. He wears the number one shirt and did make his first appearance on Tuesday which suggests he will be the first-choice keeper. On the other hand, despite losing Club Captain Jordan Rossitor to Bristol Rovers they’ve retained some key players – including forward Gerard Garner (top scorer with seven goals last season) and left-back Danny Andrew.
A familiar face we might see is Callum Morton who was on loan with us in 20/21. He missed much of that season with a shoulder injury and in the end only made 17 appearances, scoring two goals. The second of those goals was, as it happens, against Fleetwood. Morton has played a couple of games for the Cods, although he wasn’t even on the bench against Derby last weekend.
To be honest, Saturdays game should be a winnable fixture. Fleetwood are in a similar space to us and so these are the games we need to take points from. Bouncing back from a thrashing and a slightly tense away cup fixture would be positive. No game is “easy” but I would consider the Cods to be much more run-of-the-mill opposition compared to Peterborough which hopefully allows some players to build back confidence on the pitch.