Fleetwood Town 2 Tamworth 2

Jamie Vardy's free kick is well saved
Jamie Vardy's free kick is well saved

FLEETWOOD Town fans were silenced by the Lambs as Micky Mellon’s men missed out on a chance to go four points clear at the top of the Conference.

A combination of a big freeze and FA Trophy means Highbury staged Saturday’s only Blue Square Premier clash.

And after just 60 seconds, the hard work to ensure the match went ahead appeared to have paid off.

Lee Fowler released Jamie Vardy down the right, and the in-demand striker’s cross sat up perfectly for Andy Mangan, unmarked at the back post, to fire the home side ahead.

Tamworth had hardly touched the ball when Fleetwood, unchanged from their last-minute victory at Forest Green last Tuesday, were handed a gilt-edged opportunity to extend their lead. Samuel Oji was judged to have pushed Vardy inside the area, and referee Karl Evans awarding Town the penalty with just over six minutes on the clock.

Magno Vieira hadn’t missed in his previous nine attempts from the spot, but couldn’t stretch Town’s advantage – his effort far too casual and saved by Jonathan Hedge.

It proved to be a crucial moment and a chance Town would rue missing, not least because two minutes later Tamworth were level.

Launching their first meaningful expedition into Fleetwood territory, the Lambs managed to win a corner thanks to some sloppy defending by Alan Goodall.

Liam McDonald’s first set-piece was scrambled behind but Town were unable to clear their lines from the second attempt, the ball falling to former LA Galaxy man Kyle Patterson, who lashed it in at the back post.

The goal was something of a wake-up call for Fleetwood, who launched a wave of fresh assaults on the Tamworth goal.

But the visitors were organised, defending high, closing down space and denying opportunities to cross. Town could have retaken the lead just after the quarter-hour mark, Mangan the provider for Vardy, whose shot was blocked. Minutes later, Town’s leading scorer was once again denied – this time his shot from the edge of the box was held by keeper Hedge.

Looking to capitalise on a run of corners, Fleetwood threw men forward and Nathan Pond had a header tipped over by the Tamworth stopper.

There looked to be only one side in it but, five minutes before the break, Fleetwood were dealt a massive blow – and if you’re afraid of goalkeeping blunders, look away now.

Scott Barrow fired off a tame shot from 30 yards which looked to be heading comfortably into the arms of Scott Davies.

Somehow the ball squirmed through the legs of the Fleetwood keeper, trickling into the back of the net, and Town were behind in a game they should have been winning comfortably.

Three minutes of added time weren’t enough for Micky Mellon’s men to redress the balance but parity was restored eight minutes after the restart.

Second-half substitute Richard Brodie waved a foot a Mangan’s cross without making any real contact.

Fortunately Vardy was perfectly placed at the back post – unleashing a netbuster into the Tamworth goal for his 22nd of the season.

When Oji earned himself a second yellow for a completely unnecessary bout of argy-bargy with Brodie, confidence grew around Highbury that Town would be able to pull off the comeback and snatch all three points.

But Tamworth remained organised and resolute, keeping bodies behind the ball, packing the box and looking to break up Fleetwood’s passing rhythm.

When Brodie’s header was deflected wide and, moments later, skipper Steve McNulty’s shot came back off the post, it started to look like it really wasn’t going to be Town’s day.

Not even five minutes of added time – crucial to last week’s victory at Forest Green – could enable Town to claim a sixth successive league victory, Tamworth’s bench and fans celebrating like cup winners on the final whistle. Town, for now, have a two-point lead but have played a game more than title rivals Wrexham.

And the Welshmen still have the better goal difference, having conceded 14 fewer – a statistic which surely can’t be ignored by Micky Mellon and his management team.

A freak blunder is one thing, but clearing lines and defending set-pieces are basics which Town need to be getting right if they are to pip Andy Morrell’s side to the Conference title.

On this evidence, despite the clear flair and ability to create chances, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Pond, Goodall, Cavanagh, Fowler, Rose (Brodie 51), Vieira, Mangan, Vardy. Not used: Stephenson, Atkinson, McGuire, Seddon

Tamworth: Hedge, Courtney, Francis, Oji, Reece (Christie 85), McDonald, Patterson, Isaac, Barrow, McKoy, Marna (Gudger 70). Not used: Reynolds, Sharif, Headley

Referee: K Evans; Attendance: 1,911