There were fireworks around Haig Avenue before kick-off but it was less than sparkling on the pitch in a game marred by smoke bombs and flares thrown from the home end as Town stuttered to a 0-0 draw at National League side Southport in the FA Cup.
It was a dire and dull affair at Southport as the two former non-league rivals recommenced battle for the first time in four years and with a lot less bad blood than had been a stand-out of the fixtures in the past after Southport controversially pipped Fleetwood to the Conference North title.
Nathan Pond was at the heart of Town’s defence the last time Town made the trip along the coast and beat the Sandgrouders 6-0.
But that 6-0 drubbing was a distant memory as Town struggled to get going on a freezing night until the latter stages when Pond was nearly hit by a flare that was thrown from the home section of the crowd behind the goal.
But despite a host of yellow smoke bombs and a flare in the latter stages of the game Town kept their heads and oh so nearly grabbed a late winner in what was frankly a dull affair in front of the TV cameras.
But Town are still in the hat and Southport will have to travel to fortress Highbury for a replay to decide who gets to travel to Shrewsbury Town in the second round in December.
The big news before kick-off was that Town boss Uwe Rosler handed ex-Barcelona youth player Elohor Godswill his debut just an hour after he had signed for the club.
Godswill filled in at right-back in place of Conor McLaughlin who was on international duty with David Ball and Jack Sowerby also recalled to the starting line-up in place of Ash Hunter and Eggert Jonsson who moved to the bench.
It had been built up as a tasty fiery North West derby but no fireworks were on display on the pitch, just in the stands in a dreary first half of this FA Cup first round tie at an arctic Haig Avenue.
Town made a slow start to proceedings with Town only creating one real effort with Chris Long blasting off target.
Up the other end Andrai Jones nipped in but his tame effort bobbled straight to Neal.
Town centre-half Bolger slid in on ex-Fleetwood man Allen much to the fury of the home support, the referee played advantage but came back to book Bolger once the ball had finally gone out of play.
Town created a number of slick passing moves but their final pass was not up to scratch on a number of occasions in a dreary first half.
Ball did managed to wriggle into the box contemplated shooting with his back to goal but eventually rolled the ball back to Grant who smashed the ball wide of the right post.
Godswill and Southport’s James Caton also found themselves in the book as the dull half wore on.
Long steamed into the box just before the break but it was the same old story as his ball across goal missed the runs of Ball and Sowerby with the scores locked at 0-0 at the break.
Rosler made a change at half-time with Martyn Woolford coming on for Sowerby as he shored up the midfield.
Woolford played on the left of midfield with Grant swapping wings and moving over to the right.
Southport started the half brightly and created a good opening after Grant had lost the ball in his own half with Caton just firing over and Ball curled one wide up the other end.
Caton was in the action again as his long range effort was parried by Neal but Godswill got to the rebound and put it out of play.
Town nearly took the lead moments later but Magnus Norman pulled off a fine fingertip save to push Ryan’s set-piece onto the bar. The rebound just missed the runs of Long and Ball but eventually fell to Woolford who’s effort was just deflected over the bar.
Another Ryan effort from outside the box flew over the bar and Grant headed straight at Norman.
There was a stoppage in play because a yellow smoke bomb and a flare that nearly hit Pond were thrown onto the pitch from a stand filled with Southport fans.
The flare and smoke bomb left a plume of smoke around Town’s goal mouth and Southport nearly found a way through Town’s defence and the smog but Allen was flagged offside as he was played in to run one-on-one.
And it was Southport who created another good chance as Higgins fed Nolan but his first time effort just went wide.
Town finally looked a real threat in the six minutes of stoppage time as Cole wasted a one-on-one opportunity as he fired straight at Norman and then Bolger rose above the pack to nod Dempsey’s corner wide and Hunter just curled the ball around the wrong side of the right post.
The result means the tie will have to be replayed at Highbury to bag a place in the second round and a trip to Shrewsbury Town.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Pond, Bolger, Bell, Sowerby Woolford, 46), Dempsey, Ryan, Grant (Cole, 76), Long, Ball (Hunter, 63). Subs: Cairns, Jonsson, Eastham, Nirennold.
Southport: Norman, Higgins, Howe, Thompson, Ashton, Lussey (Ferguson, 82), Weeks, Nolan, Caton (Cofie, 77) Allen, A Jones. Subs: Crump, White, Grimes, Gray, G Jones.
Referee: Darren England