Fleetwood paid the price for missed opportunities as they drew 1-1 with Swindon Town at the County Ground.
Fleetwood should have walked away with all three points but a plethora of missed chances after Wes Burn’s sixth minute opener left the game on a knife edge and clinical Swindon punished Steven Pressley’s men for not taking their chances.
Fleetwood had 13 attempts on goal and in a 15 second spell of toothless madness hit the woodwork three times and blasted wide from less than six yards out just moments before Nicky Ajose popped up at the other end to show them how it is done as he poked Michael Doughty’s left-wing ball home from six-yards out.
Town made the perfect start as Wes Burns stole in at the near post to nod in Stephen Jordan’s flick-on in just the sixth minute.
Fleetwood ended the first half a goal up but Steven Pressley’s men should have been 3-1 to the good at the break.
Burns should have squared the ball to an unmarked Bobby Grant minutes after opening the scoring but selfishly opted to shoot straight and fired the ball straight at Belford.
Fleetwood should have had a penalty when Burns was brought down by Belford but the referee ruled the keeper had got a touch of the ball.
Swindon’s top goal scorer Ajose should have levelled but he inexplicably failed to make contact with Bradley Barry’s teasing right-wing cross and just moments later Bobby Grant wasted a golden opportunity to increase Town’s lead as he ran one-on-one with Belford and smashed the ball straight at the keeper.
And in the second half Fleetwood’s Bobby Grant and all three substitutes Ash Hunter, David Henen and Devante Cole were all guilty of missing chances as Fleetwood missed a golden opportunity to bag a vital three points as the relegation battle hots up.
There are now seven games to go with misfiring 21st-placed Fleetwood just one point above the bottom four.
Pressley made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Chesterfield last Saturday.
Bobby Grant returned to the starting line-up having missed the last three games due to suspension after he was sent off for violent conduct at Burton Albion.
During his three match ban top scorer Bobby Grant netted five times in two development squad games and came straight back into Pressley’s starting line-up.
Striker Burns (Wales U21) and right-back Conor McLaughlin (Northern Ireland) also went straight back into the starting XI after missing the Chesterfield game due to international duty.
Midfielder Eggert Jonsson was named on the bench at Chesterfield but was recalled to the starting line-up as striker Ash Hunter, forward David Henen, midfielder Thomas Grant and full-back Tyler Forbes moved to the bench.
Town lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation with Bobby Grant joining Burns and David Ball up front.
Captain Nathan Pond (thigh) was named on the bench for the second game running.
Swindon’s rookie 21-year-old shot-stopper Belford had conceded 10 goals in his last two games against Wigan Athletic (4-1) and Scunthorpe (6-0) and remained in goal for today’s clash.
And Fleetwood tried to take advantage of the keeper’s low confidence as they threw bodies forward early doors.
Pressley’s men showed attacking intent right from the off as McLaughlin’s strike was just deflected wide by Burns’ toe but had the Welshman hit the back of the net it would have been chalked off as he was ruled offside.
Burns was in the action yet again as he blasted over from just outside the box.
Town were rewarded for their bright start with a sixth minute goal as a neat corner routine from the left paved the way for Burns to scruffily nod the ball home.
Jimmy Ryan rolled the ball short to Bobby Grant and he tapped it back to the bearded midfielder who whipped in a brilliant ball that was flicked on by Stephen Jordan towards Burns who stole in at the near post and opened the scoring.
Town should have made it two just moments later as Burns nicked the ball off Jamie Sendles-White deep in Swindon’s half on the left and powered towards goal. But instead of squaring the ball across the box to the unmarked Bobby Grant he opted to shoot from an angle on the left and hammered the ball straight at Belford.
Burns was at the forefront of most of Fleetwood’s attacking play and he should have had a penalty as he stormed down the left of the box and knocked the ball past Belford. Burns went flying through the air but the referee did not give a penalty as he felt that Belford had got a hand to the ball.
Jonsson was booked for a late challenge as on-loan Sheffield United midfielder Stefan Scougall terrorised Swindon in the middle of the park,.
But despite Fleetwood’s dominance Swindon should have drawn level just after the half hour mark as Bradley Barry’s probing cross from the right curled into the path of Ajose six-yards out.
The ball fizzed past Jordan and appeared to fall perfectly for Ajose but the 22-goal striker unbelievably missed the ball and it flew to safety.
Ryan unleashed Bobby Grant to run one-on-one with Belford but as he reached the penalty spot he fired straight at the advancing keeper rather than slip the ball into the corner.
Fleetwood had a close call minutes into the second half as Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill ran one-on-one with Chris Maxwell on the left of Fleetwood’s box and tumbled as the keeper advanced.
But much to the home fans’ disgust referee Mark Brown ruled that Ormonde-Ottewill had not been tripped by Maxwell and showed the Swindon player a yellow card for simulation in the 47th minute.
Barry was booked for a bad foul on Jonsson on the halfway line and Burns tired in the second 45 and was withdrawn for Hunter.
Swindon substitute Drissa Traore was booked for a foul on David Ball.
Town should have doubled their lead and it was a mystery how they did not as they hit the woodwork three times and fired wide in the space of a minute.
Substitute Hunter whipped the ball to the unmarked Grant in the box and his first-time shot crashed back down off the woodwork. Swindon failed to clear their lines and Hunter nodded the rebound onto the crossbar before another goalmouth scramble ensued with Hunter hitting the left post and then slicing the rebound wide from close range.
And within seconds Swindon had the ball up the other end and in the back of the net as Michael Doughty’s fierce left wing cross was bundled over by Ajose from close range in the 68th minute.
Swindon could have taken the lead be it not for the woodwork as Louis Thompson’s 10-yard strike beat Maxwell but crashed back off the crossbar.
Jonsson lost the ball but fortunately substitute Ellis Iandolo fizzed his first-time shot wide of the right post in the 73rd minute.
Scougall was booked for a bad challenge but the subsequent set-piece was fired straight down Maxwell’s throat by Doughty.
Substitutes Cole and Henen combined as Cole sent the on-loan Everton striker one-on-one with Belford but he fired straight at the keeper.
And Cole’s header from Ryan’s left wing corner was cleared off the line by Thompson as Fleetwood did everything but score.
Hunter somehow fished the ball back from the back line into the path of Cole and his shot was deflected wide and that was to be the last clear cut chance of the game as the clock ticked towards full-time.
Ryan was booked late challenge on Thompson in injury time and the game miraculously ended all square at the County Ground.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Nilsson, Jordan, Bell, Jonsson, Ryan, Scougall, B Grant (Henen, 81), Burns (Hunter, 59) Ball (Cole, 69). Subs not used: Gogic, Forbes, Pond, T Grant, Henen, Cole.
Swindon Town: Belford, Barry, Sendles-White, Turnbull, Rossi-Branco (C), Ormonde-Ottewill, Rodgers (Traore, 59) Doughty, Thompson L, Hylton (Iandolo, 59) Ajose. Subs not used: Henry, Brophy, Marshall, Balmy, Cooke.
Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)