Scunthorpe 1 Fleetwood 0: Rob Stocks’ verdict

Town's Victor Nirennold

Town's Victor Nirennold

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On a normal weekend, defeat against a side struggling at the wrong end of the table might have demanded some kind of in-depth post mortem.

Going into the week Scunthorpe United looked in as much of a mess, if not more than a mess than Fleetwood Town.

The job of boss Mark Robins was hanging by a threat following an intense summer of recruitment and a sluggish start to the campaign.

Of course Tuesday night’s hammering at Gillingham and the resulting hangover has coloured everything else happening at Highbury this week.

The football on Saturday was really nothing more than a sideshow, Fleetwood slipping to a fourth consecutive defeat and for the first time in their Football League life into a relegation 
zone.

The match is worthy of little more than a few fleeting remarks – a drab and dour clash between two sides lacking in confidence, played out in the atmosphere of a James Joyce wake.

Even the celebrations for Paddy Madden’s winner were muted – the striker’s finish coming as a result of Fleetwood’s one and only major mistake – a reminder that any step out of line at this level is punished mercilessly.

Amari’i Bell was the man beaten down the Fleetwood left – the young defender undoubtedly Town’s weak link, the only difference between teams set up not to lose.

Joe Lolley had the run of the former Birmingham man throughout – his skipping run down the right channel and near post cross, stabbed home by Madden, the only real difference.

Fleetwood looked more balanced, more secure than they have at any point during the campaign so far.

That, in no small part,was down to the introduction of experienced defender Richard Wood (whose presence at the Priestfield might have spared Graham Alexander his job) and new loan signing Dionatan Teixeira as a centre-half pairing – backed up by another loan capture Joe Davies.

The introduction of two young Premier League centre-halves, if only for a month, is maybe an acknowledgement from within Highbury that the summer’s plans for financial sustainability were introduced too quickly – Town’s austerity almost dooming them to a relegation struggle.

With Teixeira and Wood Town have a fighting chance of League One survival.

But an injection of quality alone is not enough.

Fleetwood barely created a clear cut chance in 90 minutes at Glanford Park – Declan McManus testing Luke Daniels in the opening minutes of the second half, Jamille Matt heading wide in the last seconds of the game.

Their play was cautious, defensive, withdrawn.

All credit to Chris Lucketti who set Town up well, taking a bold decision on both the system (returning to four at the back) and personnel – Antoni Sarcevic’s banishment to the bench long overdue after a lacklustre campaign to this point.

Jack Sowerby looks comfortable in The Football League and in a side playing with confidence and attacking intent he could do well and Victor Nirennold is a revelation in a holding midfield 
role.

Fleetwood are undoubtedly in need of added bite – a clinical centre forward to rattle defences and open doors elsewhere. But there’s a good base on which somebody could build given time.

But Fleetwood need more right now – a motivator, a talisman, a man to bring back the fighting spirit and passion which lifted Fleetwood out of non-league.

There were reports Neil Warnock was watching on at Glanford Park on Saturday.

Nobody on the ground in Lincolnshire was able to confirm the gossip and Warnock is an unlikely candidate for the Fleetwood job – not least due to his price tag.

But a man of his ilk – a manager who can block out whatever petty power struggles are going on elsewhere in the club, who can battle for his own team, lift the dressing room and inspire the crowd – is what Fleetwood need.

Town don’t need a technician, a coach.

They need an inspiring figure and two figures leading the betting for the job spring to mind.

Former Blackpool boss Ian Holloway would have an instant impact in the changing room – his infectious spirit and enthusiasm precisely what Fleetwood need right now.

His influence on the Highbury faithful would be just as important as the impact on the pitch, bringing back much needed belief.

His big-money contract with Sky would be a stumbling block and it isn’t clear whether the former Bloomfield Road chief is interested in taking on the challenge at Fleetwood Town.

But if chairman Andy Pilley were to go looking for a ‘name’ to make headlines for Fleetwood Town, Holloway is surely the ultimate choice.

The other name is one sure to split opinion among supporters.

Steve Evans left Rotherham United last month after a hugely successful spell with the Millers – taking the club from League Two to the Championship.

He is a massively divisive figure in the game and a man with a questionable past.

The epitome of a Marmite manager, Evans doesn’t care what anybody else thinks, defends himself and his club with unrivalled passion and inspires loyalty and belief in a changing room like no 
other.

He has been strongly linked with the Highbury hotseat and might, right now, be the normally unpalatable medicine Fleetwood need.

Whoever takes charge in the next week (or maybe longer) needs a clear vision and clear instruction from the club.

The mission must either be secure League One survival or plough on with the club’s transition to a financially stable business model.

The evidence of the opening 10 games it that the two are not comfortable bedfellows and Fleetwood may have to either accept the drop of slow the pace of change.

The loan signings in the wake of Graham Alexander’s departure show the latter is a likely course, an acknowledgement that Fleetwood are in their current mess through cutting too deep and too fast.

Saturday’s exercise in steadying the ship was well executed by Chris Lucketti and Barry Nicholson under very difficult circumstances.

The back to basics approach is what was needed but in the long term Town need more.

Micky Mellon returns to Highbury tomorrow – proud, passionate, opinionated, charismatic and inspiring.

What Town wouldn’t give for that right now.