Fleetwood Town 0 Forest Green Rovers 0
FRUSTRATED Fleetwood couldn’t make possession count as they missed a chance to go top of the Blue Square Bet Premier table.
For the third time this season, Town were held to a goal-less draw at Highbury – unable to break down a resolute and determined Forest Green side, who are unbeaten in four outings.
Micky Mellon named an unchanged team from the victory at Braintree Town, with Jamie Vardy still absent after pulling up with a hamstring problem in Tuesday’s friendly against Rangers.
Jamie McGuire, like Vardy available again after a three-match suspension, had to make do with a late cameo off the bench.
Defender Eddie Oshodi, released by Championship side Watford in the summer, made his debut for the visitors, whose starting line-up also included former Blackpool midfielder Al Bangura.
Early chances for both sides were few and far between – Junior Brown carving out the best of these for Town.
His probing runs down the left were causing problems for the Forest Green defence, but Town struggled to find the final ball to match their build-up play.
Six minutes in, Rovers keeper James Bittner was called upon to deal with a Richard Brodie shot, which he turned away for a corner.
Jamie Milligan’s resulting centre was punched clear by the stopper, then Milligan, Scott Brown and skipper Steve McNulty all failed to capitalise on the sustained pressure which followed.
Minutes later, James Norwood, a constant menace in the Gloucestershire side, teed up Yan Klokowski, who blasted his shot over the Fleetwood goal.
Norwood could have been through shortly afterwards but Junior Brown recovered well, having looked beaten, to deny a goalscoring opportunity.
Fleetwood were forced to make a change shortly before the break. The season’s only ever-present outfield player, Rob Atkinson, was struggling with a hip injury, and Nathan Pond took his place.
Town should have been ahead before half time – Andy Mangan’s pass looked to have found Richard Brodie but Chris Stokes somehow cleared.
After the restart, Milligan used his experience in midfield to carve out a number of half-chances.
But too often, Town were guilty of squandering good positions and not making the most of space.
Bittner, in the Forest Green goal, was hardly being tested, claiming crosses placed too close to his hands with ease and confidence.
He was most seriously threatened by one of his own defenders, when Milligan’s cross was headed wildly past his left post.
Brodie had another opening on the hour-mark, his header cleverly directed downwards but the wrong side of Bittner’s upright.
Fleetwood’s failure to create clear-cut chances was almost punished a minute later.
Steve McNulty’s slip allowed in Charlie Griffin, who found the back of the net, only to be ruled offside.
As full-time approached, Fleetwood’s desperation became more and more apparent, their play becoming increasingly scrappy and disjointed, and their best opportunities coming from set-pieces.
Mangan should have done better from 25 yards following Bangura’s handball, for which the midfielder was booked, but his shot made it no further than the Forest Green wall.
A fine move down the right hand side provided the striker with a shooting opportunity with 10 minutes left, Bittner once again proving a thorn in Fleetwood’s side.
The visitors were visibly content with a point by this stage, looking to slow down the game and run down the clock wherever possible.
Fleetwood looked out of ideas – outmuscled and, at times, over-run in midfield.
By the time the match had fizzled out to its inevitable conclusion, it had become clear that Town must find a way to deal with sides intent on stifling and frustrating them, if they are to mount a serious challenge this season.
Three sides have now come to Highbury and departed with both a point and a clean sheet – Town can surely expect many more to come and try for the same.
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Brown, Atkinson (Pond 41), Clancy (Seddon 57), Milligan, Briggs (McGuire 86), Brown, Brodie, Mangan; not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Goodall
Forest Green: Bittner, Hodgkiss, Stokes, Graham, Oshodi, Klukowski, Forbes, McDonald (Thomson 46), Bangura, Norwood,Griffin (Turk 83); not used: Imudia, Allen, Rowe.
Ref: Mr Duncan; Att: 1,687