Boss is focused on long haul

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FLEETWOOD Town could jump five places into an automatic promotion spot tonight if they win at Oxford United and other results in League Two go their way.

But manager Graham Alexander refuses to think in those terms as Town have a quick return meeting with Oxford, who they beat 3-0 at Highbury as recently as January 26.

He said of this evening’s rearranged fixture: “We could end up third or we could be ninth, but I am just looking at our points tally and at getting three points to add to that.”

Nor is Alexander taking much notice of the fact that Oxford, losers 2-0 at home to Bristol Rovers on Saturday, are enduring an indifferent sequence of late and have lost ground in the chase for play-off positions.

The U’s have taken just one point from four matches, which includes that defeat at Highbury. The Fleetwood boss said: “When we played Oxford at home they were unbeaten in 11 or 12 games and were on a good run.

“We won 3-0, but we hard to work hard to get into that position. It will be the same tonight. They have a very good manager (Chris Wilder) and we know it will be a difficult game.”

It’s another match which sees Fleetwood on their travels after the long hike to Torquay on Saturday, when the Cod Army returned with a 1-0 win to boost their promotion push.

Alexander said: “It was a fantastic result and we had to defend well.

“We scored one goal, from Jon Parkin, and could have had another from Jean-Michel Fontaine but it was disallowed.

“I have looked at the video six or seven times and I am still at a loss as to why it wasn’t given (the ruling was a push).”

The Torquay match featured two Fleetwood players at opposite ends of the experience scale in Fontaine, who hails from a French territory east of Madagascar, and midfielder Paul McKenna, veteran of over 500 Football League games.

Alexander said of Fontaine: “It took us some time to sort out his paperwork so he could play on Saturday.

“He was one of a number of players from the same place who came over to this country. He was the type of player we were looking to sign.

“He impressed in a behind-closed-doors friendly and did enough for us to give him a deal.

“He came on as a substitute at Torquay and it took him 15 to 20 minutes to settle into his first game in English football, but he got to grips with it and looked a goal threat.

“Jean-Michel wants to learn and to make a career for himself in English football.”

Meanwhile, McKenna has brought a wealth of experience to the Fleetwood midfield, having played for Preston, Nottingham Forest and Hull in a long career.

And the Fleetwood boss sees McKenna as his voice on the field.

The Town manager added: “Paul knows the game and also provides a voice, which is something that has been missing.

“I can shout all I want from the side, but I know from my experience that it is easy to cock a deaf ’un or not hear what is being shouted.

“Paul is a good, all-round midfield player, who hasn’t always had the credit he’s deserved. But having played alongside him for eight years (at Preston), I am hoping and expecting that the character he brings will rub off on the other players.”

Fleetwood were today monitoring the fitness of Saturday’s goalscorer Parkin, who had to leave the field at Plainmoor prior to half-time in what was his first start after hamstring trouble.

Alexander said: “We are assessing the injury. We are hoping that it is not a recurrence of his hamstring injury and that it might have been a bit of cramp. We may leave a decision about Jon until Tuesday.”

Wing-back Shaun Beeley, who missed the Torquay game through injury, remains out of contention but there is some hope that Gareth Evans will return – his chances have been rated at 50-50.

Like Beeley, Evans limped off in the 2-2 draw with Bradford City at Highbury 10 days ago. Fleetwood enter tonight’s match outside the play-off zone on goal difference and Alexander said: “It is still very much a case of work in progress.

“It takes time for the players to get used to me and for me to learn about them.

“The 3-0 defeat to Bristol Rovers last month was a massive wake-up call for us,” added Alexander, whose side have taken seven points out of a possible nine since that home trauma.