Fleetwood 1 Plymouth 1: Five things we learned

Fleetwood Town writer Rosie Swarbrick takes a look at the key talking points from the 1-1 draw with Plymouth.

Monday, 12th March 2018, 10:01 am
Updated Monday, 12th March 2018, 10:05 am
Paddy Madden, Conor McAleny and Ash Hunter celebrate levelling things up against Plymouth

The fighting spirit is there

When the whistle blew the sun started to shine through cracks in the clouds above Highbury.

Sometimes nature can be so poetic and as John Sheridan picked up a second draw as Town manager, it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The ingredients are there and, once Paddy Madden had cancelled out Moses Makasi’s 15th-minute opener, you could tell belief had returned among players and fans.

Good performances, however, count for nothing but, if they keep playing like this, a first league win since beating Southend United in January must only be round the corner.

To do that, though, they desperately need to take their chances...

The strikers' new license to thrill is paying off but a clinical touch is needed

Sheridan said he’d give his forwards a licence to thrill to help get Town out of the mess in which they find themselves – but they need to repay his faith by taking their chances.

Seventeen efforts in a game is a good enough return but not so the three on target; that’s not a number to expect from a team containing Ash Hunter, Conor McAleny and Madden.

The signs were already there by the time Madden levelled after 55 minutes, outfoxing the Pilgrims’ defence to tap home from Hunter’s looping cross.

McAleny and Hunter had already enjoyed the majority of the chances and a breakaway in the opening quarter-hour summed up Town’s forward line.

Madden broke on the left and, with both McAleny and Hunter free to his left, he fired over.

Hunter steamed in one-on-one but, for once, he was unselfish and attempted to square the ball to McAleny rather than back himself and go for goal.

It betrayed a lack of belief, though McAleny forced Remi Matthews into a fine save before diverting the ball over at the near post.

Missed chances are one thing but, as the old adage goes, things seemingly do not go your way at the bottom of the table...

When you are battling at the wrong end decisions do not go your way.

That seemed to be the case in the second half when it came to two penalty shouts.

With the score locked at 1-1, McAleny’s strike looked to have been blocked by Yann Songo’o before Kyle Dempsey’s cross cannoned off Aaron Taylor-Sinclair’s arm.

The first incident, in real time, seemed a case of ball to hand rather than vice versa.

The second, however, seemed clear as day to all but referee Darren Handley.

If they lacked luck in those circumstances, Town could have found themselves down to 10 men in the first half.

Lewie Coyle challenged Ruben Lameiras near the halfway line, and although he won the ball, he also took out the Argyle man and received a caution; though visiting boss Derek Adams called the challenge ‘out of control’ and deserving of a red card...

Town did concede again but has Sheridan finally found a solution to the full-back problems?

Speaking of Coyle, he was Town’s best player; especially in the first half.

He was defensively strong, a threat going forward and, with competition for places, he is thriving under pressure and under the new manager.

On the opposite flank, Joe Maguire was dropped for Gethin Jones.

The right-footer looked comfortable, solid and composed at left-back and should now keep his shirt for Saturday’s game at Charlton Athletic as Town shore up their wings.

It might not have been a scintillating display but it certainly was a performance that dispelled the memories of matches against Blackburn Rovers and Gillingham...

Sheridan is not afraid to mix things up

The good thing is that Sheridan is not afraid to mix things up.

Not only did he take Maguire out of the team but the new boss made a big call in midfield.

He rightly pulled out-of form ex-Plymouth man Toumani Diagouraga out of the Town starting line-up.

The experienced central midfielder is yet to live up to the hype since his January switch from the Pilgrims to Highbury.

In his place was Jack Sowerby but he did not bring much to the game in what was another passive display.

He got the nod ahead of Bobby Grant, who is yet to kick a ball competitively under Sheridan despite scoring in the development squad’s midweek draw with Oldham Athletic.

Not only does he offer balance to the midfield, but his passion and commitment are plain for all to see.

The midfielder wears his heart on his sleeve and proved his worth to the side in last season’s run to the play-offs.

If goals are the key for Town to stay up, then it’s been shown over the seasons that Grant has them in his locker.

Too often, there were not enough players in the Plymouth area but Grant brings that to the midfield and surely deserves his opportunity to impress sooner rather than later.

He still failed to make an appearance off the bench on Saturday with youngster Harrison Biggins given the nod to replace George Glendon with 10 minutes left.

Though Biggins might not have the experience, he is attack-minded and forward-thinking while, in contrast, Glendon often prefers to pass the ball either backwards or sideways.

The good thing is that there is competition across the board and now Sheridan has some more big calls to make ahead of Saturday’s trip to The Valley.

But he’s shown he’s not afraid to make a statement and that is a good thing – and things are finally starting to look a little brighter at Highbury.