Fleetwood 2 Gillingham 1

Fleetwood Town tamed the tempest to register their second win in four days against top six opposition.

Tuesday, 1st March 2016, 10:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st March 2016, 10:56 pm
Shola Ameobi scores Fleetwood's second

Fleetwood Town tamed the tempest to register their second win in four days against top six opposition.

Highbury has a reputation for wild weather but Tuesday night's early squall was on a scale rarely seen.

Horizontal rain and strong gusts greeted the players under the Fylde coast lights - Town's pitch taking another battering from the elements as the action got under way.

And with a gale at their backs Fleetwood wasted no time in taking advantage.

There were barely two minutes gone when Jimmy Ryan's free kick, caught by the breeze, was pushed over the bar by Stuart Nelson.

Wes Burns trotted out to take the resulting corner, swinging a cross to the near post.

Gillingham might well argue the weather played as big a role as Fleetwood but never the less the defending was chaotic at best, Burns cross hitting at least one man on it's way into the net.

On the back of a victory at Coventry it was the dream start for Fleetwood who set about the job of extending their lead.

Gillingham looked in no mood for a cold Tuesday in the north falling further behind with less than 10 minutes gone.

The icy blast again played a part, taking a long clearance beyond the Gills back line.

Credit to Burns who had the legs to match the loose ball, racing to the touchline and hauling it back across the face of goal.

Shola Ameobi is hard to miss but somehow Gillingham had, the big striker picked up too late as he scampered to the back post and smashed home, Fleetwood's start a dream one.

Town, of course, couldn't maintain such an intensity.

And Gillingham suddenly woke up to the fact they were going to have to work for any share of the spoils.

The game gradually became more of a midfield battle, chances at a premium as Justin Edinburgh side worked to find a way back.

Fleetwood in fairness stood firm, a wobble here, an moment's indecision there but all in all a creditable effort to keep the promotion chasers at bay.

Amari'i Bell's growing confidence at full back is clear and his first half display was impeccable, Town handling everything thrown at them, a timid Rory Donnelly shot the best they could muster in the opening half hour.

Town at the other end had chances to pull further ahead, Burns racing onto a delightful cross field ball from Antoni Sarcevic only to be let down by his touch, Jimmy Ryan spinning a free kick just wide of the upright.

Victor Nirennold, stand-in right back had maybe the best opportunity, his speculative cross again caught in the wind, lifted to the angle where Nelson was forced to touch it wide.

Town looked to be cruising into the break but life at Highbury is never quite that simple.

And with ten minutes to the interval Joe Davis reached deep into the 'why do that' drawer and pulled out another howler.

The centre half was caught dwelling on the ball just outside his own box, Luke Norris only to happy to pick his pocked and pile the ball low past Maxwell to reduce the deficit.

Town didn't deserve to be pegged back, the Gills certainly didn't deserve their goal but mistakes are what has kept them in the battle at the bottom and made back-to-back wins ever so elusive.

Fleetwood made it to the break without any further cause for concern but their lead was too slender for comfort.

An early second half foul from Ameobi, 20 yards out did little to settle the nerves, George Williams unable to find the target from a strong position.

The wind had died but so had Fleetwood's fire - Gillingham clawing their way back into contention.

Town had been forced into a change, Antoni Sarcevic's groin problem ruling him out of the second half.

In came Ash Hunter and his pace gave Fleetwood a fresh outlet.

Twice in quick succession he raced in behind the visitors, first stinging the palms of Nelson with a left foot strike.

The next time Hunter got beyond the keeper but was unable to turn and take advantage, checking back and crossing instead, Burns just unable to apply the vital header.

Hunter's pace was causing problems for Gillingham, Town pushing the ball over Gillingham looking for the more than willing runner.

And the chances kept coming, the Ilkeston man again breaking free when Jonsson pounded a ball from the deep only to be hauled back on the edge of the D.

Hunter was enraged when the free kick was given against him, sliding to a halt inside the box and turning to launch a tirade at referee Jeremy Simpson.

Chances for Gillingham were hardly coming thick and fast but Elliott List should have hauled the visitors level with 15 minutes remaining.

Fleetwood thought the hard work had been done when Brennan Dickenson was hemmed in at the corner flag.

But the Gills man did produce a cross, deflected off Hunter and looping right into the centre of the six yard box where List was waiting.

He pounced but didn't connect, Town let off with Maxwell all but beaten, another example of how slender the lead - and with it Town's survival hopes - remained.

And so it stretched out, a nail-biting, toe curling grind to the end.

But Town proved on Saturday they have steel about them, digging deep again to shut out the Gills.

With Shola Ameobi and Jimmy Ryan charging for the corner - any corner, the Gills knew the game was up.

And so, barely troubled at the death, camped as much as they could in Gillingham territory Fleetwood made it nine points from a possible 12, easing their relegation fears.

And in doing so they expunged the memory of that dark day on the Medway, the defeat which sparked their race to the bottom and prompted Graham Alexander's exit.

Those dark days seem, for now, to be behind Town.

There's light at the end of the tunnel - you just can't see it for the rain.