Fleetwood Town 0 Walsall 0: Verdict

As Fleetwood Town fixed their leaks at the back, another hole appeared in the attack.

Sunday, 18th November 2018, 8:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th November 2018, 8:49 pm
Cian Bolger walks off at the final whistle

It was Fleetwood’s first clean sheet at Highbury all season, and though a welcome boost, it was a game that could offer questions than answers.

Their normally deadly attack was blunted and it seemed that many had not yet woken up for a televised 12pm kick-off.

It had been a rarity for Town boss Joey Barton in that he was able to name the same XI that had beaten Alfreton Town 4-1 in the FA Cup last weekend.

Cian Bolger retained his place in central defence with skipper Ash Eastham, meaning four out of last season’s back five were back in the starting line-up.

That team from last season had an Achilles heel, namely the defending of set pieces.

Had they conceded 10 corners in the first half 12 months ago, then Town would have found themselves trailing at the break.

This time around, however, they seem to have improved dramatically in that respect aside from their displays at Portsmouth and Peterborough United.

They are more resilient in that respect, though that is not to say they are perfect.

Walsall’s Jon Guthrie should have done better than nod wide from Josh Ginnelly’s corner after stealing in at the back post.

Russell Martin also headed over when he was umarked; chances that one of the sides in the top six would have capitalised upon and that Town cannot afford to give up.

The autumn weather may have shone on them in that regard but it failed to do so at the other end.

Ash Hunter and Wes Burns were not firing on all cylinders and the service to Paddy Madden was lacking until the introduction of Ched Evans.

Jason Holt had Town’s best chance of the first half, the midfielder latching onto Nathan Sheron’s ball but blasting over the top.

It was a huge contrast to the electric start witnessed in Town’s last home game against Blackpool.

Nevertheless, the Cod Army were to see their team on the front foot at the start of the second half.

Ross Wallace, lurking at at the back post, unleashing a thunderous volley that was just palmed away by Walsall’s Liam Roberts.

They really started to look capable of breaking the deadlock when Evans was introduced off the bench on the hour.

Easing his way from an ankle knock, the forward was the focal point of one of their biggest chances in the second half.

The ball pinged around the penalty area before Hunter eventually cannoned it into Nicky Devlin; a goalsaving block from the visitors’ perspective but, from the Town viewpoint, a chance they really should have taken.

Hunter’s off-day by this season's already lofty standards brought an appearance off the bench for Conor McAleny but, with Walsall determined to keep a clean sheet, it meant he could not find the necessary gaps to inflict some damage.

With Town relying on patience, Walsall went for the aerial route in set-pieces once more with Morgan Ferrier again breaking free but wasting his header.

That patience from the home side almost paid off when Evans put the ball on a plate for Madden, who could only fire over from close range.

It proved that, if patience is the preferred approach, then those opportunities have to be taken when they arrive.

Town have shown that, when they click, they can put their opponents away, but an inconsistency needs to be addressed if they are to challenge.

Their forward players are getting into goalscoring positions but the chances need to be taken.

At least they can now add McAleny and Evans to their list of available attacking options but the coaching staff needs to find a way of getting them to fire on all cylinders.

That renewed competition for places should inspire but, on Saturday, many did not step up.

Bolger waited for his chance and has claimed a role in a now settled back four but there are still plenty of names who could claim a starting spot, especially in the middle of the park.

If Town opt to go with the same line-up at Plymouth Argyle, then there are some players in that squad who need to relocate top gear.