A second chance for Fleetwood keeper Neal to stake claim

Alex Cairns
Alex Cairns

He’s racked up 20 clean sheets in 44 League One games in 2017 and so Uwe Rosler says keeper Alex Cairns has earned a rest ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash at Wigan.

Last month Cairns, 24, celebrated the anniversary of his first-ever Football League start against Chesterfield.

Rosler rested him for the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Hereford on Saturday to give patient Chris Neal an outing.

And Rosler says another rest for Cairns tonight, ironically against Chesterfield in the Checkatrade Trophy, is what he needs to concentrate on training away from the matchday environment and will give Neal the chance to put his case forward for a return to league action after a year on the sidelines.

The head coach said: “I think for Alex and every young player it is good to have a breather and concentrate on his game in training. You can be sucked into that mode where you have a game every three days.

“Alex is still a baby in goalkeeping terms, and he needs time to mentally refresh and work on his game away from a stress environment.

“We decided it was a good opportunity to give Chris Neal these two games to keep him in match mode and to put pressure on Alex Cairns.”

Town’s England Under-17 World Cup-winning keeper Billy Crellin will be on the bench as he was on Saturday.

Rosler says it would have been nice to give the 17-year-old a debut but believes Neal deserves a chance for his patience and his performance in the last Checkatrade game against Carlisle.

He said: “It would have been good to play Billy but Chris was very good at Carlisle and is challenging Alex. Billy has to work hard to get his chance but at the moment Chris and Alex are ahead of him.”

Amari’i Bell, who limped off against Hereford with a dead leg, and Bobby Grant (knee) will miss out tonight. Bell, 23, could be back to face Wigan on Saturday and star striker Conor McAleny (ankle) is back running.