Fleetwood Town 1 Charlton 0: Verdict

Ash Hunter and Ched Evans celebrate
Ash Hunter and Ched Evans celebrate

It will go down as a day all about Ched Evans –  and rightly so.

However, Saturday’s result had far more layers to it than just an example as to why Town refused to sign on the dotted line and let the striker’s loan spell end early.

From a clean sheet with a defence nobody would have predicted at the start of the year to the return of Ash Eastham to captain, a sparkling debut from giant centre-half Harry Souttar, sterling cameos off the bench from Ash Hunter and Jack Sowerby and three points against a side battling it out in the top six.

All in all, it was a day to remember and could, whisper it, be a pivotal moment in this season a week after Joey Barton had ruled out any chance of the top six.

Now he’s dreaming big again with just a seven-point gap and plenty of games to go.

It wasn’t pretty, especially in a tame first half, but Town did the job with Souttar, in for injured skipper Craig Morgan, slotting in seamlessly next to Eastham who revelled in the captaincy.

It was his call to switch ends and make Town attack the Memorial End in the first half – with the second 45 minutes in mind.

Eastham changed it to protect his keeper Alex Cairns from the sun which forced his opposite number, Dillon Phillips, into wearing a cap.

It might not have been a move to end Town’s second-half hoodoo after an impressive first-half record this season but it worked.

Cairns was tested just the once, the keeper foiling Ben Purrington midway through the opening half.

Souttar looked like he’d been playing alongside Eastham for a long time, while Wes Burns continues to be one of the discoveries of the season at right-back.

A back four of Burns, Eastham, Souttar and James Husband would not have been anticipated at the start of the term.

Town never looked like conceding but that was also testament to a toothless display by the Addicks, who lacked invention.

For their part, Town just missed that touch of ingenuity in the first half but they would soon find it in the second.

Evans went close with a free-kick that was just tipped away, an unusually blunt Paddy Madden failing to convert the rebound with his touch just a tad off for once.

Ashley Nadesan broke clear but his strike was off target, and while he has added something different, he needs to take his chances.

Evans became more of a threat following the introductions of Ash Hunter and Jack Sowerby.

Hunter’s pressing on the left led to a chance that saw Evans one-on-one with Phillips.

He was thwarted by the keeper but made no mistake next time after a move that involved all three forwards.

Hunter’s delightful ball from the left found Madden, whose telepathic knockdown was fired home by Evans, who ended a tumultuous week by showing he was still committed to the Town cause.

Wednesday, he was off to Sunderland; Thursday, it was Bolton but, by Saturday, he was still at Highbury.

He missed out on the opportunity of returning to the Championship but there was no sulking; just the same consistent goalscoring form.

If anything he went up a level and should have had more with a late effort just flying past the upright with keeper Phillips at sea.

Town’s quest to bounce back from their Scunthorpe loss was aided by a second yellow to Patrick Bauer.

He was sent off for two bookings with fouls on James Wallace and Evans seeing him sent off.

While Evans proved a point, so too did many of his team-mates.

Souttar showed he can handle it at this level but now he must find a consistency and start to produce week in week out.

Burns limped off but Barton said there was nothing to fear; though with Lewie Coyle returning from suspension, it will be hard to prise away that right-back spot from Burns.

Hunter also made his mark off the bench as he and the returning Sowerby both entered to cheers.

He might not have contributed a 13th assist of the season but he certainly played a huge part in Town’s winner.

It is all starting to look a tad rosy at Town.