Fleetwood Town 1 Luton Town 2: Verdict

Ashley Nadesan replaces Jason Holt
Ashley Nadesan replaces Jason Holt

I’ve been waiting for a moment like this all season to sit there and go ‘that is the standout team in League One’. On Saturday that happened.

I’ve been waiting for a moment like this all season to sit there and go ‘that is the standout team in League One’.

On Saturday that happened.

Luton Town might not have played the prettiest of football; it might not have been as explosive as some of the football we have seen from Fleetwood Town in the wins over Doncaster Rovers and Scunthorpe United.

But I left Highbury thinking if Mick Harford’s side are to win League One, then they would be worthy winners.

As champions-elect they had everything; steel, confidence, quality and skill.

From the way Alan McCormack ran the middle of the park to Matty Pearson’s brilliance at the back and across the board, you could see from the off why this confident crop are top of the pile.

Speaking pre-match, Joey Barton had wanted to test his Town players against the best in the division and see where they are at.

Ironic then that, at 2-0 down, it was a chance for him to trial something new and it might just have been what we have been looking for all season; Lewie Coyle in central midfield.

Barton had thrown Wes Burns straight back in after his absence for Ash Hunter with Jason Holt in for the injured James Wallace.

There had been questions as to whether Burns would be full-back or forward given his performances in Coyle’s three-match suspension.

However, after the Leeds United loanee got his shirt back due to Burns’ ankle knock for the 1-0 win over Bradford City, the Welshman was a striker once more.

It was not a day for forwards though; it was one where both sides made a case for their respective defences.

Pearson was a rock at one end, while at the other, a bloodied Harry Souttar and Ash Eastham continued their glowing partnership.

Neither side had a sniff with Ross Wallace just trying his luck from distance and the visitors also unable to unlock Fleetwood.

Paddy Madden was perhaps guilty of a poor first time finish for once as he rifled Sonny Bradley’s clearance from Wallace’s free-kick way over.

Referee Peter Bankes littered the turf with yellow cards as the tackles flew in on a fiery game but the Hatters showed they were up for a battle; yet more proof that they are the best team in the division.

With Fleetwood pressing, harassing and the tackles flying in, they stood up to the challenge and gave as good as they got – even if both sides were guilty of wasting their subsequent set-pieces.

With both sides also renowned for their prowess on the counter-attack, it took the visitors until their 40th minute to show their capabilities on the break.

Danny Hylton’s backheel released McCormack, who slid in Andrew Shinnie and with Fleetwood all at sea, Holt flew in.

A set-piece was awarded, George Moncur did the rest and it was a goal worthy of winning any third tier encounter with Alex Cairns arguably put off by James Justin’s dummy.

You could not argue they did not deserve it with a touch of class sprinkled on a gritty performance.

Then, in the second half, it was a howler from Cairns that gave them a cushion.

Eastham had switched ends again to protect his keeper from the earlier blinding sunlight but he had butterfingers for once as Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu’s effort rolled home in the 49th minute.

Fleetwood refused to roll over but eyebrows were raised when Barton made a change and the board showed Ashley Nadesan replacing Holt.

What was he doing?

It turned out Nadesan was going into the front three, Burns moving to full-back and Coyle in the middle of the pitch.

It worked as Coyle took to centre midfield like a duck to water with Burns again impressive at full-back.

Hunter also came on to add some sparkle and it was no surprise that they got their goal as Madden popped up with yet another first-time finish from Nadesan’s knock down.

Defeat is never pleasing but despite still failing to earn a single point after conceding first, Fleetwood showed fight.

It will be interesting after a week’s training if Burns at right back and Coyle in central midfield is the way forward.

Stranger things have happened in a funny old season but , on this occasion, you just have to take your hat off to the Hatters.