Fleetwood Town 3 Doncaster Rovers 0: Match Report

Paddy Madden
Paddy Madden

The evolution of Fleetwood Town’s Highbury base into a home fortress was cemented with a clinical win over promotion-chasing Doncaster.

The evolution of Fleetwood Town’s Highbury base into a home fortress was cemented with a clinical win over promotion-chasing Doncaster.
Town fans had to wait until September for a first home win under Joey Barton but they are now unbeaten in seven at Highbury, a stark contrast to the away form that has seen them lose six on the spin in the league.
Town’s last league win on the road was 4-0 at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium in early October, and now Grant McCann’s side are on the receiving end of Town’s first League One double this season.
How has the fortress been built? A mix of playing to the conditions and learning how to manage a game have been key.
They were not the better team in the first half yesterday but clinical finishing by one of the best strikeforces in the division fired Town to victory.
Town scored with their first chance and that ruthless streak from man of the match Paddy Madden set the tone.
Often they played like an away team, defending in numbers, but with Madden, Ched Evans and Ash Hunter in their ranks they could be patient.
Some heroic blocks from Ash Eastham and Dean Marney were also key to their fourth league clean sheet in a row on their own patch.
And luck, which Town have been lacking on the road, was on their side.
A Doncaster fightback was thwarted as the post and then an offside decision denied Danny Andrew and Andy Butler respectively.
Two defeats in 12 at home is promotion form but Town’s away run is just the opposite, resulting in mid-table inconsistency.
Barton made just one change from the side that lost 2-1 at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Evans retained his place after his red card in Bristol was overturned on appeal, while skipper Craig Morgan returned and Conor McAleny moved to the bench.
That saw a reshuffle as Lewie Coyle switched to left-back and Nathan Sheron to right back as Morgan partnered Ash Eastham.
Ross Wallace moved back up into midfield as Town again opted for a 4-4-2 formation.
They spent the majority of the opening 10 minutes defending deep in their own half.
But despite the early pressure Doncaster only threatened from distance.
Ali Crawford’s effort flew off target and ex-Town man Danny Andrew fired wide.
It took a string of set-pieces to get Town going up the other end.
A Ross Wallace free-kick failed to threaten Ian Lawlor.
But that would change in the 11th minute as Sheron picked up the ball on the right and whipped in a delightful left-footed cross that Madden glanced home.
Sheron was involved again moments later for the wrong reasons. He slid in late on Crawford 10 yards outside the box and referee Peter Wright brandished a yellow card before Crawford tested Cairns’ reflexes from the free-kick, the keeper diving right to stop his fierce effort.
McCann’s side continued to press as James Coppinger tried his luck from a tight angle on the right, Cairns batting the ball away with ease.
Town continued to restrict Doncaster to efforts from distance but it was too easy for the visitors to pick up that second ball on the edge of the box.
Ben Whiteman was next to try his luck, blasting the ball straight down Cairns’ throat.
Doncaster nearly found a deserved leveller from a set-piece. Andrew’s free-kick from the right struck the inside of the post and Butler was adjudged offside when he nodded home the rebound
When Town did get the ball in the attacking half, some of their first-touch passing and skill were a delight to watch.
Ross Wallace’s effort was tipped away by Lawlor and Jason Halt’s drive was deflected over.
Harrison Biggins replaced Sheron for the second half, a move which saw Coyle revert to right-back and Wallace go to left-back, while Biggins joined Marney in the middle and Holt adopted a wider role.
Fleetwood went for the jugular and their second couldn’t have been simpler.
After their silky skills of the first 45 this was a route one goal. A long ball up from the back eventually saw Evans and Hunter two on one with Lawlor.
Evans drew the keeper and unselfishly pulled the ball back for Hunter to bundle home his sixth of the term.
Doncaster kept attacking as the mist descended but Town almost added a third as Hunter pounced on an error by Herbie Kane.
He rounded Lawlor on the left but the angle was too tight for the attacker as his effort just rolled past the right stick.
James Wallace and Wes Burns entered the fray and marked their return from hamstring injuries.
One of the impressive factors of Town’s home play in recent weeks has been the ability to manage games and close them off, and they convincingly shut the visitors out at the death.
The way that Eastham and Morgan handled one of the top strikers in the division in Marquis was impressive.
Marquis might have three more goals than Madden in the league but Town’s Irishman could have had a hat-trick.
A fine effort from distance was just too high before he wrapped up the win with a fine finish in added time.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Sheron (Biggins, 46), Eastham, Morgan, Coyle, R Wallace, Holt (J Wallace, 64), Marney, Hunter (Burns, 80), Evans, Madden. Subs: P Jones, McAleny, Bolger, Taylor, J Wallace.

Doncaster: Lawlor, Andrew, Butler, Wilks, Whiteman, Marquis, Crawford (A May, 57), Anderson, Kane, Coppinger, Cummings (Rowe, 46). Subs: Marosi, Taylor, Amos, Blaney, Prior.