Fleetwood failed to carve another chapter in their history books as they missed out on a first ever FA Cup fourth round clash at Premier League side Burnley thanks to a narrow 1-0 replay defeat to Bristol City.
It was a less than thrilling end to Town’s cup exploits as Bristol showed why they are in the division above Uwe Rosler’s men as they pounced on a Town error to end an eight match winless run and end Town’s 13 match unbeaten run.
A moments lapse at the back saw Jamie Paterson run one-on-one with Alex Cairns and fire the ball home in the 17th minute as Fleetwood tasted defeat at their home fortress for the first time since Town’s 2-0 EFL Trophy defeat to Oldham at the start of October.
Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler made five changes to the side that beat Bristol Rovers 3-1 on Saturday.
Club captain Nathan Pond, who is the only player at the club to have also featured in the Town’s first ever third round fixture when they slid to a 5-1 defeat at home to the then Championship Blackpool back in 2012, missed the replay after picking up a knee injury against Rovers.
Midfielder George Glendon, who started the first game at Ashton Gate, turned his loan spell from Manchester City into a permanent switch and because of the change in deal he became ineligible for this clash.
Bobby Grant was rested from the squad with strikers David Ball and Ash Hunter also rested on the bench as Rosler rotated his strikers with Cole and Long returning to the starting line-up.
Eggert Jonsson made his first appearance since Town reached the third round as he featured for the first time since their last-gasp second round replay win over Shrewsbury in a central midfield role with Sowerby slotting in on his right and finally Ash Eastham replacing Pond in the defensive three.
Town had managed to keep their concentration and defend with their lives in the first game at City when they drew 0-0 but just one slip against higher league opposition can prove costly and it was defensive and midfield lapse by Town that created the gap that saw City convert the first chance of the game as Gustav Engvall released Paterson to slot the ball home.
The visitors were not as cut throat after the next defensive lapse after Eastham carelessly gave the ball away cheaply in his own half. That mistake lead to Bryan crashing the ball into Cairns before Engvall’s follow-up was also stopped by the keeper and finally hooked away from danger by Cian Bolger.
The early goal had boosted Lee Johnson’s Championship side who had traveled to the Fylde coast on a dismal run of form having lost seven of their previous eight games and they attacked in numbers once again but Mark Little’s cross from the left was nodded down into the welcoming arms of Cairns by the not so little giant striker Milan Djuric.
Despite City’s early dominance Town missed Ball and Hunter’s creativity but still looked a threat on the counter with Long inches away from equalising as he blasted the ball past the right stick from just outside the corner of the box.
Rosler switched things up with McLaughlin moving into a more central midfield role and Sowerby moving out to right wing-back at the start of the second half as they continued to keep it to just a 1-0 scoreline.
Just under 10 minutes later Sowerby was brought off with Nirennold taking on that wing-back role.
It was a tame start to the second half with Engvall having the first clear cut chance as he latched onto an Eastham slip but Bolger was on hand to mop up and divert the angled effort away at the left stick.
Rosler threw on Ball for Jonsson just after the hour mark and Town started to find some gaps in City’s pack with the visitors still only protecting a slender 1-0 lead.
The visitors could have made it two moments later as Nirennold was caught out by Bryan who raced into the left hand side of the box but his angled strike crashed back off the underside of the bar to safety with Cairns beaten.
Town nearly found that all important leveller seconds later as Long’s fierce effort clipped a City leg but fizzed the wrong side of the right post.
But City, who dominated possession throughout, were wasteful once again as Paterson snuck in on the left but smashed the ball past the left post.
With a shot at the fourth round still in reach Rosler gambled as he threw on the club’s second round hero Hunter for Eastham.
That move saw Rosler shift from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 with Hunter joining Cole and Long in a front three.
Town had started to wake up after Ball’s introduction and finally sprung to life once Hunter entered the fray with City tiring but despite having a number of neat moves around the box their final ball lacked that extra sprinkle of star quality as they barely troubled Frank Fielding.
Hunter had looked a danger and the referee had a decision to make when he was felled on the right by Paterson who was already on a yellow after a foul on Jonsson in the first half, but the man in black Carl Boyeson just had a quiet word with the City man rather than reach for his pocket once again.
City had shown the gulf between the two leagues but Rosler’s depleted side will learn from this rare home defeat and have some valuable experience against a high-spending Championship side.
Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Eastham (Hunter, 74), Bolger, Davies, Bell, Sowerby (Nirennold, 55) Jonsson (Ball, 63), Dempsey, Cole, Long. Subs not used: Neal, Wallace, Davis, Roberts.
Bristol City: Fielding, Little (O’Dowda 77), Bryan, Flint , O’Neil, Engvall (Abraham, 68), Paterson, Djuric (Brownhill, 82), Magnusson, Hegeler, Wright. Subs not used: O’Donnell, Tomlin, Wilbraham, Pack.
Referee: Carl Boyeson