Fleetwood forward David Ball says the pain of last season’s last-gasp relegation battle has spurred the club on this term as they now face a final-game shot at automatic promotion.
The 27-year-old hotshot is a survivor from the squad that stayed up on the final day of last season, along with his car-share buddy Bobby Grant, Devante Cole, skipper Nathan Pond, Conor McLaughlin, Amari’i Bell, Ash Hunter, Jimmy Ryan and Wes Burns.
Ball credits that experience and the impact of new talent as well as new head coach Uwe Rosler for the turnaround which sees Town host Port Vale on Sunday knowing a win could see them pip Bolton to automatic promotion.
He said: “In the car on the way in we’ve been saying, ‘Who would have thought we’d go from where we were last year to having a chance of going up on the last day?’
“We have all taken that feeling we had last year and been driven to do well. And the staff and players who have come in have made a big difference.”
Town were beaten 2-1 at Vale Park in November’s reverse fixture, when Alex Jones used a hand to score the late winner. That was the catalyst for Town’s 18-game unbeaten run in League One.
Ball said: “We should have been out of sight in that game. There is definitely a revenge element but I think the lads are just excited to get the three points.”
It has been a season of rejuvenation for Ball as well as for Town. He was forced to play in midfield and scored only five goals last season, whereas his strike in last weekend’s 3-2 win at Gillingham was his 14th this term to add to nine assists.
The 27-year-old’s next goal will be his 50th for Fleetwood, and Ball says boss Rosler’s pedigree as a striker and the talent of his team-mates have helped him enjoy such a memorable season.
Ball said: “I would not say I’m an out-and-out goalscorer. I score goals but I also make goals and am involved in a lot of build-up play.
“An attacking manager certainly helped me as a striker. I’d not worked under a striker before. He has kept me on later in games, when I’ve scored some of my goals.
“I think he sees what else I bring to the team, not just goals and the assists.
“I owe a lot to him and the players around me, who have probably been of a higher standard than in past seasons and will go on to have great futures in the game.”