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VERDICT: Fleetwood 1 Barnsley 3

Ryan Taylor
Ryan Taylor

Harrison Biggins scoring his first league goal against the club that released him was surely written in the stars.

It was just a shame then that his Fleetwood Town team-mates could not ensure that landmark day ended with the right result.
The midfielder had marked his first start of the season by tapping home James Husband’s cross in the 19th minute and certainly enjoyed wheeling away in front of the away end.
However, after getting the goal their start deserved, Town once again threw away the points.
They shot themselves in the foot last weekend at Southend and, once again, lapses in concentration at the back cost them; though a 3-1 scoreline flattered Daniel Stendel’s Tykes.
Husband and his fellow full-back, Lewie Coyle, had storming games; strong in attack and defence with Husband setting up Biggins’ goal and Coyle’s show-stopping tackles.
Just as Town’s flanks have been shored up, it is the centre of their defence which has become a worry; an unlikely scenario given they had four experienced centre-halves from which to pick at the start of the season.
It was Ash Eastham and Tommy Spurr chosen to start on Saturday, protected by debutant Ryan Taylor in a holding midfield role.
Though it was a promising debut with his one-touch passing and link-up play showing why Joey Barton was so eager to sign him, Taylor could not stop Barnsley.
Since the injury to skipper Craig Morgan, Eastham has had a few uncharacteristic wobbles in recent weeks.
They had built up a solid partnership before the skipper limped off at Sunderland, forcing Eastham to move over to the right side of defence.
Barton has chopped and changed between Spurr and Cian Bolger since then, which has impacted Eastham.
Bolger’s error at Southend United saw him make way, but with the left-footed Spurr recalled, it meant Eastham was moved back to the right-hand side.
After Biggins had given Town the lead, Spurr looked to be struggling with injury.
Just as the situation with Morgan at Sunderland, Town gave him time to try and shake it off.
Would they have conceded had they brought him off once the niggle was detected?
It was Eastham, however, who was the one outfoxed in the 32nd minute when he was outmuscled by Jacob Moore.
He latched on to Alex Mowatt’s chip and bundled the ball home for an equaliser.
Eastham’s positional switch and a laboured Spurr may have been factors but the former is not usually one to be outbattled but he will come back stronger.
Spurr made way moments later with Bolger back in the spotlight – but he picked up where he left off at Roots Hall; poorly.
It was his slack defending that saw Kieffer Moore get the time and space to rifle the ball past Alex Cairns from outside the box three minutes before half-time to put Barnsley ahead.
With Morgan a doubt for Tuesday’s match against Wycombe Wanderers, Barton needs to stick with the Eastham-Bolger partnership and iron out any creases until Morgan’s return.
Defeat came on a day when the boss made six changes from a week earlier.
Admittedly, three of those were enforced with Ash Hunter suspended as well as injuries to Paddy Madden and Dean Marney but, sometimes, there is such a thing as too much change.
Of the six changes, only two failed to mark their mark with Spurr and Ross Wallace the men in question.
Husband demonstrated how big a miss he was at Southend, Biggins took his chance, Taylor impressed and Burns was bright.
Town certainly missed Ash Hunter and his return, along with that of Morgan, would certainly see Barton have the ingredients for success.
Frustratingly, the signs were there in the second half but they just lacked that bit of quality in the final third.
Burns, Evans and even Coyle had chances to level but it was Barnsley who secured victory with a last-gasp goal.
With Town throwing everything at them in search of an equaliser Mamadou Thiam scored on the counter-attack.
For Barton, it is a case of ‘you win or you learn’.
But, at the moment – and with two more injuries – it needs to be a case of ‘why?’
Why so many injuries?
Evans now is a doubt for Tuesday because of his shoulder.
With hamstring and groin issues and the word ‘niggle’ thrown around like confetti, it’s an issue Town need to address.
Perhaps that is the only downfall with experience; while you get the game know-how and skill and knowledge, there is also the greater risk of injury.
Hunter will be back on Tuesday as Town need to find their best 11 and a way of fighting back.
Every time they have found themselves in a losing position, they have lost.
If this squad is seriously going to challenge at the top they need to find another manner to get a goal other than the counter.
Because, as Barnsley showed, when teams go ahead against Fleetwood they sit back in their numbers and it seems – so far – Barton does not have an answer to that.
Town must find a way other than pace of breaking teams down, but it seems, with Taylor’s dead-ball ability, they might just have found that.