Grezza hails special night at Highbury

Graham Alexander
Graham Alexander

Graham Alexander insists Fleetwood have only taken the next step in their promotion mission as they booked a place the club’s first Wembley final since 1985.

Town will face either Burton Albion or Southend United on Bank Holiday Monday, May 26 for a place in League One.

A 0-0 draw against York City was enough in front of a sell out Highbury crowd, Matty Blair’s goal from the first leg at Bootham Crescent enough to see Fleetwood through.

But Alexander was quick to remind everyone it was far from mission accomplished.

He said: “Wembley is the next step, one we wanted to take.

“It’s not the goal, it’s a step towards our target.

“We’re delighted to be there.

“We made it hard for ourselves, or York made it hard for us.

“It was extremely difficult.

“For a 0-0 it was end to end, a proper play-off game.

“We’re pleased we got there.”

Town had to battle to earn their place in the final, York throwing everything at them in a bid to claw a way back into the tie.

And Alexander paid tribute to his side’s fighting spirit on a night ‘for men’.

He said: “The work rate of all the players to help, when it came down to the crunch, was fantastic over the two legs.

“It was a game for men and that’s what we saw out there.”

Town made a meal of the opening 45 minutes, Michael Coulson coming close to pulling York level, Chris Maxwell keeping the aggregate lead intact.

Alexander accepted his team had maybe got swept up in the occasion.

He said: “York are a good team, they are there for a reason, same as us.

“They put us under a lot of pressure.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t handle that better, particularly when we had the ball.

“We lacked a little bit of composure.

“But it’s difficult when you bring a 1-0 lead home

“We didn’t want to sit on it, we’re not that kind of team.

“But we were a little bit gung-ho when we needed to attack with control.

“These play-off games get to the players and that’s why they are big games.”

The capacity Highbury crowd gave Alexander a taste of what life could be like in League One, fans spilling onto the pitch in the closing stages as the party started on the terraces.

“It was special,” said the Fleetwood boss.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen Highbury like that.

“It was full to the rafters, they were overhanging the fences and willing their team on every step.

“These are the games as a lad you want to be involved in.

“It’s my first taste of it as a manager and I’m really enjoying it.

“But what I’m enjoying more than anything is seeing the determination and the focus in my players’ minds and that hunger for success.

“That’s what makes me smile.”

Fleetwood could have wrapped up the tie at the death, David Ball and Josh Morris both coming close in front of the packed Memorial Stand.

Alexander joked: “They were sucking the ball down there but they didn’t suck hard enough.

“We got into some great positions but didn’t quite finish it off.

“At 0-0 with one goal in it, York gave it everything.

“We stood up to the test.

“I’m sure it was a fantastic game to watch but not for us.

“But the boys came through really strong.”

Town won’t find out who they will face at Wembley until tomorrow afternoon when Southend’s game against Burton is finished.

But Alexander won’t worry about who Fleetwood will face, he’ll focus on his own side’s Wembley preparations.

“We’ll do our normal stuff,” he told The Gazette.

“We’ve got to focus on the game not the occasion or what it can lead to.

“The boys will recover from two very tough games and we’ll get to work next week for a Wembley final.”

And the Fleetwood manager made it clear his players deserve their shot at promotion on one of the world’s biggest football stages.

He said: “I think we deserve to put ourselves in the final because we were the highest placed team.

“But It doesn’t give you a right.

“We’ve had to earn it over 180 minutes but we deserve to be there.

“We’ve had to make some tough decisions but the support from everyone in the dressing room has been fantastic.”